That’s entertainment but it’s tough to take

Hull City 3 West Ham United 3 YOU CERTAINLY get full value for money travelling to watch West Ham United. Goals, sendings-off, controversy, comebacks, terrible refereeing, it all seems to be there in abundance at every match – the only problem is whether

Hull City 3 West Ham United 3

YOU CERTAINLY get full value for money travelling to watch West Ham United. Goals, sendings-off, controversy, comebacks, terrible refereeing, it all seems to be there in abundance at every match - the only problem is whether your nerves can take it, writes DAVE EVANS.

For the second away game running, West Ham surrendered a two-goal lead with a combination of bad luck, bad refereeing and bad defence and in the end they looked grateful to have taken anything out of this match at all.

"It was a crazy game!" declared manager Gianfranco Zola after the match - surely he must be getting used to it by now!

"Certainly I'm not pleased that this is the second successive away game where we've given away a two-goal lead, but we've scored a lot of goals this year. We need to focus on defending a little bit better, I'm aware of that."

This turned into a pulsating, thrilling, controversial spectacle in the Hull rain, but in the first quarter of an hour it looked like being a walk in the park for the West Ham boys, such was their dominance.

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Carlton Cole teed up Valon Behrami in the opening minute for a shot that stung the hands of goalkeeper Matt Duke, but they didn't have to wait long to strike.

The lively Junior Stanislas was put away by Guillermo Franco, but instead of shooting he pulled it back for Cole whose effort was deflected wide.

It mattered not. Stanislas arrowed the corner into the box and Franco met it in front of Richard Garcia to head past the motionless Duke.

It was the perfect start for the Hammers and it got even better on 11 minutes. Again Franco was involved. He collected the ball deep in midfield, turned goalwards and floated a delightful ball into the box towards Jack Collison.

With Duke stuck in no-man's land, Collison got his head to the ball and it looped over the keeper's head and fell into the empty net.

"It was a strange game. Maybe we could've handled it better, when we were 2-0 up, but I must say that Hull City came back well and they played a good game - they did very well," said Zola - he must have been seething.

Hull, of course, had nothing to lose at this point, but West Ham were strolling and could have added to their lead, first when Stanislas delivered another cross that eluded both Cole and Collison, and then when Julien Faubert drilled in a centre that was desperately headed over his own bar by Bernard Mendy as Cole waited to pounce.

They say luck eludes you when you are down the bottom, and if that is true then the next 18 minutes back that up. However, Hull are down the bottom too and they certainly got the rub of the green.

Credit to them, they did go for it, but their first goal epitomised the kind of misfortune that West Ham have been suffering from of late.

Manuel Da Costa conceded a free kick on the left edge of the box, and when Jimmy Bullard blasted a shot goalwards it first hit the foot of Scott Parker, then the head of Cole before curling its way into the top corner of the net.

Seconds later, Parker was in the clear, but as he headed the ball into the box, he was upended, only for the referee to wave away the penalty clai-ms.

It was two shreds of luck that the home side really needed.

Suddenly the crowd got behind them, West Ham began to rock and more free kicks were conceded.

A minute before the break the comeback was complete. Stanislas was penalised for pulling Mendy's shirt and when Stephen Hunt curled the free kick into the box, Kamil Zayatte got ahead of Da Costa and hooked the ball past Robert Green.

Worse was to come a minute later in farcical circumstances. Bullard's cross into the area saw Craig Fagan backpedal straight into Faubert who stood his ground and attempted to head the ball clear. The striker collapsed to the ground and inexplicably referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot.

"I'm definitely sure that it wasn't a penalty, but referees are there and sometimes they make mistakes and we can't do anything about that," said the diplomatic Zola.

What he meant was an appalling decision by a very poor referee could easily have prevented West Ham from getting anything from this game.

Bullard whacked in the penalty and from game over in favour of the Hammers, it was rampant Hull who went in at the break in front.

"It was tough to come back, but the reaction from the team was excellent and I'm delighted," said the manager.

It was, sort of. Franco tested the keeper with a curling shot, but the turning point came on 54 minutes when Parker latched on to Cole's touch to steam clear, only for Mendy to foul him just outside the box.

For once Clattenburg got it right and sent off the defender, but from the resulting free kick, Stanislas could only curl it wide.

Zola threw on Zavon Hines for the ineffective Behrami, but it was Stanislas who was still providing the spark.

First he let fly from 30 yards to force another Duke save, and then on 69 minutes his corner fell invitingly for Da Costa to thump the ball into the net from six yards out to equalise.

With 20 minutes to go, there was still hope of a West Ham victory, but it proved to be another chance missed, or four to be exact.

Cole shot straight at the keeper, but then Parker robbed Anthony Gardner to put substitute Luis Jimenez in the clear, only for the Chilean's right-foot shot to hit the side-netting - he should have scored.

Faubert's cross just evaded Cole and fell for the head of Stanislas, who nodded woefully into the ground and over the bar, before another centre by the Frenchman found the head of Collison who forced a full-length save from Duke as Hull's 10-men held on.

Another two points dropped, so are West Ham in a relegation battle?

"Obviously we are not in a position where we can say that we're going for a place in the Champions' League, but it's still early days," said a strangely optimistic Zola.

"I accept that the club is not in a very good position, but we're aware of that and there's a long way to go. What I can see is a team playing well and we're not very far from picking up victories rather than draws or defeats.

"I remain confident because we've got good players in the squad and we're going to be all right."

The statistics don't lie. In 15 games in league and cup this season, West Ham have led in seven of them, but only won three - one of them in extra time.

Until they can learn to keep clean sheets the trend will surely continue and the blood pressure of those travelling Hammers fans will continue to rise.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Gabbidon, Da Costa, Upson, Behrami (Hines 60), Parker, Collison, Stanislas, Franco (Jimenez 69), Hines. Unused subs: Kurucz, Kovac, Spector, Nouble, Daprela.

Att: 34,909. Referee: Mark Clattenburg (4).

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