Hammers hit back against Baggies

Albion produced a fine first-half performance in front of their new

head coach Roy Hodgson, who was watching from the stands, scoring

twice in the opening eight minutes through Graham Dorrans and

Jerome Thomas before Winston Reid’s own goal put them 3-0 ahead

just after the half-hour mark. But things could not have been more

different after the break as a Ba double – on his first start for

the Hammers – and a header from Carlton Cole in between ensured the

match finished all-square. The Baggies, overseen by caretaker boss

Michael Appleton, served up a treat for Hodgson in the first half

but the former Liverpool manager, who was announced as Roberto Di

Matteo’s successor yesterday and takes up the reins on Monday, will

be deeply concerned by the capitulation which followed. West Brom

remain above the relegation zone on goal difference alone, while

West Ham are two points below them, having moved off the bottom up

to 19th. The hosts appeared eager to impress Hodgson from the off

and they made the best possible start as Dorrans put them in front

after only three minutes. The Scotland midfielder, who had not

scored all season, opened his account in spectacular fashion,

unleashing a fierce drive from outside the box that flew into the

top corner. Two minutes later Albion almost doubled their lead as

Robert Green palmed Peter Odemwingie’s cross to Chris Brunt, whose

shot was on target but cannoned away off his team-mate Marc-Antoine

Fortune. That was a near miss, but West Brom were looking rampant,

and within moments, they had made it 2-0. Fortune made amends by

providing the assist, laying the ball to Thomas who then coolly

passed it across Green and into the net. The momentum showed no

sign of letting up as Thomas muscled past two defenders, rounded

Green and went down under the attentions of Reid, but referee Lee

Mason waved away appeals for a penalty. Youssouf Mulumbu then had

to be withdrawn for James Morrison, but West Brom remained on the

front foot, with Odemwingie sending a free header from Dorrans’

corner into Green’s arms. West Ham thought they had pulled one back

when Cole was slipped in and beat Boaz Myhill, but the effort was

disallowed for offside. Reid then survived another scare at the

other end when his apparent handball in the box went unpunished.

The New Zealand defender was having a torrid afternoon and it got

worse moments later as Albion extended their advantage. Dorrans

sent a free-kick into the area and it deflected in off a hapless

Reid to put the Baggies three up. Hammers captain Scott Parker

tried to respond but Gonzalo Jara did enough to put him off as he

shaped to shoot and then Myhill tipped Ba’s strike on to the post,

Morrison clearing the danger. But West Brom were soon attacking

again, with Dorrans bringing a great save out of Green and Thomas

shooting wide from distance. West Ham saw another attempt hit the

woodwork in first-half stoppage time as Gary O’Neil cracked a shot

against the bar, but the rebound went unconverted, as did a Manuel

da Costa header soon after. The visitors needed something quick at

the start of the second period and found it five minutes in thanks

to Ba, who chested down Mark Noble’s lofted pass and tucked the

ball past Myhill. The goal seemed to galvanise the visitors and

Myhill had to get down to stop Luis Boa Morte’s header from a

corner. Hammers boss Avram Grant then threw on Frederic Piquionne

for Boa Morte and the striker’s impact was almost immediate as he

nodded Noble’s free-kick back across goal for Cole to head in and

make it 3-2. Suddenly, with more than half an hour to go, it was

game on and Piquionne nearly drew things level with a header that

bounced off the bar. West Brom managed to switch play and

Odemwingie was denied from the edge of the box by another fine

Green save. But West Ham were in the ascendancy and went close

again when Ba’s shot was blocked by Nicky Shorey. The Senegal

forward then sent a shot into the side-netting, and with seven

minutes of normal time remaining, he scored the third West Ham goal

which had by that point seemed almost inevitable. Noble was the

provider once more, delivering a cross that was not dealt with and

fell to Ba, who volleyed against the turf and in. Odemwingie and

Piquionne had chances to seal victory in the dying moments, but it

was honours even come the final whistle.