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Premier League
Saturday, 6th March 2010

West Ham United 1
Bolton Wanderers 2

by Gordon Thrower


Spare a thought for your correspondent. I had to watch this match. Then, having lived through it once, I had to relive the whole thing again for this report.

It was not a prospect that appealed come Sunday, which is how I ended up vacuuming the flat, changing the bedding, unloading the dishwasher emptying the bins, in short doing anything but starting to write a match report. I’d even have taken the dog for a walk but for the fact that I don’t own one. However, once the two Cup matches had been watched on the box and I’d had a nap, I could put the moment off no longer.

I actually got about 1,000 or so words in, then, as if in sympathy for the horrors I had to dredge up from the back of my mind, my computer had a breakdown. Well if it had to be one of us I’d rather it be the PC I suppose. The net result was that everything I’d written was lost.

So here I am, having to go through it all again. Only really there is only so much torture one should have to go through at any one time. So what follows is the edited lowlights of a thoroughly unsatisfactory day:

Team: Green, Faubert, Spector, Tomkins, Upson, Parker, Behrami, Kovac, Diamanti, Franco, Cole.

Davies set his stall out early on with a shocking late tackle on Faubert that the ref – who had a poor game – deemed worthy of only a free-kick. That set the tone for the visitors who rightly presumed that it was going to take something special for them to get a yellow card.

We went behind on ten minutes. Diamanti lost out in midfield, the ball was fed out to Lee on the right who crossed for Davies to head home without being bothered by the inconvenience of a challenge. Both Bolton supporters celebrated. Diamanti complained about the foul that had knocked him off the ball but to no avail. In any case, had the Italian actually put a decent challenge in rather than the rather girly effort that actually occurred, he’d probably have won the ball and we’d have been on the attack.

Cohen then committed the first of his yellow card challenges on Parker. Not that it actually got the yellow card it deserved, the laws of the game having been given the day off by ref Probert. Diamanti’s effort was close but not close enough.

Within 5 minutes we were two behind. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen us concede goals from situations where we’ve tried to shepherd the ball out for a corner. The latest culprit was Tomkins, who was already having a wretched match, was the latest culprit, getting far too little of his body between Davies and the ball. Davies hooked the ball across the box, Faubert was caught between Elmander and Wilshere, ending up marking neither. Elmander nodded down and Wilshere put the ball away with Green having no chance. Both Bolton supporters celebrated again.

A couple of minutes later Elmander found himself in acres only to put the ball tamely across goal for an easy save by Green.

A number of people passed out in shock as the ref finally produced a yellow card as Robinson cynically hauled down Behrami. Jaaskelainen saved Diamanti’s second free-kick.

The rest of the half comprised Carlton Cole getting caught offside and Jaaskelainen taking longer to take a goal kick than it does for me to type his name out. Even the ref noticed this occurring and decided to have a word, though whether in ignorance of the laws or just out of stupidity, he decided that the statutory yellow card that applies to players who delay the restart shouldn’t apply. Predictably, having worked out that he’d have to go some to get a yellow, Jaaskelainen just got slower and slower.

There was also the Tesco bag. This found itself going up and down our left wing, though none of our players saw fit to play the ball that way. It was still more interesting than events on the rest of the pitch which continued to consist of Cole getting caught offside, Jaaskelainen time-wasting and our midfield over-hitting passes.

The Hammerettes returned at half-time. The phrase that leapt to mind on seeing close up photos was “lord knows I’m not fussy but….”

We started out the second half brightly. Faubert got into a good position and put in a dangerous-looking cross. Unfortunately, in doing so, it appeared that he hadn’t warmed up properly for the second half and the hamstring epidemic that we had earlier in the season made an unwelcome appearance. You’d think that they’d issue the players with precautionary doses of Tamihamstring or something. Faubert was replaced by Dyer, making his second appearance following his latest injury, Behrami dropping back to right back.

Within a minute of coming on Dyer found himself in promising position but got underneath the shot, clearing the bar by some considerable distance. Muamba then became the latest yellow card for a trip on Parker as he burst through. Given that his colleagues seemed to have been given diplomatic immunity from cards he can possibly feel a bit hard done by – but the card was justified. Diamanti’s free-kick failed to beat the wall.

Jaaskelainen’s time-wasting was, by now, getting ridiculous. Apart from ensuring that every goal-kick was taken as far away as possible from wherever the ball happened to be, we were treated to the sight of him clearing imaginary bits of grass out of the way in the manner of a golfer lining up a putt. In fact one goal-kick took so long to complete, that Guns n’ Roses recorded and released a new album in the time it took for the ball to come back into play. Probably.

