This was the most entertaining match since our victory over Liverpool in late January. In fact, perhaps the first half was our best half of the entire season. We were literally on fire from the outset. Perhaps the visiting Paolo di Canio had gone into the dressing room and given a pre match motivational team talk? Newcastle were not at the races and until they scored they had not had a shot. Indeed, they only had one shot in the second half.
Let’s start with the midfield. Faubert and Ljungberg ran Newcastle ragged down the wings for the first twenty minutes. What a shame Freddie was stretchered off with a cracked rib (and may miss the Euros) mid way through the first half to be replaced the Boa Morte. Scott Parker was absolutely immense, especially in the first half, while Mark Noble took his goal brilliantly and combined superbly with Parker both defensively and in attack. But special pride of place goes to Julien Faubert, who showed some amazing bursts of pace and put in some excellent crosses. He really showed that he will be immense for us next season, and if Parker hadn’t been so brilliant, he would have been my man of the match. Parker is now on England form.
Defensively, James Tomkins looked superb, apart from being to blame for the first goal. His heading was spot on and he was tough in his tackled. He’s also a danger at corners in the opponents’ box. He did make a mistake for the goal, but he’ll learn from it. Lucas Neill had a few hairy moments in the second half. George McCartney was brilliant (again) bombing down the left and put in a real attacking performance. And John Pantsil had his best game for us so far. He really can be a joy to watch with his hugely enthusiastic attitude.
Up front Dean Ashton was busy all over the place and a constant threat. His goal was a classic striker’s goal, where he made something out of very little. Bobby Zamora was at his most frustrating. He tried and tried but absolutely nothing he tried came off. Carlton Cole looked far better when he came on and should retain his place for the Man U game, although I suspect we will play 4-5-1 at Old Trafford.
Uriah Rennie certainly had a game of two halves. He had a good first half but his decisions in the second half defied logic. It shows how times change when instead of “The referee’s a bastard” we heard constant chants of “You’re not fit to be a referee”. How quaint.
And finally, why oh why was their no pre match announcement that Paolo di Canio was “in da Stafium”? The crowd sooned spotted him and we all went wild, revisiting old memories with sporadic and very loud chants of the Paolo di Canio Rigoletto chant. He’s still a hero to many of us and the best player I have ever seen in a West Ham shirt. And the scores on the doors…
Ljungberg 8 (Boa Morte 5)
Zamora 6 (Cole 7)
PS And for once I predicted the score correctly!