Middlesbrough Report: An Undeserved Second Chance

Well I suppose our run of good form couldn’t last forever, but this was, at times, a painful performance to watch. I can’t remember the last time we gave the ball away so easily (yes, I mean you David di Michele). The last time a centre forward played as badly as Diego Tristan did today, after he came on for the injured Cole, we had Newell and Dowie up front.

The thing is, until they scored we were the better team. In fact, had Lady Luck shone on us – or any of our players had had their shooting boots on – we might have had three goals. But DDM was just totally out of it, even if he did try very hard.

Our poor performance was largely based on the fact that Middlebrough were much better than us at retaining possession and closing our players down. Parker and Noble were totally off their best and boy did we miss Behrami. In many ways, you have to blame Zola’s selection of Boa Morte as Behrami’s replacement. You couldn’t fault his application, but yet again it was all to virtually no effect. Kovacs, or Spector, would have been better bets. Only Collison in midfield was able to distinguish himself, and I’d probably nominate him as my man of the match.

Defensively we also looked far shakier than usual. Collins was at fault for their goal and Upson looked very slow on occasion. I thought Ilunga had a lethargic first half but redeemed himself after half time with an improved second half display.

The best thing to say about our strike force is nothing. Tristan is just not at the races, DDM seems to be a player who has one brilliant game followed by half a dozen terrible ones. Freddie Sears came on after 48 minutes but was almost completely anonymous. Savio looked very bright and must now be pushing for a start at Bolton.

But let’s look on the bright side. Thanks to Ilunga’s goal we now have a second chance. Let’s make sure we use it.

Green 7
Ilunga 7
Upson 6
Collins 6
Neill 6
Collison 7
Noble 6
Parker 5
Boa Morte 5
Cole 6
Tristan 3
Di Michele 5
Sears 4
Savio 7


61 Responses to Middlesbrough Report: An Undeserved Second Chance

  1. D&G says:

    Can see this going to penalties.

  2. savvyho says:

    Iain, first of all i’d like to say your entitled to your view and opinion but why do you continue to favour Noble in the ratings? I’m asking in a nice way so please dont think I’m being rude or cocky. Just wanna know why Noble is just 1 below Green and Ilunga for example.

  3. P says:

    That was a woeful performance and a very poor game. I’m almost gutted Ilunga equalised as it means we will have to go through it all again. Just proves how important Cole has been for us these last few seasons, even if just for his hold up play, and that he is our best forward by a long way. If he was out for any length of time we would struggle big time for goals with the likes of Tristan, Di Michele and Sears. At least now, those calling for Tristan can see why Zola doesn’t include him. A 6 for Noble? I don’t think so, even Boa Morte was better.

  4. Iain Dale says:

    Mark Noble is one of my favourite players. However, I am not blind to when he puts in bad performance. Today he gave the ball away too much, but he was still at the centre of virtually everything we did. He also nearly scored 2 goals. For those reasons he got a 6.

  5. MOORO says:

    Just back from the game. Thought your comments about us being better before the goal Iain was spot on.

    I really can’t understand why people pay money to go to a match, and spend the entire time getting on their own players backs. I know we played poorly for most of the game, but the players looked nervous the more the crowd got on their backs.

    I like DDM, he works hard, has a good touch (sometimes!) and has good vision. Tristan hasn’t played hardly and to be fair, it showed. Cole going off changed the game from an attacking sense. However, Savio changed the game when he came on and looks a good prospect.
    The replay will be tricky, but based on our away form we can and should win!

  6. P says:

    So when Cole ‘nearly’ scored 4 or 5 goals a game, but missed them all, why didn’t you give him a 6 instead of the 4’s and 5’s you regularly gave him? Sorry. šŸ™‚

  7. Frankie D says:


    I have to disagree with a lot of your piece. I am beginning to wonder if you actually go to games!

    We weren’t bad but we were not decisive enough – we looked tired. But we had better of the play and opportunities to score a few.

    I am sorry but the biggest culprit for giving the ball away today was the legend to be MARK NOBLE. He was awful again as most of the DR M’s stand thought. His through balls are always too late and his dead balls never past the first man. He trudges at best.

