Filed: Friday, 9th April 2010
By: Preview Percy
Preview Percy's here again, with possibly the only match preview you will read that contains the word "maelstrom". (There may be other long words in there as well but we lost the will to live at that point and sneaked off to the pub before he could find out where we were going.....)
Next up we play host to Sunderland in a 3pm kick-off at the Boleyn. The visitors are just about safe from the threat of relegation despite a poor start to the year which saw them flirt with being sucked into the relegation maelstrom. However, in recent weeks they've grafted enough points to see them, if not mathematically certain of staying up, close enough for them not to be looking at who plays who for the next few weeks. Current form over the last six matches has seen them win 3, draw 2 and lose just the once, a 3-0 defeat at Anfield where the home side got their revenge for “Beachball-gate.” Last time out they beat Spurs in a mad match that saw Darren Bent point to his two goals as evidence that Spurs had been wrong to let him go, whilst Spurs fans were, no doubt, equally vehement in their opinion that his two missed penalties proved the exact opposite. Whilst a 3-1 win suggests a degree of comfort about the final score, Crouch's 72nd minute header gave the home side a few restless moments before Zenden's excellent finish on 86 minutes finally made the points safe and spared Bent's blushes.
Away from home the Rokerites (we'll have none of this arriviste “Black Cats” nonsense here thank you very much) have displayed a less certain touch and they haven't picked up all three points on the road since the opening day of the season – it makes a refreshing change to be writing that about someone else for once. Of their last six away from Wearside, they have lost 4 and drawn 2, the two draws coming at Villa and Pompey.
There is, of course, a bit of history at the top for this one. Steve Bruce, who already had a dislike for United for having the temerity to not roll over and die against Man Utd when he was a player, has made little secret of his dislike for SuGo, something dating from the days when he was their employee at Birmingham City. I'm sure that SuGo will get over it somehow.
There is a contingent of ex-Hammers in the visiting squad, though not all will be fit for this one. George McCartney is still recovering from a hamstring problem – an injury that, given our recent history, he probably picked up in virus form at Chadwell Heath when he was our player. Linda's injury problems have led to a run out at left back for Anton Ferdinand. Ferdinand's future under Bruce has, at times, looked uncertain and he as been well down the pecking order for a spot in central defence. However, Bruce has been happy with the geographically-challenged (Isle of Wight? – that's in America innit?) defender's form at full back, though how long that contentment will last once Linda's fit again will be interesting to see.
Also on the injury list are midfield thug Cana – whose immunity from prosecution in the return fixture earlier this season must have made his colleague Kenwyne Jones feel a bit unlucky. Jones picked up a correct red for his shove into Ilunga's face, though Ilunga's over-theatrical reaction did him no favours and the yellow card he picked up as a result was deserved. All the while Cana was allowed free reign to undertake a succession of two-footed career-threatening challenges all with the apparent blessing of Andre Marriner. Referees? Gotta love 'em.
Whilst Bruce was quick to express his disgust at Ilunga's antics, he seemed strangely reluctant to criticise his own player Steed Malbranque for the outrageous dive that led to Sunderland's first in that match. Apparently simulation is something that Bruce doesn't like to see in the game which, given that he spent the bulk of his playing career at Man United, must have meant that he spent a lot of time looking up at interesting cloud formations or something.
The free-kick cheated out of us that day was converted by the variably-weighted Andy Reid. Reid's dead ball skills may be missing this weekend as he is rated “very doubtful” with a hamstring injury, which he may or may not have caught from McCartney. Another rated “very doubtful” is central defender Mensah who has a knee problem, thus denying me the opportunity to make some smart-assed comment about the likelihood or otherwise of Anton Ferdinand joining Mensah. Oh well it'll wait I'm sure.
Of course, after a brief respite, our injury list has assumed the length of Plaid Cymru's post-election wish-list. Likely to be missing are: Diamanti (groin), Behrami (knee), Tomkins (ankle/foot), Collison (knee), Franco (back), Iunga (calf/shin) and, of course Dyer (probably all of the above plus, for all I know, rabies ).
Behrami's knee finally gave up the ghost during the warm up at Goodison, at which point things looked a tad gloomy to even the most optimistic of us. Subsequent events - going a goal down, Webb's inexplicable decision not to send Distin off and Mido's penalty - meant that few would have expected us to get much out of the second half. However, a spot of spirit, a wee bit of luck (something we've been well short of this season) and Webb deciding to make up for his earlier error by failing to punish DaCosta's foul on Saha (a foul yes but it failed to meet the criteria for the red card that the home support were bellowing for) saw us deservedly on level terms. So when Everton took the lead with little left on the clock it was particularly rough on a side that had played so well in the second half. Ilan's splendid equaliser will have lifted the side and that equaliser will have a beneficial effect way beyond the (admittedly vital) point it earned.
It wasn't all good news of course – when is it ever? To Behrami's injury we can add the two match suspension that will be dished out to Scott Parker as a result of Webb's incompetence. Someone else for SuGo to consider suing perhaps?
Well it's crunch time again. It'll be nervy but I'm heartened by the point on Merseyside. Whilst it would be typical of us to follow up a fine performance against a form side with a duff one against a slightly less fancied outfit, I reckon that last week's confidence booster will prove the difference between the sides. I'll go for 2-1 to us and a farewell to Pompey .
Enjoy the game!
Last season: Won 2-0 Stanislas' first senior goal and a second half header from Tomkins gave us a win made in Chadwell Heath.
Danger Man: Darren Bent I don't particularly rate him but he's one of those players that might cause us a problem. Possibly best handled by giving away penalties – but I wouldn't trust the opposition not to do something sneaky like changing their penalty takers – the swines.
Referee: Mike Jones – Interestingly he was the ref at the centre of “beachball-gate” something that had him hauled up before the authorities to explain himself. I must have missed the hearing that surely took place following Howard Webb's “performance” last week. We last saw Jones up at Villa park in January's 0-0 draw.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
10:16PM 9th Apr 2010
''Fair comments and funny too, most of the above! I've got a lot of time for the Hammers, a proper football cub with proper fans. So hoping for a draw and you to sneak enough points to stay up after! Let's hope Keyring Dire's rabies isn't too trivial. ;-)''
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