James Tomkins scores winner as West Ham deny Baggies

Craig Dawson’s opener for West Brom cancelled out by Kevin Nolan

West Brom 1 West Ham 2

The contrast from last season's meeting here in April could barely have been more marked before kick-off. Then, antipathy towards Sam Allardyce had veered towards hostility from supporters bearing banners advocating his removal as West Ham's form fell apart; Saido Berahino's early winner soothed West Brom's fears of relegation.

Seven months on West Ham have been cherishing their best ever start to a Premier League season while the natives at the Hawthorns have been getting decidedly restless, telling Alan Irvine he did not know what he was doing in full stereo from both ends of the ground during last Saturday's third successive defeat, against Arsenal.

But while West Ham have been boxing above their weight – fourth place was a possibility at the start of play – West Brom are surely not as bad as recent results suggest. Irvine, substantiating his claim that he is not a defensive-minded coach, recalled Victor Anichebe for his first start in more than three weeks to play alongside Berahino with Stephane Sessegnon just behind, at the top of a midfield diamond.

Such positivity reaped an early dividend. Anichebe, bustling his way towards the corner of the penalty area, was brought down by James Tomkins and from Graham Dorrans' devilish inswinging free-kick, Craig Dawson was granted more freedom than Allardyce would ever condone to head powerfully home.

This was the first time a West Brom player had scored in 370 minutes of Premier League action – Esteban Cambiasso’s own goal had sealed their three points at Leicester City – and the only negative for Irvine was that the breakthrough appeared to stir West Ham from their slumbers.

With both teams playing diamonds, the midfield became very congested, but West Ham always threatened from set-pieces. From Stewart Downing's corner in the 19th minute, Tomkins headed down and Ben Foster saved superbly from Kevin Nolan's overhead kick before denying Cheikhou Kouyaté on the rebound. But when this sequence was repeated, after Chris Brunt was cautioned for felling Kevin Nolan, for Tomkins to head down Downing's free-kick and Foster parried Andy Carroll's bicycle kick, Nolan – back in as captain for the injured Mark Noble – stooped to head in his first goal of the season on only his fourth league start.

To add insult in injury time, Brunt had to be withdrawn and West Ham went ahead. Again, it was from a delivery from Downing, the most creative player in the Premier League so far this season, that Tomkins was able to win the first ball, this time heading home directly.

West Brom’s diminishing confidence levels have been reflected in the form of Berahino, who had not scored in the previous four games since his call-up to the England squad and his arrest on suspicion of drink driving. So even when the home side started the second half bullishly, hopes of avoiding a fourth successive defeat were undermined when their leading scorer took an airshot at Joelon Lescott’s header down and then Dawson slashed his shot wide from 10 yards.

Guardian Service

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