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With West Ham having started their Premier League campaign in fine form at the Boleyn Ground, performances away from home had thus far failed to live up to the standards set last season in the Championship.
An error-laden display against an on-form Swansea followed up with a patchy performance against Norwich suggested a match against QPR, on the back of an extremely disappointing exit from the Capital One Cup midweek, could prove tricky.
But whilst Loftus Road had never been a good stomping ground for the Hammers, their London neighbours have endured significant problems of their own.
Manager Mark Hughes had been given the resources to put together a promising squad this summer featuring big names such as Stephen M’Bia and Julio Cesar, but prior to kick-off were lying at the foot of the Premier League table, having taken just 2pts from their opening 5 games.
The home side went with a more attacking line-up than the previous week at White Hart Lane, Hughes bringing in Djibril Cisse to partner Bobby Zamora up front and also gave Stephen M’bia his first league start in the hope he could tighten up a defence that thus far has proved leaky.
From match reports and transfer targets to the Olympic Stadium, i'll be sharing my thoughts on everything West Ham
Sam Allardyce made just one enforced change from the draw against Sunderland, Matt Jarvis coming in for the injured Matthew Taylor, with Andy Carroll starting on the bench having recovered from the hamstring injury he cruelly suffered after his highly impressive debut against Fulham.
QPR's Esteban Granero and West Ham's Mohamed Diame
And it was the claret and blues who made by far the more impressive start, taking the lead after just 3 mins – Kevin Nolan’s looping cross to the far post headed in by Matt Jarvis.
West Ham’s midfield dominated the opening period – the aforementioned Nolan, flanked by the once again impressive Mohamed Diame and tenacious Mark Noble proving too much for QPR’s tidy midfielders who enjoyed good possession but lacked the penetration to really trouble West Ham’s back four, wingers Ji Sung Park and Shaun Wright Phillips in particular almost non-existent as an attacking threat.
The East Londoners played mainly on the counter, utilising the pace of Matt Jarvis and tricky Ricardo Vaz Te, but despite one inventive volley from Cisse that drew a smart save from Jussi Jaaskelainen, always appeared the more likely to score. And it was the Portugese winger Vaz Te who got himself on the scoresheet on 35 mins, executing a deft finish to beat Julio Cesar on his near post with the aid of a minor deflection off M’bia to give West Ham a comfortable 2-0 lead at half-time.
Arguably West Ham’s biggest problem of the 1st half were injuries. Winston Reid the first casualty, knocked out cold by his own goalkeeper looking to clear a high ball, whilst right back Joey O’Brien suffered a hamstring injury and also had to be replaced before the break.
Sparked into life
Despite those two changes to the back four the 2nd half started much like the first 45 mins with West Ham on the front foot but, nearing the hour mark, Mark Hughes threw on Samba Diakite and the mercurial Adel Taarabt in an attempt to salvage something from a game that appeared to be slipping away.
It took just two minutes for the Moroccan to make both an impact in the game and perhaps a statement to his manager, cutting inside from the left to curl a stunning shot past Jaaskelainen in the West Ham goal.
Up until that point West Ham’s goal had been largely unthreatened but the strike sparked life into the home side and Jaaskelainen was suddenly the more busy of the two goalkeepers, forced into a smart save to deny Esteban Granero.
West Ham's Andy Carroll and QPR's Alejandro Faurlin compete for high ball
In truth, despite QPR’s new found belief, West Ham could and probably should have sewn the game up shortly after Taarabt’s goal when Carlton Cole was put clean through on goal by Kevin Nolan but the striker pulled his shot horribly wide, spoiling what had been up to then an impressive performance.
Just as QPR looked to use that miss as even more incentive to push for an equaliser their hopes were dashed when midfielder Diakite was sent-off by referee Mark Clattenburg for his second yellow card in little over 20 mins since coming on as a substitute.
It was a bitter blow for QPR who saw most of their momentum lost thereafter and as West Ham looked to see out the game, substitute Andy Carroll began to exert his own influence, first knocking down for Vaz Te who saw a smart shot tipped onto the bar and then bringing a high ball down to unleash a stinging drive of his own that Cesar was forced to parry.
A generous six added minutes of injury-time did give the home fans a glimmer of hope but West Ham defended doggedly to hold on comfortably for their first away win of the season.
Hammers fans have got to be very happy with this result. Despite QPR’s lowly league position they played well to hold Chelsea to a goalless draw at Loftus Road and were a little unfortunate away to Spurs.
It always helps starting well but an early goal here is surely no coincidence considering how well we’ve started most games this season. Whereas last season we’d perhaps rest on our laurels and take our foot off the pedal in a winning position the team appears to have matured and they look both mentally stronger and physically fitter – again credit to Mr Allardyce and the backroom staff for this.
I thought the majority of players played well – our midfield dominated, protecting the back four commendably with QPR’s only threat appearing to be shots from range.
Whilst home form will be crucial for us this season it’s really pleasing to pick up our first win on the road so early which should give the squad plenty of confidence going into a tough fixture against Arsenal next Saturday.
My biggest disappointment was the performance of Mark Clattenburg who I felt had an awful game – making decisions on the back of the home support’s calls and booking no less than 8 of our players (a Premier League record), in addition to the Diakite sending off, in what was far from a dirty game and will now see our club incur a needless fine.
Apart from that though, 7th in the table? I’m a Happy Hammer!
Previously on Westhamfans.co.uk