Tuesday, 31 December 2013

West Ham United 3 - 3 West Bromwich Albion

Sam's 'must win match' ends in a draw as West Ham's inability to hold a lead costs them dear once again.

Big Sam stuck with the team that valiantly went down to Arsenal two days previously and was rewarded early on when some intelligent and neat interplay by the much maligned Kevin Nolan, landed at Joe Cole's feet who made no mistake from 12 yards out, beating Ben Foster at his near post.

As the sun beat down on the Boleyn Ground, there was a brief feeling of joy, was this going to be the day we finally fulfilled our potential? The crowd certainly needed something to cheer, if Twitter rumours are to be believed, young protege Ravel Morrison had indeed handed in a transfer request adding to the Hammers woes over the festive period.
In addition to this, David Gold tweeted the return estimations for some of our bigger players. Early suggestions had predicted big Andy Carroll on the bench for this game, not to be, he is apparently out for another 3/4 weeks. Cue collective groan.

As such, an early goal was well needed, but rather than force forward and get that vital second, West Ham, a team with little belief at present found themselves on the backfoot, being outpassed by a belligerent and hungry West Brom outfit.

The cause was not helped by James Tomkins being subbed after eight minutes due to injury. Might I add what a stellar attitude this lad has got. In addition to his personal troubles at the present time, as the board for Guy Demel went up to indicate the sub, Tomkins waved it away and tried to run off his injury up and down the sidelines. His grimace of pain said enough and eventually the substitution was made. If we had eleven players with the courage and heart of Tomkins, I feel we would not be getting these continually disappointing results.

A surprise bonus of the festive period is the imperious return to form of Matt Jarvis. A goal against Spurs and some excellent displays continued today as he wreaked havoc down the left flank. That being said, despite the pressure and Carlton Cole causing a nuisance up front, there were no more first half goals to ease the mounting pressure on the West Ham back four. It must also be added with the removal of Tomkins, West Ham had no recognised centre backs playing. McCartney filled in magnificently, Joey O'Brien certainly struggled.

It was indeed the signs of a makeshift defence when Chris Brunt provides a killer pass that beat the offside trap and found Anelka, who slotted effortlessly past the recalled Jussi Jaaskelainen late in the second half. The ground fell under a spellbound silence, something that has become all too familiar this year.
 
It did not take the Baggies long to take the lead. A corner which perhaps should have been a goal kick was cleared off the line by big Carlton Cole and fell at the feet of Anelka, who prodded home his second is as many minutes. West Ham went into the changing room 2-1 down.

West Ham started the second half timidly and found themselves under increasing pressure from a resurgent West Brom side. The home fans were getting tetchy to say the least, more from the distinct lack of fight than their lack of quality. Anelka found himself in on goal again, two minutes after the restart but a good save by Jussi kept the Frenchman from sealing a ten minute hat-trick.

Modibo Maiga came on a the interval for the carded Carlton Cole and begun to make an impact, forcing a fingertip save from Ben Foster for a West Ham corner. Just two minutes later in the 65th minute, a beautiful curling left-foot shot by Maiga, bounced in front of Foster and found its way into the back of the net and built some belief around the Boleyn. The noise level was up again, the crowd roared into life (my throat is still sore!) and West Ham went on the attack again.

Maiga again was integral as he nodded on Noble's cross to the waiting Nolan, who dare I say it, athletically, poked in from six-yards out-3-2 West Ham! This couldn't be happening? Written in the stars perhaps? Beleaguered captain scores crunch game winner in East London...

Predictably it was not to be, as the impressive Berahino eased past Guy Demel two minutes later and slotted neatly past Jaaskaleinen. Although a sweet finish from a tight angle, I do feel Adrian might have had this one covered. Either way it was 3 - 3 after a mad eight minutes and a nervy finish for the East London side.

West Ham were either exhausted, flat or did not care in the final 20 minutes as this was the poorest spell of the game for the team. They were outrun and outplayed by the Baggies and Berahino was unlucky not to have grabbed the winner with a sweet, curling free kick that hit the corner of the upright. Jussi stood cemented to the spot for the fifth time this season. Mercifully, this one did not result in an opposition goal.

The game ended with a chorus of boos and I was adamant Big Sam would have to be releived of his duties after this one. The chairmen wanted 6 points from the festive period, we had 2 points with one to play.

My only conclusion is that there is so much that needs managing behind the scenes that it would be dangerous to get rid of the big man just now. I don't really buy into the concept of 'if you were in this situation, you would appoint Allardyce' philosophy, he has got us into this situation.

That being said, there are two sides to every argument. The first being managing this horrific injury list, a team with no morale, clearly a difficult and bullish young starlet etc.  The other side is the short-sighted signings, the negative tactics, the distinct lack of fight from key players at the moment, our shocking return from free kicks and corners at the moment (I thought Big Sam was a master of the set piece?)

Either way, its tough work being a Hammer at the moment - do spare a thought for us. Happy new year, to all and here's hoping 2014 can start brightly in an away game at Fulham where quite frankly anything can happen.

Jussi 5
You were right first time Sam - his time has gone
JOB 4
Very poor - out of position - a fish out of water
G McCartney 7
Fought tirelessly
Tomkins 5
Injured after 8 minutes
Rat 6
Played well - needs to improve his forward balls
Noble 5
Mediocre today - very negative when passing
Diame 3
Where is the fight?
Jarvis 7
Played well - had bottle -created chances
Nolan 6
Scored a goal - was ineefective otherwise in midfield
Cole 6
Worked hard - well taken goal
C.Cole 6
Gave it his limited all


Maiga  7*
Turned the game - something to be positive about
Collison 6
Ran around a lot
Demel 5
Disappointing - Berahino made him look a bit silly for the third goal