    Ok, Tristan is not quick but his technical play in and around the box was good. Sears was rubbish.

    You’re right about Boro being better at closing players down. It’s because Parker has to do Noble’s running around so we are always a man short.

    Collison was good and he tries. He will become a quality player as he has fantastic work ethic and technical ability to match. He worked very hard when he gave the ball away unlike Noble who went into a strop when he was subbed.

    Green 7
    Illunga 7
    Upson 6
    Collins 6
    Neill 6
    Boa 5
    Noble 4
    Parker 6
    Collison 7
    Tristan 6
    Di Michele 5
    Savio 7
    Sears 3

  8. Eddie Chappers says:

    I have to say I find it beggars belief the criticism of Noble here, he was our brightest player and whilst he did give the ball away so did everyone else, even Scotty and Jackie. Noble deserves an above average rating just for his tackle on 56 minutes which stopped us going two behind. The team were not fired up for it today I think mainly due to the internationals taking their toll but I thought Nobles performance today was much improved- winning possession and good neat passing (though I agree his through balls were poor but this was mainly due to lack of movement and ideas up front)- he was upset to be subbed (or in a strop as its put above) because he cares a darn sight more than many others on show today. Sears was the biggest disappointment IMHO, Dimichele was very poor in front of goal but his passing was defence splitting at times.

  9. Frankie D says:


    I am all for our local boys being in the team, but just because they are one of us does not make them immune from criticism.

    I think we have to accept that Noble is not what we think or want him to be as a player. Zola and Clarke are regularly subbing him for a reason.

  10. aussie graham says:

    Does anyone know when kieron dyer may be fit to play?

  11. djclipz says:

    we really, really, really missed behrami!! With him in there too we would have had a lot more control of the middle. Parker was playing quite deep so it left a gap that the others couldn’t fill, however i did think collison did well!! I pretty much cringe when boa morte receives the ball, he had one good run down the line and put in a ball which could of been a goal.. but nothing else. I was very excited by savio though he looked very lively when he came on and he can certainly put a ball in, and one even came to our goal!! DDM had an open goal that he should of scored, i nearly collapsed watching tht, don’t think the kid in front would have been too happy if tht had happened!! Overall we were both poor, but it should have been a game we should have won, and tbh we should have pretty much killed the game b4 middlesbrough even scored!! The loss of cole was quite a turning point too, he does do quite a lot… for sears i really can’t see him working.. i mentioned it in an early thread tht if this 19yr old we just signed does comes good, sears won’t get a look in and on todays performance he doesn’t deserve one, hence why he as well as tristan haven’t really been given a chance.

  12. Jamie says:

    That’s a bit harsh on Dowie isn’t it. He may not have been the best footballer in the world. But at least he worked hard for the team.

  13. DevoDevo says:

    Unfortunately, I didn’t see today’s game under any guise, so I can’t give you my balanced view on whether Noble or whoever was poor.

    The one thing I will say is that we have got a result on the back of a lack lustre display – let’s not knock it.

    We’re still in the hat!

  14. aussie graham says:

    maybe the reason for underperforming was the amount of players we had on international duty sometimes disrupts the team.

  15. Stelios J says:

    Son’t agree with you as far as Di Michele is concerned, Iain. I think he’s a creative player, with a fine touch, and always looks “up for it. I like the guy, though he has his faults.

    Poor Lois! I stood in the BML – if only we could truly get behind him – giving him the proverbial resounding as he was substituted; more people watched me than him!

    If we are to play like Brazil, occasionally we’ll play like Brazil circa 1974; absolutely delighted with the draw, however. and Ross from ‘Friends’ had a blinder in goal!

    Well, that’s it for lame duck’s night! Hope you all enjoyed VD(!) and don’t worry about me; I’ll be fine… no, really…


  16. Stephen says:

    On Noble, he didn’t have an amazing game but I wanted to let anyone who posts on this site especially regulars know that today in the upper Dr Martens near the Bobby Moore end I heard a few guys mostly the odd individuals who are so called supporters boo him and call him names that was well out of order. I am fed up with people booing and slagging of players. These are not supporters you are just an embarressement to the human race let alone West Ham. One guy who was with 4 kids turned to his young son and said after 25 minutes of the second half we F-ing going in 5 minutes this is S***. No it was not brilliant today but we have another crack at it. Anyone one who wants to leave so early and only 1-0 is not a fan.

