Saturday, 30th August 2008
Less welcome at the Boleyn Ground was a former Academy player who sh*t on his own doorstep. I always smile when I see Ince though, as my thoughts turn to the time when Mad Johnny Moncs came on as a sub and within 5 seconds flew in knee high on our favourite hate figure.
Bitterness is an old man’s game
And why should we forgive and forget? Once a Judas, always a Judas. We all knew at the time that he was on his way, but he rubbed our noses in it and we have never forgotten. I do think, though, that it is not entirely healthy for fans who are clearly too young to have been around to have witnessed the treachery to join in the abuse. Leave the bitterness to us old stagers.
The team line-up was pretty much as expected, a 4-4-2 with Matty and Faubert in the wide roles and Ashton and Cole up front. Parker and Noble were in the centre of the park and we were all hoping for a better performance from them both. Lurking on the bench was Craig Bellamy the absentee striker whose potential sale was causing ructions amongst the West Ham faithful.
Blackburn almost drew first blood just 2 minutes in as a move down the left saw a ball squared into the box to find the waiting Santa Cruz. He tried a placed side footed shot but this was blocked well by an aware Davenport near the penalty spot.
Awkward and strange
The rather awkward-looking Behrami nearly gifted a goal on 10 as he tried to shield a long ball out. The dangerous Santa Cruz retrieved it and moved menacingly goalwards but was eventually forced backwards as he had no support. A couple of minutes after this a nice sweeping move involving Ashton, Matty and then Cole led to a corner being won down the left. Faubert – whose prowess at set pieces is beginning to impress – sent in a pacey curling ball which was met brilliantly by Davenport to register his first ever goal for West Ham. It looked like ex-Spud Paul Robinson had caused indecision amongst his own defenders.
Blackburn tried an immediate response and the ever-dangerous Roberts won a free kick on 14 as he was too strong for Davenport forcing the goalscorer to concede a free kick about 22 yards out on the right side of the box. Pedersen just scuttled a shot wide of Green’s left post.
Then we were treated to one of those goals that has a strange look about it. Noble made a superb pass with the outside of his foot to the lively Faubert running down the right flank. He dragged a pass back into the box and there was the waiting Mark Noble who appeared to slice a shot which hit either Ashton or Samba, deflecting into the net. The PA announcer gave it to Ashton but this looked unlikely as he seemed to be in an offside position. It was déjà vu of the Wigan game.
The two goal margin was short lived though as hardly a minute later, Roberts – who makes a habit of being on the scoresheet at Upton Park – rolled Davenport on the edge of box and coolly passed the ball into the corner of the goal with Green helpless. Very disappointing to concede so soon, although the old adage that you are at your most vulnerable when you have scored proved to be the case yet again.
Roberts threw his toys out of the pram on 26 minutes and got a yellow for dissent and this was followed by a near cock-up between Robinson and Samba which resulted in a non-productive corner for West Ham. You do wonder how the collective wisdom of the entire England coaching and selection set up arrived at the non-sequitur of Robinson as the No. 1 goalkeeper.
Just after this, here was the welcome sight of Santa Cruz being replaced due to injury. Derbyshire came on and it looked like he had achieved instant success as a cross sent over from the left to Samba at the far post was side footed into the goal. The whistle was clear and instantaneous, either for offside or a push by Samba. In the chaotic aftermath we broke with Matty down the left and he was cynically taken out by Ooijer who got a yellow.
The industrious Faubert won a free kick on 32 minutes and once again a vicious delivery from the Frenchman somehow evaded everybody in the box. Then for minutes later it was the turn of his Cornish counterpart on the left wing who made a great run and cross which Cole nodded over only because it looked impossible to head downward under challenge from two defenders. It was Cole again which featured in the last notable move on the stroke of half time as he used some good trickery down the right and launched a good cross which was just picked off Ashton’s head.
The next goal was going to be crucial in the game and it felt that a Blackburn equaliser might spell ultimate doom for the rather fragile Irons in the wake of the drubbing away at City. My worst fears seemed to be realised just two minutes in to the second half after a free kick conceded by Faubert about 22 yards out was whacked at the wall and ref Mike Riley signalled a penalty. It looked like Carlton Cole had inexplicably jumped up with his arm in the air.
Up stepped Roberts who’d had a good game up until this point. Surely Rob Green was not going to add to his tally of three saved penalties last season? The clear yet ignored choice for England prowled around a bit, employed what must be some kind of Vulcan mind game, and dived to his left to stop the spotkick one-handed. What more does he have to do to get an England call-up. What kind of perverse and numb-nut logic could arrive at selecting Robinson and ignoring Green? Someone get a grip for f*ck’s sake.
Roberts looked like he tried to take out his frustration on Behrami on 54 minutes as he lashed out at him in the West Ham box. No doubt Mr Riley saw this more as a bitch slap rather than an elbow as no red was produced. The Swiss utility man was gingerly checking his teeth and eventually got up.
Faubert, who’d had an influential game, was replaced by a rejuvenated McCartney on the hour and this led to Neill going right back and Behrami advancing to right mid. Three minutes after the change, a looped ball forward was brought down well by Davenport in the Blackburn box and he powered a great shot which only just whistled by the upright.
Blackburn then went very close on 63 minutes as Emerton sent a fine pass wide to find Derbyshire. You feared that Green had come out too late to try and narrow the angle, but he did enough to put the striker off and his lobbed shot landed mercifully on the roof of the net.
