Carroll's Swan upping

Posted by Peter Thorne

Howard Webb dismissed Andy Carroll during West Ham's victory.PA PhotosHoward Webb dismissed Andy Carroll during West Ham's victory.

The old partnership of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan saw West Ham safely through this vital game against Swansea City and the 2-0 score line to the home side was no less than they deserved. Unfortunately, Carroll's afternoon was spoiled by a harsh sending off that West Ham will surely appeal against and, if justice is done, it will probably get rescinded.

As he did last season at Upton Park, Carroll simply tore Swansea apart, causing the Welsh side to go in at the break two goals down after Nolan had netted his opener on 26 minutes, before scoring another at the stroke of halftime. Carroll had laid both goals on, firstly with a superb cushioned header that Nolan chested down and struck home, and then following a corner from which the Geordie managed to head back for his old Newcastle teammate to nod home.

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With no other way to stop the big No. 9, Swansea's Chico Flores took it upon himself to redress the balance by claiming Carroll's trailing arm hit him in the face during a tussle in midfield just under the hour mark, the Swansea man dropping to the ground like the proverbial sack of spuds. While local police combed the Bobby Moore upper searching for the sniper, Flores rolled on the Upton Park turf clutching his nose in a performance that will surely influence the voting in this month's Oscar presentations.

Indeed, with his brooding looks, the Spaniard could probably interest some Hollywood studios but any producer from Los Angeles thinking of offering the defender a future movie role may want to steer clear of any "tough guy" roles. On this performance, Flores would be better in a light, frothy rom-com; less Flores, more florist.

The Upton Park crowd were incensed by the decision by referee Howard Webb to send Carroll off and the referee's reception for the remaining 30 minutes was only a little less vitriolic than that handed out to Flores. Fortunately, it seemed that Swansea were a little embarrassed by the actions of their player, barely worrying the 10 men in the remaining time with only former Hammers target man Wilfried Bony offering any threat.

The win briefly lifted West Ham out of the bottom three, but they were to return later in the day due to results elsewhere. However, with only three points now covering the seven clubs above the Hammers and Swansea themselves only two points better off, there is little doubt that the relegation scrap could be the closest in some years and West Ham's second clean sheet is surely of some significance. With the defence miserly again, if Sam Allardyce can get the best from his wingers and the old team of Carroll and Nolan, then he should see his side pull away from the bottom.

Much may depend on whether Allardyce is able to get Carroll's red card overturned then. There seems little doubt that if there was contact it was minimal, Carroll seemingly turning round to remonstrate with Webb after Flores had climbed all over the striker as they tussled for a high ball. Carroll's arm was up, but it seemed to be raised in a "what's going on here?" gesture and it stroked across the top of Flores' head -- nowhere near his nose.

Now it's said that football wants to ban play acting from the game and, if it does, surely opportunities like this should be seized upon. Any player seen clutching any part of his anatomy not actually struck, and then found rolling on the ground in apparent agony before leaping up and carrying on without a mark, should be given their own late red card and banned accordingly.

Cheating aside, however, Allardyce looks a more positive man than the one slumped on the bench in the rain during January's cup matches. It was interesting that, although on-loan Antonio Nocerino came on as a late substitute for Nolan, the team that started the game was pretty much the one Allardyce would have wanted to play throughout the first half of the season, even with Carlton Cole coming on after Carroll had been red-carded.

Certainly, Allardyce's faith in his players seems to be paying off; the team is working hard for their manager and desperately trying to turn results around. Much-missed Winston Reid was even back for this, coming on in the 79th minute to tighten things up.

Having everyone back is going to be vital in February, when the claret and blue go into a run of important but winnable games. Whisper it, but there are signs that West Ham are turning a bit of a corner.


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