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Premier League
Sunday, 22nd May 2011

West Ham United 0
Sunderland 3

by Gordon Thrower


Let’s face it - you all want to read this about as much as I want to write it!

With Avram Grant surviving relegation for all of half a minute (making Ancelotti’s dismissal by Chelsea look like dawdling in comparison) we went into the match with most eyes being firmly focused on those names not appearing on Kevin Keen’s caretaker team sheet.

The temporary boss’s claim that brick walls would be in danger of structural damage from West Ham players willing to run through them for the claret and blue was largely taken to mean that those not included in the squad for this one would be amongst those likely to move onto pastures new.

In the event although Upson and Keane might be said to fall into that category, the absence of some others gave out less of a message, the club going to pains to explain that Cole (neck), Da Costa (knee) and Ba (abdomen – and not writer’s cramp as suggested by one wag) were unavailable through nothing more sinister than good old fashioned injury. (Though Da Costa has possibly been asked not to leave the country by Ilford CID anyway).

Parker’s Achilles was not 100 per cent, hence his presence on the bench alongside the Doris Bell award winner Dylan Tombides, leaving us with a starting XI of Green, Spence, Bridge, Tomkins, Gabbidon, Hitzlsperger, Collison, Boa Morte, Sears, Piquionne, Hines.

To say that there was an end of season air about this match doesn’t come anywhere close to describing the 'end-of-seasonness' of the whole affair. The crowd was well down on the norm, many patrons having presumably elected to take an early break at their villas in St Tropez. Or perhaps attending birthday parties or something. Whatever the reason, there were lots of empties about as the match kicked-off with us, unusually, attacking the Bobby Moore end in the first half.

The opening exchanges were fairly even, the opposition seemingly happy to give Green a spot of practice from distance, a number of low efforts being gathered in by the keeper. Up the other end Sears was looking lively with Mignolet making a fine save to his right from a curling effort that had come as a result of some good work by the youngster in making room for himself.

However, it seemed neither side could really bring itself to go hell for leather what with the beach beckoning and all. It was therefore little surprise that when the first goal came there was a bit of a freakish element to it.

Bridge seemed to be busy checking on train times to Manchester on his iPhone, a process that is so slow it’s usually quicker to go to the station and ask someone. This allowed Elmohamady the time to measure up a cross in the direction of Zenden, who was playing his last match for the club. Zenden’s header seemed to come off a mixture of head and shoulder which, apart from curing his dandruff, also made the ball loop up in the air in a strange manner that gave Green no chance.

The crowd, as has been the case for much of this season broke the initial air of resignation, with a defiant chorus of 'Bubbles' with the further gallows humour of 'that’s why we’re going down' coming to the fore. There was also a non-repeatable chant aimed at Steve Bruce suggesting that he might not be as photogenic as, say, Iain Dowie.

Fair comment though the chant might have been, I thought it was a bit unfair to suggest, as one wit did, that Bruce might actually have sought a superinjunction just to fool people into believing that someone would sleep with him. I mean they’re expensive those superinjunctions. So I am told.

We had the odd chance here and there, the best of which fell to Hines who took a near-post gamble after Piquionne had delivered from wide right. Hines’ shot was met with a good reaction save from Mignolet whose arm was so quick I reckon he’d be a dab hand at one of those whack-a-mole games you used to get at funfairs. He looked less certain in dealing with a Hitzlsperger free-kick which proved too hot to handle but the rebound fell kindly for the visitors and was cleared to safety.

That was it for the first half really, Green’s applause of the home supporters at the Sir Trevor end bearing all the hallmarks of a farewell gesture. A half-time look through the programme showed that there were a number of proposed new designs for mascots, something that I know has been keeping many of us awake at nights.

One of these bore an uncanny resemblance to the version of Marvin The Paranoid Android used in the rather disappointing film version of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Since Marvin has a habit of making statements such as “I think you ought to know that I’m feeling very depressed” maybe his presence at the Boleyn would be strangely apt – and at least Marvin’s “pain in all the diodes down one side” is something that Kieron Dyer hasn’t had as yet.

The second half commenced and, as the effects of the pre-match beers kicked in amongst the denizens of the lower tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking stand, the gallows humour became the main focus of the game. Congas were danced, imaginary goals celebrated, Bruce’s physiognomy mocked and a good time had in defiance of the circumstances.

So much so that many missed Sunderland’s second as Sessegnon ran through from half way unhindered and shot home from the edge of the box. The players were probably watching the conga (with the exception of Bridge who was still waiting for his iPhone to give up the train times to Manchester).

The rest of the match was pretty uneventful really. Shortly after the second goal Tomkins hobbled off with a knock to be replaced by Jacobsen who moved in at full back. Spence moved into the middle, a position in which he’s been playing at lower levels within the club.

Sadly the forced replacement of Tomkins meant that there was no place on the pitch for Tombides who, we were later informed, would otherwise have played some part in the proceedings. Obinna came on for Hines at the same time. Then, about five minutes later, Boa Morte was booed by those who boo Boa Morte as he came off to be replaced by Scott Parker, whose standing ovation was as merited as Boa Morte’s boos hadn’t been.

