Let’s start off the the plus points. The main one was that for the first time in February – in 25 games, I think – we kept a clean sheet. And to be honest we never really looked under great threat. Defoe had a couple of opportunities but apart from that, we were fairly safe.
The second plus was the performance of Valon Behrami, especially in the first half where he was buzzing around everywhere, tackling everything that moved. He was hacked to the ground late in the first half and wasn’t quite the same afterwards, but it was the best I have seen him play.
Rob Green made two outstanding saves, and with the watching Fabio Capello there, I thought he did himself no harm at all. But is it just me, or do you feel slightly more nervous watching him than you used to? I have to say I thought David James was outstanding, apart from one of his typical flaps which nearly resulted in a goal. Needless to say, the referee gave a foul even though no West Ham player was anywhere near him. That was one of many decisions the referee got wrong, including not giving us a cast iron penalty in the third minute.
Defensively we looked relatively comfortable unless Defoe or their number 39 Belhadj had the ball. Belhadj was man of the match. I have rarely seen a quicker player. Needless to say, he ran rings round Lucas Neill who hardly contributed anything over the 90 minutes. He ambled around in the first half, doing his usual thing of misplacing passes down the touchline. When he moved to the left after Ilunga was substituted he seemed better, funnily enough.
Collins had a great first half, and Upson was solid. Ilunga had a quietish game until he was taken off in the second half, for what I can only assume was because of a knock.
The 4-3-3 formation saw Collison, Parker and Behrami in midfield. Parker was playing much more deeply than usual, but did very well. He was subbed with 20 minutes to go as he was clearly running on low. Collison didn’t really get into the game. He didn’t do badly, but clearly didn’t give the kind of performance he gave against Everton and Man U.
Up front we rarely posed a threat. The final ball was always slightly astray. The only real chance was a 20 yard free kick from Bellamy which hit the bar. Bellamy improved as the game went on, but didn’t really threaten. Freddie Sears was bright and buzzed around well. I couldn’t quite understand why he was subbed at half time in preference to Bellamy, but when Etherington came on and we reverted to 4-4-2 things did improve. Indeed Etherington was very lively indeed and staked a very strong claim for a starting place next week against Sunderland.
But we then come to the shambles that was Carlton Cole. This was his worst performance for a very long time. He failed to hold the ball up, direct any headers he won and didn’t have a single shot, bar a couple of miscued efforts. It really was an abysmal performance from the big man.
So overall, disappointing not to get more than a point, but if I am honest a draw was a fair reflection of the balance of play. We didn’t play badly, but we didn’t play well.