LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - West Ham United manager David Moyes said he was surprised by goalkeeper Joe Hart’s mistake that handed Stoke City the opening goal in Monday’s 1-1 Premier League draw but he defended the England player after his side had to settle for a point.
Hart was outstanding in the Hammers previous game against Chelsea and earned a man of the match display as his side came away with a crucial point in a draw at Stamford Bridge.
The West Ham keeper would have been desperate to impress once again ahead of the World Cup, with England manager Gareth Southgate watching from the stands, but he produced a major error which led to Stoke scoring after 79 minutes.
Hart had failed to hold a shot from Xherdan Shaqiri and substitute Peter Crouch was on hand to score from close-range.
But striker Andy Carroll came off the bench to spared his blushes with a superb equaliser in added time to salvage a draw and move the Hammers a step closer to safety.
West Ham have 35 points from 33 games and Moyes feels they need one more victory to guarantee survival and said he would not blame Hart for their failure to take all three points.
“He had two very similar shots in the first half and he took them quite comfortably in his midriff. So it was a surprise that it spilt out. But, look, if you’re a goalkeeper it’s going to happen,” Moyes told a post-match news conference.
“For the team, for us, at the time it was difficult because it meant we had to go and look to change after we had been the dominant team, apart from the first five or 10 minutes of the second half.
“Last week after he made fantastic saves at Chelsea, I said to him: ‘Well done’. I didn’t go over the top because I expect him to do that. Tonight I’ll tell him: ‘You should have done better on that one.’
“I think the points we’ve taken in recent weeks have been really important, winning here against Southampton (3-0) and taking a point at Chelsea (1-1). I think the important thing was to make sure we didn’t lose tonight.
“I thought the players showed the commitment and energy to make sure that didn’t happen, and their play throughout was one of the better performances we’ve had since I’ve been here.
“I think if you get to 40 (points) then you are going to be close. I think the target has always got to be that. If we have 40 I think it’s a lot to ask the teams below us to get it.”
Moyes had nothing but praise for former Liverpool striker Carroll after he made an immediate impact as a substitute after being sidelined since January with an ankle injury.
Moyes added: “He’s been training since we were in Miami. He’s had a couple of weeks of running and bits of stuff.
“I don’t know if we’re going, in this short period of time left, to get him up to 90 minutes. But if he can continue to come off the bench and give us 20 or 30 minutes, that will be more than handy as he showed tonight.”
Moyes was disappointed to see three efforts ruled out for offside but felt the third one surrounding Carroll, when he handled inside the area, could have gone in his side’s favour.
“I haven’t seen the last one which seems to be the most dubious of them all. I think the referee got the (others) right.” (Reporting by Marc Isaacs; Editing by Ken Ferris)