How Slaven Bilic and West Ham needed this.
In a gloomy start to the season on and off the pitch, there finally appears to be some light finally shining through. Not even West Ham’s warring fans, who have spent the majority squabbling with themselves, could have a cause for argument.
The only fighting was seen by their players on the pitch as they put their bodies on the line to defend Manuel Lanzini’s 19th minute strike with their lives. The first win since 21 August moved out of the bottom three and eased the pressure on Bilic following their the worst start since 1989.
“This league is so cruel that you don’t have to lose a lot, only a little bit and you are dead,” said Bilic.
“It’s the most cruel league in the world. If you are 10 per cent below par in any aspect of the game.
“Hopefully that’s over now. But we are still in a position we don’t want to be.”
A change of formation, to keep Crystal Palace’s wingers quiet and stop the ammunition to Christian Benteke, worked a treat even if the visitors had to ride their luck at times once Lanzini had diverted home Aaron Cresswell’s searching cross.
That was the start of an eventful evening for the outstanding Cresswell, back early following a knee injury that had sidelined him all season.
We got hammered for going out on a night out, but since that night out we’ve picked up four points. So is it a bad thing?
Cresswell’s 75th minute red card, picking up two bookings inside 51 seconds via a dive and a minimal tug on Wilfried Zaha, was the wrong call by referee Martin Atkinson.
It almost cost West Ham, who had already been let-off by Benteke’s woeful penalty miss on the stroke of half-time, somehow withstood a late onslaught to see the job through.
How West Ham now need to follow this up with a win over struggling Sunderland back at the London Stadium on Saturday.
Captain Mark Noble, who had not held back in branding his team-mates as laughable last month, said: “Because I’ve been at the club for so long and care so much about how we play and how our results go, I felt I needed to be honest and say how it was.
“It’s not nice to pick up your phone and read how bad we are – people saying that we’re this and we’re that. That was a little boost for us here, just to show that we do care. We really, really care.
“When you look at it, by all accounts we’ve had a terrible start and our worst in years, but we’re only a point now behind Leicester.
“And they won the league last year. Start winning a couple of games and it don’t look so bad after all.
“We’ve had meetings as players, with the staff. We got hammered for going out on a night out, but since that night out we’ve picked up four points. So is it a bad thing? I don’t know.”
An off colour Palace side have now not won a London derby in eight attempts and defender James Tomkins admitted the turning point against his former club was Benteke’s spot-kick miss.
“If that goes in it changes the game,” he said.
“You wouldn’t want anyone else on the ball but these things happen. I’m sure he will score the next one if he’s on them.”