The West Ham Soapbox: Nolan foils Sunderland smash and grab raid

Jake shared Sixer's frustration

Pete Sixsmith thought for 81+3 minutes that he might be watching a team that had learned at last how to hang on to or, better still, build on a lead. Alas, old habits returned and the Hammers got their deserved equaliser against a Sunderland defence once again playing – or made to play – far too deep …

It was almost a very good day out. Glorious weather, a couple of enjoyable pints in excellent company and the likelihood of hanging on for the first win of the season meant that getting up at 4.45 wasn’t such a bad deal. And then …

Along came Kevin Nolan, who has been a bête noir as far as we are concerned. His hat trick at the SDA was followed by a goal that we just managed to cancel out in the return game. As he departed the Premier League for what looked like a couple of seasons in the Championship, it looked as if we would never see him again.

No such luck. Up he popped, 93 minutes into the game, to score what, in truth, was a deserved West Ham equaliser, turning on the ball and squeezing it past the impressive Simon Mignolet to foil our attempts to pinch a win at the Boleyn Ground.

For much of the game we had defended stoutly and with intense concentration, repelling the aerial bombardment that the Hammers had subjected us to. Bramble and O’Shea were outstanding, and although some of the defending was skin of the teeth stuff, it looked as if we were going to keep a second successive clean sheet in London.

In fact, we could have been two up and sitting comfortably. As West Ham pushed forward, there were gaps to exploit and a good run by McClean led to a low cross that the onrushing David Vaughan was a smidgeon away from turning into the net with a diving header. But he didn’t. And we weren’t. And they came back.

Steven Fletcher (who else) had given us the lead in the ninth minute, when Seb Larsson took advantage of a Nyron type pass by Collins to play the Scots goal machine in. One touch and a shot across Jaaskelainan, and the ball was nestling in the back of the net and we had 81 minutes to hold out.

Mignolet made a cracking save from Mr Bête Noir and in the second half, Big Sam clearly told his team to disregard any forms of subtlety and throw the ball up in the air as high and as often as you could.

We helped the West Ham cause by sitting too deep so that when we did have possession, we usually gave it back to them so they could lob in even more balls into the box.

Fortunately for us, they were lobs and not particularly dangerous crosses, and the fact that Carlton Cole was the target for them helped us considerably. He looked a Championship player throughout and when Andy Carroll is fit it could well be curtains for Carlton.

Jake looks drawn

Had we won, it would have been the classic smash and grab raid, one that had it been perpetrated on us would have lead to vitriolic outbursts from bloggers, condemning the away team and bemoaning our misfortune. When the boot is on the other foot, as I suspect it will be a number of times this season, it may well be wiser to keep schtum and accept the point(s).

There were some very good performances, starting with Mignolet who looks a very good keeper indeed. Danny Rose did well, with one great header foiling an earlier second half equaliser. Gardner turned in another steady performance and one run and cross set up McClean for a chance which he scuffed.

The Tweeting Derryman is still looking a little off the pace. He worked extremely hard, tracking back, coming across into the centre, but the spark from last season has not yet been fully re-ignited. He had an excellent chance in the first half but hurried his shot where an extra five yards going forward might have made all the difference.

The remaining midfield three were hard working and industrious without ever really threatening to open up the Hammers. They were faced with an extra body in midfield and at times looked as if they might be overrun, particularly by the flying wardrobe known as Mohamed Diame.

But they stuck to their task and when Larsson went off to be replaced by David Vaughan, there was a hope that our ball retention might improve. If it did I failed to notice it, although Vaughan was as busy as ever and could have sealed the game for us.

Sess still looks rusty, but there were some signs of improvement. He moved the ball on quicker and chased and harried when he dropped back, but he is rarely seen in the opposition box and he has yet to show that he can link effectively with Fletcher.

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As the clock wound down, the gnawing of finger nails continued, but when Fraizer Campbell limped off to be replaced by David Meyler with seconds remaining, there was hope that we might close it out. Alas no. Jarvis chased a loose ball, Meyler missed him, the ball was lobbed back over into the box, where Maiga helped it on for Nolan to spoil the day.

