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Championship
Saturday, 13th August 2011

Doncaster Rovers 0
West Ham United 1

by East Stand Martin


I figure that itís time the KUMB.com Old School put in a shift now that we have plunged into the chasm of the Championship. After all, who could turn down a few away trips to places that time forgot? Itís a rich old time for some social commentary.

Take all this hand-wringing and the deployment of various sages to try and figure out what's sparked all this civil disorder and what to do with the miscreants who have been helping themselves to various consumer goods.

The answer of course lies as it always does in the Hollywood movies. You will remember the 1981 film 'Escape from New York'. This involved turning the whole of New York into one giant maximum security prison and dropping into it all the undesirable elements in society.

I nominate the London N17 postcode as the boundary for our own prison. After all, that is where all the trouble started, not last weekend but in 1882, when a certain Hotspunk FC was founded.

This place has been trouble for decades. Erect a massive fence, chuck all the looters and other criminals in there and lock 'em down all under the charge of H M Prison Warder Daniel Levy. After all, he does look like Dr. Evil out of the Austin Powers films, and is therefore highly qualified in my eyes for the job.

Having solved that problem, letís now talk about todayís game at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster.

No sh*thole

The first thing to say about the town is that it certainly isnít as bad as Burnley or Blackburn and they probably think that they have got a pretty pukka stadium. For me, itís another one of those anodyne retail park locations in the middle of nowhere. No tradition, no heart, no sense of community.

This is what is wrong with modern football, the detachment from where people actually live. That, my friends, is my greatest objection to the Olympic Stadium, not the running track - we are going to end up in a sterile place, a plastic environment where you cannot visit a traditional boozer, decent fish and chip shop or local newsagent.

You can at least hear crystal clear what is being said over the PA in these new stadia though, and we all had a good belly laugh about the pronunciation of the name of our lone striker as the teams were announced Ė 'Pick-eee-onay'!

Four minutes in and the introduction of Collison into the starting line-up paid immediate dividends as a quality early ball sent into the box from almost the halfway line missed Piquionneís head to find the outstretched boot of West Ham skipper Kevin Nolan, who spanked it into the roof of the net.

Good, we all thought, this could be a goalfest - and the woeful nature of the home teamís game play - with a series of no hope, overhit, long balls - strengthened that.

No space

West Ham were running the midfield and it was good to see the energy of the pressing of the opposition when we did not have the ball. Five in midfield meant that Doncaster had no room to play and when the ball did end up in our final third, Tomkins was usually on hand with a calm and classy intervention. I really like what I am seeing from him already this season.

17 minutes on the clock and Nolan picked up a pass about 30 yards out and unleashed a clever and almost effortless chip that banged the crossbar full on, with the keeper beaten. This was followed by some tidy work by Illunga leading to a pass to Collison who was only denied a goal by a defenderís block.

Doncaster were not getting any better, and it was only a misplaced pass by Collison on 23 minutes which gave them a chance which was snuffed out by a great crunching tackle by OíBrien on the edge of the box. The thing about OíBrien is that you do not notice him too much but I have to say I like his mobility and his no-nonsense defending.

Contrast that with the over-played, over-intricate style of Ilunga, who got caught in possession, Cardiff-like on 25 minutes with no cover. If in doubt, put it out Ė this is never a place to try and beat your man with some clever footwork.

Despite the early goal, dominant possession and continued shocking final balls from Doncaster, chances were sparse for West Ham, although good work in confined space by the corner flag by Collison did provide a cross on 33 minutes which led to Nolan looping a header over.

Piquionne was not having a great deal of success with anything he tried, his touch looked poor and every time he tried to beat a defender he seemed to fail.

Unexciting

It was unexciting stuff, with West Ham playing a cagey 'safety first' game. A lot of balls were going sideways and backwards and this may well be a sign of things to come on our away trips. The George Graham strategy adapted Ė '1-0 to the Irons'.

The second half was heralded by a truly hapless announcer on the pitch trying to resuscitate the Doncaster fans with some encouraging words: "Keepmoat Stadium, letís hear some noise!" Tumbleweed blew through the ground as Thin Lizzyís 'The Boys are Back in Town' blared out. That is the problem. The boys are out of town on a retail park.

The first minute of the second half saw Nolan tumble over in the box chasing a ball, but the ref was about as interested as I am in Chas 'n Dave's new CD.

Then we all enjoyed watching Ilunga as West Hamís long throw expert delivered two foul throws in a row as his foot went clearly over the line. The ref again was disinterested.

Cole the better option

On 47 minutes, one of the key weaknesses in our team was revealed again as Piquionne won a good header but then simply did not have the pace to profit from the ball knocked forward. He was easily beaten to it. The fact is that Cole is a far better option than the 32-year-old, but I donít suppose that he will be an option for much longer. John Carew is not going to help either I fear, leaving us with a slow forward line.

