West Ham vs. Stoke: Final score 1-1 after engaging match

Mike Hewitt

West Ham United and Stoke City shared the spoils in an engrossing 1-1 draw that saw the visitors take a surprise early lead via Jonathan Walters before Joey O'Brien drew the hosts level just after halftime with his first ever Premier League goal.

Stoke had a very bright start, threatening Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal with several dangerous long balls, and the visitors got the goal they deserved in the 12th minute. The Hammers were clearly expecting a booming corner directed towards the Potters' big men, but instead Charlie Adam fizzed in a low cross straight to the feet of Walters, who hit a first-time finish through a crowd of bodies and in.

The visitors nearly extended their lead shortly thereafter via a more traditional corner, with Robert Huth forcing Jaaskelainen into a magnificent save after nodding Matthew Etherington's delivery goalward. But West Ham were causing trouble whenever they managed to break forward, with Mohamed Diame and Kevin Nolan particularly dangerous.

That said, it was Stoke who offered the next big threat of the half when Steven N'Zonzi rattled the woodwork 37 minutes in. It was a strike from nothing, the 23-year-old shooting on the half-volley from 25 yards out and nearly snapping the crossbar with a spectacular effort.

The second half was a markedly different story from the first, as West Ham finally got a toehold in a match that they would have expected to win. Nolan should have scored almost immediately, but the captain completely mishit his attempt from point blank range and ended up shinning the ball gently into Asmir Begovic's arms.

No matter for the Hammers, who'd equalise shortly thereafter. Diame did much of the work, dancing through several tackles before recovering a blocked shot and pushing the ball wide for the unmarked Gary O'Neill. Right back Joey O'Brien had opted to take up position just in front of Ryan Shawcross, and O'Neill's low cross found the (possibly offside) defender before Shawcross could cut it out. Almost any touch will do, and O'Brien's right foot finish left Begovic utterly helpless.

West Ham were dominating now, and O'Neill came incredibly close to a winner when Diame's excellent flick allowed him to burst free in the penalty box, his curled effort flashing inches wide. Stoke's only chances were coming on the counterattack, and although Walters twice broke through the defence both runs were called back by the officials.

In the end, though, the hosts' run of pressure just wasn't enough to break the Potters down once more, and both sides would have to settle for a point. Despite seeing his side going ahead so early, Tony Pullis will be the happier manager -- Stoke's away form is poor enough that failing to get a victory will be deeply disappoint for West Ham.

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