|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Stoke City break West Ham hearts as Marko Arnautovic grabs late equaliser
Press Association for the Guardian
Published Saturday 11 April 2015 17.22 BST
Sam Allardyce lamented West Ham’s “nerves and panic” which allowed Stoke to snatch an equaliser deep into stoppage time. The home side looked to have done enough to battle to victory after taking an early lead through a superb free-kick by the full-back Aaron Cresswell.
But after seeing two efforts from Marko Arnautovic ruled out for offside and a header by the substitute Mame Diouf hit the post, the visitors snatched a deserved point five minutes into injury time when the Austrian forward crashed the ball into the far corner.
West Ham remain in the top 10 but Allardyce knows their position should have been much more comfortable after witnessing yet another late capitulation.
“You have to give Stoke a bit of credit but from our point of view we did not play as well as we can,” said Allardyce, who revealed striker Diafra Sakho is set for a spell on the sidelines with a thigh injury.
“It was not about us playing well or not, it was about winning and we had got ourselves into a fantastic position. When you are less than 30 seconds away from winning the game and you don’t, that is the ultimate blow.
“We are very nervous on that stage based on what happened before. We should be on 50 points now, we have thrown away seven points in two minutes or less over four games.
“We can’t find the right key elements to see the game out and leave ourselves on a nervous edge by having a little bit of panic in what we are trying to do which is coping with the opposition when they have to take more risks, playing more direct.
“While it was a very good goal, we should have dealt with it and kept possession better, using your intelligence to make sure you are doing it.”
Allardyce added: “If we had concentrated better in those (last) minutes, we would be sitting on our greatest total and finish ever in the (Premier) League.
“Instead we are scratching our heads on when are we going to finish a game out again. I thought we were going to do it today, but finished miserably in the end over just a few seconds.”
Allardyce is out of contract in the summer, with the club’s owners yet to decide in which direction they want to take West Ham before their move to the Olympic Stadium.
The 60-year-old, though, intends to remain professional in his approach over the final matches of a campaign which had earlier promised so much.“It depends on what you say. Do you say what is the overall season like? It should be 50 points, it should be very, very good. It is small margins of victories to draws and draws to defeat,” Allardyce said.
“In the judgment at the end of the season, or if not what happens before that, then we talk about what we are doing going forwards. We are still on course to beat the best points record we have had, but we are making it hugely difficult for ourselves now when we really should be coasting instead of looking forward to every game we are playing.”
The Senegal forward Sakho limped off in the second half and if the problem proves serious, he might not recover before the end of the campaign.
Allardyce said: “If it is a grade one off the scan, then it could be two to three weeks, if it is more, then you would be lucky to see him again this season, which is a massive blow but we have to deal with it.”
Mark Hughes felt Stoke had done more than enough to end a run of three defeats. “We are thankful for small mercies because we did not think we were going to get what we deserved,” he said.
“I thought we totally dominated the game and should have won it by a country mile. We had the setback from the great free-kick early in the game and it is difficult when you are the away side to come back.
“We showed great resilience and stuck at it, trying to create things, but just lacked that bit of quality at the top end.
“If one of our disallowed goals had counted I think we would still have had time to go on and win the game. We want to better last season’s total and are determined now to get something out of all of the matches we have left,” Hughes said. PA