Saturday, 21st August 2010
So to a new season at home and some new faces to welcome to the Boleyn. Despite the previous week's shambles at Villa there was still an air of cautious optimism about the place, something that was improved by the selection of a more adventurous starting XI than had taken the field at Villa Park. Gabbidon came in for Tomkins and a starting debut for Barrera and the reappearance of someone called Dyer promised width to the middle. We lined up thus: Green, Faubert, Ilunga, Upson, Gabbidon, Noble, Parker, Dyer, Barrea Piquionne and Cole.
It was a slightly nervous start. The first chance of the match went to the visitors as Noble played a loose free-kick that everyone left to everyone else. The ball ended up with the unmarked Elmanderwho screwed his shot horribly wide.
Things settled down after that as we began to impose ourselves on the game. Barrera in particular looked promising and it came as no surprise, what with this being Bolton and all, when Robinson picked up the first yellow card of the day for going right through the Mexican when beaten by a smart turn. On the quarter hour Barrera's run from deep saw the visitors back off but what little pace the shot had was removed by a deflection that diverted the ball slowly into Jaaskaleinen's hands. On the other flank someone called Dyer was also looking lively and the winger did well firstly to keep a Cole flick on in play and secondly to win a corner off the closing defender. Noble took, Jaaskalainen got a hand to the ball which fell to Parker. Parker screwed his shot so badly that it turned into a superb ball back to Noble who put a curling shot over the top.
The chances kept coming – and we kept missing them. Parker combined well down the right with Piquionne before pulling the ball back for Barrera whose shot curled just the wrong side of the post with Jaaskalainen for once looking stranded. Another fine move saw Green's excellent throw find Dyer who brought the ball forward before feeding Piquionne who cut inside before playing a sublime reverse pass to Dyer who had overlapped to the by-line. Dyer's low cross was smuggled away unconvincingly by the Bolton defence with Cole hovering menacingly. Barrera then went close once more, getting underneath a lose ball to put a shot a few feet over.
Another loose ball fell to someone called Dyer whose clever curling shot missed the 'keeper's left hand post by a whisker. Steinsson then became the second player to enter the book with a sly cynical tug back on someone called Dyer as the no.7 threatened to break into acres of space down the left. The thought occurs that that little tab at the back of the collar of the (otherwise nicely-designed) new kit might give opponents something to hang onto in the event of a breakaway.
Our dominance was underlined by the fact that it took the visitors over half an hour to gain their first corner, which was gathered easily by Green who then had Davies knock the ball out of his hands as he attempted to get yet another attack going. From the resulting free-kick Piquionne flicked on to Cole who was unceremoniously bundled over in the box by Steinsson for a penalty so blatant that even Bolton were too embarrassed to protest. Cole entered into a debate with Noble as to who should take the penalty, a debate he unfortunately won before sliding a weak effort to the 'keeper's right giving him an easy save.
We continued to push forward. Noble's attempted through ball was cut out but fell kindly for Barrera whose cross was cut out by Jaaskaleinen with someone called Dyer lurking unmarked at the far post. Parker's through ball then found Cole whose goal-bound shot brought a fine one handed save out of Jaaskaleinen. Barrera kept the ball alive but his shot was straight at the 'keeper.
We should have had another penalty when Cole made some space in the box before putting a cross in which Knight blocked with his hand. The referee's decision was all the more galling in view of the fact that Cole himself had minutes earlier been penalised for a far less obvious handball when the ball had been drilled against him from two yards. Knight's offence was all the more blatant with him clearly moving his hand out to block the ball. Sadly it was not the last piece of gross incompetence we were to see from Mr Marriner during the afternoon.
Davies picked up a yellow card for a studs up stamp on Ilunga's ankle. Davies, as is standard practice amongst referees for some unknown reason, picked up only a yellow card when just about any other player on the park might have been walking. Marriner continued his mad five minutes then by simply watching as Robinson upended Cole in the box.
Another fine through ball from Parker found someone called Dyer whose first time shot got a flick off the 'keeper and onto the post for a corner. Cole then got onto another pass from Piquionne before pulling a shot narrowly wide across the face of goal.
The half ended with another positive run from someone called Dyer but Piquionne's touch let him down for once and the ball spun out for a goal kick which there was no time to take.
So having dominated the match it was left for Mr Marriner to change the whole match. Three minutes into the second half a route one clearance was nodded on by Elmander. Marriner was well placed to see both Davies' shove in the back of Upson and the subsequent boot to the face that the defender took from the strangely fireproof forward. The ball came off the falling defender's head and ended up in the back of the net. Marriner saw both offences and if he genuinely thought that there was no contact perhaps he would like to explain why over an hour later Upson's face was still in no state to be x-rayed. Altitude sickness? High blood pressure? An attack of the vapours? Any referee who saw that and judged the goal to be legal has no place in the game at any level. Yet again the whole tone of a match had been changed not by the players but by an official simply not up to the standard required.
