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Championship
Sunday, 21st August 2011

West Ham United 2
Leeds United 2

by Gordon Thrower


Not that I’m an expert on such matters but didn’t there used to be some crappy Aussie soap opera called Home and Away? (If you’ll excuse the double tautology of the words ‘crappy’, ‘Aussie’ and ‘soap opera’). It seems that we have adopted something of a Jekyll and Hyde approach to matches at the moment. Or have we? Professor Thrower, lecturer at the University Of Boleyn (formerly Plaistow Municipal baths) has a theory about that. Of which more later.

Team news was that, well it was much as you were with the same starting XI that had commenced the 4-0 demolition of Watford earlier in the week. The injury doubts regarding Tomkins had receded enough to leave us with five subs without a single proper defender amongst them, Carew having got himself fit enough to make the bench. The starting line-up was thus: Green, O’Brien, Ilunga, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Parker, Taylor, Collison, Nolan, Cole.

It was the traditional bright start with, whisper it, us looking dangerous from set pieces from the off. A long throw from Ilunga saw a flick on turned over by Longeran for a corner. Taylor’s first effort found Tomkins whose header was turned over once more by the ‘keeper. Taylor’s next corner was played into the middle and Cole somehow managed to get a leg around a static defender to bury it and put us one up. Five minutes played and one up. That’ll do nicely.

We carried on in a similar vein for the next ten minutes or so but then, for some inexplicable reason, we started to defend a bit too deep. This of course let them into things a bit and Green had to be alert to turn a Keogh effort round the post. We still pressed forward on occasion though and both Noble and Nola brought saves out of the ‘keeper. However we were about to see a microcosm of English refereeing at its worst courtesy of Mr Oliver.

As a ball was played over from the left a defender grabbed hold of Tomkins and threw him to the floor. This occurred less than ten yards from the referee who, despite staring right at the incident, just ignored it. It was a decision that was both incompetent and dishonest. Worse still Leeds promptly went up the other end and, from a corner, Oliver spotted a handball from Taylor that nobody else spotted, which if anything was ball to hand as the player tried to get out of the way.

After his previous brainstorm it seemed as if Oliver was trying to prove a point – it was a bit like the scene in “The Great Escape” where Donald Pleasance plants a pin on the other side of the room to prove that he’s not blind as a bat. It was as if Oliver had said “I’ll spot something to prove I know what I’m doing”. Justice of sorts was served as Gradel put the spot kick wide – Green had gone the right way and might have added to his impressively long list of penalty saves had the shot been more accurate.

Worse was to come shortly after as Cole got the better of a defender only to be scythed down as he was about to pull the trigger. Oliver once more took leave of his senses and waved play on, proceeding to get loads of other decisions wrong throughout the match. Still Oliver will be happy that, as a select group member he’d have to shoot someone to lose his job – and even then the victim would have to be a relative of Mike Riley’s.

Half time: West Ham United 1 Leeds United 0

The second half started largely as the first had ended. Actually, that’s not quite true – we initially forced a few corners but a misdirected Cole header was the best result. We survived a shout for a spot kick three minutes as Parker slid in on White in the box. Parker appeared to take the ball, but by all accounts it was a close run thing, Oliver probably wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.

The thing about initiative is that, once you’ve handed it to your opponents it’s difficult to get it back and we could have conceded on 50 minutes. Noble deflected the ball into the path of Keogh who advanced on Green. The ‘keeper spread himself well to block the shot and McCormick put the loose ball over the top.

Leeds continued to press forward and Keogh squared to McCormack whose ludicrous penalty appeal was probably designed more to cover his embarrassment at his flash but useless backheel than to complain about any infringement. However, the visitors persistence finally paid off just shy of the hour. Just after was replaced by Faubert, Ilunga got caught flat footed as a long ball was played out to the right. Keogh’s clever back-heel found Snodgrass who squared for McCormack for a well-worked – and at that stage deserved-equaliser.

Strangely the goal seemed to draw a line under Leeds ambition, though they weren’t helped by going behind once more so quickly after equalising. It was a fine goal as well. Sort of. Parker, who, in front of a watching Capello, was having his best game for a while, brought the ball out through midfield and played in Faubert on the right with a peach of a ball inside the defender. Faubert’s first time low cross was heading for Cole but Kisnorbo took charge of matters burying the ball past his own keeper more emphatically than Cole would probably have managed had the ball made it that far to put us 2-1 up.

On 65 minutes Cole was replaced by Carew who nearly made an instant impact, getting the better of O’Dea before Kisnorbo got a covering interception in. Carew then tried a first time effort for which the word “audacious” was invented, the ‘round the corner volley deserving better than the few feet wide it ended up.

