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Premier League
Saturday, 15th November 2008

West Ham United 0
Portsmouth 0

by East Stand Martin


This week it had taken me about two days to calm down after listening to that jumped up gobshite Brian Mawhinney having a pop at Sir Trevor because the latter had the audacity to express his frustration about the development of young English players. That little exchange summed up what is wrong with football in this country when you get self-important opinionated committee fodder like Mawhinney in positions of power.

Listen Brian, you pompous pr*ck, answer me this. What the f*ck do you know about coaching young football talent? Sir Trev comes from the renowned Academy of Football. You, on the other hand, were a second rate Tory MP. Do us all a favour and crawl back under whatever rock you came from. If I ever hear your nasal whine again it will be too soon.

Anybody but him

That tw*t aside, you could feel the tension in the air at the Boleyn Ground today. The display of self-harm that took place in those last minutes against Everton just seven days before were still front of mind. On the plus side the team looked like it might fare better with the return of Carlton Cole and Behrami, and anybody but Faubert at right back. 4-3-3 was the setup though, with Bellamy and Sears placed in the left and right channels. Collison was also given his chance again, preferred over Bowyer no doubt because of his fine performance in the previous game.

Sears was the first to show on 5 minutes as he picked up a loose clearance, ran down the line and sent over a cross which looked like it hit a hand in the box. Ilunga was waiting on the opposite flank and whipped in a good ball which only just went over the head of Cole.

Two minutes later, Collison made a fine run through the middle and tried a slide rule pass through to Bellamy, but the alert James was on hand to run out and clear.

Not right

Ex Hammer Glen Johnson – and how we would all love to see him back in the claret and blue to fill the problem right back position – showed great finesse running down the touchline on 9 minutes, beating two defenders and then angling in a pass to Defoe in the box. The man who our much missed former Chairman described as ‘not right in the head’ to provoke a sale in the January of our first season after relegation shot lamely wide under pressure from Rob Green.

A minute later, good movement by Bellamy saw him find some space about 25 yards out, but his snap shot was blocked on the edge of the box.

Lucas Neill overhit a back pass which Green had to control on his chest and clear on 12 minutes. Then on 17, Cole battled for a ball which Behrami picked up and then sent into the box which Bellamy tried to over ambitiously scissor kick. Johnson was on hand to chest back to James.

A minute later, midfield dynamo Lassana Diarra had to be replaced following an injury. Traore came on as his substitute.

Collison was on the move twice on 24 and 26 minutes as first he fed Sears following quick feet in the centre circle. The youngster’s ball into the six yard box was good but was cut out. Then Collison burst out of defence, got tripped yet regained his balance to try a shot 35 yards out which went well wide of the left hand post.

Crouching kitten

The West Ham central defence looked unsure on 29 minutes as there was a poor defensive header allowing Crouch to latch onto the loose ball. He shot poorly wide when he should have really at least hit the target.

A move on the half hour saw Parker hit a decent pass through to Bellamy in the box. His first touch was reasonable but he was shut down by James. Then two minutes later a deflected shot resulted in a wicked spin on the ball which Green couldn’t prevent going behind the goal. The half clearance from the corner saw Defoe gather on the edge of the box but his attempt was blocked wide for another set piece.

Carlton Cole was trying to up the tempo but Distin was like a brick wall down the right on 35 minutes. Not for the first or last time in the match, the returning striker ended up on the deck. A minute later Bellamy found room for a cross but Behrami couldn’t head back towards Cole around the six yard box. Parker picked up the clearance but his shot was delivered straight back at David James.

Cynical

Behrami was cynically taken out on 38 minutes and former lillysh*te Pamarot got a deserved yellow. Bellamy took the free kick but you wonder whether Collison with his cultured right foot might do better as the ball was way overhit and neither Neill nor Collins could pick it up.

Johnson ran dangerously into the box and went sprawling with three minutes of ordinary time left. A spot kick was half expected but the ref was not interested.

In added time, West Ham were under pressure from a corner but Green managed to just about get enough of a fist on the ball to clear.

Former goalkeeping legend Phil Parkes appeared at half time for a bit of inane chat but we were all most cheered to hear that he was the happy recipient of a new hip. Next home game McAvennie will be along to tell us all about his penis extension.

Defoe threatens

The second half saw the immediate introduction of Matty for Sears which was no surprise as the latter had been largely absent during the first half, struggling against the physical presence of the Pompey defence.

It was Portsmouth however that looked the most likely to hit the back of the net with Defoe on the rampage. On 47 minutes he turned past Neill without a second thought, ran into the right side of the penalty area and attempted a curling shot into the top left hand corner. Green had to pull off a fine one handed save.

Right after this major scare, Defoe was at it again as he stretched out a foot to bring down a ball over the top. It was a brilliant take and he tried a lob over the advancing Green who was just tall enough to parry.

Cole made a good turn on 51 minutes and linked up with Bellamy but he was too wide of goal and his shot was easily gathered by James. A minute later, West Ham’s best chance of the match arrived when the team’s most accomplished winner of free kicks – Behrami – was fouled in an ideal spot just on the edge of the D. Bellamy stood up to take it and he unleashed a Tevez-like shot which smacked the crossbar full on and rebounded out to Collison on the edge of the box. He was only able to hit a weakfish shot straight along the ground to James.

