WBA Match Report: Missing Cole Already

March 16, 2009

Rate the players’ performances HERE

I was very tempted to skip this match and watch it on TV. But you know me… Wrong decision every time. It was the worst match I have seen at Upton Park since, well, the last one – probably Spurs in December. Frankly, there are very few positives to pick out from this game, but I’ll do my best.

Firstly, the debut of Junior Stanislas promised much. He whipped in a couple of excellent crosses, which, had Cole been playing, he would have been on the end of. He also showed some neat trickery on the left and seemed at home from the word go. In fact, in 20 minutes he looked more dangerous than Savio had in the previous 70. Which wasn’t difficult. More on Savio in a moment.

The second positive was the solid performance of Radoslav Kovac. He seems to improve with each game. He won some excellent tackles and was the only West Ham player to win any headers. I’d say he was Man of the Match.

James Tomkins had a busy and solid game, as did Lucas Neill. Otherwise, dear oh dear. Upson was stretchered off – it seems we lose one player a game at the moment.

Ilunga had a complete off day, losing the ball on countless occasions. As did Mark Noble, who looks a shadow of his former self. Even Scott Parker had a spate of giving needless balls away, although otherwise he had a reasonable game.

Savio showed the occasional neat bit of trickery but far too often lost out when in possession. He is shoved off the ball all too easily. I still think he is being played in the wrong position, though. He needs to play behind the lead striker in the centre. I just don’t see him on the wing.

Up front Di Michele had a few mazy runs which amounted to nothing. He was busy but ineffective. Sears looked brighter than in previous games but didn’t have a serious shot in the whole game.

All in all, you have to give credit to West Brom. They came to do a job and they did it with relative ease. They shut us down brilliantly and allowed our midfield very little time on the ball. They won everything in the air. Their only problem was that they had nothing up front either. They squandered two golden chances. It pains me to say it, but they were the better side. But let’s put it in perspective. We were without our leading striker, two of our three best midfielders, our first choice centre back and played half the game without the other one.

It’s two points lost, but I can remember many similar games when we’d have lost a game like this.

Green 7
Ilunga 4
Spector 5
Upson 6
Tomkins 7
Noble 4
Parker 7
Kovac 7
Savio 5
Stanislas 7
Di Michele 5
Sears 6
Rate the players’ performances HERE


Stoke Match Report: Down With the Tottenham!

December 28, 2008

This is the sort of match which we often fail to get anything out of. But we came good in the end. It certainly wasn’t our best performance of the season, but we did deserve the three points. Stoke didn’t help themselves by self-combusting. They weren’t the worst team we will play this season, but despite being first to the ball a lot of the time, they failed to capitalise on the possession they had.

I can’t ever recall a player being sent off for hitting one of his own teammates, but that is what happened to Ricardo Fuller just as Stoke were kicking off following the West Ham goal. I suppose it’s this sort of thing that keeps us going to matches. Just when you think you have seen it all.

Our clear man of the match was Valon Behrami. What an engine he has. I don’t think I have ever seen a player like him. Tenacious is a word which hardly does him justice. He was all over the pitch and won the ball back countless times. When he first came to the club I thought he was a headless chicken, but he knows exactly what he is doing. I didn’t think I would ever admit a player deserved to keep Noble out of the team, but I will make an exception for Behrami.

Overall, the midfield had quite a good balance to it. Scott Parker was all over the pitch too, although too often his final ball was off beam. He takes too long to decide what to do with it and today missed the obvious ball on too many occasions. Luis Boa Morte had one of his better days today and in the second half gave the team some much needed width, although he still had an annoying tendency to drift infield. Jack Collison was superb again and quite why he was subbed is anyone’s guess. His tackling was effective and he was probably the most creative of the midfield four. He’s also not afraid to shoot.

With two of our defenders being changed (O’Neill and Davenport) I suppose it was inevitable that we looked shaky at the back on occasion. The Stoke goal came about because neither Faubert, nor Collins picked up Faye from the corner. Otherwise Collins was commanding in the air and had a good game. The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for Julien Faubert, who has joined Carlton Cole as the crowd’s favourite whipping boy. At times he was simply awful, giving away possession too easily and being weak in the tackle. He fared a little better in his regular forays forward, but too often his crosses were misdirected.

Carlton Cole was largely anonymous in the first half and only really came to life after he scored. Confidence is a wonderful thing. The truth is he should have scored immediately after the Stoke goal. A poacher would have tucked away Collison’s cross without thinking twice. Cole blasted wide. But for all that, he was miles better than the totally ineffective David di Michele. Apart from a skilful cross, he contributed very little to the game and it was a mystery to us all when Zola substituted Tristan for Collison rather than di Michele.

