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Premier League
Saturday, 8th November 2008

West Ham United 1
Everton 3

by East Stand Martin


Whoever went to the Boleyn Ground today without feeling some degree of trepidation had to be an optimist, despite the fact that an alleged West Ham fan had been elected mid week to lead the world’s most powerful nation.

I actually think Obama has been a right let down. He’s just pulled off a major victory and he fails to mention even once at his Chicago celebration that the Spuds are a greater threat to world peace than Iran. What a missed opportunity.

Our record against Scousers whether they are the car stealing blue kind or the shell suited red is absolutely appalling. Something appears to go pear-shaped every time. Last season we got done twice at home in a week in both cup and league by Everton.

Reassuring words…not

Meanwhile back in the world of high finance, West Ham United FC plc was stuck in intensive care with a severe case of Icelandic frostbite. An eve of match official statement in the name of West Ham’s Chief Executive Mr Scott Duxberry that everything was going to be fine was hardly confidence-inspiring. Why do you get the feeling that you are getting your pocket picked every time our esteemed CEO pronounces?

The team setup looked reasonably good in the circumstances. Upson and Collins in central defence looked a good option and anybody but Faubert at right back – in this case Neill – had to give us a chance. The only thing that didn’t look right was the preference of Boa Morte over Matty and the titchy looking combo of Sears and Bellamy up front. There seemed little choice, though, as Cole was suspended.

We didn’t start well as in the very first minute Faubert made a poor defensive header that allowed Saha to volley. We were all mightily relieved to see that one go wide. Just after, Parker hit a half decent shot just wide following a steal of the ball some 35 yards out.

Injury strikes again

A quarter of an hour gone and the game took a turn for the worst as Upson went down with an injury and the dreaded stretcher came on. We all knew what that meant – Neill back in central defence and Faubert out right.
Bellamy was looking pretty lively and he surged forward on 19 minutes to feed Sears who couldn’t profit from some space in the box. Then three minutes later, Sears made a sublime take and seamless pass in the centre circle which sent Bellamy on his way, but he saw his shot deflect wide.

Jack Collison, given his chance by the absence of Noble was showing great industry and his work on 24 minutes led to the ball rebounding out to Boa Morte who hit a spectacularly awful skewed volley wide. Sears showed similar determination just after this with a good lay off to Bellamy on the edge of the box, but he wasted his half volley by blasting way over.

Crossbar seared

On the half hour, the best move of the half began after ref Mark Halsey waved play on following an offside against Blackburn. The ball was sent forward to allow Bellamy to make a dummy and get behind his marker. He angled the ball back to the oncoming Sears who smashed a first time strike which Howard managed to tip onto the cross bar and over. Neill headed the ball into the keeper’s arms from the resulting corner.

The last chance of the half fell to Sears after some good play by Boa Morte. The young striker found himself in the box at a tight angle but contrived to stab the ball wide and into the side netting at almost point blank range.

Despite the foreboding, this was an encouraging first half performance by West Ham against an insipid Everton who created very little threat. The main problem was that the high level of home possession had not resulted in more end product. It felt that maybe some more progress was being made on the back of the previous away draw.

Collison steps forward

The second half began with some good interplay between Collison and Bellamy. The former ran into the box and was unlucky not to beat the keeper to a cross.

Ilunga made a terrific run on 47 minutes and fed the channel where Bellamy was waiting. A good pass was sent into Sears but he was too tight to the near post and could only guide the ball wide for a goal kick.

Although having had a reasonable first half, Boa Morte made two awful balls in a minute from promising position around the 50 minute mark. This probably convinced the manager to swap him for Matty on 56 minutes.

Matty looked eager to make an immediate impact and just two minutes after his introduction he cut in rapidly and fed a pass to Bellamy on the edge of the box. His snap shot appeared to hit the arms of the defender and the Welshman was raving when the ref turned down his appeal for a penalty.

One minute sort of the hour and Bellamy won a free kick on the edge of the box. It was one of a few won during the match in a promising position but each time the guile was not there. In the early part of the season, quite a few of the set pieces were taken by Faubert with some threat. We now do not seem to have the specialist that can deliver something special. Contrast that with Everton, who in the shape of Arteta always look like they will deliver a creative spark.

On 63 minutes, the breakthrough came and even the most partisan of Scousers could not deny that on the balance of play West Ham deserved it. The ball was brilliantly back heeled by Parker tight against the dead ball line to find Collison in space. He did not funk the opportunity and passed a curling shot into the far corner. It was a deserved reward for a creditable performance that had more than a hint of Michael Carrick about it.

