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Championship
Saturday, 15th October 2011

West Ham United 4
Blackpool 0

by Gordon Thrower


I think we’ll file this one under 'eventful'.

It was a rather glorious Autumn day that saw the arrival of our fellow relegatees (if that’s a word). Of course they are much changed since the end of last season. We rang a few changes from the last outing at Palace.

Manuel Almunia continued in goal whilst Rob Green recovered from his cartilage op. Winston Reid – who I’m sure we’ll get around to paying for eventually – returned to continue his promising partnership with James Tomkins. Matt Taylor returned from injury whilst Lansbury was given the week off following his international exertions.

Carlton Cole was given a similar break as the manager considered his resources in advance of three important matches in eight days leaving us with a starting XI of Almunia, Faubert, McCartney, Reid, Tomkins, Bouba Diop, Nolan, Taylor, Collison, Carew, Baldock.

Given what was to occur during the match it was a fairly quiet start. Our opponents started with a spell of possession but there was hard work at all levels of the pitch meaning that when we won the ball we looked more incisive. The main talking point the booking of performance of ref D’Urso who seems to take great delight in trying to make a mess of our matches. Though the booking of Taylor for a trip on Ince was probably deserved but D’Urso did seem to take undue delight in the caution.

We took the lead through Carew on 12 minutes. The goal was a copy of that scored by the same player at Palace a couple of weeks ago, if you can imagine looking at the footage through a mirror. Nolan picked the ball up in midfield and spread the ball out to the right hand side to Faubert whose dinked cross saw Carew get the better of his marker to head into the bottom corner with the ‘keeper rooted to the spot.

Refreshingly, unlike previous matches the goal spurred us on to push for more. Baldock displayed his increasing confidence by taking a shot from distance that Gilks spilled. Carew also tested Gilks but that test was slightly more comfortable for the ‘keeper.

D’Urso continued to behave erratically, penalising Carew on numerous occasions when defenders were climbing all over him. Faubert was next into the book for a challenge that seemed to be hard but fair. However, the most serious error from the official came as a passing move saw us have a number of players bearing down on goal only for D’Urso to pull things back for a foul that had occurred off the ball during the build up.

D’Urso compounded his error by taking no further action against the perpetrator. Predictably, nothing came of the free kick which died a similar death o the advantage law. If my Dad had been the instructor responsible for teaching D’Urso how to referee I’d be embarrassed enough to buy drinks for all my mates. Just saying, Romford.

Blackpool were producing little – a Ferguson effort went miles over and Phillips gave Almunia a touch which was more of a back pass than a threat on goal. However, by and large any attacking enterprise from the visitors foundered, usually at the feet of Bouba Diop who was immense – and not just in terms of his physical size.

We had chances to increase the lead in the first half. Carew bore down on goal but the resulting shot might have been better and Gilks was able to save. Carew brought a better save out of the ‘keeper a few minutes later, the Norwegian’s low effirt being turned away by the feet of Gilks. The ball was subsequently fed back in to Baldock. Who did well to get onto a difficult ball lifting it over the bar in the process.

D’Urso found a baffling two minutes to add to to the end of the first half – after the third of these the half came to a close.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Blackpool 0

The general opinion at half time was that a) though we had undoubtedly been the better side in the first period we’d all appreciate a second goal to settle us, bearing in mind our variable away form, and b) despite scurrilous rumours perpetrated by those who ought to know better, I don not actually have a bald spot.

Having dealt with those burning issues – and scoffed a few slices of cake in true “Test Match Special” style, we returned to action, though I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for the ten minute blitz that effectively defined this match. After a Taylor effort from inside the box cleared the bar, the same player found himself on the spot as a loose ball bounced up in midfield. Taylor’s clever header forward played Baldock in, and the striker was coolness personified as he drew the ‘keeper before calmly sidefooting home for what will hopefully be the first of many.

