Wednesday, 7th March 2012
It's not the first time that a club has come to Upton Park this season to play for a point and it certainly won't be the last. Mainly because of how effective the plan seems to work in a stadium that was once deemed a fortress, albeit not for a fair few years now. And yet in a somewhat inevitable turn of events, it was the Hornet fans that were left 'buzzing' on their short journey back round the M25.
It seemed like it just may be the Hammers’ night as it took only seconds from the kick-off to see the first chance of the game, as the ever lively Matty Taylor rattled the bar from 25 yards out. The ex-Bolton midfielder looked fresh and hungry after his return from the injury that saw him miss the victory at Cardiff.
But the chances weren't as frequent as one would hope and the Watford game-plan worked wonders. In fact, it was almost half-an-hour later before the home side had a shot on goal worth mentioning.
Carlton Cole played a defence-splitting pass through to Mark Noble which left the midfield maestro one-on-one with Kuszczak. As Noble opened his body up to bend it round the sprawling ‘keeper there looked to be only one result, and yet somehow the Manchester United number three pulled off a number one save.
Half time passed and the frustration around the ground began to multiply, and predictably the inevitable smash-and-grab raid commenced. Watford winger Sean Murray cut in from the right and planted a long-range deflected shot into the corner of the net past the outstretched Green.
With the realisation that a loss to Championship strugglers was on the cards, panic began to set in among both the players and the fans. The oft-criticised tactic of 'hoof ball' was once again adopted when it seemed that the players began to run out of ideas. Like much of the first half the Hammers were having lots of possession and yet had nothing to show for it, with the majority of play breaking down when it reached the final third.
There were only three minutes plus stoppage time left on the clock when Big Sam's men managed to create their first decent attempt on goal since conceding; luckily for them, it found the back of the net.
A corner from the out-swinging boot of Noble caused confusion in the away side’s box as a ricochet too many from Watford’s point of view fell to Ricardo Vaz Te and the Portuguese substitute was only happy to gobble up his chance as his right-footed shot went in off the post.
The goal was greeted with roars of delight and expectation from the fans as the players rushed back to recommence the game (showing a sense of urgency that wouldn't have gone amiss during the previous 87 minutes). But despite a hefty nine minutes of injury time added to the clock (as a result of an earlier injury to Dale Bennett) and with Watford on the descent, it just wasn't to be as the Hammers failed to muster another game winning chance.
So once again, West Ham failed to capitalise on Southampton’s slip-up at home to Ipswich 24 hours earlier. With Reading closing the gap from what looked to be an impossible position it's sure to be a close and nerve-racking end to the season. But as a West Ham fan, would you expect anything else?
Player ratings below by Graeme Howlett.
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Didn't have an awful lot to do but pick the ball out of his net on one occasion.
Joey O Brien
An excellent first half in which he was involved at both ends; sacrificed as the game wore on to allow the more attacking-minded Faubert to remain on the field.
Never really had the opportunity to repeat his exploits at Cardiff but as reliable as ever.
Had a tough night up against Chris Iwelumo, the target for every Watford delivery into West Ham's final third.
Coped ably with what little Watford threw in his direction; some suggestion that it was his unfortunate deflection that led to the Hornets goal.
Nowhere near as efficient as in recent outings - much like the rest of the team. Often found himself 50 yards ahead of the defence and in no position to receive the ball.
A good start but faded as the game wore on. Seemed to be chasing the game at times.
Just one of those nights when nothing worked out for him. His delivery was poorthroughout and the less said about his second half chance that he skewed horribly, the better.
An excellent opening 20 minutes in which he hit the bar and supplied two deadly crosses. However his recent injury appeared to affect him after the break as he was mostly anonymous before being replaced.
Another for whom nothing came off (bar one excellent reverse pass for Noble in the first half) - although being closely marked by two players at all times didn't help his cause. Having said that, you expect a little more at this level from a player who has represented his national side.
It was absolutely pointless having him on the pitch when the intention was to loft aerial balls in his direction - although he could have at least tried to win the occasional header.
(Replaced Maynard, 62)
Much the same as Maynard, although he at least looked a little livelier. Squandered the one good chance he had when put through by fellow sub Vaz Te.
Ricardo Vaz Te
(Replaced Taylor, 74)
Much better than at Cardiff last weekend. His introduction changed the course of the game and he was the only player in claret and blue likely to make something happen.
(Replaced O'Brien, 74)
The England under 21 failed to make any impact whatsoever; the story of his season so far (bar his recent superb goalkeeping display at Blackpool).
Did not play.
Gary O Neil
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Joey O Brien.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Joey O Brien, George McCartney, James Tomkins, Abdoulaye Faye, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Julien Faubert, Matthew Taylor, Carlton Cole, Nicky Maynard.
Goals: Ricardo Vaz Te 87 .
Booked: Mark Noble 23 .
Sent off: None.
Subs not used: .
Sent Off: None.