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Hammers Show Their Steel Versus Stoke City

West Ham’s winning run came to an end but they did well to claim a point as they battled back to draw 2-2 with Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

The Potters had been well in control of the contest and deservedly led 2-0 thanks to goals from Victor Moses in the 33rd minute and Mame Biram Diouf in the 56th.

But Stoke City boss Mark Hughes was denied the perfect birthday present as Enner Valencia reduced the deficit on the hour mark before Stewart Downing equalised with 17 minutes of normal time remaining.

The result leaves Hughes’ side 12th in the Barclays Premier League table, while West Ham have dropped a place to fifth.

Stoke had won their previous two home top-flight matches, but they went in to this one looking to bounce back from consecutive defeats in league and cup to Southampton.

In West Ham they were facing another side, like the Saints, exceeding expectations this term and in fine form, Sam Allardyce’s men arriving on a three-game winning streak and and having taken victories in four of their last five.

Forward Diafra Sakho, scorer of a goal in each of their last seven fixtures, had been key to those recent exploits but a shoulder injury meant he failed to make the squad here.

And in his absence, West Ham were on the ropes in the opening stages as Stoke – missing an important frontman themselves in the suspended Peter Crouch – started at a high tempo.

Bojan Krkic, retained from the cup tie for his first league start since September 13, had a shot blocked by Winston Reid early on and after Moses had lashed over the bar from distance, the lively Spaniard tried another effort, with James Collins getting in the way.

Bojan then drilled a dangerous delivery across the face of goal, with Diouf just unable to apply a finishing touch.

West Ham lost Reid to injury in the 24th minute, James Tomkins coming on in his place, before carving out their first really decent goalscoring opportunity as Downing played a neat one-two with Alex Song, only to blast off-target.

Stoke were soon applying pressure again and just after the half-hour mark they broke the deadlock as Bojan’s shot struck Collins and Moses scrambled the loose ball over the line.

It was a moment to savour for the winger, recently at the centre of controversy when he was branded a diving “cheat” by Swansea boss Garry Monk, as he notched his first goal since joining the Potters on loan from Chelsea over the summer.

The home side kept attacking, but could not add to their tally before the interval, with Bojan flashing an effort narrowly wide and Diouf then turning away from Collins delightfully, only to be denied by a great save by Adrian

Allardyce brought on another forward at the break, introducing Carlton Cole for Morgan Amalfitano, but the pattern of the game remained the same as the second half got under way and Stoke did not take long to add a second goal.

It arrived when Jonathan Walters got the better of Aaron Cresswell on the right flank and picked out Diouf, who nodded past Adrian.

Four minutes later, though, West Ham pulled a goal back as Downing burst down the right and delivered a ball that evaded a couple of Stoke shirts and was converted by Valencia at the far post with a diving header.

Hughes looked unhappy about a challenge by Song on Diouf in the build-up, but the effort stood and the visitors were back in the game.

Stoke looked to restore their two-goal advantage and Steven Nzonzi’s shot was well kept out by the diving Adrian before Diouf wasted a decent chance, heading off-target from a free-kick.

The hosts were then made to rue their profligacy as Downing levelled the scores, firing in from a Valencia cross.

It was West Ham now with the momentum and Valencia struck wide, then almost got around Asmir Begovic, who managed to tip the ball away.

It was anyone’s game to win as the minutes wore on, but neither was able to seize the initiative. A good-looking chance fell to Geoff Cameron in the final 10, but he saw his shot turned behind by Adrian – and then, bizarrely, referee Chris Foy award a goal-kick.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.