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West Ham show character to stand on brink of realising European dream

D

avid Moyes this week challenged his West Ham team to prove they deserved European football at the end of this remarkable season, and they responded with gusto last night.

A point against Southampton on Sunday is now all it will take to secure a place in the Europa League next term.

After a run of one win in five which had threatened to put a dampener on their superb campaign and deny the east Londoners their European tour, Moyes’s side showed an abundance of character to come from behind at West Brom.

It wasn’t just Matheus Pereira’s goal the Hammers had to bounce back from. First choice goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski injured his knee in the warm-up meaning just a third start of the season for Darren Randolph, while Declan Rice set a new Premier League record for the earliest ever penalty miss, striking the post from the spot after two minutes and four seconds.

Wasted chances have cost West Ham in recent weeks, and it looked as if it would be more of the same at The Hawthorns as Pablo Fornals missed a number of openings while Aaron Cresswell struck a post from a canny free-kick, but Moyes’s side kept their cool and showed some character to take control of the scramble for sixth – capitalising on Tottenham’s defeat to Aston Villa.

“We showed West Ham character,” said Angelo Ogbonna, who headed the Hammers ahead on 82 minutes before Michail Antonio’s late strike secured the result – a victory that was far more about resilience and cool heads than quality for the manager.

“It looked as if it was going to be another night where we started to miss a few chances, so I was really pleased that we got through,” said Moyes.

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“I was pleased Mickey Antonio got a goal, he was due it and needed it and that Tomas was back on scoresheet again because he is so important to us.

“All in all, it ended up a good night after when it started. We lost Lukasz in the warm-up and then miss a penalty after 30 seconds before going a goal down. It showed a lot of character, a lot of big heart for the players to keep at it.”

Moyes will allow himself a brief celebration, having bounced back after a recent slump and also now matched West Ham’s record points tally for a Premier League season – but the Scot knows the job is not quite done. It would take an almighty set of circumstances for West Ham to not be in the Europa Conference League next season, but Moyes is aiming to seal the top six with victory over Southampton. Most important of all, it is in their hands once more.


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