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Song sings Downing praises in Hammers bid

West Ham midfielder Alex Song believes Stewart Downing will play a crucial role in his side's unlikely push for a European place after another starring role in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Sunderland.

North-east native Downing lashed home the Hammers' 29th minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light seven minutes after Jordi Gomez put the Black Cats in front following a controversial penalty award.

Victory kept the Hammers flying high in fourth place in the table and prompted boss Sam Allardyce to hail Downing as "the best player on the pitch by far."

Downing's excellent run of form saw him recalled to the England squad for the first time in four years last month and Song said on his club's official website: "When he plays like this, good things can happen for him.

"I think Stewart is a very good player. He's been back in the national team, and we have to help him do his job very well. We've seen what's happened for him and it's a pleasure to play with him." Allardyce was happy enough with a point although his side rode their luck after mis-firing Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore produced an extraordinary miss in first-half injury time to keep the score level.

And Hammers defender Winston Reid was also lucky to avoid giving away a second spot-kick midway through the second period when he clearly handled a cross from Santiago Vergini - though Allardyce predictably insisted the offence was "not intentional".

Allardyce added: "I am always happy with a point away from home in this division because it's not easy where ever you go. We showed character and it is the third time we've had to come from behind in the last three games."

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet cut a disconsolate figure in the post-match press conference as he admitted: "I don't think we can hide behind anything. I started talking about identity last year and I cannot talk about it any more - this is not the way I want my teams to play. We have to play better."