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Premier League
Saturday, 28th November 2009

West Ham United 5
Burnley 3

by Gordon Thrower


To think that, before kick-off, I had genuine concerns that this would be a 0-0 draw!

Those of you who have been regular readers of this rubbish over the years will be aware that I am honoured to count Maltese Hammer as a good friend. However, his visits to the Boleyn do cause me something of a problem. Going back a few years now, in the dark days of the Championship when MH was actually London-based, his appearance at a match would invariably coincide with a no-score draw. His last visit was about a year ago when we played Pompey at home. Don’t bother looking up the result. So whilst I was genuinely pleased to receive the phonecall advising me of his intention to bring the delightful Hazel over for her first match, my mood was obviously tempered with the worry that we could do with goals and the three points.

There were enforced changes to the XI that had started up at Hull. Upson had caught the hamstring epidemic doing the rounds, though Ilunga had recovered from his own version of the injury. This resulted in a welcome switch for Gabbidon from the left-back position, in which he’d looked so uncomfortable seven days previously, to a more familiar central slot alongside Da Costa. Behrami also missed out, presumably, given his absence from the bench, through injury. This left us starting thus: Green, Spector, Ilunga, Gabbidon, Da Costa, Parker, Kovac, Collison, Stanislas, Franco, Cole.

Of the two sides, Burnley started, well if not actually the brighter, they were probably the less dim of the two sides and they had a couple of decent chances to take the lead within the first ten minutes. Bikey powered through the defence to unleash a shot that Green found too hot to handle with Da Costa clearing the rebound for a corner. Shortly after our vulnerability from set pieces raised its Dowie-like head as Carlisle rose above Da Costa. Parker was, thankfully, on the line to clear.

We settled down a bit after the nervy start and started to create chances of our own. Franco fed Collison on the right and ran onto Collison’s return cross only to see his fine header hit the bar.

Then the madness started. Parker was tripped up in a central position. Barely pausing to blink, he took a quick free-kick having spotted Collison on the move. Collison beat the offside trap and was composure itself as he calmly side-footed past Jensen to send us 1-0 up. A fine goal that owed much to the quick-thinking of both those involved.

Burnley pushed forward for an equaliser and Elliott gave the Bobby Moore Stand some catching practice as Spector gave the ball away on the edge of the box. However, we could have doubled the lead on 25 minutes. Stanislas’ cross from the left was blocked and fell to Ilunga. Cheri’s first-time cross into the box was superb and Franco was again unlucky to see his header go narrowly over. However the second goal was not long in coming.

Spector’s throw was cleverly chest-controlled by Franco who laid off a sublime through ball for Stanislas. Junior’s first effort came back off the somewhat bulky frame of the ‘keeper, forcing Stanislas wide. Taking a touch to compose himself, Stanislas elected to go for goal and the ball went in off the far post as Jensen dived the other way to cut out the cross that never came. Burnley had moans that Franco had handled in the build-up – he hadn’t – and that Stanislas may have been offside – he wasn’t.

So 2-0 up. Time to start worrying. The mood wasn’t lightened by a collision between Cole and Jensen that left the striker looking in considerable pain. Indeed, with the stretcher coming on, it came as some surprise when Cole managed to struggle to his feet and, eventually, return to the pitch, though clearly the rest of the half he was fighting a losing battle against the knock. However, he was able to make one further contribution to the match.

Franco fed Kovac whose pass inside the full-back was perfect. Spector cut into the box and the combination of a tug by Jordan and a clip of the heels by Blake sent him tumbling for Foy to award a penalty. I’ll admit I was concerned to see the clearly unfit Cole placing the ball on the spot, concerns that appeared to be shared by several of the players judging from the discussions that were taking place on the pitch. However both mine and their fears were allayed as Cole calmly slotted home to send us 3-0 up.

That was the last meaningful action of the half. During the interval deserved applause was given to a contingent of soldiers who, in a nice gesture, were at the match as the guests of the Club. It is to be hoped that they survived their night out in Romford as well as they survived the horrors of Afghanistan.

To nobody’s surprise, Cole failed to reappear for the second half, with Hines coming on to replace him alongside Franco. We didn’t have to wait long for the fourth. Five minutes into the half Hines was hauled over by Jordan. Stanislas’ curled free-kick into the box was inviting, an invitation gratefully accepted by Franco who got across his marker to head home from close range. That was about it for Jordan, who had been responsible for playing everyone onside for two of the earlier goals and he left to be replaced by Kalvenes. More significantly, Nugent came on to replace Blake as Burnley sacrificed the extra man in midfield to go with two up front.

Nugent could have pulled one back just short of the hour. Looking suspiciously offside when through he pulled a dreadful shot wide from 12 yards. Nugent also had a free header from similar distance which ended up in a similar position to the earlier shot.

Franco, who had had a fine game, was replaced on the hour by Jiminez. There appeared to be a good-natured reluctance to leave on Franco’s part, suggesting that there might have been a bit more left in the tank than is usual at that stage of the game. The generous applause was well-merited. It didn’t take long for the bizarrely-coiffeured Jiminez to get on the scoresheet. The inspirational Parker went on his umpteenth surging run of the day and slipped a fine reverse through ball for Jiminez to latch onto. The Chilean beat Jensen to the ball and was upended by the ‘keeper who, despite giving away the penalty, escaped the yellow card that is standard in such situations.

Jiminez took the penalty himself and, as Cole had done earlier, he placed the ball down the middle as Jensen helpfully dived out of the way.

