Carroll earns another point on the road

Posted by Peter Thorne

Ian Walton/Getty ImagesAfter missing last week's match against parent club Liverpool, Andy Carroll returned to the lineup and tallied West Ham's equalizer at Southampton.

The Hammers enjoyed their second successive draw on the road and took another invaluable step towards the 40 point mark in what was otherwise a fairly uninspiring match at St Mary's.

This 1-1 draw with Southampton leaves both teams locked together in mid-table in a game that didn't really provide much entertainment for the neutral, but probably gave some deal of solace for Sam Allardyce -- once again his team have shown how difficult they are to beat -- and possibly some measure of frustration for Mauricio Pochettino.

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As you might have expected, as the home side, Southampton were slightly more enterprising, had more possession and more shots -- although most were off target -- but the visitors rarely looked particularly threatened with the defensive partnership of Matthew Collins and James Tomkins toiling solidly throughout. Andy Carroll was roundly booed as he might have expected but, as ever, he keeps defenders on their toes and ensures there are no wholesale charges from the opponents' defence. The usual amount of cleanly won headers, wild gesticulations and effort ensued although again, some Hammers supporters will question the amount of support available to the big striker.

Carroll went close on a couple of occasions, most notably just before Southampton's opener when he shot narrowly from a difficult angle while Rickie Lambert and Gaston Ramirez went closest for the Saints.

The weather may have been cited for the nondescript first half action; the wind and rain making play difficult for both teams, ensuring that the respective managers had to change their clothes at halftime.

Key point in the first period was Jussi Jaaskelainen superbly tipping a Lambert shot onto a post following a Ramirez free kick. The keeper has been in excellent form for West Ham in recent weeks and is coming into a neat bit of form at just the right time of the season.

On 68 minutes, Southampton went ahead, annoyingly from a wonderful piece of defending by both West Ham centre-backs. As Ramirez approached the penalty area following a long goal kick, both James Collins and James Tomkins threw themselves in front of the ball to block any attempted shot. They did this so successfully that they were both on the ground as the ball popped beyond and between them, allowing Ramirez to carry on and to steer the ball home. Apart from the possible argument that they had both gone for the same ball, it was difficult to see how the defenders could have played it differently.

Fortunately though, the Saints lead wasn't to last too long. Seven minutes later, when Mohamed Diame was fouled outside the area to the right of the goal, Carroll lined up a free kick he always seemed keen to take. His shot wasn't hard but it skidded along the wet grass, taking a small nick off of Steven Davis before beating Artur Boruc.

There were some chances afterward for both sides, but little of note and this looked a draw long before the third official held up a board for four extra minutes during which both sides looked happy to keep what they started with.

West Ham will again be happy with their away-day on this relatively short trip to the south coast, with the only possible concern being over Tomkins who, for the second week running, had to go off with an injury. His replacement Emmanuel Pogatetz doesn't inspire great confidence, but at the moment, I expect my Gran could play alongside Collins and keep a clean sheet. Allardyce must treat the giant Welsh defender as his long-lost son.

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