Barely two minutes had been played in the second period and we had only a four minute wait for the next goal to arrive. A Faubert throw from the right found its way out to Nolan who lobbed the ball into the box where Carew found himself all alone. Carew lobbed the ball past the ‘keeper in a goalward direction but it didn’t look like getting there with two defenders poised to clear.

Baldock had other ideas however and nipped in past the statuesque defence to flick the loose ball into the empty net. Poor defensive work to be sure but as an example of how to “poach” a goal, Baldock’s finish was a fine example, and more than one seasoned head was heard to remark on the goal’s resemblance to some of those scored by a certain Tony Cottee.

We weren’t finished either. Taylor combined well with McCartney, playing a lovely ball inside the full-back. Linda’s driven cross was deflected off a defender forcing Gilks into a save. The rebound fell to Collison who took a touch on his thigh to control before driving home, the shot taking a deflection en route that had no bearing on the ball’s destination, that being the back of the net

Less than ten minutes had elapsed since the restart, which, for the pessimists amongst us meant that we had 35 minutes left in which to not concede three goals. Being a West Ham fan does that to you I’m afraid. In fact if any further goals were going to come they were coming our way. Carew found himself bearing down on goal from the left and, with Baldock (and 31,000 others) screaming for him to square the ball elected to curl the ball high and wide, this costing Baldock a nice new matchball for his collection. Baldock also drew another couple of saves from Gilks but in reality Carew’s miss represented Baldock’s best chance of grabbing his first hat-trick for the club.

It was time for a spot of comedy. Baptiste got fed up with getting nothing out of Linda and kicked the corner flag in frustration. The corner flag broke and cartwheeled out of the ground. A club employee, quickly christened 'Flag Man' by the STB Lower, went 100 yards all round the goal to plant what was left of the flag back in the hole, though quite why the linesman who was a mere two feet away couldn’t have done the job I can’t imagine. Perhaps it’s against union rules or something.

Either way, having gone all the way there, Flag Man came all the way back to the West Stand, picked up a new flag and went all the way back to replace the old one. All this occurred to the cheering of the STB – and fair play to the Blackpool fans who joined in on the joke. Sadly “Flag Man” refused to join in with the fun, ignoring the traditional request to “give us a wave.”

On the hour Tomkins was replaced by Faye, presumably with one eye on Tuesday’s match. Shortly after, Taylor, who had been limping a bit, was replaced by Sears. Blackpool made a triple substitution ten minutes later with Ormerod, LuaLua and Bogdanovic coming on for Ince, Phillips and Shelvey. However the game was effectively dead by that time. LuaLua was a bit of a worry though. Not through his play though. I was more concerned at the potential for earthquakes should he and Bouba Diop actually collide. Or, to put it another way, the question “Who Ate All The Pies” is one that has baffled philosophers and footballers alike over the years. With the introduction of LuaLua I think we have an answer.

The game petered out really in the last 15 minutes. There was one flashpoint which, predictably, was missed bu D’Urso. Bouba Diop held off Baptiste on the touchline and laid the ball off. Baptiste, having got away with one display of petulance at the expense of a corner flag, treated us to another by stamping on Bouba Diop. Amazingly, despite the incident happening in full view of everyone, the only three people apparently looking the other way were the ref and his assistants. Baptiste – who might have picked up a yellow for the corner flag incident, thus escaped what probably ought to have been a straight red (unless of course the authorities get to hear of it and take further action).

Noble replaced Carew for the last ten which, mainly as a result of the urgent medical attention required by the pitchside furniture, became 15 but there was little of interest to concern us. Even our habit of conceding late goals had taken the weekend off and the three points were ours.

The visitors gave their travelling support (all of whom appeared to be dressed as stewards) nothing whatsoever to cheer them on the trip back up north. However the performance (or lack of it) from Blackpool should not distract from the fact that this was a fine showing from us. There wasn’t a department on the pitch which didn’t function properly and everything that had been missing in the previous home match against Ipswich (and for spells away at Palace) was suddenly present in abundance. There was strength in defence, ideas and creativity in midfield and the front pair caused the opposition defence problems throughout. Even Milly the Press Room tea lady was happy post match – and trust me she can be difficult to please!

