Late Burnley goals tarnish a five-star win for Zola

West Ham United 5 Burnley 3 THIS WAS A day when the West Ham fans should have been singing from the rafters. They should have been doing a conger down Green Street and looking forward with eager anticipation to the visit of the champions next Saturday, wr

West Ham United 5 Burnley 3

THIS WAS A day when the West Ham fans should have been singing from the rafters. They should have been doing a conger down Green Street and looking forward with eager anticipation to the visit of the champions next Saturday, writes DAVE EVANS.

They didn't and they weren't. Instead, if it were possible, this victory, this vital three points, almost had a hollow ring to it.

"What a game!" professed manager Gianfranco Zola afterwards. "It was not very good for my heart, but it was an entertaining match. I would have preferred to have conceded two goals maybe less, but you can't have everything."

Can't you? Fair play to Burnley, they battled hard even at 5-0 down when many a better team would have been on their knees and praying for the fat lady to start singing.

But the Lancastrians comeback was largely down to West Ham, both their frailty at the back and a bizarre substitution which saw Guillermo Franco - the best striker on the field - taken off and replaced by a midfielder.

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That merely invited Burnley to grab hold of the ball and go for it, and that they did with aplomb, and by the end Zola was looking nervous and the crowd were getting decidedly agitated - so much for a glorious confidence-boosting victory.

Zola was keen to emphasise the positive aspects of the game, and there were many. "Right now we are very good coming forward, we just need a little bit more balance when we are defending," he said. "But three points is what we wanted today and we've got to be happy for that."

One thing you can't argue about in this game is that it was an absolute thriller. Goals galore, penalties and a sending-off seem to be indicative of West Ham games this season and this one was no exception.

The Hammers started brightly and Franco put in Jack Collison as early as the fifth minute, only for the midfielder to try and pull the ball back instead of going for goal.

Collison returned the favour on 12 minutes when he crossed for Franco to head against the crossbar, but by that stage Burnley had already carved out two chances of their own.

First Andre Bikey's thumping effort was saved by Rob Green's chest, and then Robbie Blake's corner saw Clarke Carlisle get up above Danny Gabbidon only to see his header cleared off the line by Scott Parker.

Manuel Da Costa denied Steven Fletcher a shot on goal with a superb last-ditch tackle and just three minutes later West Ham were in front.

Parker was fouled in midfield, looked up and immediately lobbed the ball towards Collison on the right. Stephen Jordan played the offside trap and could only watch in horror as the flag stayed down and Collison strolled through to beat the keeper.

Franco headed Herita Ilunga's cross just over as he continued to cause all sorts of problems and it was he who set up the second goal on 34 minutes when he controlled a throw-in and played a clever pass through to Junior Stanislas.

The winger's initial shot was blocked by Brian Jensen, but as the goalkeeper and defenders waited for him to square the rebound, instead he stroked it into the net from an acute angle.

Three minutes before the break it was three and the game see-med all over bar the shouting. Radoslav Kovac's pass released Jon-athan Spector on the right (a phrase you have probably never heard before) and the American full back stole into the box only to be upended by Blake.

By that time Carlton Cole had already suffered a knee injury, but with Mark Noble and Alessandro Diamanti both off the field, he had no hesitation in grabbing the ball and smashing home the penalty.

Cole never returned after the break, but surely it was an ideal time to blood Frank Nouble, rather than go for Zavon Hines. It was a mistake exacerbated when Franco was replaced with a midfielder, leaving West Ham as lightweight up front as Kate Moss.

Burnley continued to play with reckless abandon and on 51 minutes they went further behind. Stanislas floated in a simple free kick and Franco got in front of his marker to head through Jensen's legs and score his third goal in claret and blue.

David Nugent came on for Burnley, Franco went off for West Ham and suddenly the warning signs began to appear.

"We switched off a little bit, that is the disappointing thing," said Zola.

"We switched off too early. At the moment we are very fragile at the back."

It could have been a whole lot worse. Nugent scuffed a shot wide when clean through and then headed Wade Elliott's cross inches wide as West Ham took their foot off the gas.

But on 64 minutes they actually made it 5-0. Parker put Jimenez away and he poked it past Jensen before being brought down by the Burnley goalkeeper for the second penalty of the match.

Stanislas sprinted over to take it, but Jimenez was having none of it and the Chilean grabbed the ball and thumped his spot-kick down the middle for his first goal for the club.

From then on, however, it was all Burnley. With Collison looking tired or injured, he failed to track back as Chris Eagles got down the left and drilled a low cross in for Fletcher to tap home from close range.

And then six minutes later, as if we were watching an action replay, he did the same to give Fletcher his second goal.

The murmurs began among the West Ham fans at this point and when Eagles hit the base of the post with a free kick and Fletcher was only denied a hat-trick by Gabbidon's block, that anxiety had spilled over on to the bench.

Hines tried a counter-attack and was felled by Steven Caldwell for his trouble, the defender receiving a straight red-card, but even against 10-men it was West Ham who were the side under pressure.

Unbelievably, Tyrone Mears crossed, Fletcher dummied and Eagles grabbed the goal he deserved to make it 5-3 and West Ham had to be thankful that time had all but run out at that point.

"Come on please, we lose and it's negative, we draw and it's negative and now we win and score five goals and it's negative," insisted Zola, perhaps trying to convince himself as much as the listening journalists.

"It's been a great game and we scored five goals so we should not be like that, we should be enjoying it."

He's right, West Ham fans should have been enjoying it, but watching their defence torn apart by a Burnley side who had only gleaned one away point all season, was not something to get ecstatic about.

If they defend like this against Manchester United next week, who knows what the final score will be?

Any offers for 7-5? or maybe 8-6? Anything can happen when West Ham are playing like this!

West Ham: Green, Spector, Ilunga, Gabbidon, Da Costa, Collison (Faubert 77), Parker, Kovac, Stanislas, Franco (Jimenez 59), Cole (Hines h/t). Unused subs: Kurucz, Noble, Nouble, Tomkins.

Att: 34,003. Referee: Chris Foy (5).

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