'Key moments' leave Sam frustrated

Sam Allardyce said key moments had conspired against West Ham United to make it an unhappy New Year courtesy of a 2-1 defeat at Fulham.

2014 looked set to start on a Barclays Premier League high when Mohamed Diame fired the Hammers into an early lead at a wet and wild Craven Cottage, only for Mark Noble be forced off with a calf injury.

Within seconds, Steve Sidwell had headed Fulham level before Kevin Nolan was sent-off for the second time in a month for inexplicably aiming a kick at Fernando Amorebieta a minute before half-time. Down to ten men, Big Sam's side battled hard in the face of heavy Fulham pressure, only for Scott Parker's miss-hit shot to tee-up Dimitar Berbatov for the simplest of winners.

Read our full Match Report from Craven Cottage

"There were three key moments in this game," said the Hammers manager, whose side sit 19th in the table and three points from safety. "The first was our goal, which was great, and then Kevin's header which we all thought was a goal until the unbelievable save from Stockdale, which was a great shame for us.

"If we'd gone 2-0 up, we wouldn't have seen Kevin Nolan sent-off from there, but we shouldn't have seen Kevin Nolan sent-off anyway, but we did.

"For whatever reason, he's had a rush of blood and the red mist has descended and he has acted irresponsibly and it's something that has made life extremely difficult for us. He has let himself, his team-mates and the Club down by his actions and he has to shoulder that responsibility and accept what he has done was not right.

"The rest of the lads battled right until the very end trying to get something out of the game, all the way to the final whistle in very difficult conditions, to try to get the goal.

"Whatever happens at the moment, whether it's a deflection or a knockdown or a break, it's not seeming to go our way at the minute.

"All we can do is pursue what we can change, which is getting the injured players fit, getting some new players in through the window and getting more results as quickly as possible because that gap between points and games played has got that little bit bigger and makes life so much more difficult to make the difference up."

It had all started so well at Craven Cottage, too. West Ham scored and then harried and harassed Fulham as the home side repeatedly tried to play out from the back, frustrating the home supporters.

From one interception by Matt Taylor, Diame crossed for Nolan, only for Stockdale to make a miraculous save with his right foot and keep the score at 1-0.

"We nicked lots of balls of them trying to pass it out and then Mo put in a fantastic ball and I don't think Kevin could have headed it any better. Stockdale just threw himself at it in hope and that bit of hope went his way and it didn't go in the back of the net.

"If Fulham had gone 2-0 down having lost 6-0 at Hull City, it would have put a lot of fear into them, but it wasn't to be.

"We were in a good position but then our marking let us down on their goal and the big key moment was the sending-off, sadly."

The manager was also left to lament the loss of Noble to a calf injury which he blamed on the heavy Christmas fixture list.

The midfielder has started every one of West Ham's 20 league matches this season and Big Sam said the physical effort had taken its toll on the No16 - as it has on countless other Barclays Premier League players in recent weeks.

"If it's not bad enough that Mark Noble gets injured down to his fatigue levels because he's played too many games over the Christmas period,

"I watched Liverpool against Chelsea and five players went off with muscle injuries in that game on its own. Right across the board we're losing millions of pounds worth of talent because the fixture load is being shown to be too much for players at this time of year."

While he now has to contend with arrival of Noble in an already packed treatment room, the manager did at least welcome Stewart Downing back after four weeks out with a badly cut ankle.

The England international was quickly back into his stride at Craven Cottage, providing the rare bright moments of a gloomy second half with his ability to keep possession and drive the team forward with his direct running and accurate passing.

"He got us back in the game and got us going forward because he holds the ball up and receives the ball when he is marked, wriggles around and gets us on the front foot.

"We saw a big lift in our attacking play when Stewart came on and ultimately got us into areas where we might have nicked a draw, but we couldn't find the ultimate finish."

West Ham now take a break from Barclays Premier League action until the trip to Cardiff City on 11 January.

In the meantime, the Hammers travel to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round on Sunday before making the journey to Manchester City for a Capital One Cup semi-final first leg next Wednesday evening.

With so many players unavailable and new faces possibly arriving over the next few days, the manager admitted he would have to make changes to his starting XI for those two fixtures.

"Well, the trouble is that you have to put players out to play who can get injured again. It would be lovely at this moment in time to go into these games with a fully fit squad - we wouldn't be in the position in the league we are now for one, because our points total would be better, and two, we'd all be looking forward to the semi-final and the side we are going to put out.

"At the moment, I haven't got a clue what team I'm going to put out on Sunday or next Wednesday because of all the problems we have got."

Finally, when asked for his one New Year's resolution, the manager was clear - Barclays Premier League safety.

"Obviously it's just about getting points on the board now for me. The only thing we have got to do in this profession is to get enough points to stay in the Premier League - that's the only goal and only ambition and that's what we have got to push ourselves as hard as possible to do."