An incredible 94th-minute strike from West Ham United striker Andy Carroll was enough to give David Moyes’ side a crucial three points against fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion at the London Stadium yesterday evening.
Alan Pardew’s visitors had taken the lead in the first period when James McClean’s long-range effort found the back of the net, but they were pegged back early in the second-half by Carroll.
The former England forward then popped up again deep into added-time for the winner, sending the Claret & Blue Army delirious in the Stands after they witnessed both sides miss opportunities after the break.
A pivotal victory takes the Irons out of the bottom three and all the way up to 16th position, level on points with AFC Bournemouth above, whilst, the continuation of the Throstles’ winless run keeps them 19th, now four points from safety and without a victory since mid-August.
From the start in a chilly East London, Hammers Boss Moyes decided on two changes to his starting Xl in the wake of the thrilling Boxing Day 3-3 draw with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
Departing from the team was former Welsh International defender James Collins who was replaced by stand-in Captain Winston Reid, while Andre Ayew was ousted in favour of Andy Carroll in the attacking department, making his first start since November.
Whereas, Baggies Manager Pardew made double that amount, four changes, to the team that controversially stole a late point at the Hawthorns Stadium against Arsenal a mere two days ago.
Coming back into the side was Claudio Jacob, Grzegorz Krychowiak, James McClean and Salomon Rondon, who importantly passed as late fitness test for the visitors, they took the places of Jake Livermore, Gareth Barry, Chris Brunt and Hal Robson-Kanu, although there was a late change as Matt Phillips was injured warming up and Livermore was drafted back in.
On a New Years’ evening in Stratford, the pulsating, end-to-end style of the affair could be seen right from the very off, with both teams threatening early on.
The first to do this were the away side who looked dangerous with several promising crosses into the box, however, they would have to wait 13 minutes for their first real sight at goal.
This arrived when Rondon managed to evade tackles from Angelo Ogbonna and Reid before chipping over the head of Adrian San-Miguel and onto the roof of the net.
The close-call woke Moyes’ men up and they were soon creating opportunities at the other end, most notably when Pablo Zabaleta’s cross eventually fell for Manuel Lanzini via a Carroll knock-down.
He stuck a ferocious volley, though Foster got down well to push it away and out of danger, such was even nature of the encounter, just when it looked like the Hammers were finding their stride, a period of Baggies pressure elicited a surprise goal.
Breaking away fast after stopping an attack from the hosts, Rondon shifted the ball to McClean whose burst of pace got him beyond the midfield area and to the edge of the box.
Here, the Irish International set himself before unleashing a low effort that flicked up off the boot of Ogbonna and proved impossible for Adrian to keep out in the rain-filled swirling wind.
Boos rang out from the home supporters, who had already seen their team defeated at home by the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United this season, but there would be a glimmer of hope before the break.
It came in the form of yet another Lanzini effort as he controlled Cheikhou Kouyate ball with great skill, turning and getting off his shot, Foster equal to it once more to keep his team ahead at half-time.
The Irons continued to look for an equaliser early in the second period, having introduced Skipper Mark Noble, and should’ve had one within 60 seconds, with Marko Arnautovic, ever-present, picking out Carroll for a simple finish, the tall forward directing the ball over the bar from close-range.
However, the attacking intent did finally reap its rewards just before the hour-mark as Aaron Cresswell picked out Carroll with a delicious ball into the danger zone.
The once most expensive Englishman rose above the rest to glance into the far corner, with a leap and header that typified his style, netting for the first time since a strike against Hull City back in April and carrying on his marvellous run against the Throstles.
His equaliser helped to open up the affair for a thrilling conclusion, both teams having chances to take all three points home with them in the driving East London rain.
The introduction of Oliver Burke gave the visitors a different dimension, he caused problems in attack, being played clean through and stopped by an Ogbonna challenge, in the dying embers he volleyed just over from the centre of the box.
In the opposing penalty area, Arnautovic was cleverly slipped in with Foster apprehending him well to keep out his low shot, while Adrian also had work to do as the Austrian deflected Craig Dawson’s delivery, leaving him to tip just over the bar.
As the minutes counted down, the hosts did the majority of the pressing, exploiting the left side of the Baggies’ defence and moments after Declan Rice had played in fellow substitute Javier Hernandez down there, they found joy in that position once more.
Just when it looked as though the draw was a formality, Lanzini broke quickly and found a certain club-record signing in the left-wing position, his low cross getting through a ruck of bodies and rolling to the far post.
In the right place at the right time to meet it was Carroll, who finished emphatically on his weaker foot, slamming the ball low across the face of goal and into the back of the net.
His second, after a goal drought of just over nine months, was met with wild celebrations as he peeled away to celebrate with an overjoyed Claret & Blue Army, it could prove to be a crucial moment in the seasons of both Xl’s.
Moyes’ boys will now be hoping to carry their winning confidence on to a tricky trip to Wembley to face Tottenham Hotspur just tomorrow night in the Premier League, they have now lost just one of their last six League games.
While, Pardew’s men will have a little longer to try to pick themselves up in the wake of disappointment on the road, in their next outing, the will travel to Exeter City in the FA Cup.