Sunday, 9th May 2010
Team news was that Daprela was finally given another start and there was a return from injury for Luis Boa Morte, missing since the 12th minute of the pre-season Asia Cup match in Beijing. Diamanti returned to the starting line-up of Green, Faubert, Daprela, Upson, Da Costa, Parker, Diamanti, Boa Morte Kovac, Cole and Ilan. For the visitors, whilst Tevez was on the bench, Bellamy was nowhere to be seen - “tight hamstring” being the official explanation.
The match started slowly with both sides seemingly content to take turns in knocking the ball about. City's first effort on goal came from a free kick for a non-existent foul given by Howard Webb whose season has been s poor as ours. Adebayor threw himself to the ground when Kovac got vaguely close and, despite being in a good position, Webb gave the free-kick. If he gives those in South Africa all the time he'll be back home before the first round is over. Adam Johnson's free-kick curled directly into the arms of Green who didn't suffer the inconvenience of having to move to make the save.
Our first chance wasn't long in coming – a pass effort from Ilan not quite playing Cole in, though Cole's reluctance to try to swing a boot at the ball was disappointing. Boa-Morte then had a go, winning the ball in midfield but slicing his shot from distance.
Having seen Adebayor win a free-kick for a dive, the City players quickly showed that they were quick to learn as Santa-Cruz became the next player to go down. Johnson's shot took a slight deflection but Green was able to adjust and save comfortably. A more outrageous dive from Wright-Phillips saw that Webb was beginning to learn from his own mistakes, though it continues to baffle me why referees fail to issue yellow cards for such offences as they are required to by the laws.
We took the lead 12 minutes in – and it was a decent goal too. Diamanti's audacious back-heel played in Boa-Morte who clipped the ball past the advancing 'keeper. Boa-Morte understandably in his first start from serious injury enjoyed his celebration committing the cardinal sin of removing his shirt as he did so. Now please could somebody tell me why referees will go out of their way to issue a yellow card at the sight of a bare midriff? Oh they always look apologetic when they do so of course - “I'm sorry I have no choice” is the usual mantra. Well referees also have no choice but to issue yellow cards when a player dives but they always seem to forget. Either way, it was ludicrous that LBM spent the rest of his match only a mistimed tackle (or opponent dive) away from a dismissal.
The lead lasted all of four minutes. Johnson went down the right and clipped a ball to the far post where, unmarked, Wright-Phillips was able head in across Green to level the scores.
Johnson then had a shout for a penalty as he went down under a challenge from Upson, though the defender had got enough of the ball. Adebayor then had the ball in the back of the net but having not quite made it back onside during the build-up the goal was rightly disallowed for offside.
Our turn to go on the attack and Diamanti enlivened proceedings by using LBM' s outside run as a decoy before unleashing a low drive that beat Fulop but not the post. Adebayor then was fed but hit his shot straight at Green who saved well. From the resulting corner Santa-Cruz was the latest to be given a free header but his effort was well wide, ending the half.
After a half-time interval spent listening to Mitchell & The Aussie with the Greek name that I can't remember or be bothered to look up plugging their fight at the Boleyn, we prepared ourselves for what was going to be a rip-roaring feast of end- to-end football. Actually we didn't. We prepared ourselves for 45 minutes of typical end of season fare. Just as well really, because that's precisely what we got.
Cole got under a cross from Faubert to head wide. Man City decided that the goal was by far too easy a target and sent a succession of shots high and wide – even making the upper tier of the STB on one occasion. Diamanti decided that, since it was a training match, he'd try a few tricks, including a mid-air scissors shot that he didn't get enough on. Parker went on a run during which he was fouled three times but, taking advantage of the advantage he managed to feed Ilan whose shot lacked confidence and came back off the advancing Fulop.
Parker put one over, Santa Cruz did the same at the other end. It was practice tit-for-tat by and large. LBM and Cole left on 65 minutes – LBM possibly for the last time given that his contract is up this summer. Stanislas and Franco came on in their place. Franco gave the keeper a catching practice and photo opportunity with a shot that he'd have been better off mis-hitting.
Tevez came on with about 15 minutes left. His ovation was possibly the most animated thing in the ground during the second half. Now the ovation was fair enough but is it just me being a grumpy old man in thinking that the love-in that marked the last quarter of an hour was a bit OTT? Isuppose I can chalk that one down to it being end of season.
