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