Brentford push David Moyes to brink with West Ham’s fifth successive defeat

Brentford’s Ivan Toney celebrates scoring his first goal – Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

And now for West Ham United? Five consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time since Slaven Bilic was at the helm bodes ill for the prospects of current manager David Moyes. Yet it could all have been so different on a night when Brentford’s Ivan Toney was taken off on a stretcher in injury time with a bad knee injury and, according to manager Thomas Frank, will miss Monday’s match against Liverpool.

West Ham started out as a bullet train. They created a number of clear possibilities and were seemingly destined for glory. However, once Toney pushed Brentford forward, West Ham’s old failings re-emerged: a chronic lack of confidence; a rudderless and leaderless defense and an inability to sustain a sustained threat of attack. Indeed, if Wolverhampton Wanderers, Nottingham Forest and Southampton win at the weekend, West Ham would be bottom of the table on Monday morning. For them the darkness has returned.

Brentford had excellent value for their second away league win of the season and won it with two goals from throw-ins. Yet what should have been an all-out triumph also ended in despair, as Toney fell awkwardly while defending a steal corner. After a long treatment he was taken away, clearly in distress.

Ivan Toney departs on stretcher - Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Ivan Toney departs on stretcher – Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

For West Ham, this has always had the air of a game that is likely to define the rest of their season. It still might. With the Vultures circling a side with a league win to their name since October and kicking off just one place above the relegation slots, the beleaguered Moyes used his schedule notes to confess that ‘we expect very few business” during the January transfer window and to remind Home Support that “there are times when you need everyone to rally and help”.

And while he stuck to his lone striker training, after expressing his dismay following Monday’s inert capitulation at the Emirates, Moyes has rocked his staff. Eliminated Thilo Kehrer in difficulty, Tomas Soucek scapegoat of the fans and Michail Antonio, fearful of the goal, in favor of Angelo Ogbonna, Emerson and Gianluca Scamacca. After another defeat he looked like he was rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Conversely, despite all that Toney may be hampered by injury and a lengthy suspension for alleged betting offences, from start to finish Brentford exuded winning composure.

As if listening to Moyes’ words before the match, West Ham started quickly and looked downright dangerous for a while. Slightly more withdrawn than usual, Lucas Paqueta dominated central midfield with an arbitrary influence and when he set up Said Benrahma for a gamble down the left five minutes later, the ex-Bee found Declan Rice, who dropped fly from 25 yards. David Raya failed to get close, but the ball flew off the crossbar and into safety.

West Ham kept coming. Soon, Craig Dawson evaded Ben Mee to head Jarrod Bowen’s fierce corner just wide, while only Rico Henry’s heroic body save on the line encased Bowen after a delightful turn and shot.

By Brentford, there was no skin or hair for 17 minutes. After 18 they scored and the game changed forever. Mathias Jensen’s long ball was headed by Ethan Pinnock into the path of Christian Norgaard, whose volley was brilliantly blocked by Lukasz Fabianski. Unfortunately for the goalkeeper, the ball landed on Toney, who happily brought home his 12th league goal of the season.

Ivan Toney - Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Ivan Toney – Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

As Brentford fans speculated slyly about Moyes’ employment prospects, West Ham’s head fell. Paqueta and Benrahma disappeared and Mads Roerslev thwarted any offensive aspirations Emerson might have had. However, when the little Italian-Brazilian managed to see the goal after a valiant work by Ogbonna, Raya responded with admirable agility by pawing to the side.

With Henry looking to cover every inch on Brentford’s left touchline, Toney dropping out to help his midfield when required and Josh Dasilva – the only change from those who drew with Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day – playing like a a man with everything to prove, Brentford was at home. So comfortable that there were two of them and they had won it at half-time.

West Ham slept soundly as Mathias Jorgensen made a short, seemingly casual shot. Toney carelessly clipped it forward. Aaron Cresswell did not react and Dasilva went through unchallenged before scoring his first goal since August past Fabianski. West Ham were booed at the break.

Josh Dasilva scores - Zac Goodwin/PA Wire

Josh Dasilva scores – Zac Goodwin/PA Wire

Moyes kept faith with his starting XI after the restart but the gaps they left allowed Brentford’s quick passing game to thrive and when Frank made a double substitution before the hour was up his side had too fresh and willing legs.

With home support slipping into an unhappy silence punctuated by the occasional boos of derision, Moyes traded Antonio for Emerson, though the sleepwalker Scamacca remained a solo presence in the dust against a trio of too-quick-witted and too-quick centre-backs in feet for him. When Antonio stepped up to create a rare opportunity, he slipped past two defenders and, encapsulating West Ham’s performance, missed his shot completely.

Comfortable in defence, Brentford began looking for more goals. Yoane Wissa was brutally brought down by Vladimir Coufal when it looked like a goal, before Fabianksi’s fingertips thwarted Saman Ghoddos after Toney’s subsequent free-kick had been cleared.

Dawson’s header brought in another fine late Raya save, but by then there were very few West Ham fans there to see him and Toney’s injury meant the closing seconds were played at pace manhood with both teams, for very different reasons, eager for the sanctuary of the dressing room.

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