12.30 and 17.30 games have a habit of being difficult to create atmosphere for the home team but it had little effect on the team yesterday. Our first half performance was a delight as we moved the ball around really well and peppered the West Ham goal with shots. Our only disappointment was a couple of stray passes from Corluka when Lennon was in good position to take further advantage and Defoe failing to take advantage of Lennon’s shot as it came back off the post.
We started well and Dawson was unlucky when he curled a shot towards the top corner only to see it come back off the bar before Defoe was unlucky to flick a shot just wide of the post from Bale’s low cross. Modric and Van Der Vaart were running the show in the centre despite stout resistance from Parker and other West Ham midfielders and the game was free flowing.
As a consequence it was difficult to find room at the edge of or in the box to create straightforward chances so we were restricted to more speculative efforts, two from Modric and one from Lennon that went across the goal and just wide and a sharp effort from Van Der Vaart from a corner that was just wide. We also had a couple of free kicks but both were tame efforts and easily saved by Green.
Yet it wasn’t all one way traffic. Cole had two opportunities to open West Ham’s account firing tamely allowing Gomes to save and then lobbing over when he was played in between Gallas and Dawson once more. We also had Mike Dean trying to make an impression when asking Gareth Bale to leave the field to change his under armour.
We’ve all heard of the rule about the same colour being worn and from Paxton Road it was impossible to see that they weren’t right. Yet once he was off the field the shorts came off to reveal dark under armour before they came off to reveal the white pair. Having changed Dean would then not allow him to return to the field until the ball went out which it did when Van Der Vaart put it out.
Dean also displayed some strange decisions in the second half when Sandro was injured. The ball had gone out and Bale indicated he would throw it to Ekotto who would launch it back towards Green. Not good enough. The ball had to be placed in field so that a kick could ensue producing the same result. Similarly when Parker went for a challenge and ended up hitting the hoarding the game was brought to a halt for treatment despite the fact the injury took place off the pitch and the player remained off the pitch. Yes it was a tough knock and maybe considered a head injury but it looked like Parker was to be welcomed back on before the re-start.
In the second half West Ham’s determined resistance continued and was maybe better as our play lacked some of the fluidity that it had in the first period. They also looked sharp on the counter attack and Gomes was called upon to make some important saves none more so than from Ba when the ball was going in before he tipped it around the post.
Green too was in top form saving from Defoe at close range when the striker should have been able to bury the opportunity. He also was called into action after Pav had replaced Van Der Vaart on a couple of occasions but kept his best for last when tipping onto the bar Bale’s free kick as the game reached is conclusion.
So another game with a multitude of chances producing us nothing on the scoreboard but a point to the tally after a clean sheet. On another day this could have been a handsome home win but not yesterday. Yet again stout and determined defending proved our undoing in an extremely entertaining game. Sometimes a less interesting encounter and three points might be more welcome but at least we got a point for it looked like one of those days when a slip might hand them all to our opponent.
Could we have done better? Certainly Defoe would have wished to secure his 100thgoal and could easily have done so. Had he a better left foot he would have also had more chances as on occasions he lost the opportunity trying to force it right to let loose a shot. Yet I had wanted to see him start and was not disappointed that he got a full 90 minutes. Van Der Vaart also played very deep for much of his 70 minutes on the field and had Crouch started with him would not have been in range to convert any assists.
Elsewhere Bale had an early run but in the second half seemed maybe a little short of match fitness during the second half. Maybe it was a lack of underclothing!
So as in previous weeks we are relying in the performance of others to keep our hopes of fourth spot alive. Recent performances against those drawn into the relegation battle have proved more favourable to them rather than us and we may live to regret this. 2 points out of 9 is not what we wanted but it is difficult to knock yesterday’s performance too much.