BARNSLEY boss Keith Hill was left frustrated as his side slipped to a second successive Championship defeat at the hands of the high-flying Hammers.
But Hill was also rightly happy with a strong battling performance from the Reds against their promotion-fancied opponents.
A sixth minute headed goal from Papa Bouba Diop proved the difference between the two sides, but Hill’s team had a Rob Edwards’ header cleared off the line and striker Craig Davies dragged a right-foot just inches wide of a post.
However, despite being hungry in their search for an equaliser, Hill stressed he’s never going to change his playing philosophy.
Hill likes his team to playing passing patient football, so punting long balls forward was never going to be on the cards.
“You’re always foraging for a goal [when you go a goal down], but I will not change and go to direct percentage football,” revealed Hill. “It’s killed English football. I won’t resort to it, so hire me or fire me.
“There is a percentage value to winning football matches, but our country is all about winning football matches and not in the right manner.
“Subsequently England go to the World Cup or the Euros and get beaten by better opposition who are more patient and more educated if you like, they’re less direct.
“I just think it’s a sad indictment over the last 25 or 30 years that we’ve become a culture that is dictated by results and percentage football. It’s become a statistical game and I’m not a fan of that. I hated managers who wanted to play percentage football.”
Beaten 5-3 by Ipswich Town last Saturday having led 2-0 at half-time, Hill made a trio of changes to his side to compete with the “physical” strength of the Hammers.
That meant experienced pair centre-back Stephen Foster and full-back Bobby Hassell were dropped to the bench.
Jay McEveley was recalled to the starting line-up having recovered from a thigh injury which had forced him to miss the Reds’ last two matches. He was left-back with Scott Wiseman switched to right-back.
And there was a change in midfield as winger Jim O’Brien was omitted with Derby County loan midfielder Miles Addison taking over.
Ricardo Vaz Te and Nile Ranger operated as wing menwith skipper Jacob Butterfield back in his usual role as a supporting forward in a 4-5-1 formation which has achieved much success this season.
Abdoulaye Faye pulled out of the Hammers’ starting line-up with a calf injury and 17-year-old left-back Daniel Potts was handed his debut.
The visitors were caught cold by the sixth minute set-play which allowed the unmarked Bouba Diop to score for the first time in English football since he scored for Fulham against Blackburn Rovers - exactly six years ago to the day. The veteran Senegal midfielder left Reds’ keeper Luke Steele no chance from close-range after an inch-perfect corner from midfielder Mark Noble wide on the left.
Moments earlier Noble had forced a smart save from Steele with a dipping right-foot curling free-kick before captain Kevin Nolan volleyed over for the Hammers.
The dangerous Vaz Te, playing against his former Bolton manager Allardyce, rifled a powerful right-foot shot into the side netting.
Boupa Diop headed over from a lovely delivery from Potts, with the hosts then angry they didn’t get a penalty from referee Scott Mathieson.
Winger Frederic Piquionne was sent flying by a lunging challenge by McEveley, but Cheshire official Mathieson waved away the protests.
Davies went agonisingly close to levelling after a slick piece of skill. The striker slipped the ball through James Tomkins’ legs but saw his right-foot shot deflected wide with Hammers’ keeper Rob Green wrong-footed.
Steele saved well from a Carlton Cole curler while McNulty shot wide as the Reds caused troubled from a corner.
Cole should have doubled the hosts’ lead shortly after the half hour mark, but somehow failed to his the target having done all the hard work in avoiding the attentions of Edwards and McNulty, and having got a yard on Steele on the edge of the six-yard box.
Vaz Te struck a free-kick wide, Davies shot over the bar and then, eight minutes before the break, forced a smart save from Green at his near post.
Noble rifled over after some good work from Piquionne before the second half proved to be far less exciting for goal chances.
Edwards had a header cleared off the line immediately after the restart, but it was not until the hour mark when Davies was fouled and he hit the resulting free-kick over the bar.
Piquionne fired well wide and then sub Freddie Sears, on the for the injured John Carew, was denied by a brilliant point-blank block from Steele. However, it wouldn’t have counted because the linesman penalised the hosts for a push in the box.