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Premier League
Saturday, 1st September 2012

West Ham United 3
Fulham 0

by Gordon Thrower


Cheers Liverpool – If you have any more decent players who might benefit from not playing in such a God-awful side feel free to send them our way.

It wasn’t a bad end to the window for once was it? The arrival of Andy Carroll showed the merits of persistence, with the player finally working out that, poor as the Scousers are at present, he still wasn’t going to get much of a look in. The return of Yossi brought forth mixed feelings. Fine player though he undoubtedly is, there was still a slightly sour taste in the mouth over the manner of his departure – Liverpool’s flagrantly illegal approach being actively encouraged by the player’s own conduct.

As it happens the Yossi deal was completed too late in the day for his inclusion in the squad so we were left to consider the prospect of Jarvis supplying Carroll. Mouthwatering as that prospect was, and with all eyes on the comings and goings up and down the country over the previous 48 hours, nobody noticed that Jarvis had picked up a thigh strain somewhere along the way, precluding his home debut. Carroll came in for Cole and with Linda also injured we started with an eleven off JJ, Demel, O’Brien, Reid, Collins, Noble, Diame, Taylor, Nolan, Vaz Te, Carroll.

Barely had “Bubbles” stopped echoing before we had taken the lead. Schwarzer’s long clearance from the back was met by Collins whose header forward was nodded on by Carroll into the path of Vaz Te who, in turn, fed Nolan. The ball sat up beautifully for the skipper who’s finish was clean and excellent. 53 seconds I have been told and, whilst post-match Martin Jol made the usual predictable comment about “long ball” he’d do well to note that the long ball in this instance came from the Fulham defence not ours. Yes I can genuinely report that we started brightly.

We played some good stuff and a typical strong run down the middle by Diame fed Taylor on the left. The cross was dangerous but both Vaz Te and Carroll had stayed in the middle. Had one of them gambled on near post it would have made Taylor’s dangerous cross into the “corridor of uncertainty” (© G. Boycott) slightly more interesting.

Fulham produced little – though JJ had to be alert to keep Richardson’s long-range effort out. We were producing the better football and the better chances though and nearly doubled the lead with a splendid move on 8 minutes. Vaz Te stormed down the right wing before cutting in and playing a diagonal cross in for Carroll. Carroll’s knock down was as intelligent as his lay-off that led to the goal had been and Diame did brilliantly to keep his shot down, a fine goal being thwarted by a fingertip onto the bar by Schwarzer. Noble’s corner was disappointing though, failing to clear the first man.

Schwarzer was the saviour again for the visitors three minutes later. O’Brien and Vaz Te combined sweetly on the left and RVT’s near post shot was goalbound but for Schwarzer’s tip round the post for the corner, Hoofball my backside. Noble’s corner was an improvement on the first effort but was cleared.

Nolan for one seemed to be enjoying the arrival of his former tenant in E13. A JJ goal kick was won again by Carroll and yet again the header was targeted. RVT played Nolan in on the right and the skipper’s delightful chip (in football reports chips are always “delightful” or “exquisite” and, on balance this was the former) was only a foot or two from bringing forth a repeat of the chicken dance.

Nolan’s confidence was there for all to see and he fact that he was having a good spell showed in his ambitious attempt to have a go first time when teed up by Demel. What the result might have been had Nolan connected we’ll never know as his execution consisted of one of those air shots that make you look silly when you do them.

We ought to have had a penalty on 17 minutes as, for the second home league match running, we fell foul of the dishonesty that exists in the refereeing fraternity when it comes to certain types of challenge. Carroll was shoved over in the box in trying to go for Noble’s cross. As with the challenge on Cole a couple of weeks previously, had the incident taken place elsewhere on the pitch I have absolutely no doubt that a free-kick would have resulted from ref Taylor. However, I suspect we’ll have to wait until they get rid of Riley at the top and replace him with someone with a genuine interest in improving refereeing standards before we see penalties given for fouls like that.

RVT was having fun, swapping wings at will and another good run down the right saw him pull the ball back for Taylor, whose shot was goalbound but for a block from a defender. Taylor’s resulting corner looked dangerous but Schwarzer’s gather was pretty comfortable.

JJ must have been thankful that it was a warmish day as he had been largely unemployed all afternoon, though he was grateful for a spot of practice from Sidwell’s turn and weak shot on 25 minutes, if only to relieve the boredom.

Vaz Te’s burgeoning partnership with Demel was next to produce dividends. A good run from RVT brought in Demel on the overlap and the right-back’s cross was cut out for a corner. At this point we remarked on how disappointing the delivery from corners had been up to that point, so I suppose it was inevitable that Taylor’s delivery was spot on. The impressive – and ever-improving – Reid had only to get something on it to double the lead, something he did with aplomb with just under half an hour on the clock. Post-match, Martin Jol made the predictable comment about “set pieces” conveniently ignoring the quality of the move that resulted in the corner in the first place.

