WEST HAM UNITED 1
- Ilan 51
**SUNDERLAND are not used to having nothing to play for in early April, and judging by yesterday’s timid defeat at Upton Park it does not suit them.
The mathematicians may insist it is not yet done and dusted, but everybody knows the Black Cats will be playing Premier League football next season.
By contrast, West Ham United and their fans began the day on the edge, still in danger of swapping positions with Newcastle.
It did not bring the best out of either team, but the roars which greeted a scrappy 1-0 victory earned by another crucial Ilan goal showed just how pleased the Hammers were with an afternoon’s work which brought their first win in seven games and continued Sunderland’s miserable away form.
Like the Black Cats, West Ham may already have done enough now – not that they can afford to think that way.
The home DJ did not seem too confident before the game, judging by his surprising choice of “Highway to Hell” as pre-match music. And Gianfranco Zola’s men played like a team terrified of the fate awaiting them.
But Sunderland were so sloppy they needed one of the most laid-back footballers on the planet – Kenywyne Jones – to inject a bit of urgency.
Nervous in possession with an impatient crowd on their backs, the Hammers seemed happy to stand off their opponents. It only took even more pressure off the Black Cats’ shoulders.
So after a largely uneventful start to the game, Sunderland decided to start making problems for themselves.
Craig Gordon was very lucky not to be sent off after a couple of brainwaves late in the opening period.
The first came when he chased an aimless punt downfield. Rather than just boot it clear, the Scotland goalkeeper thought he could get a hand on it before it left his area. He couldn’t.
All Gordon managed to do was gift West Ham a free-kick on the edge of the area and when Valon Behrami tried to make the most of it, he stopped the midfielder taking it quickly. Both offences were worthy of yellow cards, but referee Mike Jones settled for the one.
West Ham: Green, Faubert, Upson, Da Costa, Spector; Stanislas (Franco 74), Kovac, Noble, Behrami, Ilan (Daprella 90), Cole
Sunderland: Gordon; Ferdinand, Da Silva (Benjani 88), Turner, Richardson, Henderson, Cattermole, Meyler (Jones 63), Malbranque (Zenden 72), Bent, Campbell