We should have had another penalty shortly after. Parker and Jiminez combined well on the left of the box and Jiminez placed a fine ball through to Hines who beat Jensen to the ball only to be flattened by a blatant trip. Unfortunately the ‘keeper was reprieved by an incorrect offside call from a flag-happy linesman.

So 5-0 up and I was prepared to concede that even we couldn’t throw it away from there. Probably. Burnley gained what we all thought was probably a consolation effort. Eagles’ low ball into the box somehow managed to elude no fewer than four claret shirts before being turned in by Fletcher. Sloppy.

Four minutes later Burnley doubled their tally. Eagles’ low ball into the box somehow managed to elude no fewer than four claret shirts before being turned in by Fletcher. If that last sentence seems familiar it is because the goal was virtually identical to the earlier goal, which should worry those responsible for coaching our defenders.

Spector was getting little help from Collison on the right and the Welsh international was replaced by Faubert with 14 left. Ref Foy had had a poor game up to this point, continually getting in the way and displaying only a passing acquaintance with the advantage law. As is his wont he penalised Parker for an imaginary foul. Eagles’ free-kick clipped the outside of the post though Green had the shot well-covered.

We should then have had yet another penalty. Stanislas and Faubert combined and sent Hines into the box. Hines first survived a shove but the subsequent trip was blatant. Foy might have ben able to blame his linesman for the earlier decision but for this one, given the excellent view he must have had, he clearly bottled it. The only possible reason I can come up with for n spot-kick being given must have been a desire on the referee’s part not to award three penalties in the same match. More dishonest refereeing from a poor official – and quite where the five minutes of stoppage came lord knows. Every week one of us guesses the amount of stoppage correctly but the five minute figure came so far out of left field that nobody got close – meaning it’s a rollover for next week.

There was time for more shenanigans. There didn’t seem to be much on from a long clearance from the back as Hines chased Caldwell. However, Caldwell made a right hash of things and pulled the shirt off Hines. A clear red card though that didn’t stop Jensen talking his way into a yellow – something that would have been more costly had Foy remembered to issue the earlier yellow card that his challenge on Jiminez had merited.

There was time for one final defensive lapse. Mears played a ball inside Ilunga. The cross came in from the right and Fletcher eschewed the chance of a hat-trick by dummying for Eagles to put away the visitors’ third. Thankfully it was too little too late to have any meaningful impact on proceedings, though it did mean that the post-match celebrations were a tad muted.

I suppose how you consider this game in the grand scheme of tings will depend on whether you are a glass half full or half empty sort of person -though even the most optimistic of us would baulk at the thought of having to score five every week simply to have a chance of winning a game. Apart from anything else I’m not sure that Maltese Hammer would be able to afford two air fares to come over every week. Perhaps you should try just sending Hazel mate – we’d look after her!

Perhaps the last word on a strange day should go to John Lyall (may he rest in peace). Commenting on an identical scoreline at Turf Moor in the mid-seventies he is said to have told journalists “would you have preferred a 0-0 draw?!” Not me John.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Barely had a shot to save but, thanks to those in front of him, let in three goals.


Jonathan Spector
Did well in winning the first penalty but still looks the sort of player you only pick when someone better isn’t available.


Herita Ilunga
Some good stuff early on but caught out of position a few times second half. Notably for the third goal.


Manuel Da Costa
Like Gabbidon he went from comfortable to dodgy once Burnley introduced a second striker.


Danny Gabbidon
Recovered from a shaky start to look ok for much of the game – until Burnley went with two up front.


Scott Parker
Best player on the pitch by a country mile. Personally I see him as more of a captain than Upson.


Radoslav Kovac
One of his better games. Kept it simple and his ball through to Spector for the first penalty was excellent.


Jack Collison
Quick thinking and composure for the goal but guilty of failing to help out Spector in the second half.


Junior Stanislas
Nice finish for the goal - and a fine delivery from the free-kick for Franco’s.


Guillermo Franco
Good game. Some of his chest control was superb. Looked good in the air and held the ball up well.


Carlton Cole
Given that we were 3-0 up at half time when he was withdrawn through injury, I’m hoping his substitution was precautionary in nature. Make that praying.


Substitutes


Zavon Hines
(Replaced Cole, 46 mins) Though he wasn’t at his most dominant, better and more honest officiating might have seen him win two more penalties.


Luis Jimenez
(Replaced Franco, 60 mins) Good run for the penalty which he duly converted for his first goal for the club. However, coming as he did into a match when 4-0 up, I was hoping for a bit more from him.


Julien Faubert
(Replaced Collison, 77 mins) Some good stuff going forward but, like Collison before, seemed a bit lacking defensively.


Peter Kurucz
Did not play.


James Tomkins
Did not play.


Mark Noble
Did not play.


Frank Nouble
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Chris Foy.

Attendance: 34,003.

Man of the Match: Scott Parker.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Herita Ilunga, Manuel Da Costa, Danny Gabbidon, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac, Jack Collison, Junior Stanislas, Guillermo Franco, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Jack Collison 18 Junior Stanislas 33 Carlton Cole 43 Guillermo Franco 51 Luis Jimenez 64          .

Booked: Radoslav Kovac 64 Herita Ilunga 84        .

Sent off: None.

Burnley

Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Eagles, Alexander, Bikey, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher.

Substitutes: Kalvenes (Jordan 55), Nugent (Blake 55), McDonald (Alexander 70).

Subs not used: Penny, Duff, Gudjonsson, Thompson.

Goals: Fletcher (68, 74), Eagles (90+5).

Booked: Jensen (90).

Sent Off: Caldwell (90).

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Scott Parker