Another good combination of passes a few minutes later saw RVT play the ball in again low to Nolan. What the result might have been had Nolan connected we’ll never know as his execution consisted of one of those air shots that make you look silly when you do them. Again.

We made it three with five minutes of the half remaining. RVT turned Richardson who had no answer to the move other than to upend the player. Collins’ free-kick into the box found Schwarzer unable to decide whether to stick or twist. A couple of defenders challenged each other for the ball, presumably confused by the presence of Carroll, and the ball fell to Taylor on the edge of the box. Taylor’s first time effort was low into the ground and gave Schwarzer no chance. Post-match, Martin Jol made the predictable whine about “set pieces” conveniently ignoring the fact that it was his player that had given the free-kick away in the first place.

Another free-kick was earned as Diame went on another fine run that was crudely and rather cynically ended by a hack from Riether who escaped the yellow card the challenge probably deserved. Had we scored, Jol would probably have said something about set pieces, which would have conveniently ignored the quality of the run that had led to it. We didn’t and he didn’t so the point is probably moot anyway.

One minute of stoppage (applied to prove that the ref was paying attention) was added during which they forced a couple of corners. RVT broke out after the second of these and, though his progress was halted by a foul, Mr Taylor correctly allowed the advantage with Demel having broken out on the overlap. Unfortunately, having got into good position on the right hand side of the box, Demel’s effort on goal showed all the hallmarks of coming from someone who was thinking “we’re 3-0 up so I’ll have a go”. With the sadly predictable result of the ball ending up in the crowd.

That was pretty much it for the half. You were expecting more?

Half Time: West Ham United 3 Fulham 0


This match marked the welcome return from climes foreign of Upton Girlie, though she hadn’t had the chance to pick up the usual confectionary en route. Pleased though we all were to see her, I did think it was poor form on her behalf to mug Nan for half of her dark chocolate Bounty (frankly, the only Bounty worth having), even if she did subsequently give half of it to me. I presume that was in lieu of my pressie from Minorca then.

I was a bit disappointed with half time – having had Olympic medallists coming out of our ears for the Villa match I had been expecting a Nobel Prize winner or two. Or at least someone who has got a Blue Peter badge. Instead we had to watch the first half highlights on the big tellys. Which wasn’t much of a hardship I suppose, all things considered.

They made one change at the interval. Deadline-day signing Berbatov replaced Petric. Berbatov’s first contribution was to play the ball into touch prompting one wag to point out that, if Carroll turned out to be rubbish after all at least we could send him back.

In truth, and inevitably, the second half was a bit of an anti-climax after the excitement of the first 45. RVT got on the end of a Carroll knock-down from a loose ball, but, a bit like a football ground burger, it proved impossible to keep down and the effort from the edge of the box went high into the crowd.

Five minutes into the second half, Vaz Te’s clever flick and turn was too clever for Diarra (their one not ours, obviously) who upended him. Nolan squared the free-kick to Taylor, whose low, powerful drive was saved by Schwarzer, though the keeper’s handling was far from what you’d call convincing, with the services of a defender being required to clear for a throw, from which we forced a corner. Mayhem ensued where players all seemed to be having a bit of a playground hack at the ball, which nobody could see for all the bodies in there. The fun was curtailed by spoilsport Mr Taylor who blew for an infringement.

Our own Mr Taylor had clearly got a taste for goal and had a dig on the hour. Although he caught it sweetly enough to produce the statutory “ooh” from the crowd, it failed to bother Schwarzer, save for the inconvenience of having to take a goal-kick.

We are nothing if not a club of tradition, and one of those traditions is the new player who promptly gets injured. Carroll proved himself to have picked up the club traditions to a tee by going down in a challenge that he had no prospect of winning. Strained hamstring was the result. Whilst Carroll’s condition was being assessed, Tomkins replaced Ginge, whose troublesome groin seemed to be causing a bit of discomfort. Carroll himself left to a deserved ovation with Carlton Cole – also given a fine reception – replacing.

Fulham had a little more of the second half – though it would scarcely be possible to have had less than they did in the first half. JJ had to keep awake long enough to keep out at his near post after some good work by Berbatov. Assisted by the sneakiest of tugs back on J O’B it has to be said. Rodallega and Berbatov then combined on the edge of the box for the latter to shoot tamely at JJ.

With a shade under of the quarter hour left we made our final change. Demel had been hobbling for a minute or two. It didn’t look too serious but with us 3-0 up and Fulham looing unlikely to alter that any time soon it was probably a wise move for him to depart. It was pleasing to remind the world that it’s not all about transfers as Robert Hall came on for his Premier League debut. This prompted a reshuffle with J O’B moving across to the right to cover Demel’s departure and Taylor dropping into the left back slot, freeing up the space in midfield for Hall.