The wave of love and affection seemed to effect Tevez who made a very good job of pretending to try to score without actually scoring. He had a few chances that one might have expected him to stick away but he'd forgotten to calibrate the radar and the scores remain level. Mind you Carlos, if you're going to try to make it look convincing I wouldn't let Kovac take the ball off you in the future. Once is an accident but twice? Too obvious I'm afraid – a bit like Gerrard's back pass to hand Chelsea the title the other week. Not subtle.
Stanislas missed an air shot as Wright-Phillips put yet another free header over. You can tell the point at which nobody is taking it seriously – players start to roll the ball under their feet at every opportunity. After a few moments of dull ball-rolling we brought on a kid – Jordan Spence – so they brought on one of theirs (Cunningham). The ref decided that three more minutes of jogging were required, probably as a warm down, during which Franco got a free header from a corner totally wrong and the corpse of what had once been a game of football twitched its last to bring the curtain down on a disappointing season.
There were of course various presentations to be made and, the voting having wisely NOT been outsourced to Ant & Dec, Parker picked up his player of the year, Player's Player of the Year, Goal Of The Season and, for all I know, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry awards.
It's been a poor season all round really. Ok I wasn't looking for top 4 stuff – we are after all the ultimate realists at the Boleyn. However, mid table and a wee bit more should have been attainable. The reason we didn't get there? Well if you're going to be missing half your squad for half the season and you have faceless owners who have no inclination in remedying the situation you're always going to struggle. The change in ownership came in the nick of time to save us from possible administration and, if ultimate safety owed as much as to the poor efforts of the bottom three as it did to the desperate signings made as the window closed (where would we have been without Benni McCarthy?) at least there is a degree of stability about the club that was all too absent earlier in the year. Ah well , let's just file this one under “one to forget” and look forward to next season.
As it's the last one of the season just a few acknowledgements to them who have helped get me through the season with relatively few “voluntary” trips to padded cells: Trev, Alan, Katherine, Sam & Joe who are my long-suffering neighbours in our bit of the West Stand. Jolly nice people with whom it is a pleasure to spend 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. Romford for being a good mate and sorting out away travel – Chastours'll see you right. Matt & Sam – thanks for the voice recorder which is most useful. Hope to see more of you at the Boleyn next season. At the club, Greg Demetriou has been both helpful and accessible throughout what must have been a trying enough season without having to deal with fools from a website. Similarly, cheers to all in the press room (with the possible exception of some of the journalists!) for looking after us on matchdays. Much appreciated ladies & gentlemen.
Final hats off to Upton Girlie & Tomas for being good chums and for all the lifts to and from matches. Now Ms Girlie, ifyou could stop drooling down the back of my neck every time Kovac brushes his hands through his hair I'd be very grateful!
Have a good summer everyone!
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Click here to view all match reports by Gordon Thrower
Bossed the box well and made a couple of decent saves.
Did a job – I didn't think we'd be saying that about him this time last year. Caught marking two for their goal.
Showed promise – though there was a bout of a ball-watching in the first half that he'll need to eradicate.
A couple of well-timed tackles, not much else to report.
Manuel Da Costa
I like the way he brings the ball out of defence. Relatively solid.
I saw him misplace a pass. No really I did. Probably one of the few who didn't treat the afternoon as a gentle work-out.
Took the ball from Tevez a few times before reverting to type and giving it away.
Suberb touch for the goal. A busy afternoon.
Luis Boa Morte
Good goal from one whose personal year has been rotten.
Normally we get an anonymous performance with an all-important goal. We got that again. Without the goal.
Struggled throughout before being subbed. Needs a rest and, on this form, he'll get one while the World Cup is on.
(Replaced Cole, 64 mins) Got into good positions but his finishing lacked conviction.
(Replaced Boa Morte, 64 mins) If it wasn't for the air shot I'd have forgotten he was there.
(Replaced Diamanti, 87 mins) A few minutes for the youngster at the end. There'll be tougher challenges.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Scott Parker.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Fabio Daprela, Matthew Upson, Manuel Da Costa, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac, Alessandro Diamanti, Luis Boa Morte, Ilan, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Luis Boa Morte 17 .
Booked: Luis Boa Morte 19 Fabio Daprela 64 .
Sent Off: None sent off .
Fulop, Toure, Sylvinho, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, de Jong, Vieira, Kompany, Johnson, Adebayor, Santa Cruz.
Substitutes: Tevez (Sylvinho 73), Richards (Santa Cruz 73), Cunningham (Johnson 89) .
Subs not used: Garrido, Nielsen, Boyata, Ibrahim.
Goals: Wright-Phillips (21).
Sent Off: None.