Four games played, four games unbeaten, but also, four games without a win. There is an inner strength about the team which indicates that the players have clearly bought in to MON and his philosophy. That feeling was not there 12 months ago under his predecessor and it was around this time that the serious grumblings started.

I did not detect any undercurrents yesterday, but fans do feel that we need to be a little more proactive when we are ahead and go for (and score) that goal that will kill off the opposition. Maybe we should use Saha more – if his knee is up to it.

West Ham worked hard and they will be in no danger of relegation, unlike the two who came up with them. Like us, they have a work ethic and an experienced manager who knows where all the elephant traps in the PL are located.

The trip down was a dream as the autumn sun shone over the English countryside and Sounds of the Sixties rang out in my earphones. Brian Matthew and his producer Phil Swern always look for a real stinker to play and they found a gold plated one on Saturday, a 1967 ditty called Peace by The Wedgewoods. Mr Horan and myself sat open mouthed in disbelief at this one; it was almost as awful as a last minute Kevin Nolan equaliser.

34 thoughts on “The West Ham Soapbox: Nolan foils Sunderland smash and grab raid”

  1. In support of A T Hedley’s comment about Monty, I recall many years ago, the then Arsenal manager Bertie Mee making that very point. He said that although he [ Monty ] wasn’t the best technical ‘keeper, he was the best in the country on his line. [ this was in the days of Banks and Bonetti to name but two ]
    I wholeheartedly agree. He was the best shot-stopper I have ever seen. I also think that his size probably affected his ability to dominate the penalty area. He was about 5.10 I would guess, and there were some pretty fearsome centre-forwards around in those days, and far less protection for the goalkeeper.
    I think Mignolet will be fine. Goalkeepers usually don’t reach their peak until their late twenties anyway. But he does need to work controlling the box. The best I’ve seen in that area was Peter Shilton.

  2. The numerous times I’m referring to is when nobody takes responsibility and he should be flattening all in front of him. When he eventually decides to come he normally punches it, often resulting in it slicing over the bar or onto an opposition player’s foot.

  3. Goldy said “I acknowledged that he’s a great shot stopper and will be a great keeper. Westwood, in my opinion, is ahead of him at present in that he commands his area. Just as important.”

    No, I appreciate that you did. My point was about him “moving his feet.”

    There’s a school of thought (which Alan referred to), which is if the ball is there for the centre back to head away, then leave it to them to do it. It can be considered a shortcoming or reluctance etc by some but a strategy to others in terms of how to organise a defence.

  4. Stats that Re far too ambiguous I said, balls from deep that are aimed down channels or to Fletcher were implemented when defending under pressure. When impetus was on West Ham to create, they opted for this tactic. When we had impetus, we did not.

  5. A few OPTA stats for those claiming West Ham were the long ball side and Sunderland looked to pass and get down the wings

    Total passes
    West Ham: 454
    Sunderland: 291

    Long passes (% of total passes)
    West Ham: 13%
    Sunderland: 14.8%

    West Ham: 42
    Sunderland: 11

  6. Always a pleasure to welcome opposing supporters here but I have watched CB’s comments with growing surprise. Although this is a Sunderland site, I struggle to think of any fan site anywhere on which you’d find a more even-handed account of a match than appears above.

  7. Goldy. I am surprised that anyone would criticise Mignolet for not moving his feet. The save he made in the first half was out of the top drawer and an example, par excellence on a goalkeeper doing just that.

    It was such a good example that I kept replaying it (even though the footage wasn’t that great), for my son to watch and learn from (aspiring goalkeeper). Mignolet for me is one of the best keepers that we’ve ever had in my opinion and has the potential to be the best in the world. He is not the finished article at this point but seems to be getting better and better all the time. I think he’s even an even better than keeper than Kelvin Davies 😉

    • I acknowledged that he’s a great shot stopper and will be a great keeper. Westwood, in my opinion, is ahead of him at present in that he commands his area. Just as important.

  8. Interesting observations on Mignolet. In the first half, Larsson had a real go at him for not coming. He is like Gordon; he leaves the heavy stuff to his central defenders. I still think that he is a very good goalkeeper though and Westwood will do well to usurpe him.