Hall had a chance to add to the lead with 7 minutes left. Back for a corner, Cole’s intelligent clearing header found Vaz Te who burst forward on the break. He made it to the edge of the box and played in Hall whose shot was blocked by a last ditch tackle.

Those Fulham supporters who had stayed the course were treated to a late flurry. Duff’s effort from the edge of the box produced a proper save from JJ, who turned the shot round the post for a corner. Berbatov then cleverly played in Rodallega whose first time effort was turned onto the post by JJ. JJ also saved the follow-up effort, keeping it out at the near post for a corner.

The standard three minutes of stoppage came and went and a comfortable victory was secured.

Full Time: West Ham United 3 Fulham 0


This was a much better performance than we had been treated to at Swansea. Wherever you looked on the pitch there were players performing well. It’d be over-simplistic to attribute the improvement purely down to the arrival of new signings, though the buzz about the place following Carroll’s arrival was obvious.

What will be annoying will be having to defend the side against the usual lazy allegations of long-ball tactics. Make no mistake there was a lot of decent football in what we saw over the 90 minutes in this one and anyone who tells you differently clearly wasn’t watching the match properly. The injuries, Carroll’s in particular, were the one black spot of the day. At least the international break will reduce the number of matches missed I suppose.

Meanwhile, if we can get everyone fit, it would appear that there is genuine competition for places in the squad. And, with our (lack of) resources over the years, that’s not something we have been used to.

Only 34 points to go then!



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Kept his concentration throughout lengthy periods of inactivity so that when Fulham finally tested him properly in the last couple of minutes he was not found wanting.


Guy Demel
Continues to improve out of all recognition from the player who had such a dodgy play-off final. Combined well with Vaz Te and treated us to a cheeky back heel in the second half.


Joey O Brien
Pressed into service on the left due to Linda’s injury he had an uncertain start with Duff getting the wrong side a couple of times. Inproved as the match went on.


James Collins
Much-improved from last week’s disaster. Partnered up well with Reid and showed a fine sense of anticipation throughout the match.


Winston Reid
Who’d have though that this was the same player whose performances in our relegation season caused so much concern. Just shows the value of playing week in week out.


Mark Noble
There were candidates for MOTM all over the place in this match. Noble got mine for the prodigious amount of work and tackles he got in that allowed some of the more eye-catching displays to take place. I know money’s tight but please get that contract sorted guys.


Momo Diame
Another fine game. Among all the more spectacular signings we saw during the window, his arrival might just prove to be the key signing of the season when we look back at the end of term.


Kevin Nolan
The wise chaps with whom I attend matches (Mr Smith and Mr Smith) commented that the arrival of Carroll might just bring more out of the skipper. On this showing (and not for the first time) they could well be right. Excellent finish for the goal and could have added to his tally with a bit more luck and/or composure.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Maybe the prospect of new signings had concentrated his mind but this was his best performance in an age. You always got the impression that something was going to happen whenever the ball came his way.


Matt Taylor
A lot of hard work didn’t catch the eye from Taylor. His well-taken goal obviously did. His corner for Reid’s goal was spot on as well.


Andy Carroll
Not on the scoresheet but he played an important part in two of the goals – for Taylor’s goal no fewer than three Fulham players were trying to deal with his presence. It wasn’t just the way that the ball was won that impressed, it was the intelligent way that other players were brought into play that was the icing on the cake. Hope that hamstring gets sorted sooner rather than later.


Substitutes


James Tomkins
(Replaced Collins, 67)
Slotted in well for Collins. I mentioned competition for places earlier – here’s a player who knows what I mean. Not that I would begrudge him the fantastic experience for one second but I wonder if he has a slight tinge of regret at the moment that he missed much of pre-season to join the Olympic squad?


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Carroll, 68)
Difficult to come in up front in a match that had effectively ended as a contest ages before. Not much of an impression as a result.


Robert Hall
(Replaced Demel, 78)
Showed a few good touches – his few appearances last season showed promise and hopefully he’ll get more chances to appear this term, with seven to select from on the bench.


Stephen Henderson
Did not play.


Alou Diarra
Did not play.


Gary O Neil
Did not play.


Modibo Maiga
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Taylor.

Attendance: 33,458.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Joey O Brien, James Collins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Momo Diame, Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Taylor, Andy Carroll.

Goals: Kevin Nolan 1 Winston Reid 29 Matt Taylor 41              .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Fulham

Mark Schwarzer, Sascha Riether, Aaron Hughes, Brede Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell, Mahamadou Diarra, Kieran Richardson, Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric.

Substitutes: Dimitar Berbatov (Mladen Petric 46), Alex Kacaniklic (Kieran Richardson 59).

Subs not used: David Stockdale, Stephen Kelly, Chris Baird, Pajtim Kasami, Matthew Briggs.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Mark Noble