No­ble steps up to pun­ish hap­less Hull for a glut of wasted chances

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - FOOTBALL - By Sam Dean at the Lon­don Sta­dium

West Ham United 1 No­ble 76 pen Hull City 0 Att: 56,952

When you are hav­ing a sea­son as un­der­whelm­ing as West Ham United’s, you snatch at any points you can get your hands on. But even the most blink­ered of home sup­port­ers in the Lon­don Sta­dium would strug­gle to deny that this was one of the most scarcely de­served vic­to­ries they will see.

Not for the first time at their cav­ernous new home, West Ham pro­duced a per­for­mance largely lack­ing in fight, en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity against a side they would ex­pect to beat. How grate­ful they must be, then, to the cool head of their cap­tain, Mark No­ble, and Hull City’s waste­ful­ness in front of goal.

On pa­per, this was the per­fect end to a pos­i­tive week for West Ham man­ager Slaven Bilic. A hard-fought draw at An­field and then a mid­week vic­tory over Burn­ley, a sec­ond win in a row ap­pears to be the lat­est sig­nif­i­cant step in their re­cov­ery from a dread­ful start to the cam­paign. In re­al­ity, they were lucky not to have lost this game by half-time.

Hull have now suf­fered seven suc­ces­sive away de­feats, and this will be the hard­est for their man­ager Mike Phe­lan to stomach. Three times they struck the post, there was an ef­fort cleared off the line, and a string of other open­ings fell by the way­side be­fore Mark No­ble’s penalty – given in soft cir­cum­stances, to say the least – gave West Ham the three points.

“That’s the na­ture of the in­dus­try we are in,” said the dis­ap­pointed Phe­lan, whose side will now spend Christ­mas at the foot of the Premier League. “To lose that game is dif­fi­cult when the game should have been out of sight be­fore then. We had more than enough chances to win a few foot­ball matches to­day. We didn’t take them. You get pun­ished if you don’t do the job right.”

The first big op­por­tu­nity fell to Dieumerci Mbokani, who could only hit the post af­ter be­ing put through on goal by a dread­fully un­der­hit back-pass from Aaron Cress­well. De­fender Harry Maguire then had a header well saved, while there were also chances for Sam Clu­cas and Jake Liver­more.

Af­ter half-time, they struck the wood­work twice more. First when No­ble ac­ci­den­tally headed to­wards his own goal, and then when An­drew Robert­son’s tor­pe­doed strike can­noned off the post with Ran­dolph beaten. Mo­ments later, an­other Maguire header was cleared off the line.

That it was not go­ing to be Hull’s day had be­come ev­i­dent long be­fore West Ham’s Michail An­to­nio twisted to the floor un­der min­i­mal con­tact from Tom Hud­dle­stone. Ref­eree Lee Ma­son saw enough to award the penalty and give No­ble the chance to score his sec­ond win­ner in four days. Against Burn­ley, his spot-kick was saved be­fore he slammed in the re­bound. Here, he rolled it past Hull’s David Mar­shall with ease.

“For a long pe­riod of the game they looked like they de­served some­thing,” said Bilic, who added that his team’s start was not good enough. “At the end of the day I would have liked to have played bet­ter but we knew that these cou­ple of games would be all about the re­sults. We got six points from them, which was our main ob­jec­tive.”

As the fi­nal whis­tle went, Hull’s play­ers stood mo­tion­less. A cou­ple squat­ted on their haunches, a few oth­ers cov­ered their heads with their shirts. How they had lost this, let alone failed to win, will haunt them over Christ­mas and be­yond.

Spot on: Mark No­ble scores the match-win­ning penalty, his sec­ond of the week

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