This was a perversely enjoyable game, which kind of summed up our entire season. Good in parts, awful in others. Derby were better than expected – very committed but lacking any real invention. When Robbie Savage is relied upon for set pieces, you know you are in trouble. In truth, West Ham could have won this 4-1 or 5-1 with several clear chances going begging. On the other hand, Derby nearly snatched an equaliser at the end. So, let’s look at the plus points.
The biggest revelation for me was the performance of James Tomkins. Indeed, I would rate him as man of the match. He was assured, confident and looked completely at home. He must have touched the ball at least twice as often as his partner in central defence, Lucas Neill. He has a great balance about him. At first, his loping style reminded me a bit of Elliott Ward, but there’s also a touch of the Rio Ferdinands about him. Make no mistake, we have discovered a diamond here. It wouldn’t surprise me if he became a regular next season.
Elsewhere in defence Lucas Neill had a quiet game, but was reasonably solid. I still think this is his best position. His replacement at right back John Pantsil had an average game. It has to be said that he is better in attack. He made a superb daisy cutter through ball towards the end which nearly resulted in a goal. George McCartney had a quieter game. He’s certainly a contender for Hammer of the Year, but I wish he’d get more confidence in the final third.
In midfield, both Parker and Noble put in strong performances. These two are clearly our first choice central midfield, but they have played very few games together so far -this was only the third. My only worry is that they are very similar players – both tenacious, hard tacklers. Noble is slightly more creative, but perhaps they are too samey to be a successful midfield duo? We’ll find out next season.
For the first time for a long time we played with two out and out wingers. At times we were playing 4-2-4. Ljungberg got better as the game went on. Unfortunately he was at fault for being offside when Zamora scored a goal that had to be disallowed. He had some brilliant interplay with Noble before haring off down the left to cross for Carlton Cole to score the winning goal. Freddie is not my favourite player and I have to say I won’t be heartbroken if he goes during the summer, but credit to him for some of his work today. Julien Faubert was a little diappointing. He played in several good crosses in the first quarter of an hour and his a rasping twenty five yeard shot and I saw enough to believe he’s the real deal, but I wasn’t surprised when he was subbed. He’s coming back after a bad injury and needs games.
I presume Dean Ashton was ill or injured, but Bobby Zamora had a good game. Yes, the frustrations we all know about were still self evident, but nevertheless he did well in winning headers and holding the ball up and took his goal well. Freddie Sears, however, was a different story. I’m afraid he was not at the races today. He barely touched the ball in the first half and when he did have it he looked strangely hesitant. I thought he was subbed at exactly the right time. Parts of the crowd actually booed Carlton Cole onto the pitch which I found reprehensible. “You don’t know what you’re doing” rang out around the ground, suggesting the Curbishley should have kept Sears on the pitch. I was incredulous. And then a few minutes later Carlton Cole rammed their words right down their idiotic throats.
Robert Green was in superb form, making two world class saves. The one he made at the feet of Tyrone Mears was incredible. Certainly England class.
I want to sing the praises of the Derby fans. They have had to put up with a lot this season but they were loud and proud today. Whenever they got a corner it was as if they had scored. They sang throughout the game and were undoubtedly the best away fans we have had at Upton Park this season.
A final word about the referee, Steve Tanner, who I thought had a fantastic game. And it’s not often I say that. He was in complete command throughout. And so to the points…