West Ham hold on to edge Norwich
LONDON, Jan 1, 2013 (AFP) - West Ham returned to winning ways for the first time in six outings as first-half goals from Mark Noble and Joey O'Brien were enough to defeat Norwich 2-1 in controversial fashion at Upton Park on Tuesday.
It was a much needed win for the East Londoner's, who move six points away from the relegation zone and pick up maximum points for the first time since defeating Chelsea 3-1 on December 1.
Scottish defender Russell Martin pulled a goal back for Norwich in the dying minutes but it wasn't enough to salvage something from a tight contest.
Norwich, who lamented several contentious decisions by referee Mark Clattenburg including arguments about both goals, lost for the fourth straight match and stay 11th in the table.
Both teams came into the match having failed to register a point during the festive period. Hammers manager Sam Allardyce had to reshuffle his pack in the absence of suspended skipper Kevin Nolan and James Collins while Andy Carroll and Mohamed Diame remain injured.
Hughton had his own problems, being without injured captain Grant Holt as well as suspended midfielder Bradley Johnson.
The Upton Park faithful had barely settled into their seats before some early pressure enticed Ryan Bennett to tug the shirt of New Zealand defender Winston Reid following a corner and Clattenburg immediately pointed to the spot.
It appeared harsh on Hughton's side but Noble coolly sent Irish 'keeper Mark Bunn the wrong way from the resulting spotkick and the home side led 1-0 after just three minutes.
The Norwich players were then left infuriated on 23 minutes when Clattenburg declined to give a clear penalty following a blatent handball in the box by goalscorer Reid.
It went from bad to worse for the 'Canaries' on 26 minutes when Carlton Cole appeared to have fouled Norwegian midfielder Alexander Tettey only for play to continue and O'Brien was allowed to fire home Noble's clever cutback inside the box. Tettey only came back into play minutes later after having treatment on a head injury adding to Clattenburg's controversial first-half.
Norwich had another strong penalty appeal turned down five minutes into the second half which would have changed the complexion of the match but again play was waved on despite James Tomkpins clearly bringing down striker Harry Kane.
The away side finally got some return on their second-half onslaught when Martin volleyed home following some excellent work from Elliot Bennett but it was too little too late.
West Ham were able to weather the frantic final few minutes as Allardyce and his players began the year with a confidence boosting win.