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Premier League
Saturday, 2nd February 2013

West Ham United 1
Swansea City 0

by Gordon Thrower


That’s steadied the ship a bit then. Obviously the results of the last few weeks have see the good ship SS West Ham United (built at Thames Ironworks obviously) lurching slowly in the direction of some nasty looking rocks so three points were looking rather necessary before the start of this one.

Team news was that changes were made after the Fulham defeat. Joey O’Brien reverted to his more natural right hand side to replace Demel. Taylor moved into the left-back spot. In midfield, Diame had decided to stick around until the end of the season whilst up front the now fit Carroll replaced Chamakh for the starting slot, the Arsenal loanee reverting to the bench alongside Carlton Cole.

Starting line-up: JJ, O’Brien, Taylor, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Diame, Jarvis, Vaz Te, Nolan, Carroll.

It was a funny old day all round. The pre-match sight of KUMB's Romford drinking pints of lime & soda made me wonder if I’d been transplanted into one of those really weird parallel universes you see in Dr Who. It was also a slightly weird atmosphere at the Boleyn. This was probably a reflection of the choppy seas we’ve found ourselves in of late and the general nervy air was exacerbated by the lack of contribution from the visiting support. To be fair it’s difficult to sing when you’re looking at a phrase-book translation. It was the same on the pitch for much of the first half with neither side particularly imposing itself on the other.

Much has been made of the Carroll-Nolan connection (last seen on Jazz Club featuring Stepney Green on fretless bass as I recall) and there were early signs that the restored partnership might start to pay dividends as a knock down from Carroll landed invitingly for Nolan. Williams got a block in from the shot which went wide for a corner. Noble’s corner was good (finally it appears that the lesson on beating the first man has been learnt) but Tremmel got a good diving punch on it to clear.

There was an early entry into the referee’s notebook as Vaz Te’s tackle on Routledge came in a tad late. I say a tad late, it was later than a District Line tube on engineering works day and fully merited the caution. A forward’s challenge if we’re going to be charitable.

Swansea weren’t testing us much. We had a slight worry when Nolan fouled Davies in what looked to have been a dangerous position. However, De Guzman’s effort was woeful and went harmlessly wide.

If JJ at one end was hardly troubled, their ‘keeper was certainly beginning to earn his appearance fee. On the quarter hour Carroll controlled a goal-kick well on his chest and took a couple of touches before laying the ball off into the path of Diame. His 23 yard-effort bounced just in front of Tremmel who gathered at the second attempt. Five minutes later we were treated to a marvellous dummy/turn from O’Brien on the right which bought the right-back time and space. The low cross was perfect Nolan hit it first time at the near post but Tremmel’s reactions were up to it and the ‘keeper made a decent save to deny the skipper.

Tremmel was beginning to annoy me. Vaz Te’s cross was nodded down in clever style behind the defence by Carroll. Nolan had anticipated the header well and shot again first time. Again Tremmel made a fine save. It’s worth pointing out that he’s only their no2 ‘keeper. Just a thought for the summer window Sam, maybe?

Swansea seem to have imported Liverpool tactic no.1 into their play. That is the tactical and cynical ploy of breaking up play by giving away niggly little free-kicks in that area 10 yards either side of the halfway line. Since it’s usually a variety of players that are responsible, cautions for such fouls are rare and it enabled the defending team to get players back to defend breakaways. We nearly profited from taking a quick free-kick from one such situation but Jarvis dallied too much. The whole thing petered-out when Reid tried to keep a loose ball in but found himself hampered by the lino who obstructed the defender’s efforts.

Tremmel was again on form just before the interval. Diame picked the ball up in central midfield and did that little shimmy/stepover thing he’s so fond of, before releasing Vaz Te wide on the left. RVT cut inside and released a fine shot from the edge of the box only to see the ‘keeper turn the shot around the post for a corner. Which came to naught.