  17. the headmaster says:

    Pretty much spot on from where I sat, Iain. Only difference from me would be that only Illunga and Collison would get a 7 from me.
    We haven’t been this poor for a while and, as I suspected we might (refer to earlier post!), we managed to implode against a team that are supposedly in freefall.
    Extremely lucky to still be in it but I’ll take that all day!!

  18. KP says:

    Nul points for Tristan, Iain? Agree he was awful but 0/10 maybe a bit harsh!

  19. the headmaster says:

    Stephen – just seen your post. Absolutely spot on, son.
    I too became enraged today by some disgraceful behaviour by a couple of tosspots who sit in the BMU at the front and did nothing today to support their team, literally nothing. The only times they became enthused were when they were berating, swearing at, denegrating and even booing our own players.

  20. HAMMER TIME says:

    I have to say that many of us fans are getting abit too ahead of our selves, yes we played poor but thats the first time in around 10! So stop the complaining , the internationals clearly took its toll.
    Now on the Mark Noble question, i have to say he has to pick his game up by all means, in my opinion he is not getting any better with age and has simply stayed on the same level for the past two seasons now. He does put in some good displays but is just too inconsistent through a match, he can play a very good through ball one minute then give the ball away or silly tackle the next, he also needs to track back much more when he loses the ball rather than leave Scotty Parker to the dogging!
    Sounds good on Savio Nsereko though! A 19 year old changing the game for us is positive signs for the team when he’s fully grown into the league and it’s pace.

  21. DagenhamHammer says:

    This was an incredibly frustrating performance. I lost count of the number of times we gave the ball away today. The entire team didn’t look up for it. Tristan is not up to it, his legs have gone. I find Noble incredibly frustrating, everything seems so slow all of the time and his dead ball delivery is average at best. That said, he is still only young and hopefully can kick on under Zola’s guidance. I’m suprised at the criticism of Sears performance. I’m not convinced he’ll make it at this level but he looked decent enough and at least brought some energy up front. A word for Stuart Downing – cupping your ears in front of the BML is not big or clever you silly boy. COYI!!

  22. Stelios J says:

    Agreed HT, to everybody else, apologies, I have been drinking, and it weren’t Irn Bru!

  23. the headmaster says:

    Savio did ok. Not sure he changed the game for us. That, for me, would be ‘getting ahead of ourselves’. No one’s complaining Hammertime, just telling it the way it was – hugely disappointing.

  24. Wes says:

    Agreed on Collison but for a bad shot in the firs half. I was very happy to see Ilunga score. He deserved one after all the work he has been putting in. My man Collins was poor with his feet on the ‘boro goal. If he had been walking on his hands, he would have headed it away.

  25. Savvyho says:

    At least you’re honest Iain. In your summary you said it was “a painful performance” to watch and in your comment you said that Noble was “at the centre of virtually everything we did” so I guess that’s fair enough….he was at the centre of our painful performance.

  26. Savvyho says:

    Good point P at 8:44 pm. Same could apply to LBM

  27. FloridaHammer says:

    Good comments Mr. Dale; and from what I saw I don’t disagree with much of what you wrote about the match. I also tend to agree with Aussie Graham regarding the effects this week for so many of our team away on International duty in different parts of the world. It takes some getting used to as a player to balance the mental and physical challenge of the premiership and international football in the same week; keep in mind that many of our younger players are relatively new to their international careers and consider that more than half of the starting line up were away mid-week coming back exhausted physically and emotionally from the games and travel. Add the pressure of having recently played Manure and the Gooners back to back and in extremely tight encounters – these guys were due for a letdown. The fact they hung in there to earn a second chance should not be so easily dismissed; but more so applauded for their grit and determination not to lose. With decent rest between games this team performs well in my opinion; I feel we will be ready next time and much better prepared. I really look forward to watching these guys every week now, the current makeup of the club from top to bottom is so professional and pleasing to the eye. Up the Hammers!

