The Hammers secured a rare away win to move level on points with the Potters thanks to a late first-half strike from substitute midfielderWest Ham recorded its first away victory since November with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Stoke, inflicting only the second home defeat on the Potters this season.
Substitute Jack Collison was the match winner when he put the visitors ahead with his second goal of the season deep into first-half injury time. The midfielder drilled a low shot past Asmir Begovic after excellent work from fellow substitute Ricardo Vaz Te.
Both teams were forced into changes following defeats in their last outings; Stoke brought Michael Kightly, Cameron Jerome and Andy Wilkinson in for Geoff Cameron, the injured Matthew Etherington and the suspended Robert Huth.
West Ham’s only change was Matt Taylor coming in for Kevin Nolan who broke his toe against Tottenham. However, two enforced changes inside the opening 10 minutes set the Hammers back.
James Collins saw a free header loop over Asmir Begovic in the 25th minute only for it to clip the top of the crossbar on its way over. And moments later Collison could only fire straight at the Bosnian keeper from an unmarked position on the edge of the penalty area.
The Hammers should have had a penalty 10 minutes later as Ryan Shotton’s lazy tackled ended a surging run for Mohamed Diame inside the penalty area, but referee John Moss was not interested in giving what appeared to be a clear foul on the midfielder.
Andy Carroll, with only three goals this season, then missed the best chance of the half as he got in front of his marker to meet a right wing cross but he headed miles wide with a mistimed header.
With the half all but over the Hammers took the lead through Collison after an excellent run from Ricardo Vaz Te, the forward played a neat reverse pass to Collison and he calmly fired beyond Begovic from 12 yards.
After the break, chances continued to be hard to come by but both goalkeepers were forced into saves just before the hour.
Begovic was called into action first as Vaz Te rolled a perfect pass in behind the Stoke defense for Matt Jarvis, the winger set himself and fired a good effort towards the bottom corner but the Bosnian stopper got his feet to the shot to clear the danger.
Minutes later the hosts had a fabulous chance but saw it wasted by Peter Crouch. Jerome raced away down the right hand side and although his cross was deflected, it ran right into Crouch’s path, but his effort from the edge of the area was saved well by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Stoke piled the pressure on for the remainder of the half but even though Charlie Adam, Kenwyne Jones and Brek Shea were all introduced, the Potters could not break down a resolute and well organized Hammers defense, although Adam was denied by the crossbar with a superb late effort.