Tristan again looked totally out of it after he on for the last 20 minutes. Yes, he scored, but it was quite a flukey goal. I couldn’t understand why Zola thought Tristan or di Michele were better bets than Freddie Sears. But why should I complain? We got three points and now sit in tenth place, just one win away from a European place. What a difference a week makes, eh?

Green 7
Ilunga 7
Upson 7
Collins 7
Faubert 5
Behrami 8
Collison 8
Boa Morte 6
Parker 6
Cole 6
di Michele 4

UPDATE: To all those Spurs fans leaving comments protesting (several using very homophobic language) at the headline to this article, your comments won’t get through moderation. So piss off.

Chelsea Report: Battling Hammers Impress

December 14, 2008

Oh Carlton Cole! You could have been a hero, yet as so often you scuffed your shot. But let’s not be too pernickety. This was a battling performance of the highest order. To play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and emerge with anything is a credit to the team. To nearly emerge with three points was perhaps asking too much.

When Bellamy put us one up so early on, I don’t think many of thought Chelsea wouldn’t score at least one goal, and so it proved. Under this amount of pressure far better teams than West Ham have cracked. We didn’t and it is a tribute to the central midfielders and central defenders that we managed to maintain out discipline.

Up front Bellamy battled and harried as if his life depended on it. He took his goal brilliantly. Cole was useless in the first half and lost possession almost every time he got the ball. In the second half he somehow discovered some controlled aggression and managed to hold the ball up well and had a couple of chances he should have done better with.

In midfield Scott Parker was magnificent. Noble too showed some of his old form and battled away. Behrami was everywhere as usual and Collison improved after a largely anonymous first 20 minutes. His close control became excellent.

At the back I thought Davenport and Upson looked very comfortable together and rarely looked troubled in the first half. Ilunga had a much better game than against Spurs. Lucas Neill didn’t do anything spectacular, but then he never does. He was lucky not to give away a penalty late on for a trip on Kalou, I think it was. Luckily the tosser of a referee didn’t see it. I cannot abide Mike Riley. He always seems to ruin a game.

Anyway, I think we can all be well impressed by that performance. Now let’s beat the Villa on Saturday!

Green 8
Ilunga 7
Neill 6
Upson 7
Davenport 7
Noble 7
Parker 8
Behrami 7
Collison 7
Cole 6
Bellamy 7

UPDATE: Just so we realise what this means, it’s the second away draw against a Top 4 side this season.

Wigan Report

August 16, 2008

My trip to the ground did not get off to the best of starts. Driving up the A20 I suddenly realised I hadn’t put my season ticket in my wallet. Luckily the ticket office happily issued me with a replacement.

But the day soon improved when an on fire Dean Ashton fired us two ahead in the first fifteen minutes. It has to be said that Wigan had had the better of the opening exchanges, and somehow you just knew that West Ham would revert to type and fail to get the all important third. And so it transpired.

We put together some neat one to one play, and always looked dangerous in their penalty area, but just couldn’t find the third. Wigan were by far the better side in the second half and were unlucky to come away with nothing.

Let’s face it, we were lucky to come away with all three points, but having said that, so what? It was a reasonable performance for the first game of the season and we should be grateful it was rather better than last season’s first game against Man City.

While I think of it, it was a bit odd seeing seven subs on the bench. I have to admit I wasn’t aware of that particular innovation. But it’s great, and means that a couple of the youngsters get some big match experience, even if all they do is get splinters in their arses … although I doubt there are many splinters on those new Recaro seats!

So, let’s have a look at some of the individual performances. Deano obviously gets the headlines, but he contributed far more than his two goals. He was really mobile and chased everything. I just hope he hasn’t injured too much. Carlton Cole did well in the first half. He won a lot in the air and constsntly harried. Freddie Sears looked very bright when he came on for Deano. He has beefed up a bit and is more difficult to shake off the ball. In midfield, Mark Noble was hugely disappointing and Scott Parker wasn’t his usual self. Their failure to control the agenda allowed Wigan to dominate the centre of the pitch. Matty Etherington had a storming first half but faded badly in the second. Julien Faubert was my man of the match. He put in 100% effort, was great on the wing, wasn’t afraid to shoot and had a few good dribbles. I reckon he may get 10 goals this season. In defence Lucas Neill was his normal self. He managed to get bypassed on at least half a dozen occasions. Sadly, Behrami was even worse. He was run ragged by the Wigan left winger and must have wondered what had hit him. If right back is his best position then … well, let’s not be too harsh, it was only his first game. In the centre Upson was stalwart and Davenport performed well too. And Greeny was superb.