  28. Salesh says:

    How long is Cole out for ?

    If he goes, were are the goals going to come from??

    DDM is a good preformance every 5games type of player.

    Tristan is passed his use by date.

  29. WHU Kim says:

    We missed Behrami. Di Michele was shocking, how he lasted 90 mins is a mystery. Tristan has had little playing time likewise Sears so it’s not surprising they looked less than sharp. Terrible defending for their goal.

  30. jpt says:

    Can’t believe how much we missed Cole to be honest.
    He’s become West Ham’s ‘Hancock’.

  31. Shropshire Hammer says:

    Just arrived home, so had plenty of time to think about our performance on the way back. Iain, I agree that this was a painful performance to watch, it certainly didn’t feel like the 5th round of the FA Cup to me, the fans were as flat as the team. Boro were definately the beter team, so I for one am grateful for the 2nd chance. I agree with the consensus re Behrami, we really missed him today. It is difficult to pick out any positives from today, apart from another solid performance from Illunga and a decent cameo from Savio. Dreadful miss from De Michele, but I still feel he was our best forward once we lost Cole. (Lets hope he isn’t out for too long) Oh well a another long trip to look forward to, but I would rather still be in the hat than out of it.

  32. dagenham cheddars says:

    sheff utd in the next round ….bring it on……

  33. E1 says:

    Collinson was my man of the match and think that a rest for noble may do him good collison to take his place centre and savio wide left he looked good with illunga. Not sure about up ront for the next game maybe if cole is out Sears with Lbm might work.

  34. Yes, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s be realistic. Good team, no outstanding individuals, but they had an off day. This is allowed once in a while.

    Just a minor blip. Move on. But… please, leave Noble alone, he will come good, either here, or if he’s forced out by the boo boys, somewhere else.

    Where would we rather it be?

  35. Dujon says:

    and please stop those booing warcries. if someone in front of you is doing it tell him to sit down, and that he couldnt do any better.

    honestly the last thing you’d need if you’re having a bad game is to be able to hear it! (even if it isnt true)

  36. Jackster101 says:

    just back from the game, yes 10 hours after, 9pubs clubs and fifa don’t help), so i’d thought i’d pop on and give my views. Firstly, everyone i have spoken to has complained about di micheles performance today. yes it was terrible, however he was the only person (pre savio) that showed any creativity and threat going forward. Secondly, Boa Morte is my least favorite hammer atm, however before his injury, for his standards he played ok, but to boo and jeer your own players is pointless, he will lose complete confidence and god knows how he will play without that, as with booing the players off at half time, morale knocking or what. I’m ashamed to say it but us West Ham fans are as fickle as they come, one minute we love ’em, next we are booing, same with our reaction to certain players. sorry for the rant, i just say what i felt today.,

  37. Jackster101 says:

    and sorry for my earlier comment collison was also meant to be mentioned in our threat goiong forward

  38. adelaidehammer says:

    I watched the game from the computer via a stream, and thought we got out of jail. It was a poor game to watch with both sides giving the ball away far too often.
    I was sad to hear the boo boys where out in force again, something that I feel has affected LBM greatly during that game. I reckon that will be his last game for us. I believe that he has had enough of the abuse he gets and actually faked that injury to get taken off.
    I see both sides of the coin, as supporters you pay good money to see these people play. But to actually abuse them verbally match after match aint really on in my book !!!

  39. Roymondo says:

    OK, we had an off day. It happens, but at least we are still in the draw for the quarter finals – and we can win at Boro if we play as well as we have away recently. Agree with the comments about the boo boys. They really don’t help.
    I had three guys say behind me yesterday who had decided from the start that Boa Morte was crap and shouldn’t be in the team and just whined on about it continually. Ironically, I thought that Boa was no worse than most of the others yesterday and our poorest spell came immediately he went off as we lost a lot of what little shape we had.
    The Cole injury is a big worry. Without him, none of the options up front (di Michele, Tristan, Sears) have the ability to hold the ball up which means that the midfield will be put under additional pressure which, in turn, will lead to the defence, also, coming under more pressure.

