Carroll earns the cheers
There was no sign of booing from the away fans as West Ham United left Sunderland to rapturous applause with all three points in a 2-1 win, built on the back of a sterling defensive display and a man-of-the-match performance from Andy Carroll. - Report: Sunderland 1-2 West Ham It was Carroll who stamped his mark early on in the match with a superb ninth minute header, powering in from a corner, the big striker rose into the air and arrowed the ball through the hands of Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone who could do nothing to stop it. It was just what the Hammers wanted as the atmosphere inside the Stadium of Light fell flat and manager Sam Allardyce was able to see his team operate at its defensive best. West Ham played with some style in the first-half -- although it's not the type of style that the Hammers were once known for. Instead, marshalled by the ever-excellent James Tomkins, the men in claret and blue have become known as a powerhouse at the back and every team in the Premier League knows that they will have to be at their best to breach the Irons' rear-guard. It may not be pleasing the purists, but it is still something of a marvel after all the years of Academy football to see a West Ham team so comfortable defending a lead. The Black Cats vociferous appeals for handball by Kevin Nolan -- "Handball?" smirked the captain post-match, "No, I don't think so..." -- were the best the home side had to offer in 45 minutes of controlled football by the Hammers. The inevitable question being, would the one goal advantage at half-time be enough to stop the suspected second-half onslaught from Sunderland? Mohamed Diame answered that question five minutes into the second half. Superb work by Carroll who was able to win and chest down a high ball, allowed the Senegal player to strike home via a slight deflection that wrong-footed Mannone -- rightful consolation for Diame's determination to win the first ball. It looked as if the night would get even better when Stewart Downing found himself free of the last man and bearing down on goal with only the keeper to beat, but the winger's shot -- destined for the corner -- was superbly tipped round by the Sunderland keeper who got the slightest of touches -- so slight in fact that the save was missed by the officials and a goal-kick was given. Just as Stewart's chance went begging, Sunderland made a substitution bringing on Adam Johnson for Lee Cattermole -- and the whole game changed. Nobody thinks a manager's job is an easy one and we all know now that football is now no longer a game of just eleven men, but it's no wonder fans get frustrated when a coach leaves a man like Johnson on the bench. In what universe is Johnson not good enough to start for a team like Sunderland? Fortunately, Sunderland manager Gus Poyet's decision meant the Hammers only had to face 35 minutes of the former Manchester City winger -- and it was a good job too. As the England player confused the Hammers' defence before slipping the ball through for Craig Gardner to return the favour, Johnson taking the slightest of touches before striking home to bring the game back to life after 65 minutes. Roared on by the crowd, Sunderland attempted to unsettle West Ham, but with Roger Johnson coming on for Diame, the defence simply moved back into its former groove of allowing the home side to see a wall of claret and blue shirts as they attempted to get forward. Sunderland had their chances. but they were mainly half- attempts. The best opportunity coming when a long shot bounced in front of Adrian, forcing the West Ham keeper to parry away and then have to use his chest as Connor Wickham tried to follow up. Johnson was a constant threat but even five minutes of injury time couldn't dent the Hammers' confidence; the visitors actually growing in stature the longer the game went on and the more the relegation-threatened Black Cats tried to force the issue. You could sense the tension from the home support and West Ham used it superbly to their advantage. When the final whistle blew, Allardyce punched the air in the direction of the travelling support. Not mathematically safe perhaps, but it is unlikely any of the bottom three will reach 37 points, while West Ham look confident and will surely unsettle a few other teams on the back of this defensive display. Sunday's home game against free-scoring Liverpool should be a fascinating encounter.