Tuesday, 27th September 2011
En route to this match I was stuck on a tube with one of those drivers who likes the sound of his voice just a bit too much – given the state of the tube, making announcements at EVERY red light is probably asking for throat problems (though the loathsome Bob Crow has probably already negotiated an industrial injury payment for that).
So many thanks to the eight people who sent me texts to say we were playing 4-4-2 - the info overload distracted me from the constant ramblings of our driver. So it was a first start for Baldock as we lined up Green, O’Brien, McCartney, Tomkins, Faye, Bentley, Nolan, Noble, Lansbury, Baldock, Cole.
Sometimes we start brightly. This was not one of those occasions. The early period was characterised by us seemingly going for some sort of record for giving the ball away. The one thing of note was a negative one as Lansbury’s challenge on Edwards was every bit as late as my tube train had been. The yellow was correct – despite the traditional suggestion from the STB lower that the referee was better-versed in the arts of self abuse than he was in the laws of the game.
Awful though the challenge was, it did at least represent an attempt to get the ball which, in a clutching at straws manner, was at least an antidote to the tendency to cede possession at every possible opportunity. Rob Green was by far and away the busier of the two keepers, with two saves in particular catching the eye. The first, from Chopra was good enough. The second, an acrobatic tip on to the post to deny a Bowyer curling effort, was magnificent.
The problem was that, in addition to the tendency to treat the ball as if it were a ticket to a party conference, we were also failing to show any urgency in closing down the midfield. This perturbed the boss so much that, what was supposed to have been a 4-4-2 was eventually changed into a 4-5-1. (If anyone really believes that what we’ve been seeing this season has been 4-3-3 please feel to lend me £3 and I’ll send you a quid back in return).
Tactically, whilst this gave extra legs in the middle, it does presuppose that a) the extra bodies will actually work hard enough to nullify the threat and b) that we’ll come up with some sort of ploy that doesn’t simply involve hoofing it long and high in the direction of Cole. However, a) the midfield didn’t work hard enough and b) our sole tactic still consisted of hoofing it long and high in the direction of Cole. The net result was that Bullard and Bowyer were made to look like teenagers and that Cole, isolated from what little support Baldock had given him earlier, kept losing the ball.
Still, on the bright side, much of what Green had to do was of a routine nature and we were highly amused by the visitors’ claim for a penalty when Faye’s arm touched the ball, getting all angry and agitated when the ref decided that the blatant push on Faye that had sent him flying in the direction of the ball in the first place was more deserving of punishment. Towards the end of the half Bowyer went into the book for a challenge on O’Brien similar to that for which Lansbury had earlier been punished.
The half had been so dispiriting that the home crowd barely had the will to boo as the teams came off for the interval. What made it more galling was the revelation in the official programme that, in addition to playing us, Ipswich were also playing Cardiff at the same time which was either a) no mean feat; b) another one of the howlers that have blighted the content of our official programme in recent years. Still one punter made himself a nice little wad by burying a spot kick past academy ‘keeper Jake Larkins for a Sky programme, which was some sort of compensation for them messing up everyone’s plans for Brighton away I suppose.
We were a bit better in the second half I suppose. Though that’s a bit like saying there’s a good service on your tube line when your train stops only at two out of every three signals. Things appeared to be looking up as Cole bore down on goal but hit his curling drive at comfortable height for Stockdale. Maybe if he’d hit it less cleanly we’d have had one of those comedy goals we saw so often last season.
However that particular shaft of light proved to be something of a false dawn as we settled back into the familiar pattern of giving it away and backing off to concede possession. Changes were required and they came just after the hour. Lansbury had committed another foul, making a fractionally late block challenge on a defender. This earned him a chat from the ref, the gist of which was presumably “one more of those and you’ll be home in time to see your own sending off on the box”. It was therefore no surprise then when Collison replaced the on-loan midfielder, with Carew replacing Cole in a double swap.
Carew had a go I suppose, one powerful looking effort laying a defender flat out with its power, but by and large very little changed. It was still desperate stuff and there were a number of occasions when the only thing stopping us from going behind was the fact that Jason Scotland was in best bovine posterior musical instrument non-interface mode, a few efforts showing all the accuracy of a tube timetable.
As the time ticked away it was clear that we would have to avoid conceding our traditional last minute goal if we were to gain a point. We didn’t. Tomkins Failed to get proper contact on a long punt downfield from Stockdale and gave away a corner. Bullard’s corner found Andrews whose effort cannoned back off the near post but Bowyer didn’t mess about burying the rebound with a low powerful drive that went straight through Green. There was, I suppose, only one thing as inevitable as us conceding in the last minute and that was the fact that it would be Bowyer that scored it.
Faubert rather pointlessly replaced Noble before the restart as four minutes of stoppage were added – though for all the difference it made they might as well have walked off as soon as the ball hit the back of the net. You may get the impression from the foregoing that this was a match in which we lacked any creativity, invention or intelligence. It was worse than that. These seemed to be no work ethic or urgency either, which are two qualities that you’d think the boss might be keen on. It doesn’t matter if you play 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or even (for older readers) 2-3-5 or 4-2-4. If your players don’t do the basics you won’t win matches wherever you put them. We didn’t do the basics and got what we deserved.
And my tube train got stuck at a red signal on the way home as well.
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A couple of good saves in the first half and was beaten by sheer pace for the goal.
Sometimes shaky defensively and failed to contribute much going forward bar one very wayward shot.
Same as O’Brien really. Promiosing moves forward were stalled as the ball went backwards.
Ok defensively but we need better distribution from him.
Generally ok at the back, though Ipswich obviously did their homework, keeping him well shackled at corners when we were attacking. Just about MOTM for me but that’s not much of an accolade in this one.
Wasted the ball far too much.
One shot from distance apart, he failed to impress and, on another day, might have seen a red card.
No urgency at all from the skipper whose form is a bit worrying at the moment.
The pick of a very lack-lustre midfield.
When he was supposed to be up front he failed to get close enough to profit from those balls that Cole won on the air. When moved back into midfield he disappeared completely.
Sometimes he looks a world-beater. Sometimes he looks as if Geoff Boycott’s Mum could knock him off the ball. This was one of the latter days.
(Replaced Cole, 64) Replaced Cole. Difficult to tell the difference really.
(Replaced Bentley, 64) Largely anonymous in his half hour.
(replaced Noble, 90) Barely had time to do anything in the 4 mins of stoppage given to him.
Did not play.
Papa Bouba Diop
Did not play.
Referee: Keith Stroud.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Joey O'Brien, George McCartney, Abdoulaye Faye, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Henri Lansbury, Kevin Nolan, David Bentley, Sam Baldock, Carlton Cole.
Booked: Henri Lansbury 11 .
Sent off: None.
David Stockdale, Carlos Edwards, Danny Collins, Ibrahima Sonko, Aaron Cresswell, Keith Andrews, Jimmy Bullard, Grant Leadbitter, Lee Bowyer, Michael Chopra, Jason Scotland.
Substitutes: Nathan Ellington (Jason Scotland), Damien Delaney (Michael Chopra 90).
Subs not used: Arran Lee-Barrett, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Daryl Murphy.
Goals: Lee Bowyer (89).
Booked: Lee Bowyer (45).
Sent Off: None..