Oh, how ITV were hoping for an upset. I had to turn the commentary down in the end, it was getting so irritating. Yes, in the first half Hartlepool gave us a real game, right up until the 43rd minute. After then it was just a question of getting to the end of the game without slipping up. The substitution of Mullins for Di Michele said it all.
It is penalty decisions like the one we got that inspire the hopeless optimists among us to think our name is already written on the Cup. If only it were that simple, eh? It was a scandalous decision as the handball was clearly way outside the area. But up stepped Mark Noble and he put it away with aplomb. I don’t think he has even missed a pen, has he?
This is exactly the sort of game which we normally specialise in tripping up in. And under Harry Redknapp, Roeder or Curbishley I would have been nervous. But there is something about Zola that gives me confidence. He has taught the team how to play in a professional manner and to close a game down, and a very good thing too.
As an aside, Jeff Stelling has just remarked on Sky Sports News: “What a good week for Barack Obama – becomes US President and West Ham win away!”
Rob Green didn’t have an awful lot to do, although he completely missed a cross near the beginning of the game which Scott Parker cleared off the lines. He made one superb instant reaction save from a Hartlepool header in the second half, which was world class.
Defensively Tomkins and Collins both put in excellent performances. Ilunga had little to do in defence but he often went storming down the left in the first half, causing havoc. It was no surprise that our goal emerged from the left. Faubert, however, did little to impress, I’m afraid. He looked slow to the ball and contributed comparatively little.
Parker and Noble did a great job in the centre of midfield, with Parker playing the anchor role allowing Noble to rampage forward. Collison was quiet, but Behrami was his normal impressive, busy self. He took the goal brilliantly.
Up front Carlton Cole put himself about a bit. His booking, in my opinion, was totally undeserved. It was a ball he was entitled to go for. He could have bagged a couple of goals and his miss in the second half sent shudders down the spine as it reminded us of Carlton Cole misses of days gone by. Di Michele didn’t get into the game until twenty minutes had elapsed, but he played some great through balls to Cole and they look as if they are developing quite a good understanding. It was his cross which led to the Behrami goal.
Boa Morte came on mid way through the second half. He had a couple of good runs but didn’t really threaten in a dangerous way. Both Mullins and Sears came on later but did nothing of real note.
Once the second goal went in, it was game over, which is probably why I don’t feel that excited by the result. It’s the kind of result we should have expected and we should be content we got it. So that’s 7 games unbeaten now. Let’s make it eight on Wednesday.
Di Michele 6
Boa Morte 6