No New Year Cheer At The Valley

WEST Ham United went down 2-0 against Charlton Athletic in a New Year's Eve clash at the Valley, Shaun Bartlett and Darren Bent doing the damage.

Pards made two changes to the side that lost 2-0 against Wigan Athletic two days ago, bringing in Shaun Newton and Jeremie Aliadiere in place of Carl Fletcher and David Bellion, who both dropped to the bench.

Also among the substitutes was Yossi Benayoun, the Israeli international returning from an ankle injury sustained against Newcastle.

Hammers started brightly, Marlon Harewood especially, and with barely a minute gone the powerful forward muscled through the Charlton defence before his shot was blocked by Jonathan Fortune.

With 10 minutes gone some slack Charlton defending allowed the ball to roll invitingly across the edge of the penalty area, where Nigel Reo-Coker missed kicked a shot which broke loose to Matty Etherington who pulled his left-foot shot across the goal.

Moments later Reo-Coker was in another good shooting position on the edge of the box and with Addicks goalkeeper Thomas Myhre all at sea after fumbling a corner the Hammers skipper picked his spot only for Herman Hreidarsson to use what appeared to be an arm to block the ball on the line.

On 19 minutes Aliadiere was inches away with connecting with Harewood's deflected cross, but with Charlton struggling to hold onto possession it was West Ham United making all the running.

So when the Addicks took the lead on 21 minutes it was totally against the run of play. Darren Bent took on Matty Etherington and whipped in a low cross which the Hammers defenders left, allowing Shaun Bartlett to steal in at the back post and side-foot home off the crossbar, giving Roy Carroll no chance.

The Hammers goalkeeper did make a fine save low down to his left from Dennis Rommedahl's skidding shot, only for referee Graham Poll to deny him credit for the stop by awarding a goal-kick.

On 31 minutes Shaun Newton was denied by a fine block by Myhre. Etherington slipped the ball through to the midfielder on the angle and Newton hit a stinging drive that the goalkeeper did well to beat away.

A fine strike from Harewood from 22 yards whistled just over the crossbar, just after the striker had inexplicably attempted a bicycle kick when in acers of space inside the penalty area.

A well-taken volley from Rommedahl produced a smart stop from Carroll on 37 minutes and then the Hammers goalkeeper did well to block Bartlett's shot with his leg before a follow-up drive from former Hammer Matt Holland was kicked away from danger by Hayden Mullins as Chartlon took a 1-0 lead into half-time.

HT: 0-1

The second-half saw Charlton start brightly Rommedahl inches away from extending the Addicks' advantage when his low shot came back off Carroll's right-hand post, before Holland fired wide with the follow-up effort.

Hammers were having their chances at the other end though, both Harewood and Anton Ferdinand seeing efforts on goal blocked by a scrambling Charlton defence, while a dipping drive from Etherington was comfortably gathered by Myhre.

Just past the hour mark Pards sent on the fit-again Yossi Benayoun to replace right-back Christian Dailly, with Newton moving to right-back.

But on 62 minutes Darren Bent gave Hammers an uphill task with a decisive second goal. Former Hammer Chris Powell supplyed the cross from the Charlton left and Bent rose above Addicks old-boy Paul Konchesky to head down past Carroll and make it 2-0 to the home side.

On 73 minutes Carroll made a good reaction save from Hreidarsson's point-blank header, just before Aliadiere made way for David Bellion.

Still Hammers could not find a way through the well-organised Charlton rearguard, their best attempt coming from a Ferdinand header that skipped just over the bar.

It was Charlton going closest though, substitute Kevin Lisbie turning Collins inside the box and firing inches wide of the far post.

With four minutes left Benayoun should have scored when he broke away, but under pressure from a Charlton defender he pulled his shot well wide.

Hammers rallied late on, but there was no way back for West Ham, Charlton playing out a comfortable 2-0 win at the Valley.

For West Ham the first time they have lost twice in a row this season will be an unwelcome statistic for Alan Pardew and one his team will attempt to stem against reigning Premiership Champions Chelsea in two days' time.

Today is this reporters last match covering West Ham United. Best of luck for the rest of the season and beyond to everyone at the Club.