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Steve Blowers, Recorder Reporter
Saturday, September 15, 2012
West Ham made it seven points from four games with a battling draw at Carrow Road
Norwich City 0 West Ham United 0
By Steve Blowers
The hard-working Hammers left Norwich with a welcome point after this lunchtime encounter served up plenty of thrills and spills but, alas, no goals.
Following his side’s 3-0 win over Fulham a fortnight ago, Sam Allardyce had made just one enforced change as Carlton Cole came in for the hamstrung Andy Carroll, while transfer window signings Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun took seats on the bench.
West Ham might not have won a league game at Carrow Road since 1973 but they certainly looked set upon putting those barren 39 years behind them, when with just three minutes on the clock, Matt Taylor fired inches over from 18 yards after Mohammed Diame invitingly nodded Mark Noble’s near post corner into his path.
Norwich had drawn at Tottenham Hotspur in the lead up to the international break and ex-Hammer Chris Hughton also made just a single switch as Andrew Surman came in for Anthony Pilkington.
And the chirpy Canaries’ wide-boy definitely looked the most threatening Norwich player in the opening exchanges when he stormed down the left flank, cut into the area and curled an angled shot just inches beyond the far post
On 13 minutes, Ricardo Vaz Te looked set to carve out an opener for the visitors, when he weaved his way into the area before sending a right-wing cross into the six-yard box, where Cole’s downward header was blocked on the line by Russell Martin before Taylor again fired wide.
Five minutes later, Joey O’Brien embarked on an equally destructive run down the left but this time Kevin Nolan saw his 10-yarder beaten out by John Ruddy and as West Ham sought to break the deadlock, James Collins scuffed high and wide from distance.
But as the half-hour mark approached, Jussi Jaaskelainen suddenly found himself working overtime during a frantic goalmouth siege that saw Robert Snodgrass, Leon Barnett and Grant Holt each pepper the Hammers goal within seconds of each other.
Holt also sent another shot inches wide before Collins was booked for scything Surman just an inch or so outside the Hammers penalty area, which eagle-eyed referee Chris Foy correctly adjudged to be a free-kick to the collective disgust of everyone in a yellow shirt, who craved a penalty kick.
Norwich carried that closing momentum into the second period and, on 50 minutes, Simeon Jackson’s thunderbolt was brilliantly diverted over by Jaaskelainen, who then saw Snodgrass send a 30-yard grass-cutter just wide of the base of his left-hand post.
Shortly afterwards, Bradley Johnson sent another shot thumping into the Finn’s ribs and that was the cue for Big Sam to shuffle his pack with a double-substitution that saw Modibo Maiga and Jarvis replace Cole and Taylor.
Hughton made a change, too, as Steve Morison curiously replaced Jackson and after Sebastien Bassong’s header was gratefully gathered under his crossbar by Jaaskelainen, the Norwich substitute sent a rising, long-ranger over the top.
At the other end, West Ham’s two replacements combined as Maiga robbed Bassong before crossing to Jarvis, whose shot was deflected just wide and, as the game entered its final quarter-hour, Jarvis sent an 18-yarder whistling over.
With the game now petering out into an almost inevitable goalless draw, Allardyce swapped Vaz Te for Benayoun for the final few minutes but the impish Israeli’s arrival came far too late for him to make any impact on his second Hammers debut for the club and, in the end, only Jaaskelainen’s fines save from Harry Kane and Snodgrass ensured that West Ham left Norfolk with their deserved point.
Canaries: Ruddy, R. Martin, Garrido, Barnett, Bassong, Snodgrass, Surman, Johnson, Howson, Holt (Kane 70), Jackson (Morison 63) Unused subs: Rudd, Turner, Hoolahan, Tierney, Fox.
Hammers: Jaaskelainen, Demel, O’Brien, Collins, Reid, Noble, Diame, Nolan, Vaz Te (Benayoun 86), Taylor (Jarvis 57), Cole (Maiga 57) Unused subs: Henderson, McCartney, Tomkins, Benayoun, Diarra.
Bookings: Collins (40)
Referee: Chris Hoy