By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 West Ham United 1
The Albion lost at the Amex this evening but for large parts of the encounter were much the better team.
Albion had a few chances early on, with both Sparrow and Mackail-Smith going close. Debut keeper Steve Harper looked very comfortable handling and even more so with the ball at his feet.
Craig Noone was getting plenty of change out of McCartney and hoisted one cross straight across the six-yard box, but no Albion player could meet it.
Looking comfortable and taking the game to the Hammers, Greer knocked a short pass to Bridcutt who failed to control it and allowed Kevin Nolan to stride forward in to the box and place his shot past Harper to put the Hammers in front.
The Albion didn’t respond immediately but as the half wore on, the Seagulls had a succession of corners and a couple of decent shouts for a penalty, but despite all the pressure the Albion really did not cause Almunia in the West Ham goal any problems, until Reyes picked out Mackail-Smith with a glorious 30 yard pass, which was flicked on by Barnes and was caught full on the volley by the Scottish International, but saved well by the West Ham keeper.
For all their pressure the Albion went in at half time behind.
The Seagulls started the second half where they left off the first, with Noone and Mackail-Smith at times marauding through the West Ham defence.
Barnes was also linking up well with Mackail-Smith and from a corner from Noone, O’Brien appeared to use his arm to guide the ball to safety, but referee Friend was unmoved.
As they like to do the Albion were patiently building from the back and through midfield, and trying in most cases to get the ball out to Noone.
When he needed to Lewis Dunk had John Carew well shackled and this was more notable when Carew was replaced by Piquionne
To purloin an East End phrase, the Albion really were all over West Ham like a cheap suit but just couldn’t find that penetration.
On the hour Poyet beefed up the attack and put Hoskins on for Barnes.
In a rare West Ham attack Sears forced Dunk into a rash challenge that resulted in a yellow card for the latter.
Mackail-Smith tried a long pot-shot once or twice which came to nothing.
As the Albion continued to have all the play but none of the luck Will Buckley replaced Sparrow but try as they might Albion could not work the ball into a shooting position.
Even another succession of corners didn’t worry West Ham, with Greer and Dunk adding their height to the attack.
Dicker then hit a great flicked pass into the area for Mackail-Smith who just collided with Almunia before he could reach the ball, as another chance went begging.
Sadly it was Dicker’s last meaningful contribution as soon after he fell very awkwardly and his foot collapsed beneath him, and he was stretchered off the pitch and replaced by Ryan Harley.
This led to eight minutes of injury but save a half chance for Hoskins, Albion could just not create the opening to hit the target.
West Ham will take heart from a very lucky win.
Albion: Harper; Jara Reyes, Greer, Dunk, Painter; Bridcutt, Dicker, Sparrow, Noone, Barnes, Mackail-Smith. Subs Ankergren, Calderon, Hoskins, Harley, Buckley
West Ham: Almunia; O’Brien, Reid, Faye, McCartney; Diop; Faubert, Nolan, Noble, Collison; Carew. Subs: Boffin, Sears, Moncur Baldock, Piquionne.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)