West Ham again pay for negative approach

West Ham crashed out of the Carling Cup after a 3-1 extra time defeat to Birmingham City at St Andrews.

West Ham were sitting pretty one up at half time but once again threw away a lead to go out 4-3 on aggregate and miss out on a trip to Wembley.

When will the Hammers learn? Like so many times this season, they play fantastic football take a lead then fall apart.

The visitors dominated the opening 45 minutes, then sat deep and let the opposition dominate and against a team as direct as Birmingham, it was always going to end in disaster.

Carlton Cole gave West Ham a deserved lead, before goals from former Hammer Lee Bowyer and Roger Johnson took the game to extra time before Craig Gardner struck the winner four minutes into extra time.

West Ham set up 4-4-2 with Zavon Hines partnered up top by Carlton Cole, who replaced the suspended Frederic Piquionne.

West Ham buoyed by their good performance at Goodison Park last Saturday, played neat attacking football and with regular support from the midfield the front two were rarely isolated.

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On a bumpy St Andrews surface, Birmingham attempt to push the ball wide and get crosses into the box, a style of play West Ham regularly struggle with.

After being under the cosh in the opening 10 minutes, an excellent Mark Noble pass set Zavon Hines clear, but the striker’s weak shot was easily parried away by Ben Foster.

Cole was the next Hammer to come close, but when set free by a pinpoint Bridge pass, blazed over from the edge of the area.

He would however make amends after 31 minutes with a tremendous strike. From a simple throw in the striker turned and as the home side backed off unleashed a wonderful, dipping effort from just outside the area which gave Foster no chance.

Just six minutes later the visitors almost doubled their lead when a Noble free kick was intuitively flicked onto the post by Hines.

The Hammer rarely looked in danger in the opening 45 and deservedly lead at the break.

In contrast Birmingham were technically redundant. Their passing was poor, the defence looked nervy and with the Hammers easily dealing with their direct style of play, that was until Nikola Zigic replaced the ineffective Matt Derbyshire and the game changed.

The big striker made an immediate impact, when after 53 minutes, his header set up Craig Gardner, who from the edge of the area powered an effort onto the inside of the post, with the ball just about staying out.

The hosts forced a succession of corners and scored and equalised after 59 minutes when from a corner fell to former Hammer Bowyer who powered home.

West Ham continued to panic and while you can be excused for not winning the first ball when competing against a 6 ft 8 opponent, there can be no excuse for the lack of second balls won and poor marking.

The Hammers were again made to pay from a corner as Roger Johnson beat Upson to a header and powered into the net to level the match on aggregate after 79 minutes.

It almost got worse when minutes later, Upson was outpaced by Cameron Jeromne, but luckily his weak shot trickled into the arms of Green.

Birmingham almost won the game in the dying seconds as Gardner again hit the post from inside the area.

The hosts had momentum and when substitute Keiron Dyer lost the ball and Birmingham careered forward Gardner was finally rewarded as he his shot evaded Green and into the net. The stopper should have done better.

The Hammers tried to respond desperate for the one goal that would send them to Wembley.

Parker should have been the hero, but when the ball fell to him from 10 yards out he fluffed his shot over the bar.

Dyer was the next Hammer to miss a guilt edged chance when 10 yards out he like Parker hit a tame shot over the bar when well placed just minutes before the interval.

The players were dead on their feet and struggled to create further chances with West Ham again ending up wondering what could have been.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Bridge, Upson, Tomkins, Spector, Noble, Parker, Hines (Dyer 71), Boa Morte (O’Neil 83), Cole.

Attendance: 27,519

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