Winner: Sam Vokes socres the winner for West Ham against Burnley Photo: ACTION IMAGES
By Thore Haugstad, Upton Park
8:57PM GMT 03 Dec 2011
A week after Gary Speed’s tragic death, Welsh international striker Sam Vokes paid tribute to his former boss by nodding home Burnley’s winner to end West Ham’s undefeated run of seven games.
Vokes, who struck twice in Speed’s last game as manager when Wales beat Norway 4-1 in Cardiff last month — rose to steer Ross Wallace’s corner behind Robert Green, completing an unlikely comeback to secure Burnley’s first win at Upton Park since 1973.
That followed Chris McCann’s second-half header, which came minutes after Kevin Nolan had put West Ham in front with a perfectly-weighted lob over Lee Grant.
“He found it difficult for a couple of days, like the whole world of football did,” Burnley manager Eddie Howe said of the reaction of the Welsh striker, who is on loan from Wolves. “Sam obviously had a relationship with Gary Speed and he’s a great lad with great character.
“I thought he was outstanding when he came on. It’s been a tough time for him and that goal will give him a big lift.” Vokes’s winner came after West Ham had dominated the game entirely. Yet this was another slip-up at Upton Park for Sam Allardyce’s side, costing them the chance to leapfrog table-toppers Southampton who lost away to Doncaster.
They were desperately unlucky at times, Nolan missing a five-yard sitter while Carlton Cole and Jack Collison hit the post. Burnley, by contrast, converted their only two chances in the game. Sam Allardyce denied there was complacency involved.
“We should have defended one throw-in and one corner better than we did, and unfortunately we didn’t,” he said. “Complacency is about players not dominating the opposition but that wasn’t the case today.”
If missed chances frustrated for Allardyce, another source of disappointment was the manner of the goals conceded. Both came from set-plays, an area West Ham are traditionally solid.
“Sometimes balls in the box drop on the opposition’s head whether you’ve got defenders there or not,” Allardyce said. “Today, I think that happened and it was two very good headers to finish the chances off.
“The big disappointment is losing at home today and losing the way we did because we didn’t deserve it.”
For Howe it was a third consecutive victory, a run started on the back of four straight losses.
“I think it is the best result since I’ve been here but perhaps not the best performance,” he said. “We have played better than. But defensively we were excellent and that pleases me more than anything.”
West Ham (4-3-3): Green; O’Brien (Carew 80), Faye, Tomkins, McCartney; Collison, Noble, Nolan; Faubert, Cole, Taylor (Piquionne 56).
Subs: Stech (g), Demel, Bouba Diop.
Burnley (4-1-4-1): Grant; Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee; Marney; Stanislas (Vokes 69), Bartley, McCann, Treacy (Wallace 59); Rodriguez.
Subs: Stewart (g), Hines, Easton. Booked: Duff, McCann, Vokes.
Referee: F Graham (Essex).