Festive spirit dries up at Stoke

TONY PULIS had called on Stoke to show some fight as they prepare for a nervy new year survival battle, but this was presumably not what had he had in mind.

The Potters manager was angry after striker Ricardo Fuller was sent off for fighting with his team-mate Andy Griffin, a moment of madness which helped condemn the visitors to defeat here.

Fuller became embroiled in a heated exchange with Griffin seconds after West Ham equalised early in the second half, and was red-carded for throwing a punch at the defender.

Carlton Cole had just cancelled out Abdoulaye Faye’s early header and the Hammers capitalised on the numerical advantage by scoring a late winner through substitute Diego Tristan.

“There’s no condoning what Fuller’s done,” said Pulis. “He’s walked up to Griff and clipped him on the chin and it’s disappointing. I’ll talk to them both and deal with it on Monday.

“Ric is a volatile player and a volatile person and what he’s done will be dealt with. The pair get on well together but I’ve said to the lads we’ll have a meeting on Monday to sort it out.

“There are always incidents on the pitch and in training. The game is passionate and it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.

“Ric was already on the bus when we came in and he’s very disappointed with what he did and his reaction.”

Pulis criticised the fact West Ham’s 86th-minute was allowed to stand, claiming Diego Tristan was offside as he deflected in Cole’s shot.

“I’ve seen it on TV and the lad’s offside for the second goal so it’s disappointing,” he added.

“There were challenges today that our players have got booked for and their players haven’t. I’m just asking for fairness, nothing more.”

The spat overshadowed a precious win for West Ham, their second of a festive period which has relived much of the mounting pressure on manager Gianfranco Zola.

This was the Hammers’ first league victory at home since September, with the six home matches since the defeat of Newcastle yielding just one point.

“I think it tells you a lot about the attitude of the players and the willingness to succeed,” Zola said. “It was a well-deserved victory.

“It was very difficult because confidence here at our ground was low and we went down after a few minutes against a team notoriously difficult to break down.

“This is a big, big turning point for us. .”

Zola paid tribute to striker Cole for scoring one goal and setting up another and is pleased his extra one-to-one tuition on finishing is paying off.

“It’s not down to me, it’s all him,” Zola added. “He kept working and having belief and he’s getting the rewards he deserves.

“Even if he doesn’t score he gives something important to the team.”

WEST HAM (4-4-2): Green 6, Faubert 6, Collins 6, Upson 7, Ilunga 6, Behrami 6, Parker 6 (Mullins 77, 5), Collison 5 (Tristan 77, 6), Boa Morte 6, Di Michele 5 (Spector 89, 5), Cole 7.

Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Bowyer, Sears, Ngala. Booked: Cole, Boa Morte, Di Michele.

STOKE (4-4-2): Sorensen 6, Griffin 5 (Davies 58, 5), Abdoulaye Faye 7, Shawcross 6, Higginbotham 6, Delap 6, Olofinjana 6, Whelan 6, Pugh 4 (Pericard 53, 5), Cresswell 5, Fuller 3.

Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Lawrence, Soares, Tonge, Sonko.

REFEREE: Michael Jones (Mansfield) 7: No choice but to dismiss Fuller for his moment of madness and generally handled things well.

MATCH RATING: *** Spiced up by Fuller and Griffin’s set-to, although West Ham were more focussed on gaining points rather than black eyes.

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