We had the standard “there’s been no stoppages but I’ll add a minute on anyway just to prove I’ve been paying attention” one minute of stoppage from Probert in which nothing of note occurred and that was it for the half.

Half Time: West Ham United 0 Swansea City 0


There were no personnel changes at the interval and the second half continued much in the same vein in which the first half had passed. Vaz Te won the ball with a fine tackle in midfield and embarked on a tricky run that took him past several players. Using Nolan’s run across the ball as a decoy Vaz Te shot from the edge of the box only for Tremmel to save. Although the ‘keeper’s handling wasn’t totally convincing he gathered well enough to prevent the spillage in anticipation of which Nolan was hovering. The move caused a delay for treatment to Britton who had injured himself in trying to challenge Vaz Te’s run.

We had a chance the Tremmel didn’t save, though we at least should have forced him into one. Some nice interplay down on the left saw Nolan play a clever ball to Jarvis. Jarvis pulled the ball back for Carroll who, unfortunately, leant back and put his shot horribly over the bar. Should have done better.

Britton didn’t last much longer and was replaced by Moore on 57 minutes. Four minutes later we made our own first change with Jarvis coming ashore to be replaced by Joe Cole. While we were sorting ourselves Swansea had a rare break from midfield which culminated in Routledge feeding the much-lauded Michu. The much-lauded Michu’s shot was every bit as awful as Carroll’s had been and went high and wide.

A bit like buses, no sooner had the much-lauded Michu missed one effort than he’d missed another, getting underneath Hernandez’s cross to head over from the penalty spot. However if this was supposed to have been the start of some sort of onslaught from the away side nobody had bothered to tell them and we continued to create chances of our own. Carroll’s clever pass from midfield found Nolan who played Vaz Te in. RVT’s first touch took him away from the defender but, with the ball between his feet he took an inadvertent second touch which allowed Davies to get a vital last-ditch tackle in.

The chances continued to fall our way. RVT crossed, Carroll headed down and Diame’s effort ended up in much the same part of the ground as Carroll’s earlier effort had done.

Noble won a free-kick on 70 minutes. It was another given for a foul in that central area mentioned earlier. Taylor’s delivery found Tomkins and, although the ball was cleared it eventually found its way to the right hand side of the box. Vaz Te found Reid whose intelligent little flick outside the defender played in Carroll whose shot across goal produced yet another fine save from Tremmel. RVT kept the ball alive and played the ball first time across the box. Diame’s first time effort was played into the ground and over the bar. He might have had time to take a touch and, had he done so he probably would have scored. Easy in hindsight from the stands.

There was time for a spot of comic relief when Reid made a bit of a hash of an attempted clearance slicing it straight back to JJ. A few of the visiting supporters made an appeal for a back-pass, more in jest than expectation. Reid’s had a fine season but if he did that on purpose I’m clearly in the wrong one of those parallel universes I mentioned earlier. Though, with the dreadful state of refereeing in this country, little would surprise me these days.

As if to underline the latter point, we then had a good penalty shout turned down. Vaz Te brought down Tomkins’ ball from the back and turned the defender before playing a ball into the box. Flores played the ball down with his forearm. It looked arm to ball to me and the player’s guilty look towards the officials probably told you all you needed to know. He knew he’d got away with it.

With 15 minutes left Routledge was replaced by Dyer for the visitors prompting worries that we might end up with some sort of irony overload if someone called Dyer were to score at the Boleyn. It was already beginning to look like one of those days and that would have been just too much.

We needn’t have worried. Taylor fed the rather subdued Joe Cole whose cross was blocked out for a corner. We had a bit of a debate as to the spot where Noble should deliver the corner. We decided that somewhere between the penalty spot and the six yard box would be a good place as it would give Carroll the chance of a run at it. Noble played the ball precisely where we – and rather more importantly Carroll – wanted it and the forward’s towering leap enabled him to bury the header past the ‘keeper to give us a deserved lead.

