NORWICH City were made to pay for missed opportunities as two goals in the final six minutes of the game earned West Ham United a 2-0 win at the Boleyn Ground.
Gary Hooper, Robert Snodgrass and Alex Tettey found Adrian in inspired form in the Hammers goal and the team suffered the consequences as late strikes from James Collins and Mohamed Diame set West Ham on their way to a third win on the spin.
Chris Hughton will be wondering quite how his side managed to come away from the game with nothing having played the better football, but the final result them still too close to comfort to the Premier League relegation places.
Snodgrass returned after his groin injury to replace Anthony Pilkington in Hughton’s only change from the 0-0 draw with Manchester City on Saturday.
West Ham kept faith with the eleven that took them to a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at the weekend, with skipper Kevin Nolan having scored four times in his last two appearances – Andy Carroll missed out through suspension, however.
It was the hosts who were sharper in the opening exchanges, but Norwich had the game’s first chance on nine minutes – Nathan Redmond’s trickery earned him some space on the byline, and Gary Hooper met his cross, only to see his header parried behind by Adrian.
Redmond was the creator again on 18 minutes with a delightful ball over the top with the outside of his right foot, and Snodgrass beat the offside trap to leave himself only Adrian to beat.
Unfortunately the Hammers’ ‘keeper spread himself well and was able to block the winger’s shot and keep the match all square.
Matt Jarvis’ tame effort and Carlton Cole’s shot on the turn offered Ruddy’s only work in the first portion of the match, but Mark Noble kept him on his toes with a well-struck effort from distance on 26 minutes.
West Ham’s play gathered momentum as the half wore on, but City tested Adrian again just before the break as Alex Tettey and Hooper played a quick-fire one-two, with the Norwegian forcing a save from Adrian down to his right.
HALF-TIME: West Ham United 0-0 Norwich City
Marco Borriello came on for his home debut for the West Ham, replacing Cole at the break, but once again it was the Canaries who almost broke the deadlock on 54 minutes.
Tettey scuffed shot fell to Hooper on the edge of the box, but his effort was weak and trickled into the arms of Adrian.
Hooper was played in again on 69 minutes by Bradley Johnson, but once again he was thwarted by the onrushing West Ham ‘keeper.
Redmond pulled a shot wide as Hughton’s men looked the most likely to break the deadlock midway through the second half, and City’s boss freshened up his attack with the introduction of Johan Elmander for Hooper.
A West Ham attack on 77 minutes nearly warranted the opener, however – it was their best chance of the game up to then and fell to Diame, but Ruddy produced an outstanding save after the sub was played in by Kevin Nolan.
Joseph Yobo lofted a shot onto the top of netting up the other end, but it was in the 84th minute that the hosts took the lead.
A quick free-kick allowed Diame space on the left to whip in a cross, and he rose to beat Ruddy to the ball and head into the empty net, much to the delight of home crowd.
A free-kick on the corner of the box gave City a chance to generate an equaliser – Sebastien Bassong leapt to meet Snodgrass’ delivery, but his header was straight at Adrian.
As they threw men forward to try and level proceedings, West Ham dealt the killer blow in the final moments as Diame sprinted into space, turned inside and had his shot deflected beyond Ruddy.
FULL-TIME: West Ham United 2-0 Norwich City
GOALS: Hammers: James Collins (84), Mohamed Diame (90)
WEST HAM UNITED: Adrian; Demel, Collins, Tomkins, McCartney; Noble, Taylor (Nocerino 77); Downing, Nolan (c), Jarvis (Diame 61); Cole (Borriello 45). Subs not used: Jaaskelainen (GK), Reid, Armero, Collison.
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong (c), Olsson; Tettey (van Wolfswinkel 86), Johnson; Snodgrass, Fer, Redmond (Pilkington 81); Hooper (Elmander 76). Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Whittaker, Hoolahan, Garrido.
REFEREE: Michael Oliver