Ba makes Stoke pay as West Ham move out of bottom three
Hammers up to 17th place
West Ham 3
Stoke City 0
West Ham moved out of the bottom three for the first time since early January after a convincing 3-0 win over Stoke.
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First half strikes by Demba Ba and Manuel da Costa, plus a late Thomas Hitzlsperger thunderbolt meant West Ham moved up to 17th, one point above Birmingham, who do have two games in hand.
The Hammers victory meant they registered their first back to back league wins in 39 attempts. Their inconsistency a big factor as to why the club are currently struggling near the bottom of the Premier League.
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Consecutive wins could not have come at a better time with Tottenham and Manchester United next up for the Hammers.
West Ham beat a Stoke side who had failed to even score in the last four away matches and if continue to play the way they did at the Boleyn this afternoon will be in danger of becoming embroiled in a relegation scrap.
West Ham found success in an area which their opponents might, out wide. The front three of Carlton Cole, Ba and Frederic Piquionne, worked hard, created width and played balls into the box which Matthew Etherington would be proud of.
The game started slowly, with the whistle of referee Andre Marriner heard all too regularly. The official called a halt to proceedings far more often than was necessary, while the lengthy spells taken up by Rory Delap, who took an age to prepare for each long throw, didn’t help the flow of the game.
Stoke had an early opportunity to take the lead, when Delap’s low ball in was met by Jon Walters, who reacted quicker than Matthew Upson, but his effort was flicked round the post by Robert Green,
West Ham started to string passes together and after 21 minutes took the lead.
Hitzlsperger played the ball through, Marc Wilson and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic collided, with Ba overpowering the defender to bundle in from close range.
The goal especially sweet for Ba, who set to joint the Potters in January, before they cancelled the deal, after he failed a medical there.
It was two seven minutes later. Parker was brought down and from the resulting free kick Hitzlsperger curled a delightful delivery to the back post, where the leaping Da Costa powered his header into the corner of the net.
The strongest player in the air West Ham have, the Da Costa was preferred in defence ahead of Lars Jacobsen to help combat the aerial threat of Stoke. The Portuguese defender didn’t disappoint, competing and winning the majority of aerial duels with tall target man John Carew. The Norwegian was replaced by Ricardo Fuller 20 minutes into the second half after making no impact on the game.
Piquionne missed a golden chance to make it three 10 minutes before the break. A Ba shot was deflected into the path of the French striker by Huth, but, with just Begovic to beat, fired wide.
West Ham remained in control at the start of the second half and from a Hitzlsperger corner Tomkins headed against the post from a tight angle.
It took 10 minutes of the second period for Stoke to get going, with a fierce Delap forcing Green into a decent save.
In previous outings this season, when ahead West ham have set back and allowed teams to attack, but a good run and shot by Cole, which was tipped wide by Begovic intended today would be different.
It was the England striker who almost made it three when Ryan Shawcross headed beyond Begovic and although Cole latched onto the ball, Begovic recovered and tipped his effort around the post.
Kenwyne Jones replaced Delap and should have scored with his first touch, but when left free from 10 yards out, headed wide.
Cole had another opportunity to seal the win 10 minutes from time but fired wide after good work from Tomkins.
The Hammers didn’t have to wait much longer though as Hitzlsperger made it three. Parker ran to the bi-line and although Piquionne’s shot was blocked by Cole, the ball fell to the German who made no mistake.
The goal killed Stoke’s belief and the win sets up West Ham nicely for two tough matches.