Portsmouth 2 West Ham United 0
Sunday, 15th October 2006
by Nick Bull
Football is a funny old game. Overcast weather, awful facilities, poor stewarding, an average performance and another disappointing defeat. The trip to the South Coast was, surprisingly, a waste of time. Luckily Alan McInally’s antics gave the travelling fans something to laugh about. Perhaps the requests from a handful of fans for him to play against Tottenham next week are a good call. A sign of the times?For some reason, I had a mid-week feeling that this game would be nice to the team. That all went up the wall following Anton?EUR(TM)s ill-fated visit to a nightclub (when will they learn what a bad mix this is), Pardew?EUR(TM)s alleged comments and, dare I say it, more takeover talk. Hearing the starting line up didn?EUR(TM)t exactly install confidence in me. Sheringham hasn?EUR(TM)t scored in six months, and Zamora simply doesn?EUR(TM)t look like creating chances at the moment. At the start of the season, most Premiership teams probably viewed this team?EUR(TM)s frontline with envy. Ten games played, six goals scored (five by the Z-Man) really outlines the problem.
For their form this season, and a lofty league position to match, Portsmouth were hardly a class apart. Aided by the pests with drums and the most woeful-sounding trumpet I?EUR(TM)ve experienced, the home side were able to muster up a tepid performance. Notably, Pompey hit the back of the net twice, which is probably double the amount of good attempts had by the away side. And this isn?EUR(TM)t the first time it has happened this season.
I struggle to think why each individual unit (defence, midfield, up front) simply are not performing to their abilities. Admittedly, the back-four has changed virtually every week this season, largely through injuries. This lack of stability will hardly help any side, though this isn?EUR(TM)t an excuse I would embrace with open arms. Considering how much has been spent on the defenders in the squad, personally I don?EUR(TM)t think it is wrong to expect a cohesive unit to form regardless of changes.
The newest addition into the starting line-up, Jonathon Spector, is clearly finding playing in the right-back spot a problem. From his two appearances thus far, my mind suggests he is an out-and-out centre back. Mr. Paintsil should be back for the London derby next weekend, so I imagine the American will lose his place. As feared, Anton did not look comfortable today, and the horrifically out of form Danny Gabbidon put in a performance to match his colleague. For the umpteenth time this season, Konchesky looked a weak link in both going forward and in his defensive duties.
The much used ?EUR~on-paper?EUR(TM) cliche about how strong this unit looks, and can be, will inevitably surface again. I really could not care. It is what goes on on the football pitch that matters ?EUR" and it simply isn?EUR(TM)t happening. Worryingly, it seems Roy Carroll will be made the scapegoat for all this. Sure, his kicking is not exactly stunning, but his passion is clear. (Saying that, having Robert Green play a game could aid the defence ?EUR" I guess when it happens we will all get an idea how true that is.)
Someone next to me told me Yossi Benayoun started the match. I cannot recall one thing of note that aided the performance yesterday. If, like Spector, he prefers to play in the middle, then someone needs to step in for him on the flank. His continued drifting into the centre unbalances the side, and leaves a grand berth of space for the opposition to capitalise on. I wouldn?EUR(TM)t even like to say where he could fit in in the centre, and I struggle to think of a natural right-sided player to replace him.
His poor form this season made Reo?EUR"Coker a contender for the chop, but his first half performance probably was enough for him to remain in the line up. Sadly, he became largely anonymous after the interval. Next to him, Hayden Mullins did what was asked, typically in his unassuming manner. I think he may get dropped for Tottenham, although Mascherano hardly had the time to enhance his chances of playing. Saying that, Matty Etherington played the full ninety, and did not do himself any favours. His confidence is clearly very low, highlighted by his refusal to take on his man, and the (poor) quality of his final ball.
I guess the same is true of the strikers at the minute. As this baron run extends to become even more concerning, their performances are becoming increasingly scrutinised. I am guilty of doing this yesterday, and to be blunt, goals are not in this team at the minute. Bobby and Teddy were very poor, Marlon and Carlton hardly had opportunities to get in the game, but the root of the problem simply is not the two up top. Yet again, they had so little to fed off from, so it is the whole team who should be scrutinised for the lack of goals.
Several hundred words in, and my main worry has not yet been said. The forthcoming eight fixtures are really worrying me. This latest defeat is the worst preparation possible for next week; a game that means so much to West Ham fans. Tottenham have hardly hit top-form themselves this season, following their draw at Villa Park I fear they may be (loosely) rising up the gears. Chesterfield in the League Cup is hardly a tie that excites me, they way things are going. Arsenal are looking strong, Chelsea have kept their luck, we?EUR(TM)ve a crap record at the Riverside. Happy Hammer? Not me.
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Player RatingsRoy Carroll
Possibly the last of the Ulsterman for the time being ?EUR" a possible victim of the team?EUR(TM)s faultering form, which is hardly down to him.
Ex-Manchester United player. Apparently.
Looked a mile away from his top form. Competition is needed urgently.
Unsurprisingly poor, midweek events all told.
Looked very average. A microcosm of what has gone wrong in this side.
One of the better players in claret and blue.
Early signs of desire faded in the second half.
Didn?EUR(TM)t even know he played. Was never in the game.
Very average on the left. Final delivery was notably woeful.
Like Zamora. Starting the old man could well be a sign of an impulse reaction by Pardew.
Ineffective + no service = bad combination.
(Replaced Sheringham, 70) Did little, had no help from the midfield.
(Replaced Zamora, 70) Part of a double substitution, possibly came too late.
(Replaced Benayoun, 86) Had no time to make an impact.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Roy Carroll, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Bobby Zamora.
Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 22 Teddy Sheringham 26 Matthew Etherington 43 Paul Konchesky 76 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Primus, Stefanovich, O'Neil, Mendes, Taylor, Fernandes; Kanu, Mwaruwari..
Subs not used: Kiely, Pamarot, Davis..
Goals: Kanu (25), A Cole (82)..
Booked: O'Neil (17), Campbell (65), Mendes (73), Johnson (75)..
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins.