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2014-05-04T10:00:00 Updated 2015-02-18T21:58:26

Stewart savours Spurs strike

Stewart Downing's first West Ham United goal may have been a long time coming but was certainly worth the wait. 

The 29-year-old curled an inch-perfect free-kick through Tottenham Hotspur's fragmented wall to double the Hammers' advantage on the stroke of half-time. 

Ironically, an earlier contribution was probably the more telling one. With the deadlock still to be broken, Downing burst clear of Danny Rose, before being tripped by last man Younes Kaboul who saw red for his troubles. 

All in all, a thoroughly successful outing for West Ham's No23 and one that he says bodes well for next season.

He told West Ham TV: "I left it late but I think it was a good time to score. Not only personally, but for the team, the way we were playing we needed to get off to a good start. We got the early goal and the 'keeper made some unbelievable saves. I thought it could have been more.

"It was a really good day and the atmosphere was unbelievable. We played some great football. We have to take that into next season, performances like that, on the front foot, pressing teams. Spurs have got some unbelievable players and on Saturday we pressed them and they made a lot of mistakes. That's got to be the platform." 

Stewart Downing v Tottenham
Downing sends his free-kick on its way past Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal

It was Downing himself who established the platform on Saturday, as his surge toward goal culminated in the dismissal of Kaboul. The winger was in no doubt that referee Phil Dowd had produced the right card, having been denied the opportunity to pull the trigger.

"When the ball broke to me, I've just tried to cut across," he explained. "I got across Rose, I've seen Kaboul and he's obviously tripped me. If he doesn't foul me I get a shot at goal, so I don't think there's any argument. It was a sending off.

"I don't think any of their players argued too much, apart from Kaboul himself. He's last man, it's a sending off. It would have been nice if we'd have scored from the free-kick, but it wasn't to be. It obviously helped us with them down to ten men as well."

As for his long-awaited goal, Downing insists that parting Tottenham's wall was no fluke, having earlier spotted a similar breach.   
He continued: "We'd seen it in the first one with Andy, they were turning and jumping. So if it gets through a gap, it's in, because the keeper's unsighted.

"We always stress don't jump and don't turn your back, because you see so many goals go under, or go through. That's what I tried to do, hit it through the wall and get it through the gap, because from that distance it's quite hard to get it up and down, especially against a 'keeper of that quality.

"I did leave it late but it was nice to get one on Saturday, especially against a local rival and the big thing was that we won the game."  

Though Downing will rightly take the plaudits, the winger reserved special praise for manager Sam Allardyce, as preparations begin for a third successive season in the Barclays Premier League. 

"Sam has been calm. The manager's taken a lot of stick, but he's been around the block and knows how to handle these situations.

"I think he's done ever so well this season in the circumstances that have been put in front of him. We've missed key men at times, but I thought on Saturday it all came together. With players back to fitness we played some really good football. It's a good send-off for the fans, I'm sure they're happy and [we want] more of that next season." 

But before next season comes firmly into focus, West Ham could yet have a say in the title race, with Downing keen to throw a spanner in the works at Manchester City.  

"We're comfortable in a good position and we can go there, play football and do other teams a favour. The pressure's on City to win their games and you never know! We can beat anyone on our day. We've proven that on Saturday, so we can do it again.

"It's going to be a good atmosphere up at City and I'm really looking forward to it. They're a top team, but that's what you want to do, test yourself, and I think we owe them a good performance!"

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