Change and no change

The response to the goal by Moyes was to take off Rodwell and send on James Vaughan. Clearly the intent was to try and chase an equaliser and we all knew what Curbishley would have done in response – a holding midfielder would have been brought on. Yet there was no sign of any move by Zola.

It was ultimately the managerial decisions which probably turned the game. The warning signs were there as West Ham seemed to drop off and started conceding free kicks and corners. We were lucky not to concede on 73 minutes as the ball flashed across the front of goal from a free kick from the West Ham right.

The rot set in following a foul by Matty on the left hand side of the box and he then got booked for dissent. It seemed to add to the destabilisation evident in the team as just afterwards a negligent act of hesitation by our left-sided defence saw Saha latch onto a loose ball and deliver a peach of a cross which left Neill and Collins nowhere. Lescott was not going to pass up on the gift-wrapped opportunity and he just diverted the ball past Green.

You had the feeling that worse was yet to come. And so it proved in a calamitous debacle of two minutes where Saha was to score twice. First we looked exposed again down our left as the ball got drilled in across goal and then got deflected in via Saha. Then we simply capitulated from the restart giving the ball straight away and Faubert cocking up to allow Saha to smack an unstoppable shot into the far corner.

Rarely has there been a disaster like that in the closing stages of a game. It felt like that catastrophe against the Spuds at home the season before last, although at least that time we had no choice but to try and find the winner and got caught in the counterattack. This time we brought the problem on ourselves.

Fragile

In control for most of the 90 and at some points playing some nice passing football against a poor Everton team, the weakness is in the fragility of the team at the moment coupled with some tactical naivety. The lesson from many of the relegated teams in the past is the inability to see out a game right to the end. Conceding late goals is toxic and always ultimately proves fatal.

Make no mistake, Zola’s honeymoon is over and we are now caught up in the midst of a lower table scrap. The real danger is that all of those Spuds jokes we have been enjoying until Harry pitched up like the prodigal son will soon be transferred onto us. 1 point in 18 says it all. No clean sheet since last February also reveals something very wrong. Couple that with our injury list and impecunious owner and you come up with worrying times for our club. The pressure is mounting and the next game against Pompey has already taken on must win proportions.

(player ratings courtesy of Gordon Thrower)



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Virtually unemployed all game. Not at fault for the goals.


Lucas Neill
Coped ok after the enforced move into the centre, though I prefer to se him at full back.


Herita Ilunga
Another strong performance from the left back who looked tight in defence and strong going forward.


James Collins
Was having a decent game until he spoilt it with his lapse of concentration for the first goal.


Matthew Upson
Was doing ok in a largely untested defence until the injury that ended his match.


Scott Parker
A good return that might have been marked better had he not tired alarmingly quickly in the second half. MOTM for the influence he showed for most of the game.


Lee Bowyer
Not as influential as Parker when in the middle he “did a job” on the right after the reshuffle before, like parker, he ran out of steam.


Julien Faubert
Didn’t really show much in midfield, his distribution leaves a lot to be desired – or as one of my neighbours in the ground put it: “he couldn’t deliver a newspaper”. Disastrous in defence at the end as two errors proved fatal.


Luis Boa Morte
Decent in his link up play during the first half little went right for him in the second.


Fred Sears
Continues to improve. His pace and tenacity caused numerous problems for the Everton defence.


Craig Bellamy
Another strong performance that went unrewarded with a goal. His dummy on the left in the first half was a thing of beauty.


Substitutes


Jack Collison
(replaced Upson, 15) A fine run-out from the bench. Rarely wasted the ball and the finish for his goal was superb.


Matthew Etherington
(replaced Boa Morte, 58) Looked lively when he came on and played a significant part in the goal. His booking was ridiculous.


Davd Di Michele
(Replaced Parker, 86) Damned if I can remember him touching the ball when he came on.


Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.


Walter Lopez
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.


Kyel Reid
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mark Halsey.

Attendance: 33,961.

Man of the Match: Scott Parker.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Herita Ilunga, James Collins, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Lee Bowyer, Julien Faubert, Luis Boa Morte, Fred Sears, Craig Bellamy.

Goals: Jack Collison 21  63                .

Booked: Matthew Etherington 81          .

Sent off: None.

Everton

Howard, Neville (c), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Arteta, Osman, Cahill, Rodwell, Saha, Anichebe.

Substitutes: Vaughan (Rodwell 66), Hibbert (Saha 90+1).

Subs not used: Nash, Baines, Castillo, Jutkiewicz, Gosling.

Goals: Lescott (83), Saha (85, 87).

Booked: Lescott (69).

Sent Off: None.

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Scott Parker


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