I had to admit I was fearful of today’s defeat because West Ham’s poor run couldn’t continue forever. No doubt there will be a huge fan backlash and gnashing of teeth over this loss but at least West Ham had to play really well to both beat us and keep us out in a second half when we threw caution to the wind somewhat in an effort to get back level.
For the neutral this was a decent game of football to watch. The statistics show 26 shots on target, 13 off target and 21 corners. What more could you ask for? A Spurs goal would certainly have been something but clear cut opportunities were difficult to find today and when questions were asked Robert Green was up to the task making excellent saves from Van Der Vaart and particularly Modric in the first half.
This was a lively derby game. After five minutes West Ham led 5-1 on corners and had 5 shots on target such was their early endeavour. The sadness was that having taken 20 minutes to calm them down we then allowed them to score from a corner when we were coming back into the game. Such was their intensity in the first 15 minutes you could have asked were they Arsenal in disguise and I thought our centre back pairing of Corluka and Bassong had done well to keep the threat of Piquionne and Obinna under control.
I thought Alan Hutton played well all afternoon and was involved both in making important challenges and decent runs down the right hand side. On the other said Bale was quieter as a full back but on occasions got forward sometimes taking on too many men but none the less providing a threat. Modric and Van Dar Vaart looked really good when we started to get into it both having shots and going forward Jenas contributed well.
However, my team sheet showed JJ and Tommy playing deeper and in a defensive way and I thought they allowed too many opportunities to Parker and Noble to get forward and at us which resulted in their advantage going into the break.
Lennon worked quite well with Hutton and it was his excellent run that got him in behind the West Ham defence allowing Modric a fantastic volley from the edge of the box which Green turned onto the post. The half finished with us creating chances and JJ being flattened by a thunderbolt from Noble. The question was would Harry make changes to stop the threat and who might come on with both Palacios and Sandro on the bench?
Having decided no changes were necessary and we started probing and pressing the West Ham defence. Huddlestone had a shot from a Bale cross and then latched onto a Hutton through ball attempting to score when Crouch was square and unmarked. He may however have felt Crouch was returning from an offside position but the arrival of Van Der Vaart has pushed both he and Modric to make more goal attempts. He will accept that he should have scored.
West Ham were not out of it and fought back making Cudicini get involved with a brilliant save from Noble. In an effort to get back into the game we went Corluka and Bassong at the back with Tommy sitting in front of them – everyone else was pushed forward but clear chances would not come.
Robbie Keane replaced Lennon for his 300th appearance and worked a 1-2 with JJ for the latter to shoot and took a first time effort which Green saved from a Modric pass. Van Der Vaart who drifted out in the second half came off for Giovani and Crouch for Pav. Neither found themselves getting into the game and Pav had a speculative effort which was described as “optimistic” at best by the commentator. In away games players like Pav and Giovani look lightweight and I would question keeping the Mexican as this league is too quick and physical for him from what I have seen.
So the game ends in a disappointing defeat and Man City beat Chelsea to open a gap between us as we fall to 7th behind Fulham and West Bromwich Albion. Jermain Defoe tweeted at the final whistle that we maybe deserved a draw. I’m not sure about that myself, I felt if we had scored after half time we would probably gone on to win but today West Ham wanted it more than we did and we couldn’t ask them enough telling questions in dangerous areas to test their resolve. What I do know is that we need JD fit again.
But it wasn’t all bad. Cudicini made some good saves, Corluka and Bassong were good at the back – I think I predicted them for the Arsenal game – Hutton was probably our most consistent player and Modric, Van Der Vaart and Lennon all had decent moments. Sandro was also on the bench. He didn’t play but he is now not far away from the Premier League side.