We ought to have doubled the lead almost immediately after. Joe Cole’s angled ball into the box eluded a defender whose presence was probably enough to put off RVT whose sliding lunge was just too late in execution to put the ball away.

Of course we wouldn’t be West Ham without indulging in some sort of scare. With 10 left Ki moved forward and with Taylor falling over at an inappropriate moment he shot from the edge of the box. JJ got down well but his save put the ball into the danger area. Thankfully Davies’ follow up shot lacked power and JJ gathered with a spot more comfort.

With 5 left O’Neil replaced Diame to add a bit more of a defensive look to the middle but there were still a couple of anxious moments to come. Dyer’s low deflected shot looked to be going wide but hit Carroll, the rebound falling to Moore. Carroll recovered to get a vital block in. As 4 minutes of stoppage were announced Dyer’s deep cross found Flores whose header was kept out by JJ with De Guzman looking threatening. The ball was cleared out and Noble looked to have broken clear only to be cynically hauled back by Flores who picked up a deserved yellow for his trouble.

Pogatetz came on for his debut, replacing Nolan and immediately drew a cheer from the crowd with a towering header that ran the clock down a few seconds. Another Swansea attack broke down on the rock that was Carroll who brought the ball out of the box and drew the foul to effectively end proceedings.

So that was it. Three points from a match we’d dominated but still ended up nervously. We’re still not making the most of the chances that we’ve created and that’s got to be some concern to the management. However, the win ought to give the confidence a boost so let’s hope that we can sort out the away form. Starting next week would be nice.



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
A bit like QPR he was unemployed for much of the time. One save played the ball back into danger but redeemed himself with his late cut out from a dangerous cross.


Joey O Brien
Stuck to his task well on the right of the defence. One sublime moment in the first half created a chance for Nolan.


Matt Taylor
Looked uncomfortable when Hernandez ran at him and went to ground once or twice too much.


James Tomkins
Much better. It looked a bit more like the partnership of old with Reid today.


Winston Reid
Another good run out. Restricted the much-lauded Michu to a couple of half chances.


Momo Diame
Some good moments but did run into a few blind alleys.


Mark Noble
Ran his legs off in the middle. Unspectacular but solid.


Ricardo Vaz Te
A few lively moments and was unfortunate to find Tremmel in such good form in the first half.


Matt Jarvis
Starved of service for much of the match he was always going to find it hard to impress.


Kevin Nolan
Looks twice the player when Carroll is on the pitch. Another one who was unlucky to find the visiting ‘keeper in decent nick.


Andy Carroll
Fine match. Quite apart from his goal he was excellent in defence at the end once Swansea finally came out of their shell. MOTM.


Substitutes


Joe Cole
(Replaced Jarvis, 62)
A quiet half hour or so but nearly provided the second for RVT.


Gary O Neil
(Replaced Diame, 86)
Bolstered the midfield from a defensive point of view for the last few minutes.


Emanuel Pogatetz
(Replaced Nolan, 89)
Came on for stoppage time and endeared himself to the home support with a massive header.


Raphael Spiegel
Did not play.


Jack Collison
Did not play.


Marouane Chamakh
Did not play.


Carlton Cole
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Lee Probert.

Attendance: 34,962.

Man of the Match: Andy Carroll.

West Ham United

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

Goals: Andy Carroll 77                  .

Booked: Ricardo Vaz Te 8          .

Sent off: None.

Swansea City

Gerhard Tremmel, Angel Rangel, Chico, Ashley Williams, Ben Davies, Jonathan de Guzman, Leon Britton, Sung-Yeung Ki, Pablo Hernandez, Miguel Michu, Wayne Routledge.

Substitutes: Luke Moore (Leon Britton 57), Nathan Dyer (Wayne Routledge 75).

Subs not used: David Cornell, Roland Lamah, Garry Monk, Itay Shechter, Dwight Tiendalli.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Andy Carroll