Not a great game. Pete Sixsmith‘s words, echoed by many, but he also sees reason to draw on such results, from largely uninspiring play, for hope that we may actually be on course in our loftier ambitions …
So, another three points in our relentless quest for a Europa League place and the delights of Sherif Tirana or Bangor City on a Thursday night. I am tingling with excitement at the prospect of playing such giants of the European game.
If we do make it to such exalted heights, games like this one are the ones that really count. This was a bread and butter fixture, against a side similar to what we were: one perennially struggling in the lower reaches of the Premier League.
Unlike us, they have little internal stability. After a disastrous flirtation with financially bankrupt Icelanders, they are now in the hands of morally bankrupt East Enders. I searched in vain for David Sullivan and his wonderful Soviet kitsch overcoat. I imagine that had our Chairman seen anything Russian near him, he would have gone berserk and hit him with a hurling stick.
I showed my contempt for the Fifa decision by refusing to wear the splendid Ushanka that Monsieur Salut had brought back from Leningrad.
Instead, on a bitterly cold afternoon, I wore the SAFC bobble hat that I was pictured wearing at The Sports Direct, the hotchpotch stadium formerly known as St James’ Park. My head was cold throughout and to be honest, there wasn’t a great deal on the pitch to warm me up.
We were the better side, that’s for sure, creating the only genuine chance of the entire game, when Jordan smacked home a wonderfully accurate low cross from Gyan.
The more I see Asamoah play, the more I enjoy his presence on the field. He is a player of the quality never seen in a red and white shirt before – at least not by this writer. He has vision, can create space and can finish. He also plays as if he enjoys the game, unlike some of the dour faces that you see on certain players who look as if they would be much happier delivering post or repairing lorries.
The goal came after he had made a brilliant run that completely fooled the Hammers defence. Old boy Ben Haim played him onside and his beautifully weighted cross was put right in front of Henderson who never broke stride in poking it past Robert Green.
A very good goal which started with Craig Gordon and was worked up field, slowly but surely, before Gyan’s injection of pace. It should have been a base on which to build and I felt that had we scored a second, West Ham would have folded. But we were too ponderous in our build up and the ball was not pushed up to Gyan and Bent quickly enough.
Their defending was stout and resolute with Tomkins having a very good game. Our midfield was on top, with Cattermole in particular showing that he can avoid the disastrous second booking by being sensible, but we do lack a little imagination.
Richardson was his usual frustrating self, a mixture of quick bursts, misplaced passes, excellent tackles and easy loss of ball. He has been with us for four years and has never been less than a good player – but has he improved?
At the back, we were far better than in the last 10 minutes at Wolves. Ferdinand had a good game and the presence of Mensah meant that he had to concentrate or else face the wrath of Big John. He did and did it exceedingly well.
The full backs were as sound as they usually are, with Wee Shuggie McBardsley showing how players can bounce back from near obscurity without a loan spell at Bramall Lane. What he lacks in quality, he makes up for with sheer honest endeavour. Some of our technically more gifted players would do well to take note.
It was a frustrating afternoon. I really feel that we are on the edge of something. We try to play football. But there is just that spark missing, particularly in midfield. It is hard working but pedestrian. If we were to make one signing in January it needs to be a player who can give us that little bit extra there. Adam Johnson? Charles N’Zogbia? A rejuvenated Andy Reid?
As for West Ham, I think they will go down. They worked hard and their back four (often supplemented by their midfield) was organised, but going forward they showed nothing . Carlton Cole was awful and they will do well to unload him in the future.
Boa Morte should have been sent off for a two footed lunge at Richardson, while Parker and Spector were neat and tidy without ever grabbing hold of the game. I sensed the stench of relegation about them – and believe me, I know from bitter experience that aroma in the nostrils.
Fulham next week and a meeting with M Salut in the White Horse at Parsons Green. Whether I wear the Ushanka depends on the mood in the country. Having heard some of the Little Englander comments on 606 at the weekend, it may well be wiser to don a bowler hat.