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Premier League
Saturday, 30th January 2010

West Ham United 0
Blackburn Rovers 0

by Gordon Thrower


And so a new era begins. After a number of years struggling to keep up I have finally bitten the bullet and replaced the keyboard with which I type this stuff out every week with something that actually works properly. The old one had to go – it was showing a strange reluctance to type the letter “e” which is a bit unfortunate when you consider that “e” happens to be the most used letter in the English language. And we have new owners.

I understand that pre-match the entertainment consisted of a medley of cockney classics including the song inspired by this very site, probably. I managed to miss this treat having agreed to be the spare ticket distributor for the day meaning I was stood outside shivering and vowing to deck the next person to start pontificating to me about global warming.

Team news was that, for the first time since Arsene Wenger had decent eyesight, we were unchanged giving us a starting line-up of Green, Faubert, Spector, Tomkins, Upson, Behrami, Parker, Noble, Collison, Diamanti, Nouble. The good news was that the bench looked strong with the rehabilitation of Ilunga, Parker and Cole from injury meaning that the trio were able to take the bench which, I hope, contains some form of heating. Not available for selection was Benni McCarthy. Whatever the reason for the delay in his signing, I suspect that there was probably no way he was going to play in this one.

The match started scrappily – and stayed that way really. A dangerous cross from Faubert didn’t get the touch it needed to convert it into the goal it deserved and a Diamanti free-kick from a wide position that Robinson elected to treat like a hot potato were probably the highlights of the first 25 minutes whilst on 35 minutes Green appeared to lose his bearings temporarily. There are better times to do this than when a dangerous inswinging corner from Pedersen is on its way but thankfully the ‘keeper recovered enough to tip the ball over. Then, as if to underline exactly how scrappy the game had been, Pedersen stuck the resulting corner straight out of play and into the side netting.

Emerton incurred the wrath of the eccentric Mr Walton with a cynical - but probably unnecessary- tug back as Diamanti made a break to become the first yellow card of the day. As the resulting free-kick went in Kovac found himself with a defender’s arms round him before being shoved to the ground in one of those incidents that indicate referees have their own special unpublished set of laws whereby stuff that would be given as a free-kick outside the box suddenly becomes totally acceptable 18 or fewer yards out.

It was less than enthralling stuff as we shivered our bits off – my mood not being improved by the receipt of a text from my Mum telling me just how hot it was in Cape Town from where they were watching the match. Much as I love my Mum, at this point I made a mental note to reduce the budget for her Mother’s day present this year. Emerton then stopped a promising break out from defence with a blatant handball – his third of the day – which, had Walton managed to spot it, might have seen the Aussie in a spot of bother. However, the fact that a referee is well-placed to spot something doesn’t always mean that they’ll actually spot it – as Tomkins found out last week at Pompey.

Blackburn, as is their wont, were looking for set pieces and it has to be said that they have caught the Liverpool habit of going down under the lightest of touches. Walton fell for most of them, most notably when Pedersen flattened Behrami with a forearm into the chest before going down himself to somehow gain the free-kick. Pedersen took it himself which came back off the crossbar and that was just about it for the half. It was indeed a poor half – so much so that I actually fell asleep for 20 minutes typing this out!

There were no personnel changes at the start of the second period, though Behrami did get a spot of watch-tapping from Walton for being last out onto the pitch, presumably having had a few problems getting the flush to work. Sadly, all thoughts that things might improve, faded as the match settled down into the same predictable pattern as the first. The stringing of passes together seemed to be an alien concept throughout the day with the lazy ball into touch being very much the order of the day.

Something had to change and eventually the management realised that playing an inexperienced 18 year-old up front on his own against the sort of central defence favoured by Allardyce was never going to pay dividends. Exit Kovac and enter the much awaited form of Carlton Cole. His impact was almost immediate – though it took a Blackburn-esque long throw from Diamanti to set it up. Cole controlled and seemed about to pull the trigger but Nelsen managed to hook it out for a corner.

Diamanti’s corner caused a little concern in the Rovers defence as did his follow-up cross into the box which fell for Tomkins whose shot was deflected over for another corner from which nothing interesting came.

Tomkins then fed Diamanti who cleverly fed the ball through to Nouble. Nouble got the better of Nelsen whose desperate tug back should have resulted in a penalty. Though it is to the youngster’s credit that he stayed on his feet, it is small wonder that teams go down under the slightest touch these days if referees are going to ignore obvious fouls like that. A relieved Nelsen got back to put the ball out for a corner, which was used by Diamanti to give Robinson catching practice.

Pedersen then played the ball a few inches too far ahead of the obnoxious Diouf who, instead of making the effort to keep the ball in, elected to expend energy on having a dig at his team-mate for not playing the ball he wanted to the exact millimetre. You can see why Diouf has few friends in football.

With 70 played Behrami was replaced by Parker, which was another welcome return. Faubert then teed himself up for a shot that bothered nobody except the ballboy out by the corner flag. Kalinic was then replaced by Roberts. This was a change we didn’t particularly want to see as, limited though the striker is, he was the sort of awkward player that could cause us problems.

Roberts' arrival came at the end of a spell of pressure on the Rovers goal and it heralded the start of what was the visitors’ best period of the match. Roberts made his usual nuisance of himself in the box and the ball came out to Olsson whose drive was well-saved by Green with Parker on hand to put the ball out for the corner.

