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Championship
Saturday, 28th April 2012

West Ham United 2
Hull City 1

by Gordon Thrower


And so we enter the twilight zone of the play-offs. Given that any hope of automatic promotion depended on Coventry turning up against Southampton this match was always, realistically, firmly in 'hiding to nothing' territory.

The mathematics of the whole thing, combined with the need to keep some sort of momentum going, precluded the utilisation of an experimental side and the starting line-up showed but a solitary change from that that prevailed over Leicester on Monday with Lansbury replacing Collison leaving us with a line up of Green, Taylor, Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Nolan, O’Neil, Lansbury, Cole, Vaz Te.

It was a bright-ish start with our first sortie forward coming off the back of what was to prove to have been a rare Hull attack, A cross from the right was headed out by Demel whereupon Lansbury took up possession on the edge of the box. Bursting forward Angela had both Cole and Vaz Te making runs but both broke a bit too early leaving Lansbury with no option other than to keep possession with both strikers having strayed offside. The result was a midfielder running into a blind alley and Hull were able to clear.

The clearance resulted in something we were to see all too often on the afternoon, the sight of Fryatt leading into an aerial challenge with his arm leaving Reid pole-axed on the floor. It was a hint that ref Miller was too thick to take heed of. The resulting free-kick was kept alive by Lansbury who played the ball invitingly into the box. It was surely easier for Vaz Te to score than it was to place the ball wide of the post but somehow the latter was the result.

The game settled down to a pattern of us having hours of possession without a lot of penetration and Hull doing, well not much really and as the news that the Tom Daley diving academy had taken the lead against Coventry the mood went a bit flat. Whether or not the news had somehow filtered through to the players one could not say. However, things seemed to pick up a bit. A Nolan ball was nodded down by Cole into the path of Vaz Te whose burst down the left resulted in a corner which was clipped away by a Hull head with Tomkins looking menacing, though an inexplicable goal kick was the result.

If the players had not been aware of the situation on the south coast up to that point the strains of “Que Sera Sera..” might have given them the clue. A dangerous looking ball in from Taylor just eluded an unmarked Nolan at the far post. Cole got the better of Chester on the left but the inviting cross rather depended on someone being in the middle to get onto the end of it. Like Cole, possibly.

The only thing really concerning us was the antics of the thick Yorkshireman sat behind us. yes I know that the use of the phrase “thick Yorkshireman” possibly constitutes a tautology but listening to this idiot one would have thought that the fact that Hull weren’t in the Champions League final was due to some sort of southern conspiracy, rather than the inability of his side to string two passes together.

Now I’m not against the odd away supporter sitting in with mates the home support. Much like the forums on this site there’s no problem if you know how to behave. Hell in the days before the away season ticket I was often to be found using a mate’s missus’ season ticket up at Newcastle (saves climbing all those bloody stairs with these knees).

However. If I’d behaved as stupidly as this Hull twit I’d have got a clump for my troubles – and deservedly so - and this fool can be relieved that Upton Girlie was in relatively chipper mood. On another day she might not have let him escape without a slap. As if to reinforce the stereotype the idiot quietened down a bit muttering something about having paid to be there. Bet he hadn’t bought a round though.

Back on the pitch, O’Neil who was having a change of scenery on the left, made an interception and played the ball in towards Cole. Cole’s back header caught a defender and went out for a corner. Taylor took from the right and Cooper’s clearance behind prevented Cole from getting on the end of it. Ref Miller spotted one of those imaginary offences in the box from Noble’s follow-up corner and the pressure was off for another minute or so.

We forced yet another corner, Vaz Te’s presence pressuring Chester into a panicky clearance. Noble took, Tomkins got on the end and the defence scrambled it away. A Cole nod on then found Vaz Te who fed Nolan whose clever ball played Lansbury in but the midfielder’s effort went way over. Though the ball wouldn’t come down quickly enough it looked as if the player might have had a fraction more time than he thought, the nearest defender having given up hope of making any meaningful contact.

