Belfast Telegraph

Sam Allardyce's diamond formation leaves West Ham sparkling by finish

West Ham 3-0 Hull

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

If the first half of yesterday's West Ham United performance felt like a grim regression, the second was a story of the powerful progress of Sam Allardyce's side.

The Hammers were so bad in the first half, in which they were outplayed by Hull City, that they were booed off. It all felt drearily reminiscent of this fixture last season, when they received that same reception at both half-time and full-time despite winning the game 2-1. That cold evening last March was a nadir in the poverty of West Ham's play, and the relationship between Allardyce and the home crowd.

This season has been much better but there has still been a lingering fear at the Boleyn Ground that the bad old days were just around the corner, that the new improvements would fade away and last season's turgid fare would reassert itself. If the first half of this game suggested all of this, the second half - one scrappy goal, two brilliant ones - was a thrilling repudiation of it.

"I haven't seen us pass that poorly in the entire season as we did in the first half," the manager admitted. "That can only be a legacy of Tuesday night and the efforts to beat Everton [in the FA Cup]."

But Allardyce changed at half-time from a blunt 4-2-3-1 formation - which left Stewart Downing and Enner Valencia in wide positions - to a sharp diamond in which they were central. "Changing the shape was the big thing, and playing forward quicker," he explained.

"All this tippy-tappy stuff, everybody going on about the right way to play football, it's all a load of old bollocks. Getting the ball into the box quickly and with quality is the best way forward. That's what we did [in the] second half and that's why we won the game."

The transformation was almost instant. Kevin Nolan volleyed just over with West Ham's first attack after the restart. With their next, they took the lead. Downing pulled the ball back to Valencia, whose shot was spilled by Allan McGregor, and there was Carroll to tap in from five yards.

West Ham were suddenly a different team. Valencia found Morgan Amalfitano with a forward pass and the substitute deftly lifted the ball over McGregor with just enough force for it to roll over the line.

The third goal was almost as good. Alex Song turned in the centre circle and played a perfectly directed through pass for Downing to run on to and put the ball into the near bottom corner.

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