The corner came over with the block on Green and Upson being ignored by the ref. Givet’s shot flicked off Upson on the ground onto Noble’s arm before Cole hooked it clear. Allardyce in his post-match interviews was, predictably, critical of the ref’s failure to give the penalty, though it would have been impossible for Noble to get out of the way. You just know how the two-faced tub of lard would have done his nut had the decision gone against him up the other end.

Then Roberts got on the end of a long ball from the back and, pausing only to push Tomkins out of the way, saw himself clean through on goal only to shoot weakly. The save was good but Roberts ought to have put it away.

Our best effort came next when Samba fouled Cole. Diamanti’s free-kick was superb causing Robinson to scramble across his goal to tip it over. The resulting corner fell eventually to Collison as Samba raised his hands to slyly shove Noble out of his way and the resulting shot was deflected out for another corner which came to naught.

With 12 minutes left Sears replaced Nouble in an attempt to inject a bit of fresh pace up front. Sears’ first contribution was to earn a corner from Faubert’s fine ball down the line. Diamanti and Noble combined and Diamanti’s ball into the box caused havoc with Upson and Collison both seeing shots blocked before Diamanti’s well-hit shot from outside the box was held by Robinson.

On 82 minutes Diouf left the field to be replaced by Hoilett. Actually it was 82 minutes gone when the fourth official held the board up. It was sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning by the time he finally left the field. Despite “hurry-ups” from both Diamanti and Walton, Diouf left with all the pace of that bloke who used to run the marathon in a deep sea diver’s outfit, though without quite displaying the same sense of urgency. As usual Allardyce had plenty to say about the incident at the time but like the real thing, football’s John Prescott made little sense.

Our match was then summed up in one move. Parker did superbly well to get to the by-line and played an inviting ball across the face of the goal which nobody took a gamble on. In fact so bereft was the six-yard box of claret (with far too little blue) shirts that Parker would probably have been better advised to have had a shot, tight though the angle was. Parker then got on the end of a diagonal ball from Upson but couldn’t get enough on the turn to pull it back and Robinson saved comfortably at his near post.

4 minutes of stoppage time came and went without much of note and the match came to an end. Allardyce’s comments that they were “disappointed” not to have won seemed strangely at odds with his players’ jubilant celebrations at having got an away point.

As you’ve probably worked out by now, this wasn’t a good game. It’s far from the worst I’ve seen at the Boleyn though – but there again I’ve been going there for something like 42 years now so there are a few horrors to choose from in that respect. We certainly lacked the creativity to break down a typical Allardyce side. The arrival of McCarthy will at least take some of the pressure off one or two of the younger members of the side and it is to be hoped that there will be at least one other arrival to freshen up the squad.

Still at least I didn’t fork out £52.5m to watch that one!



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
A couple of fine saves though his kicking has seen better days.


Julien Faubert
A decent game – even more so given the sad news of his mother’s death. Our best wishes go to him and his family.


Jonathan Spector
Had good and indifferent spells – including one storming run in the first half that came to a hilarious end as he found himself just outside the box surrounded by opponents.


Matthew Upson
Marshalled Kalinic well while he was on the pitch.


James Tomkins
Not bad on the floor but given a harder time when Roberts came on.


Valon Behrami
Not one of his better afternoons but still put in a fair bit of running.


Radoslav Kovac
Had a similar game to Behrami without putting in the mileage. I suppose that’s economy of effort for you.


Jack Collison
Looked ok sporadically but delayed shots and passes a couple of times too much for my liking.


Mark Noble
Not a bad first half but his distribution went off the boil in the second half.


Frank Nouble
A few good touches but clearly needs time to develop – hopefully the arrival of McCarthy and A.N.Other and the return of Cole will allow that to happen at a more sensible pace than has been possible up to now.


Alessandro Diamanti
Probably our only creative outlet on the day. His free-kick was probably as close as we got to scoring.


Substitutes


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Kovac, 58 mins) Good to see him back. Looked a bit rusty but still caused the odd problem. His most telling contribution though was his goal-line clearance in the second half.


Scott Parker
(Replaced Bahrami, 70 mins) Another one it was good to see again. Showed why we need him fit and well in the middle.


Freddie Sears
(Replaced Nouble, 78 mins) Earned a corner but was largely anonymous in the few minutes he was on.


Marek Stech
Did not play.


Herita Ilunga
Did not play.


Manuel Da Costa
Did not play.


Junior Stanislas
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Peter Walton.

Attendance: 33,093.

Man of the Match: Julien Faubert.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Jonathan Spector, Matthew Upson, James Tomkins, Valon Behrami, Radoslav Kovac, Jack Collison, Mark Noble, Frank Nouble, Alessandro Diamanti.

Goals: None.

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off     .

Blackburn Rovers

Robinson, Chimbonda, Samba, Nelsen, Givet, Emerton, N'Zonzi, Olsson, Pedersen, Diouf, Kalinic.

Substitutes: Andrews (Emerton 58), Roberts (Kalinic 71), Hoilett (Diouf 84).

Subs not used: Brown, Salgado, Reid, Di Santo.

Goals: None.

Booked: Emerton (38).

Sent Off: None sent off.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Julien Faubert


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