Chaotic finale deprives West Ham after squad strikers finally show promise

Maxwel Cornet and Danny Ings both had an impact at Bramall Lane (AFP via Getty Images)
Maxwel Cornet and Danny Ings both had an impact at Bramall Lane (AFP via Getty Images)

Time and again in recent weeks, David Moyes has called on his understudies to fill West Ham’s attacking void. Time and again, those calls have fallen on deaf ears.

And so, once his fury over the most chaotic of finales - one that included a pair of late red cards and spot-kicks converted at either end - subsides, he may take some solace from the first indications in months that his squad might yet be defined by something other than a polarised split between trusted starters and damaged goods.

Heading into what became an incident-filled age of added-time here at Bramall Lane, the Hammers looked set to claim a hard-earned three points courtesy of contributions from two of their most maligned.

A full 534 days after signing for the club, Maxwel Cornet had at last scored his first West Ham goal and, once Ben Brereton Diaz levelled on his Sheffield United debut, Danny Ings had capped arguably his best display in the shirt by winning a spot-kick, converted by James Ward-Prowse to restore the lead seemingly within sight of the line.

That, though, would prove nowhere near close to the end of the story as red cards for Rhian Brewster and Vladimir Coufal saw two sets of ten men play out the final exchanges, and Oli McBurnie’s fourth goal in as many home league matches salvaged a point from the spot in the 103rd-minute of a crazy contest.

The upshot for the visitors is one of an opportunity missed. As unwelcome as the club's injury crisis has been, it could hardly have fallen at a kinder time, with this their sole league assignment across the course of a month offering the chance to move within three points of the Premier League's top-five.

Though Jarrod Bowen was fit to return ahead of schedule after an ankle problem, the Irons remain handicapped by key absentees, and so came further opportunities for Ings and Cornet, so ineffective in the FA Cup exit at Bristol City in midweek and previously backed to start just one league game between them all term.

They combined for the opener, Ings’s assist a little fortuitous as his attempt to shoot from Coufal’s cut-back flitted through to Cornet at the back-post. The Ivorian, hardly impressive beyond his goal it must be said, struck firmly to the near-post, where Wes Foderingham had left too large a gap.

Substituted late on at Ashton Gate, Ings had been cheered off in irony by the travelling support, but another ovation here was far more sincere.

Dropped into a deeper position off Bowen, the England international was heavily involved throughout, harrying hesitant Blades defenders and producing a moment of genuine quality to win the first of the game’s two penalties with a brilliant turn beyond Gustavo Hamer.

Late on, it appeared a third of Moyes’s irregulars might just make this their day, reserve goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski sent on to face McBurnie’s spot-kick after Alphonse Areola had been hurt in its concession. The Blades forward, himself only a half-time substitute, though, made no mistake.