FRUSTRATED: Hammers boss Sam Allardyce
THIS GOALLESS draw left West Ham frustrated whilst restoring some of Aston Villa’s confidence.
Sam Allardyce’s West Ham defeated Liverpool and Manchester City here in recent weeks and relished the opportunity to prove their match-winning credentials against an Aston Villa side winless in their last six matches.
It was not to be as the dogged visitors stopped the rot with a deserved point, even if their offensive performance showed why Paul Lambert’s charges have claimed just five league goals this season.
Expectations have grown in east London with each eye-catching performance and result in recent weeks but frustration hung in the damp Upton Park air despite West Ham moving back into fourth place.
In the opening stages the Hammers offered more attacking intent as Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho proved a handful, particularly in the first 25 minutes, with Cheikhou Kouyate and Stewart Downing surging from deep.
Nonetheless, the first good chance was fashioned by the visitors on 14 minutes. Ashley Westwood intercepted Carl Jenkinson’s loose pass and released Gabriel Agbonlahor, who charged forward but could not keep his shot down.
The hosts continually probed and two good chances fell to Downing. His menacing drive was well saved by Brad Guzan on 24 minutes but his sliced effort from a good position on the cusp of half-time was disappointing.
The visitors were largely solid in defence and did not exude the air of a side who have lost their last six matches. Charles N’Zogbia and Andreas Weimann were neat and tidy, with the latter launching a shot direct at Adrian, but such moments were sporadic with Villa typically lacking incisiveness.
Christian Benteke was serving the first of a three-match ban and Agbonlahor, for all his virtues, seldom troubles opponents who defend deep and deny him space as West Ham did. The Belgian was a long-term absentee whilst convalescing from his achilles injury and with him sidelined once again the onus falls on others who are less well equipped to ripple the net.
There was an increased urgency as the second period began beneath the floodlights. Chances came and went begging for Tom Cleverley and Reid, while Alex Song continued to assert his influence on this contest.
The Cameroonian midfielder’s physicality interrupted Villa’s rhythm and his raking passes to Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell ensured that West Ham had the width demanded of Sam Allardyce.
Yet neither side did much to suggest that a goal was imminent. Carlos Sanchez’s 25-yard attempt was well saved by Adrian, while Ron Vlaar and Ciaran Clark largely repelled everything that came their way.
When Sakho leapt in his customary fashion to meet substitute Carlton Cole’s cross on 78 minutes he was unable to claim a record seven goals as many Premier League starts. The Senegalese did not look completely fit despite returning from his shoulder injury.
As the match wended to its conclusion the locals’ frustration was directed towards referee Jonathan Moss, who denied Cole a penalty when Nathan Baker raked his ankles prior to leaving the field on a stretcher.
A frantic conclusion saw Guzan save headers from Jenkinson and two from late substitute Andy Carroll, who made his first appearance of the campaign, as Villa held firm against the onslaught.