Doncaster had no doubt been on the end of some choice words from their manager at half time and there was a much more positive approach to their game and an upped tempo. The passing had improved, they got some width and good work down the West Ham right on 52 minutes resulted in a free kick which was only just headed wide by Giles Barnes.

Piquionne was not faring much better in the second half and on 61 minutes he was replaced by Cole, who took longer to get on than he should have done as he tried to enter the field of play with Faye's shirt on... It was an unconvincing attempt at impersonation.

Cole immediately injected the pace that had been lacking and managed to chase down a ball to allow a cross which Tomkins headed at the 'keeper. On 65 minutes, Nolan nearly got a second as he employed good close control of a ball chipped in from a free kick and nearly lobbed the ball into the net.

Width = threat

The real threat down the flanks from Doncaster nearly paid dividends on 66 minutes as a West Ham corner led to a counter-attack. Coppinger went all the way but Green managed to snuff the danger out by advancing towards him in convincing style.

Two minutes after that Cole again showed that pace is one of his major assets as a long ball forward by Reid was brought down expertly. However, his finishing was not up to it as he smashed his shot into the side netting.

Collison had been almost absent in the second half and looked tired. He was replaced on 71 minutes by Sears.

Dumbuya was now causing a number of problems down the vulnerable West Ham left flank and a dangerous cross in from him was somehow glanced wide by Coppinger. It had looked a certain goal from our end.

Following a double substitution by the home side on 75 minutes, there was more pressure down the West Ham left, resulting in Green being forced to turn a Gillett shot around the post from close in. Taylor then had to do well to block a goal bound shot a couple of minutes later.

Nervy

The last seven or eight minutes of the match were a nervy affair for West Ham. No doubt the last gasp mugging by Cardiff was playing on minds, and it certainly looked like Doncaster were the more likely to score. What was frustrating was the inability to keep the ball and run down the clock. A travelling Iron bellowed out near me, "They canít score if you keep possession".

Stanislas replaced Ilunga on 85, with Taylor dropping back and West Ham managed to navigate the three added minutes for the first away win of the season. It was not a great spectacle, and there were one or two voices of discontent at the end from the travelling support. This is unwarranted to be honest and letís not forget that we got relegated and need to rebuild.

It was a relief to start our winning ways and the rest of the season is going to require patience. We are playing in a bizarre, phoney bubble at the moment, still waiting for the final plays in the transfer window. Until we are out of that, the team will be unsettled.

We do not even know what team we will have at our disposal until then. As for Doncaster, I think that they will struggle to stay up on this evidence, although they were carrying a few injuries. Now for Watford and hopefully another three points.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Little to do throughout but was on hand make the necessary saves when required.


Joey O Brien
Another good outing; full of commitment and running.


Herita Ilunga
Generally poor, sloppy in possession and about to be replaced by George McCartney, one would assume.


James Tomkins
Another exceptional performance from the youngster who continues to improve week by week.


Winston Reid
Like Tomkins, looked solid throughout.


Mark Noble
A busy game, lots of running.


Scott Parker
Although there was plenty of effort once again Parker was far from his best. Poor distribution and a continued willingness to pull out of the odd heavy challenge.


Kevin Nolan
A captain's performance. Scored the goal, denied a second by the woodwork and went close again late on.


Matthew Taylor
Although there was no lack of effort there was a distinct lack of quality this week.


Jack Collison
A first start this season and a good enough effort. The cross for Nolan's goal was sublime.


Frederic Piquionne
Disinterested at times and if you believe the Sunday rags, about to be sold having failed to impress Sam Allardyce.


Substitutes


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Piquionne, 62 mins) Looked more alert than the man he replaced.


Fred Sears
(Replaced Collison, 82 mins) Stuck out on the wing again, Sears provided little in the short time he was on the pitch.


Junior Stanislas
(Replaced Sears, 82 mins) Came on, ran a lot, celebrated a win. That's how to do it.


Ruud Boffin
Did not play.


Abdoulaye Faye
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Scott Mathieson.

Attendance: 11,344.

Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Joey O Brien, Herita Ilunga, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Kevin Nolan, Matthew Taylor, Jack Collison, Frederic Piquionne.

Goals: Kevin Nolan 5                  .

Booked: Carlton Cole 85          .

Sent off: None.

Doncaster Rovers

Gary Woods, Mustapha Dumbuya, Richard Naylor, George Friend, Tommy Spurr, James Coppinger, Simon Gillett, John Oster, Kyle Bennett, Chris Brown, Giles Barnes .

Substitutes: Paul Keegan (Kyle Bennett 76), James Baxendale (Giles Barnes 76), Sam Hird (Simon Gillett 82).

Subs not used: Neil Sullivan, Oscar Radford.

Goals: None.

Booked: Chris Brown (57).

Sent Off: None.

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan