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Andy Carroll earned West Ham United a hard-fought 1-1 draw in rainy conditions at Southampton, bringing the hosts’ three-match winning streak to an end.
The 24-year-old forward missed last weekend’s trip to his parent club Liverpool and made an immediate impact on his return to Sam Allardyce’s starting line-up. Having proved an attacking threat all afternoon, the striker fired low past Artur Boruc to cancel out Gaston Ramirez's opening goal.
Saints came closest to breaking the deadlock in a tight first half, with Jussi Jaaskelainen somehow tipping a close-range Rickie Lambert effort on to a post.
Carroll fired just wide 10 minutes into the second half and the hosts soon capitalised, with club record signing Ramirez breaking the deadlock. The lead was to last just seven minutes, though, as Carroll found the net after firing home a short free-kick from Gary O’Neil to earn the East Londoners a point at their fellow promoted side.
Carroll was West Ham’s only change at Southampton, who brought Danny Fox and Adam Lallana in for Luke Shaw and Jay Rodriguez after the pair fell ill during the week. Lallana was quick to make an impact in a week in which he signed a new five-year contract, being denied inside two minutes by a late James Tomkins challenge.
Morgan Schneiderlin received the afternoon’s first booking moments later after a challenge from Kevin Nolan, who soon tested Boruc from close range. Ricardo Vaz Te was the next to go close, flashing a 25-yard drive just over, although play was fairly even.
James Collins and Tomkins had to be alert to clear threatening balls from Nathaniel Clyne, before a Lallana cross just evaded Jack Cork at the back post. Neither side created many clear-cut opportunities in the wet and windy conditions.
The 26-year-old defender Fox was turned on the wing by Vaz Te, whose pull-back would have been turned in by Nolan, were it not for Jos Hooiveld’s intervention. Tomkins reacted well to thwart Lallana from close range when play returned to the other end, with Jaaskelainen then superbly denying Lambert.
Ramirez floated in a free-kick to the back post and the Saints forward prodded goalwards, only for the West Ham goalkeeper to tip on to a post. As the half drew to a close Ramirez and Joey O’Brien tangled in the box before Lambert headed a Cork cross inches wide.
After the break it took until the 55th minute for the first clear-cut chance, with Carroll flashing a strike inches wide after Saints failed to clear their lines.
The hosts took advantage of that miss by taking the lead just three minutes later. Boruc’s long ball up field was only cleared by Tomkins as far as Ramirez. After the ball squirmed under a joint challenge from Collins and Tomkins, Ramirez coolly fired past Jaaskelainen for his fifth goal of the season.
West Ham responded well, though, and only a last-ditch Cork header prevented Nolan bundling home an equaliser. The 2,740 visiting fans did not have to wait long for the leveller as West Ham won a free-kick on the edge of the box and O’Neil played it short for Carroll to fire low past Boruc via a slight deflection off Steven Davis.
Southampton brought on Rodriguez for Lallana in a bid to find a winner, with the in-form striker’s first contribution being a run that brought a foul from substitute Emmanuel Pogatetz, who was booked for his challenge.
Carroll saw a low strike stopped by Boruc as he searched for his second, before coming back to deny Rodriguez at the other end. Lambert hit a 20-yard free-kick at the West Ham wall late on before Rodriguez tested Jaaskelainen from distance.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: "I think we deserved the victory. We worked superbly and we were better than them. We knew they would be physical and direct but I want to congratulate my players because we managed to impose our brand of football.
"It's a shame we conceded so quickly [after going ahead] but it was an unfortunate moment in the game and these things happen in football. I'm content, especially considering the virus we had in the squad this week, but unhappy that we didn't get the three points we deserved."
West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce: "In the end we were more than comfortable. Away goals have been our problem all season and we again created some chances which we didn't convert.
"There are six games left, we have 38 points and are in a nice position in the league. We have four games at home, two away, and our home form has been good this season. We should finish strongly, see how many points we can pick up and see where we can finish. I can't see us losing six on the trot with the way the lads are playing."
|20 Apr 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|27 Apr 2013||v West Brom (H)|
|04 May 2013||v Tottenham (A)|
|12 May 2013||v Sunderland (A)|
|19 May 2013||v Stoke (H)|