Tactical changes for both sides on 65 and 67 minutes saw Treacy come on for Pedersen and Bellamy for Ashton who’d faded in the second half. Behrami was looking like he was in a more natural midfield position and managed some good work near the dead ball line. Unfortunately there was no-one in the box to pounce on his angled pass back and instead a Blackburn counterattack resulted where Derbyshire sent over an excellent cross to find Emerton on the edge of the six yard box with a free header downwards to which Green managed somehow to get a leg. Our ‘keeper saved our bacon yet again.
Treacy was causing problems down our left and Davenport did very well to block his way into the box on 72 minutes. Five minutes after this, Reid tried a long range snapshot at goal which Green had to parry and then gather. Just after this Behrami profited again from good work near the corner flag, sending over a cross which Bellamy volleyed, forcing a fine save from Robinson. The pressure on the Blackburn goal continued with Cole wriggling free in the box after it looked like he had been tugged back. Once again Robinson managed to turn the shot around the post.
With ten minutes of ordinary time left, Mullins came on for Noble to try and shut up shop. It was all looking a bit nervy and Blackburn won a couple of corners in a row followed by a very close call on 90 minutes when Roberts glanced a wicked cross from Treacy – who should have probably been sent on earlier – which went sickeningly close to going in with Green rooted to the spot.
An incredulous murmur went up from the crowd as the board went up for 5 minutes added time, although most of that was probably due to when Behrami got poleaxed early in the half. We needn’t have worried as it led to delirium. First Bellamy got booked for dissent after he lambasted the ref following the award of a free kick and then we won a just inside or own half after Davenport was brought down following a clearance. Neil had the presence of mind to send a long ball forward and the predatory Bellamy was on hand to run on to the pass, volleying brilliantly past the helpless Robinson on about the third bounce.
But this was not the end of the story as in the final minute of added time, Bellamy and Behrami were playing ‘keep ball’ on the edge of the Blackburn box. It looked like possession had been given away, but Behrami nicked the ball back, passed to Parker waiting in the box who diverted it to Cole standing in a point blank position where he couldn’t miss.
It was probably the least convincing 4-1 win you had ever seen, but it was sweet to dish out Ince’s very first defeat as a Premiership manager at the very ground he had walked away from in 1989. We had ridden our luck a bit and the second half performance was not a great deal better than against Wigan. The good starts have been crucial.
I have to say that I was most pleased for our manager. I am sick to my stomach with these media vultures circling over him. It’s almost like a number of the so-called sports pundits have all had a flutter on Curbs being first to get the bullet. Their poisonous words are pathetic and the bloke does not deserve it at all. It’s time a few more West Ham fans turned on these parasites and backed the boss. This scum is out to do us down and victimise a man who has claret and blue in his veins at the end of the day. I congratulate him for sticking two fingers up at them, even though he is too much of a gentleman to make that gesture or indeed complain about his lot. I salute you Mr Curbishley. Actions speak louder than all of their shitty little sniping.
* Player ratings by Graeme Howlett
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On hand with two vital second half saves that preserved United's slender lead.
Worked hard throughout and his perseverance deservedly paid off with the assist for the final goal of the day.
Worryingly done for pace again towards the end of the game. Redeemed himself somewhat with yet another assist from a dead ball that was replica Moore-to-Hurst-in-66.
The gloss of scoring his first goal for the club was tainted slightly by the error that led to Blackburn's goal. That aside, he was a force at both ends of the pitch.
Strong and unforgiving - and needs to stay fit.
It was a shame that his excellent first 45 was spoiled by the unnecessary back-hell deep in home territory that led to the Roberts goal. But his good points far outweighed the bad.
All the aggression without the stupidity. A very good performance that answered criticisms of his central midfield partnership with Parker.
His early-season form had asked more questions than offered answers, but the flying Frenchman really got going today. Faubert's afternoon was sadly ended early by a knock.
Stuck to his task and got involved - as he needed to do following last week's hugely disappointing display at Eastlands.
On the fringes, really. It's quite frustrating at times but you almost feel as if he's holding back. As much as he tried to claim the second goal the adjudication panel won't have it.
Like Behrami he had to wait til the death to receive his reward but the goal was a fitting way to cap a decent performance.
(replaced Faubert, 60) Still far from fully fit but getting some vital minutes in.
(replaced Ashton, 69) A welcome return. Buzzed around like an angry wasp before delivering his sting with his prey defenceless. Can only be a good thing.
(replaced Noble, 81) The rock that Curbishley turns to in times of strife. Once again he did his job.
Did not play.
Luis Boa Morte
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Mike Riley.
Man of the Match: Robert Green.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Valon Behrami, Lucas Neill, Calum Davenport, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Julien Faubert, Matthew Etherington, Dean Ashton, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Calum Davenport 12 Christopher Samba (og) 20 Craig Bellamy 90 Carlton Cole 90 .
Booked: Craig Bellamy 90 .
Sent off: None.
Robinson, Warnock, Ooijer, Nelsen, Samba, Emerton, Reid, Grella, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, Roberts.
Substitutes: Derbyshire (Cruz 29), Andrews (Grella 46), Treacy (Pedersen 66).
Subs not used: Brown, Mokoena, Villanueva, Simpson.
Goals: Roberts (22).
Booked: Grella (7), Roberts (27), Ooijer (30), Emerton (52), Nelsen (90).
Sent Off: None.