Impending doom

The substitution we were all dreading took place on the hour as Ilunga was replaced by Faubert. Neill was sent out left and Faubert took up the right back position which simply isn’t his own.

Etherington made his first impact on 63 minutes as he burst down the left. A pass was laid off to Parker but he shot poorly over. A minute later, Bellamy made a lovely flick to send Cole on his way, but Behrami could only execute a weak far post header.

Then the last thing everybody wanted to see – Defoe one on one with Faubert – but unusually the striker seemed to slip allowing the ball to loop up harmlessly. On 71 minutes, Collison made a useful run forward following a Portsmouth attack. The young midfielder appeared to panic as he approached goal and blasted wastefully over.

Crouch – who’d not used his freaky lankiness to any effect at all in the game – was replaced by the unpredictable Kanu on 75 minutes. Just after this, the tactical substitution that should have been made at about this time seven days earlier happened when Mullins was sent on for Parker.

Mullins made an instant impact, finding space down the right and delivering a dangerous cross which was just too high for Cole. It was another example of some distinctly average final balls.

Behrami, nicknamed the ‘shinpad tester’ by a fellow Eaststander, won another one of his trademark free kicks on 80 minutes, but another underwhelming delivery by Bellamy resulted in a foul on James at the far post.

Mugging looms

The mugging in the final 10 beckoned as Kanu found a pass out left to Defoe. The search party was out for Faubert whose positional sense is comparable to that of Captain Scott and Defoe looked certain to score as he ran in on goal. Fortunately Green’s legs were the saviour.

West Ham’s final chance was on 86 minutes when a free kick down the left was launched into the box. Head ping-pong resulted but the ball was never brought under control.

In many respects, this was a worse performance than that against Everton last week. Parker certainly did not look as sharp and the 4-3-3 setup in the first half produced very little with Sears looking out on a limb. Cole had a poor game, lacking control and struggling against a strong Portsmouth defence.

Let off

There seemed to be an inevitability in the air about the game – little sign of West Ham scoring and the expectation of the pressing of the self-destruct button at the death. Green saved our bacon and the biggest surprise was that Defoe contrived to spurn three very good chances.

The egg shell fragility of the team continues and an injection of confidence is sorely needed. The pre-Xmas games are both challenging and could easily send us into the trapdoor three. The manager seemed content with a point but the first clean sheet since February is cold comfort at the moment. 2 points out of 21 does not feel any better than 1 point out of 18. We are clearly bereft of creativity and end product – something needs to change for the better and fast.

(Player Ratings by Gordon Thrower)



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Made a number of decent saves – though his handling let him down a bit early on.


Lucas Neill
Did ok at both right and, eventually left back when forced to move by Cheri’s injury.


Herita Ilunga
Not as impressive going forward as he has been of late but sound enough defensively. Not sure how serious the knock was.


James Collins
Same as Upson. Kept Crouch quiet. Had a battle to keep up with Defoe.


Matthew Upson
Looked ok against the ineffective Crouch. Defoe’s pace caused problems though.


Scott Parker
Tried to run the midfield but the final ball was lacking – at least he was replaced on time this week.


Jack Collison
Another good run out for the lad who continues to impress. In the unlikely event that we ever get a fully injury-free squad it’ll be interesting to see where he lies in the pecking order.


Valon Behrami
Got some good bursts in and his runs often ended up with us gaining free-kicks in decent positions. If only we could make more of them count.


Fred Sears
It wasn’t quite working for Freddie out there in the first half though his pace caused an occasional problem.


Carlton Cole
Failed to cause too many problems for the Pompey defence – I expected him to look a little hungrier after his enforced absence.


Craig Bellamy
The free-kick aside he failed to show what he can do. Badly needs a goal.


Substitutes


Matthew Etherington
(replaced Sears, 46) Failed to take on the full back when he should have. Did so when he shouldn’t have. Ignored when he should have been fed. Played in when he shouldn’t have been. Gave the ball away too much.


Julien Faubert
(replaced Ilunga, 61) An improvement on his nightmare of the previous week. Glad he wasn’t exposed to Defoe for much longer though.


Hayden Mullins
(Replaced Parker, 75) Did his usual defensive shore-up job in the last 15.


Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.


Calum Davenport
Did not play.


Lee Bowyer
Did not play.


David Di Michele
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

Attendance: 32,328.

Man of the Match: Robert Green.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Herita Ilunga, James Collins, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Jack Collison, Valon Behrami, Fred Sears, Carlton Cole, Craig Bellamy.

Goals: None.

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent off: None.

Portsmouth

James, Johnson, Kaboul, Distin, Pamarot, Diop, Davis, Diarra, Belhadj, Crouch, Defoe.

Substitutes: Traore (Diarra 19), Kanu (Crouch 75).

Subs not used: Ashdown, Hreidarsson, Nugent, Hughes, Mvuemba.

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent Off: None.

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Robert Green


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