  40. Roymondo says:

    Ah, sorry. Meant to add that our MOM was, by some distance, Rob Green who made no mistakes and a couple of excellent saves.

  41. danny says:

    well today we got outa jail,but the people moaning and bitching about todays performance should understand we cant do it every game.the one thing that came to me was when players are injured we dont have good enough replacements,we really missed benhrami for his energy today.tristan looked slow and unfit.as for noble ok he didnt have a good game but why all this critisism,hes a young lad who will get better,in my view parker was terrible today but noble gets the blame.i firmly believe we will win the replay

  42. OK, so LBM’s passing wasn’t up to much, but I thought he did a good job in terms of balling winning and marking.

    Shame on the brainless boo-boys.

  43. kall says:

    if our fans boo any player the whole team feel it we wont get any better , lbm may not be doing it at the moment but booing will not help you fools .

  44. mokumhammer says:

    I thought DDM was worse than Tristan

  45. Chris Davison says:

    Our passing was well off yesterday, and for me the match showed how important Behrami is to us, both for his energy and tireless tracking of players, and his calm head and ability to keep the the passing play ticking over. Cole will be a loss too, as when he went off the ball didn’t stick up front like it does with him in the team. Savio looked bright, but will have to learn when to dribble and when to pass. We are in the draw though, which is more than i thought at 4:35 yesterday, so i am reasonably happy.

  46. Eddie Chappers says:

    Did everone else miss Noble’s superb tackle on 56mins that kept us from going two down (bar another great save from Greeno of course!)??

    It wasnt featured on ITVs highlights but if you were there or watched the game in its entirety the boy deserves some credit for it maybe??

  47. Eddie Chappers says:

    Also- how did Downing not get booked for inciting all of the Bobby Moore Lower?

  48. DaDon says:

    This Noble bashing has to stop. There was collective lethargy out there yesterday, and it’s a testament to the standards that we have now set ourselves that it was a disappointment. Last season that would have been regarded as a decent performance. The thing to get out of this, I think, is that even though we were way below our best we still created LOADS of chances and certainly enough to have won this game.

    Noble was involved in all of our good stuff yesterday, had three shots on target and worked tirelessly even when things weren’t quite coming off. He is a very good player, hard working and loyal to the cause. Getting on his back is moronic and unjustifiable. It must stop.

    MOM – clearly Ilunga. Not only solid as ever, he was a constant threat going forward AND scored the equaliser. No contest.

  49. hammermaff says:

    pretty much agree with your report, however i saw noble as a 5 alongside parker.

    Right from the kick off we looked slow lethargic and dis-interested (i hope it is just because of the international break).

    I’m not cole’s biggest fan but if tristan is the only other option. (Unless we play with two diddy men up front). I REALLY hope his injury is not very serious.

  50. Eddie Chappers says:

    I concur DaDon

  51. Shoreditchammer says:

    Most of my life I think that both LBM and Lucas Neill are hopeless. But in the parallel universe that was yesterday both played well both in absolute terms and especially relative to their normal standards. Lucas looked assured and in contral at the back and only gave the ball away stupidly a couple of times and LBM created chances.

    Up front watching Tristan and di Michele squander chancesI found myself longing for the silky skills and lethal accuracy in front of goal of Bobby Zamora.

    Hopeless. We did not deserve a replay.

    Lets hope that game starts with Savio and anyone (my granny, my cat, anyone) rather than DDM or Tristan.

