Yet another failure to build on a good home performance as we visit the tackiest stadium in the Premier League – at least until SJP makes an unwelcome return. Pete Sixsmith accepts that Zola’s Boys wanted it more than we did and is entertained by Neil Warnock on a long journey home.
The old maxim goes “After the Lord Mayor’s Show comes the dustcarts”. Presumably the dustcarts are there to pick up the rubbish left – and there was plenty to pick up after this apology of a Premier League game.
Last Saturday, we warmed to two teams who appeared to be able to make passes, create chances and right royally entertain a big crowd.
This Saturday we had to endure two teams who had difficulty in making accurate passes, created a handful of chances and drove a full house at Mockney Castle Park to frustration and boredom.
West Ham deserved to win the game because they wanted it a lot more than we did. Never mind the fact that Sunderland had sold their ticket allocation and that fans had had to make early starts to get there, there was the feeling amongst the travelling support that our players knew they were safe from relegation and that the gravy train would continue to call at their stations next year.
The Hammers knew that if they lost, they would be in serious trouble and that relegation would be a probability rather than a possibility.
They responded by playing in a way that relegation teams have to adopt if they are to avoid visits to Doncaster, Scunthorpe et al and scrap and chase and harry the opposition.
It worked. They stopped us from moving the ball around. Henderson was double and sometimes triple marked. The narrow pitch meant that Malbranque could not get as wide as he would have preferred and there was always a committed West Ham defender there to prevent the ball breaking to Bent and Campbell.
They showed little creativity other than getting the ball up to Carlton Cole as quickly as possible and for the first thirty minutes, Turner had him pocketed. Then Cole began to get on top of our skipper and the game began to swing towards the Hammers.
In the second half, it was Cole who set up the winner for Ilana with a good header and he looked a decent player for forty minutes.
I have an issue over the goal though. The referee, Mike Smith (he of the Liverpool beach ball fame) had pulled Turner out of his defensive position to tell him, in his role as captain, that if Meyler committed another foul, he would be booked. Turner then had to get back into position to pick up Cole and the fact that he was not as close to the forward as he would have wished, may well be down to the fact that he had been pulled out by Smith.
It’s an observation, not an excuse and I wonder if the referee’s assessor had spoken to The Beach Ball Kid at half time and suggested that he be a little more demonstrative with his decisions. Whatever, we gave away a sloppy goal and it was uphill from then on.
Bent fell over when in an excellent position – would he have done if he had been wearing proper studs with little nails attaching them to the sole of his boot – and WHU brought on Franco, who proceeded to fall over every time he got anywhere near the ball. Somehow, I don’t think Ron Greenwood would have approved of him!!
So, yet another disappointing trip and we have two games to try to improve on our wretched tally of a single away win. It was a long journey home with the Walkman and Neil Warnock’s autobiography to keep me company on the coach. It’s an entertaining read in which Warnock charts his many promotions, clubs and disagreements with all and sundry. I picked it up for 90p in Borders’ closing down sale, and his observations on Gary Megson, Stan Ternent, Graham Poll and Steve Bennett kept me entertained and amused as we rolled up the A1.