Goals change games, as Nigel Adkins, the
Level at half-time, having played the better football for most of the opening 45 minutes, Southampton were undone by two goals in two minutes after the break and never recovered, with West Ham going on to record their biggest win of the season and move into the top eight.
Yet it might have been so different if Southampton had turned their dominance into goals or taken the handful of chances that came their way.
Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager, acknowledged his side were second best in the first half and described, euphemistically, how his players “took a bit of criticism” at the break. “We weren’t doing our jobs properly, not defending well, not pressing their defence, none of it. We were struggling, but we managed to put that right, and the first goal turned the game in our favour.”
Allardyce admitted there was an element of luck with the first of two goals from the excellent Mark Noble, as his long-range free-kick floated through a crowded defence before bouncing past Artur Boruc, making his debut in goal for Southampton. “It was slightly fortunate but we always practise to hit the target in those situations, and things like that can change games.”
Within two minutes West Ham had doubled their lead as Kevin Nolan tapped home from close range after Yossi Benayoun crossed low towards his captain at the far post.
It was typical of Southampton’s defending that they kept losing possession in front of goal. Yet Southampton gave themselves a chance when Adam Lallana scored after 63 minutes after turning Winston Reid as he collected a Jay Rodriguez pass.
But Noble restored West Ham’s two-goal lead nine minutes later from the penalty spot after defender Jose Fonte handled the midfielder’s free-kick in the area. Although the Polish keeper saved well to stop Nolan scoring again, he had little chance when substitute Modibo Maiga and held off three defenders before curling a shot into the far corner.
The result leaves Southampton second from bottom, with the worst defensive record in the division, while West Ham are flying high. “We’ve come out with a great result and no more injuries,” added Allardyce, who was already without several first-team regulars. “We had six senior players injured and kids on the bench, so it’s a massive result. We knew that if we put their central defenders under enough pressure they would crack eventually.”
Adkins was left to rue another day when his side played well enough in the central third of the pitch but defended poorly and failed to put away their chances. “The first goal changed the complexion of the game, but we have to remain positive and keep working away on the training ground,” he said.
West Ham (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Tomkins (Spence 88), Reid, Collins,
McCartney; Benayoun, Nolan, Noble, Diame (O’Neil 68), Jarvis; Carroll (Maiga
Subs: Spiegel (g), Cole, Chambers, Hall.
Southampton (4-5-1): Boruc; Clyne, Hooiveld, Yoshida, Schneiderlin; Fonte, S Davis (Ward-Prowse 88), Lallana, Do Prado, Puncheon (Mayuka 64); Rodriguez (Lambert 64).
Subs: K Davis (g), Seaborne, Chaplow, Reeves.
Booked: Schneiderlin, Hooiveld.
Referee: N Swarbrick (Lancashire).