Byram, Ayew press for starting spots as West Ham's season starts to drift

Ever since Eddie Howe inexplicably decided to field a second-string team against Millwall in the third round of the FA Cup, Bournemouth have been in free fall. Without a win in 2016, the south coast club were starting to look nervously over their shoulders at the relegation area.

In what now seems to be a perennial opportunity for struggling clubs however, the chance to play West Ham is always welcome.

Despite missing two penalties, Bournemouth still managed to take all three points against the Hammers in a 3-2 win at the Vitality Stadium. A Joshua King hat trick -- his last strike coming in the 90th minute -- was enough to give the Cherries a bit of breathing space in the area just above the bottom three.

West Ham will be angry with the lost opportunity to take something from the game. An 83rd minute equaliser to make it 2-2 looked to be enough to take a point back to East London, but the Hammers are struggling defensively this season, and several players are playing well below par.

There's little doubt Slaven Bilic is having difficulty getting players to raise their game in what is now becoming another midtable scuffle. Team's like Howe's attractive footballing side have a competitive edge that West Ham lack. Bilic will have to work hard to stop the season ending in a dull whimper.


There's little that can be taken from a game like this for the losing side nevertheless, but for the late strike, West Ham may have snatched a point. Other than that, Bournemouth is a nice place to visit on a warm spring day.


After getting back into the match late on, the Hammers should not have been conceding last minute goals, but, defensively, the team are all over the place at the moment.

Manager rating out of 10

5 -- In continuing to play Cheikhou Kouyate at right-back instead of where he is needed in midfield, Bilic is beginning to display an obstinacy that is starting to be of concern. But for King's 90th-minute winner however, the manager might have been able to point to two important substitutions that could have rescued a point.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Darren Randolph, 7 -- Made some good saves and stopped an admittedly poor spot kick by Benik Afobe, but could do little again about the goals as the Irish keeper was, for the second match running, let down by his defence.

DF Cheikhou Kouyate, 5 -- Continued in the unaccustomed right-back role when he was desperately required in midfield. It's difficult to criticise the Senegal international though when he is being so obviously played out of position.

DF Jose Fonte, 3 -- Embarrassed by King for Bournemouth's first goal, Fonte looked ill at ease all afternoon although he was unlucky to concede the second penalty -- saved by Randolph -- on a harsh decision. Nevertheless, the former Southampton centre-half is looking anything but comfortable in his new home.

DF Winston Reid, 5 -- Conceded the free kick that led to Bournemouth's second goal, Reid seems strangely unsure playing alongside Fonte.

DF Aaron Cresswell, 5 -- Looked off the pace defensively all afternoon.

MF Sofiane Feghouli, 4 -- A pointless and clumsy push on Charlie Daniels in the ninth minute led to a penalty which King obligingly drilled wide. Made amends moments later when he laid on Michail Antonio's opener and had a shot saved by Artur Boruc's feet just before half-time, but that was the end of Feghouli's productive spell. Was replaced by Andre Ayew just before the hour mark, and the move couldn't have been more welcome.

MF Mark Noble, 4 -- A hugely disappointing outing by the captain who never came to grips with the midfield play.

MF Pedro Obiang, 6 -- Another unsettled display in the middle of the park as Bournemouth swept past the Spaniard on occasions. However, Obiang stuck to the task and provided an exquisite through ball for Sam Byram to provide Ayew with the goal to make it 2-2.

MF Manuel Lanzini, 8 -- Assured on the ball with all his good work done in the opposition half, Lanzini only needs composure in front of goal to make him a very good replacement for Dimitri Payet.

FW Andy Carroll, 5 -- The big striker didn't get into the game at all, but the wide players didn't provide him with anything to work with.

FW Michail Antonio, 7 -- A good turn and shot for the Hammers opener after ten minutes, Antonio always looks like West Ham's best outlet.


DF Sam Byram, N/R -- Replaced Kouyate after 78 minutes and provided an assist for Ayew. It's baffling as to why Byram doesn't start in the position he slotted so well into. With the season fizzling out for West Ham, surely now is the time to put the 23-year-old in and let him show what he can do.

MF Andre Ayew, 7 -- Scored again from the bench. Ayew is another player who needs an extended run in the starting side.

MF Robert Snodgrass, 5 -- A substitute for Noble on 59 minutes, but was just as ineffective as the man he replaced.