And so we find ourselves in second place (cheers Millwall - don’t forget to close the trapdoor behind you on your way down) and by the end of the next week or so we’ll have a clearer idea as to how things are looking in the division. Certainly the next two matches are likely to provide a sterner test of our resources but confidence at least shouldn’t be an issue after this performance. Onwards & upwards then!



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Player Ratings

Manuel Almunia
Had one proper save to make in the second half. Otherwise spent most of the afternoon clearing the odd back pass and topping up the suntan.


Julien Faubert
Another fine effort. Maybe it’s having a manager who clearly has faith in his ability, maybe it’s the step down a level but he is clearly thriving at present. Nice cross for the first goal.


George McCartney
Like Faubert, he profited from the lack of threat from the opposition and was able to push forward on numerous occasions. Played a major part in Collison’s goal.


Winston Reid
Resumed his partnership with Tomkins and looked composed throughout, albeit under little pressure.


James Tomkins
The fact that the wily and experienced Kevin Phillips was largely anonymous and, eventually, substituted should give you a clue as to how well he played.


Papa Bouba Diop
Simple and effective. Broke up attack after attack, laid the ball off and set us up on our own attacks.


Jack Collison
Continues to improve as he gets more time on the pitch following his injury. If you see his goal again watch out for the clever way he pulls back to the edge of the box, resulting in him being in exactly the right place to score when the ball comes out to him.


Kevin Nolan
Quiet but effective. Constantly looking to spread the play out wide and it was his pass out to Faubert that set up the first.


Matthew Taylor
Like Nolan, he was quietly effective. It was his clever header forward into space that set up Baldock’s first and his fine through ball to McCartney that led to the fourth. Was hobbling towards the end – hopefully it’s nothing too serious.


Sam Baldock
Man of the match. Not just for his goals, well-taken though they were, but also for his general workrate. Did a lot of off the ball running and we noted him making a couple of good tackles on the edge of our box.


John Carew
Held the ball up superbly and rarely wasted the layoff. If one were to be churlish one might have hoped for more than the one goal he came away with, and he really owes Baldock a pint for not passing when his strike partner was much better placed. A fine performance nevertheless.


Substitutes


John Carew
(Replaced Tomkins, 60) One hairy moment when he lost his bearings and slipped in dangerous territory but he got up to recover well.


Fred Sears
(Replaced Taylor, 62) The game had all but died when he came on in place of Taylor.


Mark Noble
(replaced Carew, 80) A quiet ten plus stoppage.


Ruud Boffin
Did not play.


Frederic Piquionne
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Andy D Urso.

Attendance: 31,448.

Man of the Match: Sam Baldock.

West Ham United

Manuel Almunia, Julien Faubert, George McCartney, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Papa Bouba Diop, Jack Collison, Kevin Nolan, Matthew Taylor, Sam Baldock, John Carew.

Goals: John Carew 12 Sam Baldock 47 Sam Baldock 51 Jack Collison 55            .

Booked: Matthew Taylor 7 Julien Faubert 17        .

Sent off: None.

Blackpool

Matthew Gilks, Alex Baptiste, Ian Evatt, Matthew Hill, Stephen Crainey, Jonjo Shelvey, Keith Southern, Barry Ferguson, Thomas Ince, Kevin Phillips, Gary Taylor-Fletcher.

Substitutes: Brett Ormerod (Thomas Ince 72), Lomana Tresor LuaLua (Jonjo Shelvey 73), Daniel Bogdanovic (Kevin Phillips 73).

Subs not used: Neal Eardley, Mark Howard.

Goals: None.

Booked: Lomana Tresor LuaLua (90).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Sam Baldock


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