The advent of Parker was probably the highlight of a pretty nondescript match. Still clearly not 100%, his arrival was almost certainly the result of a desire to give him the chance to have a farewell runout rather than for any reasons of a pure tactical variety. Collison had the best of what few chances we were able to create, an audacious attempt to beat the ‘keeper at the near post from a free-kick forcing Mignolet into another good save but really the entertainment was all off the pitch by this time.

As a suitably fed-up sounding Jem announced that the fourth official had indicated 4 minutes of stoppage, the general comment in our bit of the ground was “why?” The players had had enough and so had we. For the record an unmarked Riveros buried the ball in stoppage time to give the score a faintly unreal air but by this time even Green didn’t have the enthusiasm to do his nut at the defence. There was barely time to restart before ref Taylor brought a rotten season to an unlamented close.

The players wisely eschewed a formal lap of “honour” post match, electing to show their appreciation of the crowd by clapping from the safety of the centre circle. The likes of Green and Parker hung about for a bit, Green donating as much of his kit as was possible without risking an indecent exposure charge to the Sir Trevor Brooking occupants whose earlier exuberance had prompted a strengthening of the steward presence in the corner lest their chanted intention of “on the pitch” came to fruition.

So a lousy season came to a lousy end with only the eternal optimism of the possibility of actually winning some matches next season to keep us going through the summer. I’m not going to dwell on this one – we weren’t good enough end of.

This being the last report of the season I traditionally include a few thank-yous – self indulgent maybe but without many of these people to keep me going there wouldn’t be a match report. So blame them.

At the club thanks go to Greg Demetriou for much appreciated help under what were obviously at times very trying circumstances. In the press room thanks to David Tompkins for sorting us out each week and, of course thanks to Milly and Doris for looking after us on the tea front and to Ian Tompkins for doing much the same with beer.

Elsewhere gold awards to Upton Girlie for all the lifts, confectionery and for being a good mate generally, to Romford for travel, beers and being a good mate generally (boat trip to Brighton next year perhaps?), to Deano, Kath and the pre-match gang at 'the usual place' for beers, to Up The Junction for never once moaning at how long it takes me to do these things and for being a good mate generally, Alan (take care mate) and Trevor for match day company and being good mates generally, and finally to Karen for stuff in general.

Have a good summer everyone. Now has anyone got an A to Z of Doncaster?



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Dealt with the long range stuff comfortably enough. No chance with any of the goals.


Jordan Spence
Not afraid to push forward, this wasn’t a match that saw him heavily tested defensively.


Wayne Bridge
Last seen an hour after the final whistle still fiddling with his iPhone. Some good crossfield passes but highly culpable for the first goal.


James Tomkins
Was doing ok until his untimely injury. The beneficiary of a chant containing the dubious rhyme of 'East Lon-don' with 'better than Up-son'...


Danny Gabbidon
Guilty of being as anonymous as an 'unnamed Premier League footballer' for the second goal when he backed away from Sessegnon rather than getting a block in.


Thomas Hitzlsperger
If rumours are true he’s willing to stick around for a while despite relegation. Not his best game – he was guilty of allowing one or two a bit too much space from time to time – but if he does stay a full pre-season will make all the difference.


Jack Collison
Got the sponsors’ MOTM award and for me that was just about right. Another who will benefit from a full pre-season.


Fred Sears
A lively 90 minutes from the Young Hammer Of The Year who may find next season at the lower level to his liking.


Luis Boa Morte
Chasing shadows for much of the match. I suspect that next season we’ll have found his level if he’s still about.


Frederic Piquionne
Won a lot in the air and made some good runs but never quite seemed on the same wavelength as his strike partner.


Zavon Hines
Showed pace from time to time channelled it down too many blind alleys to be effective.


Substitutes


Lars Jacobsen
(Replaced Tomkins, 54 mins) Replaced Tomkns and did well enough until the 93rd minute when, in common with the rest of the defence he had already gone to check-in at Stansted.


Victor Obinna
(Replaced Hines, 54 mins) Probably another who is off shortly. His performance matched his season. Lots of running about with little result.


Scott Parker
(Replaced Boa Morte, 60 mins) Goodbye and good luck.


Ruud Boffin
Did not play.


Radoslav Kovac
Did not play.


Junior Stanislas
Did not play.


Dylan Tombides
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Attendance: 32,792.

Man of the Match: Jack Collison.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Jordan Spence, Wayne Bridge, James Tomkins, Danny Gabbidon, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Jack Collison, Fred Sears, Luis Boa Morte, Frederic Piquionne, Zavon Hines.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Sunderland

Mignolet, Ferdinand, Bardsley, Onuoha, Sessegnon, Elmohamady, Zenden, Henderson, Colback, Malbranque, Gyan.

Substitutes: Riveros (Bardsley 68), Cook (Gyan 73).

Subs not used: Knott, Noble, Adams, Lynch, Carson.

Goals: Zenden (17), Sessegnon (51), Riveros (90).

Booked: Malbranque, Bardsley.

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Jack Collison


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