May 21 2013 Latest news:
Steve Blowers, Recorder Reporter
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Hammers had to wait until the last minute before earning a point against Sunderland at Upton Park
West Ham United 1 Sunderland 1
Kevin Nolan’s late, late leveller rescued a precious point for the Hammers at Upton Park, where Sam Allardyce’s side preserved their unbeaten home record to stay in eighth-place.
On an afternoon, when West Ham’s luck looked destined to desert them against the Black Cats, the skipper pounced to grab his third goal of the season in the 93rd minute.
And after gifting Steven Fletcher an early opener, that was nothing less than Big Sam’s unchanged side deserved after battling back to dominate the second half.
Sunderland kicked off in 15th spot having drawn each of their opening three matches and, after sharing the points with Liverpool last weekend, Martin O’Neill made just one change as Titus Bramble came in for Carlos Cuellar.
With Sunderland already shaping up into the early-season draw specialists, summer signing Fletcher is also proving to be their expert marksman.
The Wearsiders’ £12 million capture from relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers arrived in the East End having already netted three goals in just two outings for his new club and he wasted no time extending his tally to four.
Indeed, with just 10 minutes on the clock, James Collins carelessly gifted possession to Sebastian Larsson, who cleverly chipped the ball into the path of Fletcher and, as the wasteful Welshman tried to retrieve the situation, the on-fire forward took one touch before unleashing a crisp, low, angled 12-yarder that flew through the legs of the Hammers defender and into the net off the griddled glove of the diving Jussi Jaaskelainen.
That was the first goal that West Ham had conceded at Upton Park this season and, as they tried to recover from that early setback, Big Sam’s men found themselves embroiled in several midfield skirmishes that lenient Lee Mason simply ignored.
In between all the tenacious tackling, Ricardo Vaz Te met Matt Taylor’s left-wing cross with a downward header that bounced over the bar, while Mohamed Diame fired well wide and Carlton Cole nodded agonisingly beyond the angle.
But West Ham’s best two chances of a late first-half leveller both fell to the acrobatic Nolan, who met Mark Noble’s free-kick with an overhead kick that crept just wide, before Vaz Te chipped the ball to the penalty spot where the swivelling skipper saw his vicious volley brilliantly beaten aside by Simon Mignolet to ensure that the visitors held their advantage at the break.
With the hour-mark approaching, the Sunderland keeper was again on hand to pluck the ball off Vaz Te’s toes and that was the Portuguese playmaker’s last contribution of the afternoon as Allardyce replaced him and Matt Taylor with Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun.
Finally, referee Mason found his yellow card to caution Craig Gardner, who checked Jarvis and then Benayoun ghosted in at the far post, where Danny Rose just found enough height to glance the ball to safety.
Certainly, that double switch had invigorated all things claret and blue and with crowd now willing the Hammers forward, even Joey O’Brien tried his luck with a 25-yarder that Mignolet did well to hold.
With all the action now concentrated in the Sunderland half, it was simply a race against the clock to find a crucial breakthrough and, on 75 minutes, Collins almost atoned for that awful first-half howler, when he met Noble’s corner with a thumping header that splintered the crossbar.
With one final spin of the wheel, Modibo Maiga came on for Cole and just when it looked like the chips were down for the Hammers, they got their richly deserved equaliser with just one minute of stoppage time remaining.
Having been a constant thorn in the Black Cats’ side since his arrival, Jarvis cleverly hooked the ball back from the by-line and when Maiga nodded forward, that man Nolan was in the right place at the right time to hit the jackpot with an unstoppable six yarder that salvaged that last-gasp point.
Hammers: Jaaskelainen, Demel, O’Brien, Collins, Reid, Noble, Diame, Nolan, Vaz Te (Jarvis 57) Taylor (Benayoun 57), Cole (Maiga 77) Unused subs: Henderson, McCartney, Tomkins, O’Neil.
Black Cats: Mignolet, Gardner, Bramble, O’Shea, Rose, Cattermole, Larsson (Vaughan 62), Colback, McClean, Sessegnon (Campbell 71) (Meyler 90+2), Fletcher
Unused subs: Westwood, Kilgallon, Wickham, Saha
Bookings: Gardner (61), Reid (72). Jaaskelainen (90+1).
Referee: Lee Mason