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Collison claims vital points as victory at Stoke edges Hammers closer to safety

PUBLISHED: 17:27 02 March 2013 | UPDATED: 20:10 02 March 2013

West Ham United's Jack Collison celebrates with Andy Carroll. Photo: Neal Simpson/PA

West Ham United's Jack Collison celebrates with Andy Carroll. Photo: Neal Simpson/PA

Premier League: Stoke City 0 West Ham United 1

Maybe, just maybe, the Hammers have finally cured their travel sickness.

Following a win-less run stretching back over nine league and cup matches, West Ham United got back to winning ways at long last here at the Britannia Stadium, where Jack Collison fired Sam Allardyce’s team to a thoroughly deserved and hard-fought victory.

Having stepped from the bench in the tenth-minute, the Welsh international struck his second goal of the season in first-half stoppage time to move Big Sam’s side onto 30 points – just six points short of the manager’s safety target.

Both teams came into this encounter following losses last time out and, after Monday evening’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, Allardyce still found himself without Mark Noble (arm) and James Tomkins (virus), while Kevin Nolan (foot) was also added to the casualty list as Matthew Taylor briefly came into a central midfield role.

For after Stoke forced two quick corners and Joey O’Brien had picked up his fourth booking of the campaign for juddering into Jon Walters, Taylor’s afternoon came to a painful, premature end, when Peter Crouch booted him in the face attempting an ambitious overhead kick in a goalmouth scramble.

Joe Cole also appeared to have tweaked a hamstring in the frenzied opening exchanges and, with just ten minutes on the clock, Allardyce found himself making an enforced double-substitution as Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te stepped from the dug-out.

Big Sam knew that Chelsea had been the only team to have left the Britannia Stadium with a Premier League victory this season, while the Hammers had to go way back to an early November win at Newcastle United for their last success on the road – With lone-forward Andy Carroll spending as much time defending his own area, the England striker did get upfield to see one shot charged down, while Vaz Te also had an effort deflected wide and, on 25 minutes, James Collins came closest to opening the scoring when he met Matt Jarvis’ cross with a looping header that tickled the top of Asmir Bergovic’s crossbar.

Sitting in tenth-spot, three points ahead of the 14th-placed Hammers, Stoke had made a trio of changes from the side that had lost at Fulham last Saturday as Andy Wilkinson, Michael Kightly and Cameron Jerome each came in for the suspended Robert Huth, injured, ex-Hammer Matthew Etherington and substitute Geoff Cameron.

But for all their physicality in and around the box, the hosts had still failed to create any clear-cut chances as the half-hour mark approached and, indeed, it was Collison, who had the next serious chance of the first period when he volleyed Crouch’s headed clearance into the Stoke keeper’s clutches from 18 yards.

With colossus Collins and skipper Winston Reid virtually handcuffed to Crouch and Jerome, it was West Ham, who posed the more attacking threat and, as the interval approached Mohamed Diame’s back-heel enabled Guy Demel to flash in a right-wing cross that the soaring Carroll steered wide as a flat-footed Begovic stood rooted to the Potteries turf.

Kightly’s wayward 43rd-minute shot flew yards beyond the far post to sum up an unimaginative and impotent half for Tony Pulis’ side but, ironically, three minutes into the time added on for Taylor’s injury, that early, enforced Hammers re-shuffle produced a rich dividend.

Collecting the ball 30 yards out, Vaz Te’s attempted one-two with Carroll came to nothing, when the falling forward was wrestled over by Ryan Shawcross but, with referee Jon Moss intelligently allowing play to carry on, the powering Portuguese playmaker collected his own pass before finding unmarked, fellow sub Collison, who drilled a low angled 12-yard shot across the face of Begovic into the far corner.

Having taken that precious half-time lead, the Hammers were indebted to O’Brien’s perfectly-timed tackle on Jerome just after the restart that preserved their advantage and the Stoke striker’s frustration at missing out was compounded a few minutes later by the consequently cautioned Collins, who picked up his sixth booking of the campaign for a thundering aerial challenge on the half-way line.

It could have got yet worse for Stoke, when the breaking Jarvis saw his angled shot cannon off Begovic’s ribs, while at the other end, Crouch unleashed a low, 18-yard bobbler that Jussi Jaaskelainen held at the second time of asking.

Midway through the second period, the clattered Carroll saw his second yellow card of the campaign for over-protesting about the force of Wilkinson’s challenge, while Pulis introduced substitutes Brek Shea, Kenwyne Jones and Charlie Adam in quick succession.

With a quarter-hour remaining, Vaz Te had a fantastic chance to make the match safe, when Collison prodded him through on goal but after drawing Begovic, the West Ham wide boy then found his path to goal gridlocked by a pack of retreating defenders.

And although Adam chested down and rocked the bar with a 20-yard volley in the final moments, Collison’s goal remained enough to finally give the Hammers and their vociferous travelling supporters that long-awaited away-day win.

POTTERS: Begovic, Shotton, Wilkinson, Shawcross (c), Wilson, Walters (Jones 73), Kightly (Shea 65), N’Zonzi, Whelan (Adam 77), Jerome, Crouch. Unused subs: Sorensen, Cameron, Whitehead, Palacios.

HAMMERS: Jaaskelainen, Demel, O’Brien, Reid (c), Collins, Taylor (Collison 10), Diame, O’Neil, J. Cole (Vaz Te 10), Jarvis (Pogatetz 83), Carroll. Unused subs: Spiegel, C. Cole, Maiga, Chamakh.

Bookings: O’Brien (6), Collins (54), Carroll (69), N’Zonzi (90+1).

Referee: Jon Moss (W. Yorkshire)

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