    In despair

  52. 10no6 says:

    Agree LBM not the best but yesterday he did make some decent tackles in a poor team performance. I would rather encourage him to do better after all what have we got to lose he will either get better and that is good for the team or he stays the same, minus the booing, but we can then at least be proud of our support for the team and it would forge an even stronger bond between us & the players . We are West Ham and that makes us special I don’t want boo boys or people that sing we’re sh** and we know we are to the amusement of opposing fans anyone who does that does not really know about our history and the pride in the Club (players come and go we stay). As for yesterday yes we scraped a draw but we can be chuffed we got the equaliser (love that feeling) and live to fight another day. Zola and Clarke will sort the boys and we will stuff Bolton Saturday and win the replay. COYI

  53. Scalyback says:

    I don’t know what it was like elsewhere in the ground, but yesterday in the BM upper we had a significant number of spectators on tickets as opposed to seasons & some of them they were responsible for lot of the booing and dissenting shouts around me. Several of the regulars joinedme in requesting them to shut up & get behind the team, mainly politely, but several were clearly the worse for booze. And on a day when there was a high proportion of kids in the ground……

  54. claire says:

    Booing, swearing and yelling – very loudly – went on in our bit of the BM Lower from non-regulars. OK, you expect a fair bit of swearing when you go to a game, and I can use the f word with the best of them, but I found that the non-stop full volume use of the f and c words and the viciousness of the shouting at our players was almost intolerable.
    Anyway, glad to see that Iain is keeping this site, at any rate, civilised.

  55. wonday myson says:

    Whilst it was a disappointing performance in comparison to others of late we still live to fight another day. Several players were off colour against the smog but what disappoints me most is the constant booing of one of our players. Whatever your opinion of his capabilities are, booing will not bring out the best in him. Get behind LBM and encourage not discourage.

  56. DaDon says:

    Agreed Scalyback, even in the DMU there were lots of unfamiliar faces and dissenting voices. For the record I’m not opposed to booing per se – there are times when it is utterly justified – however right now there is not a SINGLE thing to boo and the LBM stuff is getting tiresome. As long as he tries (and lord knows he puts himself about) he should be encouraged. The poor guy is probably so nervous now that it’s paralysing him whenever he gets the ball. That’s not to say that his every mistake isn’t infuriating, but to boo him when the line-up is read out is just ridiculous.

  57. DevoDevo says:

    Scalyback – this is one of the problems with modern day football.

    In the pre- all seating days, those of us who wanted a beer and a swear would stand with likeminded people and have a good craic. The kids would be in the seats on the top tier of the West stand and above the Chicken Run and could be spared from some of the comments.

    Back onto the game – as I said earlier I never saw the match live and had to rely on the highlights package from ITV. I have to say, having read so many negative comments on here earlier I was surprised to see us have so many gilt edged chances.

    Whilst we have all been getting excited with our performances recently, it’s extremely difficult to maintain that level of form over a prolonged period, especially when a team has a number of youngsters. The good sign is that we still got a result when playing below par, something we have failed to do for a few years now.

  58. DevoDevo says:

    Sorry, forgot to say what a quality delivery from Savio for the goal.

    I think next up and with Behrami back, Collison should revert to middle with Savio on left and Nobes dropping to the bench.

  59. trabie says:

    Well after doing the round trip of 240 odd miles from North Norfolk coast for the 6th time this season, was a bit disapointed with the perfomance, but as devo said earlier we’re still in the hat for the 1/4 final draw. Got to agree that Mark Noble didn’t have his best ever game but he was still working hard, Scotty Parker was a shadow of his normal self and with Behrami out it was almost like no midfield compared to the way it’s been the last few weeks. I would like to have seen Walter Lopez given a chance on the left when LBM went off injured. But overall enjoyed the game and pleased with the final result from a poor team display, and looking forward to next visit when there will be 5 of usdoing the jouney from Sheringham. May be catch you in Ken’s Iain. Keep up the good work. COYI

  60. y3 says:

    Eddie Chappers Says:
    February 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Also- how did Downing not get booked for inciting all of the Bobby Moore Lower?

  61. DaDon says:

    Shoreditch – Lucas Neill, hopeless? Talk about parallel universe. Neill lacks pace, it’s true, but other than that he’s got two good feet, he’s strong in the air, he’s hard, he’s a smart footballer and his distribution is very good for a defender (so many of his long balls have led to goals). OK he’s not Maldini but to say he’s hopeless is just flying in the face of the facts. You might not like him or rate him, but hopeless he ain’t.

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