Sam hails 'game-changer' Valencia

Sam Allardyce hailed his West Ham United team after they twice came from behind to secure a 2-2 Barclays Premier League draw at Hull City.

The Hammers were arguably unfortunate to end up with just one point from their trip to the KC Stadium after a thrilling 90 minutes that produced 16 shots on goal from Big Sam's side.

Two of those shots produced maiden Barclays Premier League goals for summer signings - the first a Goal of the Season contender from Enner Valencia and the second a low effort from Diafra Sakho - as West Ham showed a combination of flair, ability and spirit.

Allan McGregor produced a fine save from Sakho before Tigers new boy Abel Hernandez - one of seven debutants on the night - powered Hull in front with a well-placed header. The Uruguayan then thumped the crossbar with a shot a few moments later.

West Ham made the most of that let-off when Valencia produced a wonder-strike nine minutes after the break. The Ecuador star collected Stewart Downing's pass before unleashing a swerving effort that arrowed past a stunned McGregor and in off the crossbar.

Just when it looked as if the visitors would take control, a mis-placed throw-in allowed Mohamed Diame - making his Hull debut against his former club - to put the home side back in front on 65.

West Ham were level within 90 seconds, however, as Downing fed Sakho and his shot beat McGregor and Curtis Davies on the line.

The closing stages produced more chances for both teams, with Valencia rising high to head Downing's cross past the Scotland goalkeeper, only for Michael Dawson to divert the ball onto the crossbar and deny the Hammers a famous victory.

"It was a pulsating match," agreed Big Sam. "In the first half it was a bit nip and tuck because both teams played the same system - both played with a diamond, so it was a bit tit for tat.

"The turning point for us was when the ball came down our right and there was a really good cross and Sakho got a touch on it and it was going into the net. I don't know how he quite did it because he was running one way and he just managed to stick his hand out the other, and it tipped his fingers and instead of going in, it went for a corner.

"Then, just before half-time, they took the lead. Apart from going 1-0 down, I was quite pleased with the way we equipped ourselves in the first half.

"Then, you need game-changing players and certainly Enner was our game-changing player because he has popped up and stunned everybody with a world-class goal. I've not seen anybody strike a ball as well as that from that distance.

"You could tell how good it was because McGregor didn't move. The ball was past him before he knew where it was because it was that good.

"That gave us a lot of confidence so the real disappointment was that we took the control of the game from then on and had Hull on the back foot away from home and then conceded again. We were probing and looking to get more and more chances - Reidy won a header where we just needed a touch to put it in.

"Then we did the most stupid thing, not only letting Hull score their second but letting Mo Diame score as well, off our own throw-in.

"We then bounced back again and Sakho got a goal as well, so at the top end we bought two new players in and they scored two goals. But, on the defensive end, we have just lost our clean sheet mentality. If we get that back and continue to play like we have been playing, then I think we'll be OK.

"Enner then popped up in the last minute and I really thought it was the three points - it was a terrific header from a great cross from Stewart Downing. He is only 5'9 but he has a magnificent leap on him. He out-jumped their defender and won the header, which beat the 'keeper and who knows how the Hull defender popped up on the line to chest it on to the bar!

"That was disappointing then, but I'm reasonably satisfied with a point."

While he is slightly concerned by the fact his team has conceded seven goals in four matches, the manager was enthusiastic about the Hammers' attacking play.

Time and again, West Ham created chances from both open play and set pieces, getting in behind defenders, shooting from distance and latching onto loose balls inside the opposition penalty area.

If his players can improve their defensive play, he insisted, then the Hammers could enjoy a very productive season.

"Our ability has to be both ways, in that when we're out of possession we can't let the opposition score," he continued. "We haven't had a clean sheet yet when we had 14 last year.

"With our goalscorers this year, if we can get 14 clean sheets again, we're going to finish in the top ten, and that's guaranteed.

"We've got to start doing our defensive job better - I even thought we could have done better on their first goal, as I don't think James Tomkins should have let him get the header in.

"Of course on the second goal, it's a real gift. It's a good finish, but at that stage we gifted them a goal.

"After all that, with new players in the team, the way we performed as they got to know each other, we looked comfortable. They're only going to get better and better, I hope."

Finally, the manager was asked about the debut performance of Alex Song, who played for the final half-hour and showed glimpses of his all-round quality with his composed and incisive midfield play.

"Alex Song is so comfortable that he does things at his own pace," Big Sam observed. "He never looks in trouble or seems like he's rushed, because that's the quality of the player when a player looks like that.

"He picks out the right pass, makes the right forward passes rather than sideways or backwards and that's why we've bought him. He opened up Hull City's midfield to allow our forwards to run at their defenders - that's what he's really good at."

West Ham return to action on Saturday, when Liverpool are the visitors to the Boleyn Ground for a 5.30pm Barclays Premier League kick-off. To secure your seat for what promises to be another thrilling game, click here.