Pete Sixsmith and London don’t always get along too well. He told us before the Chelsea league game how charmless he found that club and will doubtless tell us again with the league cup quarterfinal imminent. In many ways West Ham is much more his kind of club, with a list of important reservations. Not allowing Sunderland to add goals to superiority on the day may be be added to that list …
Monsieur Salut missed the first “proper” London game of the season using the excuse of taking his gorgeous granddaughter to the pantomime. Oh yes he did!! Pantomimes are great fun and I am angling for an invite to go and see the Chuckle Brothers at Darlington Civic.
Paul and Barry are from Rotherham, a club currently pushing for promotion to the Championship. Should they reach their target, they could well be playing both clubs who were represented at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday. On the evidence presented to the 31,000 crowd and those Match of the Day viewers who survived the narcoleptic qualities of Alan Shearer’s “analysis” it is more than likely.
This was a game that both sides needed to win. For us, it would not lift us off the bottom, but would at least reduce the gap between us and those above, while for West Ham, it would give them breathing space. We have scored two goals away from home this season, West Ham have had five 0-0 draws plus another three clean sheets, while only scoring 13 goals. You didn’t have to be a Far Eastern match fixer to predict this one.
We did play some decent football. The head coach showed that he has a Plan B, a Plan C and probably a Plan Z if it is required. In came Cattermole to sit in front of the back four with Ki moving forward and Giaccherini and Borini buzzing around Altidore. Different from last week and far more fluid with a bench that gave us options.
The ball was moved around well, we retained possession throughout and chances were created, particularly in the first half. Altidore put a good chance wide, Borini’s touch let him down when he was played in by our American Heskey, Bardsley hit the bar and Cattermole forced a good save from Jaaskelainen. Not many keepers can make that claim to fame.
The second half saw Altidore fail to put his not inconsiderably large foot through a good ball from an impressive and seemingly committed Giaccherini. It was a very good chance, one that would have won the game for us as the chances of West Ham scoring were about as likely as a session of observational comedy from the aforementioned Chuckle Boys.
Jaaskelainen pulled off another good save from Ki before West Ham almost pinched it with a cross cum shot from George McCartney, once a top class full back with us and a testimony to a wasted career. It would have been extra cruel had we lost but the way that things have been going, it would have been no great surprise had it gone in.
So, a point and there are some straws to clutch at. We kept a clean sheet away from home for the second successive game, albeit against a Hammers team lacking their only forward, Kevin Kyle with a pony tail. That they have a forward who has not scored for nearly a year (Maiga) and another who was released in the summer and then re-signed when no other top level club was in the least bit interested in him (Carlton Cole) suggests that we should not get too ecstatic over this.
We produced some neat and controlled football and it gave us perhaps the clearest picture so far of how we want to play under Poyet. It was a fluid system with players moving around at will and showing that they have qualities that may, but probably won’t, get us out of the mess that the last three managers/head coaches have contributed to.
But we cannot score and unless we start to do that and do it very soon, ie next Saturday against Norwich, we will certainly be returning to the Championship and the relentless slog of 46 games per season. We have to use Johnson and Giaccherini and hope that their undoubted abilities can break down average defences and play in whichever international centre forward we decide to choose. And then hope that whichever one it is can consistently hit the target.
It was a long day, leaving home at 6am and getting back at 11pm, which for a man of bus pass age is exhausting. The coach was just about half full and the news from Perth was hardly guaranteed to raise spirits. There were no truly awful tracks on Sounds Of The Sixties – indeed Brian Matthew played some real classics, including David and Jonathan’s Lovers Of The World Unite, a song I converted to Sunderland fans of the world unite in 1966, incorporating Jim Baxter, George Mulhall and Monty into the lyrics. It was more fun than double science.
As for West Ham, they were missing two decent players in Downing and Reid and two awful ones in Nolan and Kevin Kyle-with-a-pony-tail. They also had Joe Cole, who is probably the most overrated player I have ever seen. I never got him in his first spell at Pie and Mash Park and his subsequent exploits at Chelsea and Liverpool have done nothing to change my mind. There are a number of average midfielders at London clubs who are praised beyond the skies by the Londoncentric press – Scott Parker, Jermaine Jenas and Steve Sidwell immediately spring to mind, while names like Peter Storey, Terry Venables and Steve Perryman remind us that little changes. Jack Wilshere is the next one. He doesn’t do anything for me. Give me Craig Gardner any day.
The Coburn Arms was as excellent as ever and is a 20-minute walk from West Ham’s new home at the Olympic Stadium. They hope to be there in 2016 so there may well be one more opportunity to visit the crumbling Boleyn Ground in the Championship next season.
Next week is an absolute must win. Norwich City are by no means in a comfort zone and they look like a side who could slip into trouble. We could contribute towards that by getting our points total into double figures and by our two international centre forwards rattling in a few goals.
The Chuckle Brothers have built a career on disasters happening and on falling over at every available opportunity. They sound like ideal Sunderland supporters to me.
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