Big Sam rues Palace 'waste'

Sam Allardyce gave a brutally honest assessment of West Ham United's performance following Tuesday's 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.

The Hammers fell to the Barclays Premier League's bottom club courtesy of a goal headed in four minutes before half-time by the unmarked Marouane Chamakh. The Moroccan was afforded space to nod Barry Bannan's cross past Jussi Jaaskelainen after the Scot's initial corner had been cleared back to his feet.

If conceding a soft goal was not bad enough, Big Sam's frustration grew still further when Stewart Downing's second half 'goal' was disallowed in controversial circumstances - the assistant referee flagged for Joey O'Brien's tug on Chamakh's shirt before the Irishman headed the ball down for the winger to rifle home.

Speaking to West Ham TV, the manager could barely hide his exasperation at his team's inability to build on Saturday's 3-0 home win over Fulham.

"It was one very bad piece of defending when it was so simple defend correctly on an average cross, which has cost us at least a point," said Big Sam. "Then, it was one really poor decision by the assistant referee to disallow Stewart Downing's goal, which has denied us a chance to come back into the game.

"You can't be sure you will go on and get a point or win the game from there, but certainly it would have put Crystal Palace on the back foot. We were the dominant side and we would have had 15 or 20 minutes to go on and win the game.

"If not, we could have accepted the point coming back from 1-0 down and move forward with Crystal Palace no closer to us. At the end of the day, as I've said many, many times, these are the games we cannot afford to lose and we've lost this one.

"It's all right saying we didn't deserve this, or didn't deserve that, but at the end of the day we've lost 1-0 and those points we have gifted to Crystal Palace are very welcome for them and very dangerous for us to give away."

Focusing on Chamakh's match-winner, Big Sam admitted his defenders had simply not done their job in marking the Moroccan from Bannan's second delivery.

The one-time Hammers loanee glanced his header past Jaaskelainen and, even then, the ball bounced between Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble on its way into the net.

Speaking candidly, the manager challenged his players to eradicate the costly errors and rise to the challenge immediately going forward.

"It was phase two, picking your man up. It was on the board, we practised on the morning of the match, we practice it every week and we put the name and number of our player next to his, then whoosh!

"I just can't believe it myself and, for me, the worrying thing is that it's happened too many times in the last three or four games.

"After the outstanding performance against Fulham, I never thought I'd see a goal given away like that tonight. Sadly we have and it's cost us very dearly.

"Then, when you want the decision to go for you to get you back in the game, that went against us as well. I can't do anything about the officials, only tell them they were wrong, but I can tell these lads that they are ultimately not concentrating enough on their particular job in those instances.

"You've got to take the pressure, be able to work under the pressure, overcome it and produce your best performances. You cannot wilt under pressure or go under, you've got to accept it. The pressure is on us because of our own fault and nobody else's.

"We have to rise to it and make it make us play better, commit fewer mistakes, be more determined and resilient and that's what we've got to be. That will get us back up the league into a safer position.

"Now we've wasted the very good performance and three points we gained on Saturday by throwing this one away."

Before Tuesday's game, the manager privately challenged his players to win back-to-back league matches for the first time this season - a challenge they could not pass.

"I issued the players with a challenge and this is the bit that really disappointed me. I set them the challenge and said 'You've completely cocked up this season compared to last in terms of what we achieved and how we did it'.

"We didn't concede goals from free-kicks and corners and we scored from our own free-kicks and corners. Everybody scored a goal when they had a chance and this season they're not doing that.

"We only lost four games at home the entire last season and we've already lost four, so I said to them 'Do one thing today lads, will you? Go out there and win back-to-back games for the first time, and we didn't. We didn't get a point.

"I'm disappointed, I have to say, that we haven't come away with something. They need to realise that there are not a lot of games to go. More than a third of the season has gone by and our form, in results terms, is getting worse and not better.

"I keep pointing out these dangers and they've got to take it on board and get themselves back on track."