Sam hails 'Master of penalty saves'

Sam Allardyce said Adrian was the man to thank following the Spaniard's penalty-saving heroics at Queens Park Rangers
Sam Allardyce paid tribute to West Ham United’s ‘Master of penalty saves’ after Adrian’s third spot-kick stop in a row earned a goalless draw at Queens Park Rangers.

The Spaniard followed up saves from Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Leicester City’s David Nugent by denying Charlie Austin on 23 minutes and dent the Hoops’ Barclays Premier League survival hopes.

With a host of players out injured, including Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Alex Song, top scorer Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll, teenager Reece Burke was handed a top-flight debut at centre-back, but the depleted Hammers stood resolute to take a share of the spoils back across London.

“I think we had to match the fact that when a team is at the bottom of the league and the games remaining are in single figures, the desire and anxiety of the opposition is so much greater than it is at the start of the season,” the manager told West Ham TV.

“When there are only three, four or five games left and a team is in the bottom three and three or four points adrift, the opposition get more and more desperate.

“Of course we had many positions to have scored but failed to do so. The best in the first half came before the penalty when Enner Valencia should have rolled the ball to an unmarked Kevin Nolan in the middle of the goal. I understand his frustration because he wanted to score and we want him to score more, but not when there is someone else in a better position, because you must give them the ball.

“It was obviously a penalty, but there was a clear foul just before on Cheikhou Kouyate, who was just cleaned out by Karl Henry as he headed the ball, which meant the ball went to a QPR player instead of one of ours. I don’t think you could blame the referee because Ginge’s hand was in the air above his head.

“Then, though, we had the master of penalty saves there for us again – that’s his third one on the trot and it was the major reason we got a point. It was not fortunate, but fantastic goalkeeping because he has proved it in the past.

“There was also no doubt about the foul on Adrian for the goal they have had disallowed, so we got the defensive side right.”
We had the master of penalty saves there for us again – that’s his third one on the trot and it was the major reason we got a point
One major reason for that was the assured performance of 18-year-old Burke on his Barclays Premier League debut – and just his third first-team appearance.

The Newham-born youngster was cheered on by his parents and 1,200 Hammers fans, responding with a confident and unflustered display alongside James Collins.

“We had a young man in Reece Burke making his debut and he stood up to Austin and Bobby Zamora and came away with a clean sheet,” said Big Sam. “It was a magnificent feeling for him and his family. I could imagine the nerves and excitement they felt about him playing, and he played so well and looked calm and commanding at times.

“There is a future for him if he works harder than he has ever worked. If you never stop working and practising then you will forge yourself a career in the game.

“He has given us an insight into the fact he can cope with this level on a one-off basis, so now he has to prove he can play regularly at this level.”

Having kept QPR at bay before half-time, West Ham created a succession of chances after the break.

Aaron Cresswell’s free-kick was tipped over by Robert Green, Mark Noble’s scooped free-kick eluded an unmarked Nolan, before Kouyate blazed Valencia’s cut-back high over the crossbar.

“Greeny showed why he is back in the England squad because that was one outstanding save from Aaron Cresswell,” the gaffer observed.

“Towards the end of the game, we had so many opportunities to score in the final few minutes, which have haunted us so often recently, so it was disappointing to have missed those chances.

“One nearly paid off, and it was unusual because Mark Noble normally plays that ball perfectly for Kevin all the time, and QPR hadn’t got a clue what was going on, but he played it wrong and it went out.”