Hammers Lose To Rasiak Double

WEST Ham United have gone down 2-1 to Derby County in this early kick-off at Upton Park, Carl Fletcher's goal overshadowed by a brace from Grzegorz Rasiak.

Alan Pardew made three changes from the team that lost at Wolves. Fit again Nigel Reo-Coker and Carl Fletcher returned in place of Mark Noble and Anton Ferdinand while Gavin Williams was recalled for the injured Bobby Zamora.

The game was slow to warm up on a chilly afternoon in East London, and West Ham's rhythm was disrupted after just seven minutes when Williams limped off to be replaced by Noble.

Three minutes later the Hammers fell behind. Rams full-back Richard Jackson broke away down the left and crossed for Grzegorz Rasiak to head home.

From the restart Alan Pardew's team fought to get back into the game. Noble's swirling effort dropped just the wrong side of the bar, only for the play to be pulled back for a foul during the build up, before another dipping drive from Noble flew narrowly wide of Lee Camp's post.

With 23 minutes gone Sergei Rebrov came within inches of restoring parity for the Hammers. Harewood's back heel released Chris Powell down the left and the full-back's pinpoint cross found Rebrov, whose header scrapped the bar on its way over.

With the Hammers pressing relentlessly it seemed only a matter of time before they equalised. In fact, it took the home side just a minute longer to level the scores.

Jeff Kenna headed away Rebrov's cross, but the tenacious Carl Fletcher wrestled the ball from Inigo Idiakez on the edge of the area and drilled a left-foot shot low past Camp to celebrate his first goal for the Club.

Looking sharp and hungry in midfield, Hammers pressed forward. On 41 minutes a sublime through ball from Noble released Harewood, who was clattered by the onrushing Lee Camp just outside the box.

Despite being the last line of defence, Camp only received a yellow card for the infringement, a decision that incensed the Upton Park faithful. Unfortunately, West Ham could not take advantage, as Rebrov's free-kick plunged straight into the Derby wall.

In the dying seconds of the half Nigel Reo-Coker burst through on goal only to see his shot saved by the feet of Camp, sending the teams in all square at the break.

HT: 1-1

Hammers made a storming start to the second-half and almost took the lead when Carl Fletcher's thunderous header from Rebrov's corner was cleared off the line with Camp beaten.

Just two minutes later Marlon Harewood squandered a golden opportunity, jabbing the ball over from five yards out after pouncing on Hayden Mullins' low cross.

At the other end, Jimmy Walker failed to hold onto a cross under pressure from goalscorer Rasiak, but did well to gather at the second time of asking at the feet of Rams skipper Ian Taylor.

But it was West Ham United making most of the running. On 55 minutes, Mark Noble fired off a shot under pressure that had Camp scrambling across his goal.

The 17-year-old Academy graduate then squandered possession with a loose pass in midfield, allowing Adam Boulder to storm forward and unleash a curling drive that whistled just wide of Walker's left hand post.

Captain Malky Mackay headed just wide for the Hammers on 60 minutes, before the Rams regained the lead through the giant Rasiak's second of the game.

With 63 minutes elapsed a corner from Idiakez was cleared as far as Tom Huddlestone, who returned the ball to the back post where Rasiak was waiting to volley past a helpless Jimmy Walker.

Alan Pardew immediately introduced Teddy Sheringham to rapturous applause, Sergei Rebrov the player making way.

Harewood was soon causing trouble for the Derby defence, letting fly with a shot on the turn that crept just wide.

Looking to protect their slender advantage, Derby brought on Marco Reich and Marcus Tudgay on 73 minutes, with Morten Bisgaard and Tommy Smith leaving the field.

With the Rams sitting deep, Hammers launched an all out aerial assault on their defence. One such raid saw the ball drop to Sheringham and after he was tackled well by Pablo Mills, Noble laid the ball out to Luke Chadwick whose stinging effort was athletically tipped away by Camp.

Hammers began to dominate possession, but against a miserly Rams defence they found it difficult to fashion clear-cut chances.

On the break Reich burst away before shooting tamely at Walker, but Derby were more concerned about protecting their advantage than adding to it, a point underlined by the withdrawal of Rasiak three minutes from time to be replaced by Junior.

West Ham swept forward relentlessly in the closing minutes and only the outstretched leg of Ian Taylor prevented them from snatching a point late on. Mullins' 20 yard drive rifled low through a packed penalty area, evaded the despairing drive of Camp only to be repelled by the Derby captain's lunge.

The final whistle sounded almost immediately afterwards, leaving Derby to celebrate their eighth away win of the season and West Ham their fourth defeat at Upton Park.