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Premier League
Monday, 16th March 2009

West Ham United 0
West Bromwich Albion 0

by Gordon Thrower


We’ve been spoilt, haven’t we.

I’d like to start a campaign to ban certain people from entering the country on days when West Ham are playing. It’s not that I have anything against them. Indeed I find the likes of Maltese Hammer and John from Norway, splendid company. However, whenever these chaps pop over to see us the game is invariably awful.

To be fair I couldn’t really blame Maltese for this one – he’s back home in Malta suffering with back problems – though over the years he’s seen more 0-0 draws than should mathematically be possible in supporting a side that plays in so few of them. No, this match was entirely the fault of John, his Robert Green lookalike mate and his brother, who was doubly to blame since this was his first visit to the Boleyn.

The warning signs were there as soon as John - who makes several visits from the land of the £9 pint a year - pointed out that the last match he'd actually seen us win was the Cup Semi-Final at Villa Park against Boro', a match warmly remembered for Harewood's late winner and the marvellous quality of the writing in the matchday programme. Our own programme for this one further set the tone for what was to come, lazily reprinting a league table that was two matches out of date.

The team was down to its proverbial bare bones of course, following injuries to Collison and Behrami, and the ridiculous sending off of Carlton Cole by Stuart Atwell who was rewarded with a trip to Ebsfleet for his incompetence. The return to fitness of Boa-Morte did give Zola a few options in the middle and up front though in the end Savio was preferred on the left to give us a starting line-up of Green, Neill, Ilunga, Tomkins, Upson, Noble, Parker, Savio, Kovac, Sears, Di Michele.

The match started poorly - and got worse. Items of note were Sears getting hauled over in the box without a penalty being given, Robinson going down up the other end under the lightest of touches from Neill for identical reward, Morrison waltzing through a non-existent defence bringing out a fine save from Green and, worryingly, the departure of Upson on a stretcher to be replaced by Spector. The latter incident took a fair few minutes to sort out, so the multi-million pound rollover pot we have in our part of the ground in the “guess the stoppage time” competition will have to wait another week as ref Halsey added a mysterious single minute to proceedings – though he was possibly acting purely to spare the crowd from having to watch any more of what was on display.

Half time was spent applauding the laps of honour undertaken by the West Ham Ladies and Ladies U15 teams who won their respective versions of the Essex County Cup recently – though I thought it a bit rotten of them to make the poor girl with the crutches do the lap as well. Still, well done to them anyway. “Things Can Only Get Better” went the song – mind you the keyboard player had one eye on going to work on the Large Hadron Collider at the time.

Whatever the song was really about it certainly didn’t have the second half of this one in mind. It didn’t get better. It got worse. West Brom got players behind the ball, flooded the midfield and generally made things difficult for a side lacking inspiration and guile. On the relatively few occasions we did manoeuvre ourselves into semi-decent positions there was a marked reluctance on the part of anyone in claret & blue to actually get into the box. So backwards we went time after time.

There was really only one incident of note in the second half – and once more it got us talking about referees. A corner from the West Brom left was headed onto the bar by Martis as Green lie on the ground. Now whilst it’s entirely possible that Halsey missed the forearm smash on the keeper from Albion defender Olsson, for him to view the assault later on and to then decide that he wouldn’t have awarded a red card was simply a cop-out of the lowest order.

That was it really. Savio cut in from the left and put a shot from a promising position well wide and Di Michele made an attempt on the world record for the number of shots to go out for a throw-in and. Despite the lengthy period of treatment dished out to a clearly groggy Green as he cleared his mouth of assorted bits of bitten-off tongue, plus six substitutions, Halsey charitably made us endure a mere three minutes of stoppage time, a calculation that was baffling in the extreme.

You get the impression that the ex-keyboard player out of D-Ream would probably consider the Higgs Boson to be a piece of cake compared to that particular example of refematics. The game petered out and the most interesting thing about the evening turned out to be the discovery of the fact that Norway John and I share a birthday.

This was a rotten game no doubt. However, there were understandable reasons for this. Most of the players that might have made a difference were either on the treatment table or suspended for a start. As suggested, I also reckon we’ve been spoilt – win lose or draw this season we have, by and large, been entertained on the whole, so when we get stuff like this served up it’s easy to be critical.

Hopefully though, the days of seeing matches like this every week are gone – though the new owners (if/when they arrive) should be shown a DVD of this match to show them what might happen every week in the event that investment is not made into ensuring that there is a bit of depth to the squad. It’ll have to be a Cert 18 though!



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Man of the match almost by default. Fine first half save. Did ok second half despite spending much of it dizzier than a vertigo-sufferer in a skyscraper.


Lucas Neill
Solid enough when moved into the middle after Upson’s departure, though the suspicion remained that a sterner test might have caused problems.


Herita Ilunga
An off-day. Started with a foul throw and went downhill from there.


James Tomkins
Solid enough defensively but lacked imagination when bringing the ball out of defence.


Matthew Upson
Was doing ok until the calf gave out.


Scott Parker
Ok at winning the ball but gave it away far too much.


Radoslav Kovac
Not quite as adept at winning the ball as Parker. Gave it away as much.


Mark Noble
The lad is clearly well out of sorts at present. A bigger squad might see him given a break but for the foreseeable he’ll be in the starting line-up.


Savio Nsereko
His mind seemed to be on making an impression rather than the game in hand.


Fred Sears
Lots of running that seemed to come to an abrupt halt as soon as he came anywhere near the box.


David Di Michele
A bit of a ‘mare as they say. Formed no partnership whatsoever with his striking companion.


Substitutes


Jonathan Spector
(Replaced Upson, 29 mins) Gave his man far too much time and space. And please could somebody point out that Rugby is the game where you get penalised if the ball goes forward.


Junior Stanislas
(Replaced Savio, 68 mins) A couple of promising touches but it was always going to be hard coming into such a dead game.


Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Noble, 82 mins) Would chase back well, win the ball then lose it.


Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.


Walter Lopez
Did not play.


John Payne
Did not play.


Diego Tristan
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mark Halsey.

Attendance: 30,842.

Man of the Match: Robert Green.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Herita Ilunga, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac, Mark Noble, Savio Nsereko, Fred Sears, David Di Michele.

Goals: None.

Booked: Savio Nsereko 67          .

Sent off: None.

West Bromwich Albion

Carson, Zuiverloon, Martis, Olsson, Robinson, Morrison, Koren, Dorrans, Greening, Brunt, Fortune (Moore 80).

Substitutes: Moore (Fortune 80), Simpson (Brunt 80), Teixeira (Morrison 88).

Subs not used: Kiely, Hoefkens, Cech, Bednar.

Goals: None.

Booked: Olsson (83).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Robert Green