West Ham end with a whimper as Sunderland romp to victory (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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West Ham 0 Sunderland 3
West Ham 0
WEST HAM'S season came to a rather fitting end with defeat at home to Sunderland following a disappointing performance that accurately reflected the majority of the club's campaign.
A first half header from Bolo Zenden and a fine long range strike from Stephane Sessegnon ensured the Hammers would finish six points adrift of their nearest rivals in the Premier League table and conclude a miserable campaign with a whimper.
Substitute Cristian Riveros rubbed further salt into the wounds with a well-taken volley at the death.
Kevin Keen, in what could be seen as a trial for the vacant manager's job he covets, opted to prepare for next season early by fielding a largely inexperienced and young West Ham side.
Jordan Spence, James Tomkins, Jack Collison, Freddie Sears and Zavon Hines all started for the Hammers, and it is likely to be those five, among others, that will form the core of the club's bid for an immediate return to the Premier League next season.
They started brightly enough, but it was Sunderland that created the early chances, Asamoah Gyan seeing two similar efforts from the edge of the box dealt with by Robert Green.
Hines was played in over the top but Simon Mignolet rushed out to block his attempt, while Sears stung the palms of the Black Cats keeper with a curling shot from the right.
Thomas Hitzlsperger's venomous free-kick caught Mignolet off guard but the defence came to his rescue to clear, and from the resulting corner Tomkins' close range volley was blocked by a wall of bodies.
After an entertaining opening, Sunderland got their noses in front when Zenden met an Ahmed Elmohamady cross from the right, the ball appearing to deflect off the midfielder's shoulder and looping over a stranded Green.
The goal, rather than sparking a further frenzy of activity, actually sucked the life out of the game, and both sides limped to half-time, with a snap shot on the turn that was well saved from Hines the only piece of action either team could manage.
Soon after the interval the lead was doubled. Sessegnon was allowed to carry the ball from deep, nobody seeming to bother shutting him down, and his strike from range beat the outstretched arm of Green and flew in off the post.
The game then once again drifted into the damp squib it had threatened to be before kick-off.
Scott Parker came on to a standing ovation in an apparent plea from the Upton Park faithful for their midfielder not to desert them, with speculation rife that he will soon be on his way. He came on for the hard-working Luis Boa Morte, who was inexplicably booed as he departed the scene, being made a convenient scapegoat for some misguided home fans.
The most entertaining development in the final half hour was an impromptu conga line along the Chicken Run, much to the delight of the rest of the Boleyn Ground crowd.
Attentions were more focused on the thrilling relegation battle taking place elsewhere up and down the country, with the bottom two places changing hands almost by the minute.
In the end, West Ham were joined by Blackpool – who had put up a valiant fight at Old Trafford against champions Manchester United – and Birmingham, who lost at Tottenham.
Riveros volleyed home in the final minute to compound the home side's misery.
Fittingly, the fans greeted the goal with a chorus of 'that's why we're going down'. And on this evidence, it may be some time before that chant ends in the word 'up'.
A rueful bunch of players reluctantly and half-heartedly trudged around the pitch to receive a lukewarm reception from what was left of the home crowd.
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