The tactic of feeding Kisnorbo had worked once so we tried it again but the defender got his angles right to put anoter Faubert cross out for a corner. Tomkins’ goalbound header was tipped over by Lonergan. Tomkins won the second corner, finding Reid who should have got more on his first time effort, fine though the ‘keeper’s save was. Parker then hit the post via a defender, the keeper being stranded with or without the deflection. Another Tomkins header from another corner went narrowly over. With 9 left on the clock Piquionne replaced Noble.

Since going ahead there had been only one team in it so it will come as no surprise as stoppage came up that we contrived to throw away two of the three points. Ilunga got caught out of position and Lee’s cross came over to Howson whose curled powerful drive had a shade too much power and a shade too little placement on it, the ball coming off the crossbar. The relief was short-lived as the ball fell to Clayton who made no mistake from close range.

There was just time for some shenanigans of the handbag variety, Tomkins reacting to something that O’Dea had done. I missed whatever it was but it takes a fair bit to get Tomkins wound up so we can presume it consisted of more than simply “looking at me in a funny way”. The ref elected to dispense yellow cards to both players before deciding to blow the final whistle, despite most of the three minutes of added time being taken up with the handbags incident. The draw was about the right result, galling though it was to throw it away at the death again. Both sides had spells on top, ours coming at the start and the end with Leeds having the period either side of the interval.

Full time: West Ham United 2 Leeds United 2

Much was said both pre and post match about the pressure of playing at the Boleyn Ground and the ‘anxiety’ (Mr Allardyce’s word not mine) that home matches bring. This has been put forward as the reason for our only picking up one point from the six available at home this season as opposed to the full house we’ve picked up on the road. However, Professor Thrower does have another theory which nobody seems to picked up on (I told you we’d get round to it eventually) which is this: we’ve played better teams at home this season than we have away.

Doncaster, bless ‘em, are destined for a long hard season at the wrong end of the table and I wouldn’t expect Watford to be amongst the pacesetters. Whereas Cardiff – who we were unlucky not to beat – and Leeds were both there or thereabouts when it came to the playoffs, Cardiff going out in the semis whilst Leeds missed out by one place. When you take that into account the difference between our results home and away is maybe a little less surprising.

It’s still early days and there is a danger of overplaying this ‘home anxiety’ thing to the extent that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the meantime it won’t hurt that our next match is away I suppose and by the next time we reconvene at the Boleyn (in the league) it may be a much different team that takes the field once the transfer window has closed.

We’ll see.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
No chance with either of the goals. Made some good saves and looked strong throughout.


Joey O Brien
Another solid run out. Not much else to say really.


Herita Ilunga
Still looks a week link to me. Looks occasionally good going forward but his distribution was weak and he’s a worry defensively. Hurry up Linda.


James Tomkins
Another fine performance – shaded the MOTM award for me.


Winston Reid
Continues to improve. Should have scored perhaps.


Mark Noble
Another so-so match. There are times that he seems unsure of what it is he’s supposed to be doing alongside Nolan and Parker.


Scott Parker
His best outing of the season by miles. Got the official MOTM bubbly, though it was Tomkins for me.


Kevin Nolan
It seems that when he plays well Parker doesn’t and vice versa. Good see some on pitch skippering as he gathered players around to organise things whilst play had stopped for an injury.


Matthew Taylor
His dead ball delivery caused problems but I’d like to have seen more from him in open play.


Jack Collison
Not one of his better days. Much of the match seemed to pass him by.


Carlton Cole
Scored one, should have had a penalty – though maybe having done the hard work to get into position if he’d shot earlier he wouldn’t have been at the mercy of a muppet ref.


Substitutes


Julien Faubert
(Replaced Collison, 58 mins) Looked lively on the right and played some interesting crosses into the box, one of which led to our second.


John Carew
(Replaced Cole, 67 mins) Opinions are mixed. I thought he held the ball up well myself.


Frederic Piquionne
(Replaced Noble, 82 mins) I couldn’t work out where he was supposed to be playing.


Ruud Boffin
Did not play.


Pablo Barrera
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Attendance: 28,252.

Man of the Match: James Tomkins.

West Ham United

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

Goals: Carlton Cole 5 Patrick Kisnorbo (og) 62                .

Booked: James Tomkins 90          .

Sent off: None.

Leeds United

Andy Lonergan, Darren O'Dea, Patrick Kisnorbo, Tom Lees, Max Gradel, Jonathan Howson, Adam Clayton, Robert Snodgrass, Aidan White, Andrew Keogh, Ross McCormack.

Substitutes: Ramon Nunez (Ross McCormack 77).

Subs not used: Paul Rachubka, Paul Connolly, Andy O'Brien, Lloyd Sam.

Goals: Ross McCormack (59), Adam Clayton (90+1).

Booked: Darren O'Dea (90).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: James Tomkins


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