Late heartbreak at the Hawthorns

Caretaker manager Kevin Keen saw his West Ham United lose unluckily in front of the watching Gianfranco Zola at a sunny Hawthorns on Saturday.

The home side took an early lead through James Morrison but the visitors restored parity in the 29th minute through Mark Noble. Lucas Neill then put West Ham United in front before a Roman Bednar penalty in the 37th minute saw the sides go into the break all-square. However, a promising day that saw new recruits David Di Michele and Herita Ilunga shine on their debuts ended with Chris Brunt sweeping in a late winner for West Brom.

Keen had made two changes to the team that impressively swept aside Blackburn Rovers a fortnight ago. Ilunga came in at left-back following his move from Toulouse with Luis Boa Morte completing a new-look left side. Julien Faubert and Matthew Etherington both dropped down to the bench, with Neill reverting to his regular right-back berth.

The Baggies side got off to a flying start, scoring after three minutes. Morrison darted in front of Matthew Upson to steer a low header past Robert Green. Four minutes later a weighted pass from Ilunga sent Carlton Cole free into the area but he was closed down just before he could release his shot. His strike partner Dean Ashton then tried his luck with a curling effort from 25 yards but Carson turned it round the post.

Ashton left the field in the 17th minute after suffering what looked like a head injury and while he was off receiving treatment the home side had a great chance to double their lead, but Bednar headed wide when well placed. The No9 could not continue so Di Michele came on for his first taste of English football. Within seconds, Robert Koren raced clean through on goal, but Green got down well to make a fantastic one-handed save.

Cole then wriggled his way into the area to cut back for Boa Morte, his shot was blocked and when the ball eventually fell to Valon Behrami, he could not quite direct his shot on target. Cole was a having a creative period as he then played Di Michele in with a looping ball over the top but the new No32 was just denied by a last ditch tackle from Leon Barnett.

West Ham United finally got the goal their play deserved though when Behrami crossed to the far post for Di Michele, but Carson somehow kept his header out with his feet. The rebound fell to Noble and the side from east London were level.

Di Michele was doing everything he could to mark his debut but when he was put through in the 35th minute, Carson again denied the Italian with a smart stop. The visiting fans, who were in good voice throughout, did not have to wait long for a second though as from the resulting corner Neill was on hand to smash the ball in for his first goal in a claret and blue shirt.

It was all action and a minute later the home side broke towards the other end. Green came out to claim the ball down low but caught the attacker and a penalty was awarded, although it did appear that the goalkeeper did get something of the ball. The England international could not repeat the heroics of his save from Blackburn's Jason Roberts two weeks ago as Bednar smashed the penalty down the middle to level the game once more.

Just before the break Cole's trickery allowed him to play in Boa Morte but the angle was just too tight and he could only hit the ball straight at Carson. It was a lively second half as well. The first chance saw Green come out quickly to smother the ball just as it appeared Bednar was destined to beat him. Faubert came on in the 65th minute and showed some attacking intent with some lively bursts down the right.

Di Michele was booked with a quarter of an hour to play to underline his commitment to his new cause but found chances on goal few and far between - two overhead kick efforts the closest he came although neither troubled Carson.

Keen's last change was to replace Boa Morte with Etherington with just over ten minutes remaining. However, it was the home side who were to have the last word within five minutes when Brunt finished off a swift counterattack with a low finish from Paul Robinson's cross that Green could do nothing about.