By Marc Isaacs
LONDON, (Reuters) – West Ham United substitute Andy Carroll netted a late equaliser to snatch a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City on Monday that moved the Londoners a step closer to Premier League safety and left the visitors facing the drop.
Stoke thought they had secured all three points and their first away win since October when substitute Peter Crouch knocked a loose ball into the back of the net after West Ham’s England goalkeeper Joe Hart spilled a shot after 79 minutes.
But West Ham showed all their fighting qualities as they rescued a point in added time when Carroll volleyed a cross from Aaron Cresswell past Jack Butland into the corner of the net.
West Ham will count themselves unlucky not to have won after having three goals disallowed in the second half, but the victory means they now stand seven points clear of the bottom three, while Stoke are five points adrift of the safety zone.
“I thought we played well throughout,” said Carroll. “Obviously Crouchy came on and scored, which is what he does best, and it was disappointing for us because we’d had a few chances and a couple of goals disallowed.
“We took points off them, though, and it’s a point for us, so it’s a good result in the end.”
Disappointed Stoke manager Paul Lambert refused to give up the battle to beat relegation, saying: “I still think we need three wins. If we can get a little break on Sunday against Burnley, we’re certainly in with a fight.”
After West Ham’s crucial home win over Southampton and a well-earned point at Chelsea, David Moyes’ side were in confident mood and could have broken the deadlock after 55 minutes when former Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic directed a powerful header past Butland but was given offside.
The Hammers were denied a goal once again after 67 minutes when Edimilson Fernandes struck a powerful shot that flew past Butland but his effort was also ruled out, with Arnautovic standing right in front of the unsighted Stoke keeper.
Stoke opened the scoring after a moment to forget for World Cup hopeful Hart in front of watching England manager Gareth Southgate as he failed to hold a shot from Xherdan Shaqiri and Crouch was in the right place to convert from close-range.
But West Ham refused to lie down and Carroll, missing for the last 13 games through injury, showed his quality when Cresswell delivered a perfect ball into his path and the former Liverpool forward fired an unstoppable volley past Butland.
West Ham were again denied by the linesman’s flag moments later when Javier Hernandez struck the ball past Butland, but Carroll was adjudged to have handled inside the area.
“I tried to bring the ball down and it hits my hand a little bit,” said Carroll. “If it’s a shove in the back, it’s a penalty, but we played on and he (referee Michael Oliver) didn’t give it and, in the end, it’s a point, so we’ll take it.”
(Reporting by Marc Isaacs; editing by Ken Ferris)