Hammers Still In A Hole After Forest Loss

Saturday afternoon’s Premier League match at The City Ground saw two teams who were yet to win in 2024 go head-to-head. Unfortunately, it was Nottingham Forest who came out on top against West Ham United, with Nuno Espírito Santo’s side winning 2-0.

David Moyes made two changes to the side that were humiliated at home by Arsenal six days earlier, as Kalvin Phillips and Michail Antonio came into the starting line-up. The frontman was making his first appearance since the reverse fixture after recovering from injury, while Ben Johnson and Tomáš Souček dropped to the bench. Youngster Divin Mubama was named amongst the substitutes.

The Hammers have been chasing a sixth victory on the road for a while now but it was the home side who made the brighter start. They could have been ahead within four minutes of the game getting underway but visiting goalkeeper Alphonse Areola produced a superb save to thwart Anthony Elanga who was set up by Nuno Tavares after the Arsenal loanee had got the better of Vladimír Coufal down the left wing.

Following the Frenchman’s save, Moyes’ men created a chance for themselves but unfortunately, the effort from Mohammed Kudus was deflected and he had wasted the opportunity to give his team an early lead.

Both sides then had chances to go in front but neither of them were taken, before the next big opportunity fell the way of the hosts. Thankfully though, Areola prevented Morgan Gibbs-White from beating him.

This was always going to be a tight game, given the importance of it to both teams. The goalkeepers then did well to preserve their clean sheets as they were faced with one-on-one situations. Firstly, Antonio was superbly kept out by January recruit Matz Sels, before the trick was repeated up the other end, as
Taiwo Awoniyi went close. Areola was once again up to the job, to the relief of the travelling support.

The Tricky Trees were proving to be the greater threat and their relentless pressure paid off in the last of the five minutes that were added to the end of the half for stoppages. The visitors’ defensive resilience was broken when Awoniyi found a way past Areola and the majority inside the stadium were sent into raptures.

The Irons were behind again when referee Thomas Bramall blew the half-time whistle but at least they had a realistic chance of getting back into this one, unlike the encounter six days earlier!!!

The second-half followed a similar pattern to the start of the game, with Forest being the better side and the East Londoners were once again grateful to their goalkeeper for coming up with the goods and denying Elanga with another stupendous stop.

James Ward-Prowse then had an opportunity with one of his trademark free-kicks after the chance was given to West Ham for a foul on Antonio. However, he failed to hit the target and instead sent his latest effort over the top.

Immediately after that chance, there was another. This time for Jarrod Bowen but the former Hull City winger wasn’t able to generate enough power behind his shot to trouble Sels.

Danilo went close to beating Areola but he was once again able to stop the scoreline from being increased. Moments later, the Irons’ task was made even harder when Phillips was given two rather harsh yellow cards in quick succession.

The momentum had been with Espírito Santo’s side throughout the match and by this point, they were certainly looking to make it count with both Tavares and Elanga trying their luck but not testing Areola on this occasion.

Moyes made a double change on seventy six minutes with Coufal and Antonio making way for both Maxwel Cornet and Johnson.

The former Burnley player was involved in the thick of the action almost as soon as he came on. The home fans thought they should have been awarded a penalty after Neco Williams believed he had been tripped by the Ivorian. However, Bramall, together with the VAR officials ruled in favour of the visitors and gave nothing.

Another decision went for Moyes’ team when they thought that they had gone further behind when Danilo wrapped the points up but those in the away end could breathe a collective sigh of relief, as it was not given, due to an offside.

With seven minutes of normal time to play, the West Ham boss turned to his bench again. He called upon Souček to replace Emerson Palmieri.

Six minutes were added on at the end of the ninety and both managers decided to withdraw their Captains. Moyes introduced Danny Ings for Kurt Zouma, while Andrew Omobamidele took the place of Gibbs-White.

The alteration certainly made the difference for Espírito Santo’s side, as less than a minute later, Forest did make the points safe when they broke away and Callum Hudson-Odoi put the ball past Areola.

West Ham are not back in action until Monday 26 February when a London derby under the lights in Stratford is on the agenda as Brentford are the visitors. The good news for the Hammers is that Thomas Frank’s men are just as out of form so they will need to take full advantage.