ALLAN McGREGOR surely will not be too sorry to see West Ham United bid farewell to Upton Park next year.
Ten months on from leaving the Hammers’ home in an ambulance destined to spend five nights in the intensive care unit of a London hospital with suspected kidney damage and three broken ribs, the Hull City goalkeeper yesterday endured another miserable visit to the East End.
His awful mistake just after half-time literally handed West Ham a lead they would not relinquish and set Hull on the way to a joint heaviest loss of the season.
Andy Carroll was the lucky beneficiary of the Scot’s slip, the 6ft 5ins striker being left with the simple task of tapping the ball into an empty net after an innocuous-looking Enner Valencia shot had been spilled at his feet.
Goals from Stewart Downing and Morgan Amalfitano then confirmed that Hull’s wretched record at Upton Park would not be improved, yesterday’s reverse meaning the Yorkshire side has won just twice in 22 visits.
Whether the Tigers will have an opportunity to try to improve on that in what will be West Ham’s final season in E13 before moving to the Olympic Stadium remains to be seen.
Certainly, relegation will be hard to avoid if Hull continue to commit the sort of basic errors that, inside a little over a week, have seen West Bromwich Albion and now West Ham take all three points off Steve Bruce’s men.
The Hull manager said: “We gifted West Ham all three goals. The goalkeeper, for me, and Curtis Davies have to do better for the first goal. That was disappointing.
“The second goal was a gift from us as well. We were out of position, and the third goal was the same. We could have done better with all three of them and that is frustrating.
“What makes it doubly disappointing is how we played in the first half. That kind of performance must have delighted anyone connected with Hull City.
“But, in my experience, you have to score (when on top). And for all the good work that we did, it unravelled with us not taking the opportunities.
“You can’t come away from home against a good team like West Ham and have three or four opportunities to score but not take any of them. That is a disappointment and frustration for us all.”
The 2-2 draw between these two clubs at the KC Stadium in September had been one of the most entertaining games shown live by Sky this season, with spectacular goals from Mohamed Diame and Valencia capping a fine contest that saw play rage from one end to the other.
By also selecting the return for transmission, the satellite broadcaster was clearly hoping for more of the same.
They got it, though only for 45 minutes as from the moment West Ham went ahead there was never any doubt as to who would go on to claim all three points.
Up until then the game had been an absorbing affair with both Hull and the hosts putting the emphasis firmly on attack.
Sone Aluko characterised the vibrancy and energy of the first half best, even if he could not apply the final touch to some wonderful approach play.
The Nigerian international took just 80 or so seconds to serve notice on James Tomkins that he was in for a difficult time by darting round the back of the centre-half to chase James Chester’s through ball.
Aluko then cut inside on to his preferred foot before hesitating for a split second, in the process giving the Hammers just enough time to get back and crowd him out.
Just five minutes later Aluko turned creator. He spun away from James Collins, got to the by-line and pulled the ball back for the unmarked Ahmed Elmohamady. With the goal at his mercy, the Egyptian should have done a lot better than fire wide from 10 yards.
Aluko again left Tomkins for dead on 24 minutes before Collins rescued the situation but his biggest miss of the afternoon came just before the half-hour mark. After darting into the penalty area, he had the choice of either slipping a pass to the unmarked Stephen Quinn or continuing his own weaving run towards goal. Aluko chose the latter but then, after creating sufficient space for a shot, tried to exchange passes with Jake Livermore and, once again, the home defence was able to scramble the ball to safety
This inability to capitalise on excellent approach play almost came back to haunt the visitors just before the break when Valencia’s looping header was touched on to the crossbar by McGregor.
Tomkins, for once freed from his responsibility of trying to keep Aluko in check, also headed just over from Mark Noble’s corner to remind Hull that they had to remain vigilant at the back. It proved, however, to be a warning that went unheeded as McGregor proceeded to gift control of the game to the Hammers by making a hash of what should have been a routine save from Valencia’s 20-yard shot. Carroll, reacting far quicker than Curtis Davies, took advantage to tap into the empty net.
Hull manager Bruce’s response was to push Harry Maguire up front in an attempt to kick-start his side, but it was the Hammers who always carried more attacking threat as Valencia fired into the side-netting.
Then, after excellent link-play between Alex Song and Valencia, substitute Amalfitano raced clear before beating McGregor with a cool chipped finish.
Downing added a third soon after as Hull’s defence was againopened up far too easily before Nolan hit the crossbar to at least ensure this defeat was only on a par with November’s 3-0 reverse at Manchester United and not the club’s heaviest of the season.