A job well done. It wasn’t pretty at times, but it was a gritty, effectiove performance from the Hamers which put us into the fourth round draw. bearing in mind how often we have fallen to teams like Barnsley at this stage in the Cup, a comprehensive 3-0 victory has to be seen as highly encouraging. And it was our third victory in a row. And it was Carlton Cole’s third scoring game in a row. And those weren’t the only two high points.
I was delighted to see my instincts that James Tomkins would be given a runout confirmed. And he lived up to expectations. He looks so comfortable in his role and hardly put a foot wrong today. Strong in the air, and accomplished on the ground, he looks every bit the successor to Rio Ferdinand we all hope he will be. He was, however, eclipsed by his central defensive partner James Collins, who I choose as man of the match. His heading performance was faultless and I truly believe he is in the best form of his life. Julien Faubert also put in a much better performance, comfortably interchanging positions with James Collison on the right. Ilunga too was good at going forward and it was good to see him open his scoring account. You could see it meant a lot to him.
Scott Parker was banned and was replcaed by the ever reliable Hayden Mullins, who had a very good game. I thought he was far more creative than usual. Valon Behrami was a strange omission, but Mark Noble also performed well, although didn’t get forward as much as he normally does. He won a penalty and was clearly determined to take it himself. I felt a little nervous about the likely outcome, but he put it away well.
Luis Boa Morten started off quite brightly but faded badly in the second half and was replaced with Matty Etherington. Bizarrely Noble moved across to the left and Matty played through the middle. Perhaps Zola recognised the need for a more attacking playmaker throught he centre. Perhaps he should take a closer look at the diminutive Barnsley midfielder Diego Leon, who was a constant thorn in our side, and very effective at dead balls.
Up front Craig Bellamy put in another excellent performance. All that was missing was a bulging back of the net. Carlton Cole scored just the type of headed goal which will give him even more confidence in his own ability. It was a perfectly placed header, but just the sort of header which most of us expected him to miss – mainly because he has done so so often in the past. But all credit to him. he’s now got 7 goals in 18 games this season. That is by no means a bad ratio.
But perhaps the brightest incident of the game was when Keiron Dyer came on to the pitch after 17 months out injured. He got a tremendous reception and immediately went on a mazy run, shot from 20 yards and very nearly scored. What a return that would have been! He made a real contribution in his 20 minutes on the pitch and you could tell the whole team was lifted by his return.
The papers were full of more transfer rumours today, with the Bellamy/Parker move to Manchester City again being treated very seriously. I am coming round to the point of view that Parker’s loss, while regrettable, would not be a disaster. If Kieron Dyer is fit, a midefield of Noble, Collison, Dyer and Behrami/Etherington would be quite strong.
Quite what we would do without Bellamy, though, is another matter. It’s not as if we could go out and buy a similar player – because such a being does not exist. Tristan and Di Michele are just not in the same class. I was disappointed to see that Freddie Sears wasn’t even on the bench today. Surely he needs to be given experience in matches like this. Tristan only had about 12 minutes on the pitch but contributed very little. I find it difficult to think Sears wouldn’t have done better.
But that’s a minor quibble. Barnsley, despite the appearance of the scoreline, were not a pushover and at times played some very bright, attacking football. West Ham performed well and deserved their emphatic win.
Boa Morte 5