Hammers beaten again

West Ham United's miserable run continued with a sixth straight defeat on Saturday as Ricardo Fuller scored the only goal of a scrappy contest at the Boleyn Ground.

The Jamaica striker had only just come on when he beat Manuel da Costa and Matthew Upson to smash the ball past the helpless Robert Green midway through the second half. It was harsh on the home side, who had the better of the openings before and after that crucial strike.

The manager had made five changes but there was little to show in the first ten minutes of an instant reaction to Tuesday's heavy defeat against Wolves. It was a tentative start to say the least with only a Jonathan Spector run in the first quarter of an hour giving the crowd anything to get excited about although it came to nothing.

At the other end, Stoke were getting the ball into the penalty area as quickly as possible but Robert Green was in no mood to hang around, punching or catching anything close to his six-yard box. The visitors made an early change introducing Andy Wilkinson with Abdoulaye Faye hurt in a challenge on Carlton Cole.

The first real chance came soon after with Julien Faubert crossing for Mido - in for Benni McCarthy - but his header was off target. Kieron Dyer, another change on the right wing at the expense of Junior Stanislas, then showed some neat footwork in the box but Stoke stifled his attempt on goal.

It was the half-hour mark before Stoke really threatened with Robert Huth getting a free header but he wasted the chance. The home side were struggling to make inroads, with their best moments coming with anyone prepared to bring the ball forward as Parker did on 33 minutes, only just missing Cole with his defence-splitting pass

The England man definitely connected two minutes later, turning his marker before fierce effort from 25 yards that Sorenson could only parry into the path of Mido. However, the striker could not get a proper contact and the chance was gone. Parker and Dyer had further thrusts forward but there was to be no scoring by half-time.

Gianfranco Zola made a switch at half-time, replacing Dyer with Alessandro Diamanti while Stoke's first change came two minutes in when Dave Kitson pulled up and Tuncay Sanli entered the fray. Parker was the main man for the home team and his charge down of a fierce Huth free-kick summed up his desire.

The first yellow card came on the hour with Glenn Whelan penalised for a foul on Cole but the resulting free-kick from Diamanti only troubled those in the the Bobby Moore Stand. Chances were few and far between after that before Fuller, only just on for former Hammers winger Matty Etherington, weaved his way through and scored.

Ilan arrived for the final 20 minutes, replacing Mark Noble, and the Brazilian only just failed to connect properly with a deep Faubert cross on 79 minutes. Spector jinked his way through on 84 minutes but his final shot was never going to bring him his first West Ham goal as Benni McCarthy arrived for Mido for the final push.

That late surge did not really materalise though with neither side doing anything of note in the final third. Stoke seemed content to hang on to what they had while the Hammers were to be frustrated by some resolute defending. Home hopes went when Cole just flicked a Spector cross wide and Diamanti hit the wall with a free-kick, leaving nerves jangling for the final six games.