Hull nearly found themselves in a good position when Cole lost the ball in midfield. King seemed to have half the goal to aim for but pointlessly elected to pull the ball back whereupon he set us up on another break. O’Neil brought the ball out and fed Vaz Te who fed Nolan who forced another corner. The ball fell out to Taylor who troubled row Z.

On 35 minutes we took the lead. O’Neil fed Taylor on the overlap down the left and Taylor’s low cross nearly caught out Mannone at his near post, the ‘keeper getting down well to keep it out. Taylor again played a cross in from the left which dipped and came back off the crossbar and hit a defender to go out for a corner with Mannone stranded. The rebound could easily have gone in but didn’t. Taylor’s first corner was put out again for another corner by the ‘keeper with Vaz Te looking set to score. The second corner found Cole whose powerful header gave the defender on the line no chance.

When he scores Cole seems to gain an extra boost to his play and his control and through ball to Vaz Te a few minutes later were simply superb. Although the chance was difficult, the ball having taken him a little wide, RVT’s left foot effort seemed mis-hit and the ball went agonisingly wide.

We continued to press forward and an unusually dangerous cross from Demel caused chaos Noble’s thundering shot was blocked on the six yard box.

Despite there having been a couple of reasonably lengthy injury stoppages the ref decided that a bizarrely short one minute of stoppage time and the half petered out much in the same manner as it had been played with another dangerous ball being played into the box.

Half time: West Ham United 1 Hull City 0


We didn’t have to wait long for the second goal and it was a beaut. Green picked up a loose ball and threw it out to Taylor who clipped the ball forwards to Lansbury. Angela turned looked up and curled a pass into Cole whose chest control was superb and whose finish with the outside of his right boot was even better. Marvellous goal.

Nolan picked up an unnecessary yellow either for being a bit late on Rosenoir or for having a dig at the defender’s reaction of apparently going into a coma until the ref blew the whistle and, at this point, with nothing left to play for, Cole was withdrawn with bigger matches in mind and was replaced by Baldock.

We should have had a penalty on 51 minutes. Taylor’s low pass into the box was cleverly dummied by Baldock. Vaz Te’s first touch set him up for a shot, or at least would have done but for Dawson taking both of his legs from under him. Perhaps if RVT changes his surname to Lambert and starts to fall over with nobody near him we might finally start getting some of these decisions in our favour.

Understandably under the circumstances the game started to go a bit flat. We forced a few corners but mild panic was the sole result. On the hour Maynard replaced the out of sorts Vaz Te who had been looking worryingly exhausted for the previous five minutes.

The ref was loving his afternoon as the centre of attention on live tv. Baldock got on the end of a headed back pass but was pulled up for an imaginary foul as Mannone made a right hash of things by pushing the ball into into the striker who was harshly deemed to have been culpable. Worse was to come shortly after. Garcia flattened Tomkins with an elbow into the face that left the defender in agony. Not only did the ref not issue a red, unbelievably he decided that laying out somebody cold was now an acceptable part of the game. Shockingly poor from the official – from whom worse was to come.

Almost as unbelievable as the ref’s antics was the fact that Hull, who had barely done anything all afternoon, nearly equalised shortly after. A clever through ball found Evans bearing down on Green. Green won, clearing as Nolan came in to assist, picking up a knock in the process. Given that Green had been in danger of being forced to pay to watch the match like the rest of us the ‘keeper did well to keep alert to come off his line.

With 15 left Nolan was sensibly withdrawn for the welcome return of Linda, a move which saw Taylor pushed forward – not that he’d had much to do defensively anyway.

Then we had a silly moment. Despite barely having created anything worthy of note, Hull pulled one back. Since they seemed incapable of creating anything themselves we elected to do it for them.