Sadly, the Tesco’s bag had also picked up an injury and had failed to appear for the second half, which was a shame as it meant having to watch the match. Still the ref had woken up and a mere 40 minutes after his first yellow card offence – and 30 minutes after his second – Cohen finally picked up his first yellow for upending Behrami. Shortly after that Mido replaced Franco – not that it made a lot of difference.

Cohen then picked up his second yellow for his fourth offence which was yet another cynical trip on Parker. Better late than never I suppose. At this point there were the better part of 20 minutes left to play. However, it took a good ten of those minutes to develop any sort of urgency and, even though Stanislas came on to replace Kovac, it took far too long for the penny to drop, that, perhaps, playing with a bit of width might just stretch an opposition playing with ten men.

Diamanti’s frustration with events boiled over on 80 minutes when he took a wild hack at Davies – definitely a yellow, though Diamanti could have been forgiven for thinking that he was allowed three of them before facing punishment.

With 5 minutes left the referee finally booked Jaaskelainen for his time wasting – a mere hour after he should have done. This didn’t stop the ’keeper taking an age at goal-kicks but Probert, predictably, failed to take any further action.

On 88 minutes we scored. It was actually a superb goal – far better than the game deserved in all honesty. Diamanti cut across the box and, as he has threatened to do on a number of previous occasions, curled a glorious left foot shot inside the far post – though he could hardly have looked more fed up had someone nicked his iPod and replaced every track with remixes of “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

The fourth official announced 5 minutes of stoppage time – which was the bare minimum it should have been. Davies then stuck the ball over via the top of the bar before, up the other end, Stanislas’ first time shot thundered against the lower part of the crossbar, causing earth tremors that will, no doubt, be used as an excuse by Transport For London for Jubilee Line closures for the next few years.

That was about it. It was a rotten performance. The passing was non-existent and there seemed to be a lack of fight about the team – and that was just the Hamerettes. The players were even worse I’m afraid to say and, though Stanislas’ late effort would have gained us a point at the end had it been half an inch lower, it would have been a point undeserved.

All in all a depressing – and flipping cold afternoon as well. Never have the electrically-heated seats in the Upton Girlie-mobile been more welcome.

Thankfully we still have Wolves, Sunderland and Wigan to face at the Boleyn and those results will probably decide our fate. However ideas will need to be bucked up big time – especially as I have no desire to go out and buy a dog.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
No chance with either goal. Solid enough otherwise.


Julien Faubert
Ok up to a point but had his match curtailed by injury.


Jonathan Spector
Stuck to his task despite little protection from those in front of him.


Matthew Upson
Better than Tomkins – but not by much.


James Tomkins
A right ‘mare against Davies – barely won a header all afternoon and as for the second goal...


Scott Parker
Some good runs from deep but failed to shoot on occasions when he ought to have done – and shot once or twice when he shouldn’t have.


Radoslav Kovac
Poor – his passing really needs working on.


Valon Behrami
Pressed into service as emergency right-back which put the brakes on his running.


Alessandro Diamanti
Bottled the challenge for the first goal but still looked like one of the few players capable of doing something. Superb goal. The sponsors gave him MOTM – I’d have gone for the Tesco bag myself.


Guillermo Franco
A few decent touches first half but disappeared in the second.


Carlton Cole
Barely at the races – and continually caught offside.


Substitutes


Kieron Dyer
(Replaced Faubert, 47 mins) A couple of tricky runs but guilty of missing a chance or two.


Mido
(Replaced Franco, 67 mins) Came on for Franco. Apparently.


Junior Stanislas
(Replaced Kovac, 76 mins) Brought some much-needed width to proceedings – once the other players realised he was there. Unlucky not to score at the death.


Marek Stech
Did not play.


Fabio Daprela
Did not play.


Manuel Da Costa
Did not play.


Ilan
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Lee Probert.

Attendance: 33,824.

Man of the Match: Alessandro Diamanti.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Jonathan Spector, Matthew Upson, James Tomkins, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac, Valon Behrami, Alessandro Diamanti, Guillermo Franco, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Alessandro Diamanti 88                  .

Booked: Radoslav Kovac 34 Alessandro Diamanti 79        .

Sent Off: None sent off     .

Bolton Wanderers

Jaaskelainen, Knight, Robinson, Steinsson, Ricketts, Cohen, Muamba, Wilshere, Lee, Davies, Elmander.

Substitutes: Gardner (Elmander 75), Taylor (Wilshere 78).

Subs not used: O'Brien, Al Habsi, Riga, Weiss, Klasnic.

Goals: Davies (10), Wilshire (16).

Booked: Robinson (24), Muamba (56), Cohen (63), Wilshere (73), Jaaskelainen (85).

Sent Off: Cohen (72).

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Alessandro Diamanti


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