All in all, a satisfactory start.

Green 8
Upson 8
Davenport 7
Neill 5
Behrami 5
Noble 5
Parker 6
Etherington 7
Faubert 9
Ashton 9
Cole 6

Newcastle Match Report

April 26, 2008

This was the most entertaining match since our victory over Liverpool in late January. In fact, perhaps the first half was our best half of the entire season. We were literally on fire from the outset. Perhaps the visiting Paolo di Canio had gone into the dressing room and given a pre match motivational team talk? Newcastle were not at the races and until they scored they had not had a shot. Indeed, they only had one shot in the second half.

Let’s start with the midfield. Faubert and Ljungberg ran Newcastle ragged down the wings for the first twenty minutes. What a shame Freddie was stretchered off with a cracked rib (and may miss the Euros) mid way through the first half to be replaced the Boa Morte. Scott Parker was absolutely immense, especially in the first half, while Mark Noble took his goal brilliantly and combined superbly with Parker both defensively and in attack. But special pride of place goes to Julien Faubert, who showed some amazing bursts of pace and put in some excellent crosses. He really showed that he will be immense for us next season, and if Parker hadn’t been so brilliant, he would have been my man of the match. Parker is now on England form.

Defensively, James Tomkins looked superb, apart from being to blame for the first goal. His heading was spot on and he was tough in his tackled. He’s also a danger at corners in the opponents’ box. He did make a mistake for the goal, but he’ll learn from it. Lucas Neill had a few hairy moments in the second half. George McCartney was brilliant (again) bombing down the left and put in a real attacking performance. And John Pantsil had his best game for us so far. He really can be a joy to watch with his hugely enthusiastic attitude.

Up front Dean Ashton was busy all over the place and a constant threat. His goal was a classic striker’s goal, where he made something out of very little. Bobby Zamora was at his most frustrating. He tried and tried but absolutely nothing he tried came off. Carlton Cole looked far better when he came on and should retain his place for the Man U game, although I suspect we will play 4-5-1 at Old Trafford.

Uriah Rennie certainly had a game of two halves. He had a good first half but his decisions in the second half defied logic. It shows how times change when instead of “The referee’s a bastard” we heard constant chants of “You’re not fit to be a referee”. How quaint.

And finally, why oh why was their no pre match announcement that Paolo di Canio was “in da Stafium”? The crowd sooned spotted him and we all went wild, revisiting old memories with sporadic and very loud chants of the Paolo di Canio Rigoletto chant. He’s still a hero to many of us and the best player I have ever seen in a West Ham shirt. And the scores on the doors…

Green 8
McCartney 8
Neill 6
Tomkins 7
Pantsil 8
Noble 8
Parker 9
Ljungberg 8 (Boa Morte 5)
Faubert 9
Ashton 8
Zamora 6 (Cole 7)

PS And for once I predicted the score correctly!

Derby Match Report: A Curate’s Egg

April 19, 2008

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…

Green 8
McCartney 7
Neill 6
Tomkins 9
Pantsil 6
Noble 8
Parker 7
Ljungberg 7
Faubert 6
Sears 5
Zamora 7

Portsmouth Match Report

April 9, 2008

Portsmouth seem to become our bogey team. They certainly didn’t deserve to win last night’s game, but then again after our second half performance neither did we. In the first half we looked bright without really being a constant danger. We scorned two good chances and that was about it. After the break headless chicken syndrome seemed to descend on some players, especially the central midfield pairing of Mullins and Parker. Mullins put in his worst performance of the season. You can’t fault his effort, but his passing was dire.

Up front Dean Ashton did well in the first half but only had one shot, while Zamora was largely anonymous apart from his scandalous miss from an acute angle.

The brightest player and certainly the first half man of the match was (whisper it) Luis Boa Morte. No, I couldn’t believe it either.He was tenacious in his tackling and had several mazy runs. He disappeared a bit after half time but it was his best game for us by far.

Defensively we rarely looked troubled. Their goal was a long range shot which should have been shut down but apart from that Pompey lacked ideas. Nugent constantly harried our defenders but to little avail. Lucas Neill put in another average performance and looked to have suffered a bad knock towards the end which will probably keep him out of the next game.Johnny Pantsil, your time may have come.

Freddie Sears replaced Zamora after an hour but had little effect on a rather boring game. At one point I turned to my neighbour and asked him if he think of a memorable game here this season apart from the Liverpool and Man U victoried. He couldn’t and neither could I. And so to the scores…

Green 8
Neill 6
McCartney 7
Ferdinand 7
Spector 7
Solano 7
Boa Morte 8
Mullins 5
Parker 6
Ashton 7
Zamora 5
Sears 6