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May 3, 2014

Hammers treble up against Spurs

Stewart Downing stroked in West Ham's second goal of the day in Saturday's 2-0 win over Tottenham.
Stewart Downing stroked in West Ham's second goal of the day in Saturday's 2-0 win over Tottenham.
West Ham United scored their third win of the season against north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, running out 2-0 winners in a glorious last home game that had fans chanting and cheering through to the end of an entertaining afternoon.

- Report: West Ham 2-0 Tottenham

If manager Sam Allardyce wanted to celebrate this win and the assurance of another season in the Premier League, a trip to the casino close to West Ham's new home in Stratford for a game of Craps might be the place to go. For in what many were insisting was Allardyce's last throw of the dice, the manager managed to throw a host of sevens, not only securing an unprecedented treble against deadly rivals still chasing Europe at the beginning of the game, but also ensuring it was done in a style that will undoubtedly have impressed the watching joint-chairmen.

For, with the pressure on, calls on an internet poll for Allardyce to be replaced and a nervy end to the season in prospect, Allardyce conjured up a performance of commitment and finesse sending out a team that sparkled up-front with a man of the match performance from Andy Carroll, and an attacking philosophy that would have warmed the heart of even the most negative supporter. But for a superb display by Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris, the score could have been five or six.

An enterprising start from the home side during which Guy Demel struck the crossbar and a couple of good shouts for handball went unheeded, was offset by a strong reply from Spurs who could point to several opportunities from Harry Kane, Emmanuel Adebayor and Paulinho in reply. But the balance of the game tilted after 25 minutes when Younes Kaboul hauled down Stewart Downing as the winger bore down on goal after a deflection had played the former Liverpool man in. Hammers fans were in glorious spirits as referee Phil Dowd pulled out a red for Kaboul who was clearly the last man, not least because -- so mercurial has been Downing's form -- most would not have bet on the player worrying Lloris too much had he not been fouled.

The Hammers came close with the resulting free kick by Andy Carroll but Lloris flew spectacularly to palm the ball round the post for a corner. With the crowd baying though, the goal was merely delayed as Carroll again rose from the resulting kick from Mark Noble, the ball catching the head of Kane and beating Lloris and defenders on the line to send the Boleyn wild.

That goal on 27 minutes really sealed the rest of the game as West Ham, sensing this was their afternoon, piled on the pressure in an impressive fashion. And it was no surprise when the home side went further ahead before the break -- it was a shock though to see Downing scoring his first goal of the campaign by hitting a straight ball through a crowd of players lined up to defend a free kick, the Spurs players obligingly turning aside to allow the ball past a flailing Lloris.

To see the opposition two goals down and with only ten men was more than most Hammers fans could have expected, it being a surprising reversal of form of the two clubs with Spurs having an excellent away record as well. But the end of season is like that and it was only Lloris who stopped West Ham stretching their lead in the second half, saving superbly from Mo Diame and then stopping Kevin Nolan from following up. The keeper's later stop from the captain was even better, though, as Nolan found himself unmarked just yards out and spun and volleyed only to see the ball skim off Lloris' knee and away for a corner.

The introduction of Roberto Soldado and Sandro made things more difficult for the Hammers as the game wore on, but it only highlighted how Spurs have come close to European qualification and how much this was an improvement on recent performances from the home side. A late Adrian tip-over from Danny Rose was no more than was warranted, the performance deserving of a clean sheet -- something that has proved to be difficult in the last few months.

The traditional lap of honour was an interesting affair, the fans that stayed certainly seemed to be giving Allardyce support and the post-match interview with Carroll and Nolan -- the latter admittedly an Allardyce stalwart having followed him on several moves -- singing the praises of the boss and promising an improvement next year if everyone remains fit and, although unspoken, the promise of more depth and hopefully more attacking options up front.

The immediate future direction of the club and the developments of the past week with the supporters' poll due to land on the Board's desk this week are something to discuss- - particularly on this blog -- over the next few weeks. For the moment though, this match signalled a bright end to a home season that has been largely disappointing, but three wins against Spurs will ensure it remains in most supporters minds for a good long while.

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