  9. I said this in the Martin’s Musings piece, John. In fact, I’ve been saying it since he signed. Rooted to the spot and silly little attempted punches of the ball. I’m in the minority, but don’t rate him that highly. It’s like his feet are super glued to the floor. Two of my match colleagues agree with me that Ward is a better keeper, and they’re keepers themselves.

    Mig will be great, however. He’s young and a great shot stopper. Move them feet lad.

    • You are not necessarily in the minority most people consider him a great stopper but complain that he does not control his box.

      We used to have another goalie like that called Montgomery who suffered from the same problem but made up for it by miraculous reactions and he was purportedly the best goalie in the world on his line.

      MON made the comment some time ago that Mig needed to bulk up and that was a very good point. If you remember Manu’s goalie Peter Schmeichel he was a big lad and it might do our player some good to watch him on videos. As far as a defenders point of view was concerned any ball in the box was Schmeichel’s, and it didn’t matter who was in the way, attackers, or his own players. you could often see people flying out of the way as if a bulldozer had hit them and Schmeichel would come down to earth or rise up from the ground with the ball.

      Two things however you have to have a player committed 100% and he needs to be built like a shit house door because, just like rugby, if you go into a tackle halfheartedly you tend to get injured. Do the job properly and it is the other beggers who get injured but then refs favour the goalies.

  10. Mignolet’s reluctance to come off his line worries me. We are not a big side and our keeper needs to be more dominant in the six yard box.

  11. Mignolet’s reluctance to come off his line worries me. We are not a big side and our keeper needs to be more dominant in the six yard box.

  12. I watched the game and it’s ridiculous o suggest that we played long ball to Fletcher all game. Clearances from under pressure evolving to transition, maybe. Long balls as a chosen option, nah! Unlike West Ham.

    As a SAFC fan, I didn’t take Pete’s article as a criticism of them anyway. Not one bit. You bringing the long ball thing up despite this fact seems a bit paranoid is all.

  13. I would disagree that all we did was play the ball up to Fletcher. We did attempt to move down the flanks, Sessegnon did attempt to carry the ball and we did not put the ball into the box anywhere near as much as West Ham did.
    The two central defenders did very well with the high balls that were put in. O’Neill selected Bramble because he knew what Allardyce’s tactics would be. It’s neither a secret nor a slur that Sam likes the ball in the box as quickly as possible.
    We defended well, but not well enough. Vaughan was a whisker away from making it 2-0. My view on the game is as a Sunderland supporter but I think that I am allowed to comment on the opposition. The bulk of what I wrote appertains to SAFC.
    Accept Allardyce for what he is. I thought West Ham did well enough and I don’t see them facing any relegation problems this season – but I said that in the piece.

  14. No

    I’m just wondering why ONLY west ham’s long ball got mentioned when it was Sunderland main tactic too

    Surely both should be mentioned or neither?

  15. Suprised at Si many comments about west ham Long ball when all Sunderland did was knock it long to fletcher all afternoon?

    • I watched the game on TV and fail to see your point.

      To me, a long ball game is when it is, continually, launched from the back and aimed at a centre forward (big striker for the kiddies).

      West Ham did that the whole game whereas, when we knocked it long, it was not (normally) an attempt to find Fletcher’s head but, instead, trying to play it into the channels.


      Regarding PS’s report, I thought that it was, totally, objective (as per norm) but I would disagree on one point.

      Until West Ham scored I was not in the least bit worried about them doing that.

      They seemed to have no ideas about how to break us down, until aargh!!!!!

      They just “huffed & puffed” and I was, fully, expecting the three points (and a mug)!

      • WH SAFC
        454 Total Passes 291

        WH SAFC
        42 Total Crosses 11

        So remind me again which side did you claim was playing down the wings and passing?

      • OH!

        The age old reply involving possession stats.

        As Brendan Rogers stated, after Swansea had lost 2-0, at the SOL, last season.

        Words to the effect of “The people of Sunderland must have been looking forward to seeing us play and enjoyed seeing the way we play”.

        West Ham did NOT threaten our goal and were lucky to grab a late point.

        Is that basic enough for you?

      • not just possession but clear balck and white fact that you looked to hit long balls more often than us


        So Nolan didn’t almost get 3, cole and vaz te shouldn’t have both scored and we didn’t hit the bar then?

        Absloute rubbish mate

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