From the Terraces - Joe Difford

Fan blogger Joe Difford looks back at Sunday's final day defeat at Stoke City
Fan blogger Joe Difford looks back at Sunday's final defeat to Stoke City...

Sunday’s game was billed as our most important game in club history, but although it caused us to lose our guaranteed place in the Europa League, the season as a whole has been massive in our progression.
After Tuesday’s farewell to the Boleyn Ground and the dramatic win over Manchester United, it was always going to be tough to maintain that intensity on the final day of the season.
Stoke away is always a tough fixture for any side, and despite us silencing the home crowd in the first 45, except for a few boos here and there, the hosts turned the game around through sheer determination.
Having picked up a knock against United, Dimitri Payet was forced to watch on from the side lines, and his creative spark and ability to create something from nothing was missed as we failed to score a second goal from 19 shots.
Michail Antonio opened the scoring in his more natural attacking role, excellently chesting down the ball from a corner before turning in the box and firing home. With the Euros fast approaching, it just doesn’t make sense to leave the winger at home, as he has been the best English wide man all season, and Sunday’s goal emphasised that.
Despite all of our pressure and chances, Lady Luck seemed intent on keeping us out of the Europa League, as Diafra Sakho’s effort hit the side netting before Cheikhou Kouyate saw his effort literally an inch from crossing the line, but Glenn Whelan and goal line technology kept it at 1-0.
Giannelli Imbula equalised with a seemingly simple effort, as he waded through a sea of claret and blue with ease, before firing into the corner from 20 yards out. Charlie Adam then almost scored another one of his wonder goals from the half way line, but Darren Randolph got his fingertips to it, twice, to poke it over the bar.
The ball just didn’t seem to want to go in the net for us, and Stoke took their chances, winning the game with minutes to go. An Adam corner was met by the head of substitute Mame Biram Diouf and he powered it home before running off to celebrate acrobatically.
It was a bitterly frustrating end to the season and our hopes of European qualification now rest on the outcome of the FA Cup final, but we should still look back on the season and be proud to be Hammers.
Avoiding relegation was Slaven Bilic’s initial goal and he has taken us to 7th place, our second highest finish in Premier League history. We had a great run in the FA Cup and could have been in a Champions League spot had it not been for a number of refereeing mistakes, but after missing so many chances at Stoke, we can’t put the blame solely on officials.
Next season we could have European football to welcome the Olympic Stadium and with a few top signings, there is no reason why we cannot continue to compete with England’s elite.
Our record against last season’s top four show that we are capable of beating anyone, and with a bigger squad and more fans cheering us on, who knows where Bilic could take West Ham United.
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