Filed: Saturday, 1st September 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham produced one of their best performances in recent seasons as they put London rivals Fulham to the sword with comparative ease at the Boleyn Ground this afternoon.
Sam Allardyce's side, boosted by the inclusion of new signing Andy Carroll took less than a minute to break down the Cottagers' defence and that goal - expertly dispatched by captain Kevin Nolan - set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Having been well beaten at Swansea last week this game was a test of the team's resilience - and it was one that they passed with flying colours, scoring three and creating a hatful of chances in a game that was mostly one-sided until the closing stages.
Carroll - whose inclusion created a tangible buzz around the stadium ahead of kick-off- was heavily involved in two of United's three goals. And he had an instant effect, with his first touch in a claret and blue shirt leading to the opening goal.
It was his header - beating Fulham's Brede Hangeland for the first of several occasions on the day - that found Ricardo Vaz Te, which the Portuguese forward turned back inside for Nolan to fire expertly across the body of Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with less than 60 seconds on the clock.
Sam Allardyce has often stressed the importance of set pieces so it was therefore no surprise when West Ham's second goal came from such a move.
Matt Taylor, only playing due to the enforced absence of new signing Matt Jarvis - who was ruled out with a thigh injury ahead of kick-off - delivered a hanging corner which Winston Reid latched on to and planted firmly beyond Schwarzer, who was a spectator as the ball flew past him.
And the first half rout was completed four minutes ahead of the break when Mark Noble's free kick from the halfway line was delivered towards Carroll on the edge of the penalty box. The 6'3" striker leapt salmon-like to beat three defenders to the ball, nodding it down for Taylor who fired home with a textbook strike.
The visitors, clearly shell-shocked by West Ham's stunning first half display sought to make amends by introducing their new star signing for the second half. But Dimitar Berbatov, signed ahead of the transfer deadline from Manchester United failed to make any sort of impact despite producing some neat touches and one or two fancy flicks.
Clearly feeling the loss of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey who moved to Tottenham in the week, Fulham were never really at the races despite staging a late rally with West Ham content to sit back and protect their comfortable three-goal lead.
Jussi Jaaskelainen, who received a deluge of criticism following his error at Swansea last week atoned for that error with a confident display and was more than a match for anything the visitors threw at them - even though he had to call upon the aid of his left-hand post to prevent Hugo Rodallega from grabbing a late consolation.
The only sour note of the day came 23 minutes from full time with the enforced withdrawal of new boy Carroll who felt his hamstring after jumping to head a ball with his marker Hangeland in close proximity.
His prompt removal - which will rule him out of the forthcoming England fixture - drew a huge round of applause from an appreciative Boleyn faithful who had been thoroughly encouraged by an excellent debut performance.
Sam Allardyce, who sang Carroll's praises post-match will no doubt be hoping he has the striker available again for when West Ham resume their Premier League programme against Norwich City at Carrow Road in a fortnight's time.
THAT'S PONY: A member of the West Lower's security team sports a Carroll-esque hair-do
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by George Brand
10:09AM 2nd Sep 2012
''Understandably the focus was on Carroll today in what was a great display for the fans. Without taking anything away from his contribution though this was a tremendous team display and the energy and committment was truly outstanding.
Perish the thought that one should agree with Shearer on MOTD but all the players played at a higher level than even against Villa. The sponsor for the MotMatch award managed to maintain their usual inablility to make the right choice though both Noble and Diame were absolutely magnificent and deserved an award each. Great day out.''
07:22AM 2nd Sep 2012
''The season starts here, then. Against a Swansea side as bad as Villa, we gave exactly the same insipid display. The difference being that we handed the Swans two goals instead of shutting them out, and deserved to be beaten, if only for that third goal, which was was the one piece of decent football in the entire poor game. Today, we looked like West Ham again.
I was surprised we got him, in the end. As many people have said, Carroll is not a £35m player, even in today's ludicrous transfer market. But many have also said he's not worth £10m, and that's equally ludicrous. An out of form AC is worth £15m; in form, £20m+, and we seem to have got the in-form version on yesterday's showing. He put in a, quite literally, towering performance.
Poor old Carlton - he must feel a bit sick right now. Everything CC has been doing for the last few seasons, AC has just come in and done, only better. Tremendous in the air, he works hard up front too, and makes life a misery for the opposition defence. He's not only good on the ground, but he also has an astonishingly tight turning circle for a big man. And whilst CC isn't exactly Emile Heskey, AC seems to have better balance too!
I'll even spare a kind word for Nolan. I'm no fan of his, and often find his attitude on the pitch poor; mouthing off at officials and getting involved in argy-bargy he shouldn't be anywhere near is not a captain's role. Today, there was only one incident, late on, of gobbing off at the ref, and his performance was mmmm.. not quite excellent, but very close to it. More games like that and I might even become a fan.
For the rest, I can only find a couple of criticisms. I saw quite a lot of games last year, and we didn't look like West Ham a lot of the time. Today, we kept it on the floor most of the time, and passed it around as of old. Fulham looked terrified of Carroll, and gave us far too much space to play our game, but we still have to take advantage of that, and we did. Vaz Te had one of his better games (probably because he was under no defensive pressure on the flank), Noble was his usual tigerish self in the middle, the centre-backs were as solid as they were against Villa, and Demel looked like a player worth his wages.
The blots on the day? Obviously, Carroll doing his hamstring seconds before he was to be subbed anyway. Post-match reports suggest it's only tight, rather than a pull. Let's cross everything & hope. It'll be all too typical West Ham if our marquee signing crocks himself before 3 matches have gone by!
O'Brien, though, continues to leave me unimpressed. I sincerely hope we don't play very many games with O'Brien & Taylor on the left. Better teams than Fulham will see that as an area to exploit & will take advantage. Taylor's distribution, especially on crosses, was erratic, to say the least, and apart from the corner that we scored from, those were pretty poorly taken too, whoever was knocking them in.
Overall, though, the sort of performance you want to see from West Ham, and one that bodes well for the rest of the season. We've an international break now, so hopefully the big man will be back for that. If he continues in today's vein, we'll have no worries about staying up though, I fear, we won't be able to hang on to him come the season's end...''