Demel had time to nip off for a cuppa by the time Evans’ cross from the right came down and I’m sure he rather wishes he had done so. The ball came back off the top of his head and went straight up in the air. Green was prevented from getting the ball by an arm across the chest of the sort that other clubs get free kicks for and the ball bounced off Evans into the unguarded net. Idiot Yorkshireman opened his ignorant gob again but shut it pretty quickly as Upton Girlie gave him one of her looks.

The oh so witty Hull fans started up the “fire drill chant, seemingly ignorant of the fact that there would be queues for playoff tickets – that’d be the playoffs that they didn’t make then. Garcia then put the ball in the back of the net which would have given the score a totally unreal look. However he was correctly given offside and his tantrum would have been funnier but for the reminder that he shouldn’t have been on the pitch in the first place.

Hull in fact ought to have finished with nine men. As the East Stand congas O’Neil was felled by a horrible late studs up over the ball challenge from Evans. Again ignored by the ref who seemed more concerned with telling off the physio for running on to treat a potentially serious injury before he’d had the chance to have a few minutes in front of the cameras. O’Neil spent the last couple of minutes hobbling on the wing.

Despite two lengthy injury stoppages and a plethora of substitutions only three minutes were added and the regular season was at an end. This was a deserved win and, had there been any more on the match I’m sure we’d have given Hull the tonking that their mostly negative tactics deserved – we’d certainly not have withdrawn key players and taken our foot off the pedal. Time to dig out those passports for another trip abroad then!



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
One good save. Sat back and watched the match for about 80 minutes. Might have done a bit better with the goal.


Guy Demel
A couple of good blocks but still doesn’t have to have got the pace of the game yet. Not the greatest of crossers and quite what he was up to for their goal lord alone knows.


Matthew Taylor
Effectively acted as an extra midfielder given that he had little to do defensively. Put quite a few dangerous balls into the box.


James Tomkins
Despite the occasional assault on his eye socket he looked his usual assured self.


Winston Reid
Another confident runout for the Kiwi who looked comfortable on the ball throughout.


Mark Noble
Influential as ever and was part of a midfield that bossed things for 80-odd minutes.


Kevin Nolan
Not the best of starts to the match but improved as the game wore on.


Gary O Neil
Has looked fairly decent in recent weeks and it’s to be hoped that the disgraceful challenge from Evans hasn’t done him damage serious enough to keep him out of the side to keep him out of the playoff side.


Henri Lansbury
One of his better games in the claret & blue. Superb cross for Cole’s second.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Seemed very out of sorts and, by the time he was withdrawn, totally knackered. Needs a bit of a rest before Thursday.


Carlton Cole
Cole at his best. A fine game and took both goals well. The second was particularly splendid.


Substitutes


Sam Baldock
(Replaced Cole, 52)
Apart from nearly catching out the ‘keeper he failed to get into the match.


Nicky Maynard
(Replaced Vaz Te, 60)
Another who failed to register.


George McCartney
(Replaced Nolan, 74)
A welcome return but didn’t really have much time to influence matters.


Julien Faubert
Did not play.


Jack Collison
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Nigel Miller.

Attendance: 35,000.

Man of the Match: Carlton Cole.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Guy Demel, Matthew Taylor, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Gary O Neil, Henri Lansbury, Ricardo Vaz Te, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Carlton Cole 36 Carlton Cole 49                .

Booked: Carlton Cole 87          .

Sent Off: Kevin Nolan 51    .

Hull City

Vito Mannone, Liam Rosenior, Liam Cooper, Andy Dawson, Paul McKenna, James Chester, Corry Evans, Tom Cairney, Joshua King, Richard Garcia, Matty Fryatt.

Substitutes: Cameron Stewart (Joshua King 46), Robbie Brady (Tom Cairney 73).

Subs not used: Mark Oxley, Sonny Bradley, Mark Cullen.

Goals: Corry Evans 981).

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Carlton Cole