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West Ham get back on track but Kurt Zouma decision will likely live much longer in the memory

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D

avid Moyes may have got his side back on track in their push for Champions League football on the pitch, but this night will be remembered only for a rare but out-of-touch misstep from West Ham and their manager.

Less than 24 hours after footage of Kurt Zouma kicking and slapping his pet cat astonished anyone who witnessed it, the Scot saw no issue with starting the defender in a Premier League game.

Moyes questionably defended his decision to select Zouma by stating that he is one of West Ham’s “better players”, a notion hardly in line with the club’s stated stance of condemnation.

That his call was criticised by former players, football people, and not just irate social media users showed the strength of feeling around the issue and those in the away end more accurately reflected the public mood towards the defender.

Boos greeted his every touch of the ball before chants of “RSPCA, RSPCA” could be heard among more pointed criticisms.

Home supporters kept quiet, with the majority neither booing nor supporting their man – somewhat telling for a usually partisan crowd.

Even as Zouma and his teammates were arriving, news of police and RSPCA investigations was breaking, making the sight of his name on the team sheet even more remarkable. It felt drastically unwise and sent a clear message that three points manage more than morality.

Such a distraction ahead of the game appeared to have drifted to those walking out onto the pitch.

Moyes had called for his side to deliver a rocket in their bid to finish in the top four, but it took some time for the fuse to be lit.

That moment came through Jarrod Bowen, West Ham’s shining light in a currently stuttering forward line, as he spun away from a cluster of yellow shirts and fired a smart reverse pass into the feet of Said Benrahma.

The Algerian could not match Bowen’s sharp touch and sent a rushed first effort straight at Ben Foster before firing the follow-up onto the upright.

There was little sign of spark following the interval, which Moyes looked to address in sending on Manuel Lanzini for Benrahma.

AFP via Getty Images

Bowen kept plugging away, as he always has done, and making his own luck when a deflected shot finally handed West Ham the lead.

With little going on ahead of him the forward, who has been in fine fettle, sent a hopeful effort towards goal from range, watched it clip off Watford’s Samir and leave Foster stranded.

The winger, looking to further his case to Gareth Southgate ahead of next month’s England internationals, almost added a brilliant second cutting in from the left and firing low, but Foster reached out a decisive hand and touched the ball onto the post.

Again it was Bowen to the rescue, just as was the case at Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday. Others must follow suit if West Ham are to stand a chance in the top four race.

This performance was hardly the sign of life Moyes had wanted from his side, but three points at least means there are on fewer problem on his plate, having dragged himself into the firing line alongside Zouma.

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