Frustration boiled over as Parker picked up a yellow for a lunge – Marriner by this time had lost the plot and ignored the possible advantage and the resulting free-kick was hit straight into the wall. Reid replaced Upson – whose apparently non-existent injury meant that he could take no further part in proceedings and for about ten minutes we seemed unable to reorganise. However we gradually started to reassert ourselves and Reid got on the end of a free-kick following another foul on Barrera but caught it slightly too well and Jaaskaleinen saved easily. Barrera continued to cause problems down the right and forced a corner from which piquionne's header was scrambled away by Robinson.
Ref Marriner started to play silly beggars again though, possibly mindful of how costly his errors had been to us already, for once it worked in our favour. Lee went down for what might have been a penalty, something that was quickly followed by a ball being blasted at Gabbidon from two feet. This wasn't a penalty, though since Marriner clearly wouldn't know the difference anyway it would have come as no surprise had he given it.
So with 20 minutes left and looking for an equaliser we fell to a sucker punch. Lee's lobbed cross into the box would have probably been dealt with quite easily by Upson. Unfortunately the defender was off the pitch getting treatment for an injury that, according to Mr Marriner, didn't actually exist. Thus it was that the less than tall figure of Faubert lost out to Elmander in a one-sided aerial battle. And we were two-nil down. Neither of the Bolton supporters who had bothered to make the journey down could believe their luck.
With 15 minutes left someone called Kieron Dyer was replaced by someone called Benni McCarthy who, in a very unoriginal thought, we all agreed had been brought on to lend some weight to the attack. His first act appeared to be to control a bouncing ball with his stomach. His second was slightly more decisive as he lobbed a ball forwards. Parker chased and as he bore down on goal Cahill shoved him over for a penalty that even Mr Marriner couldn't fail to give (mind you we said that about the others). Noble was not going to be denied this time and gave the 'keeper no chance to set up what ought to have been a grandstand finish.
Unfortunately Mr Marriner had other ideas and with five minutes left on the clock Davies was allowed to flick on whilst holding Gabbidon by the collar. Taylor pushed the ball on with his arm and Elmander buried the loose ball. Two offences in plain sight of the ref not punished and a game that we had dominated was lost.
That was about it really bar some extraordinary bouts of timewasting by the visitors which the ref made great show of noticing but failed to punish. Noble picked up a late yellow and Sears made a late appearance replacing Cole. The substitution was greeted with a chorus of boos as Cole made his way ashore though whether that was a comment on the substitution or on Cole's performance it was impossible to tell. Those booing probably didn't know themselves it being more Pavlovian than anything else. In any case the majrity applauded Cole off drowning out the initial sounds of disapproval.
This was a bizarre result. Certainly Bolton are a bogey team – you get the impression that no matter how much we play them off the park – like today something will happen to push things their way. Certainly the turning point was the first goal and for all the good play there simply is no legislating for a referee who makes a decision that bad. There were definite positive signs but, as we know of old, we need to take our chances. Unfortunately the fixture list has not been kind to us and the next two matches are going to be tough. The performance did suggest that, (given a competent referee) we ought to be able to overcome many sides at the Boleyn so it may be a bit early to be panicking just yet but we'll need to be positive – something that history suggests may not be uppermost in the game plan at The Theatre of Plastic next weekend.
Oh well time for the happy pills!
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Bolton supporters predictably tried to barrack the keeper but there were so few of them he probably didn't hear. One poor clearance – from a poor throw back to him but otherwise sound.
As usual ok going forward but right-back is an area I'd really like to see us strengthen.
Solid enough without really catching the eye.
Was coping well with Davies' arm until he got that kick in the face which didn't happen and therefore couldn't possibly have broken his nose.
A useful match in defence – though his workload saw him struggle a bit after Upson had gone off after the injury that never happened.
A bit quieter than usual though he played a vital role in getting the second penalty.
A busy afternoon. He must learn to curb his frustration when confronted with poor officials – his late yellow was pointless. How I wish he'd taken the first penalty.
Looked quite good, though not capable of lasting the full 90 just yet. Nice to see us playing with some width for a change.
Impressive full debut. If he can get his shooting sights adjusted a little we'll have a real find on our hands.
Another good start. Played just behind Cole and made some impressive contributions to the approach play.
One of those days. Unlucky to find the 'keeper in good form on occasion but the penalty was just awful.
(Replaced Upson, 54 mins) Came on for Upson after the injury that never happened. Some good touches but still looks a bit inexperienced. Which makes you wonder why DaCosta is out of favour.
(Replaced Dyer, 77 mins) Still a few lbs to go Benni. Nice lob that led to the second penalty. Keep working on that treadmill.
(Replaced Cole, 86 mins) Not really on for long enough to make an impression.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Luis Boa Morte
Did not play.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Man of the Match: Pablo Barrera.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, Matthew Upson, Danny Gabbidon, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Kieron Dyer, Pablo Barrera, Frederic Piquionne, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Mark Noble 79 .
Booked: Scott Parker 55 Mark Noble 90 .
Sent off: None.
Jaaskelainen, Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Steinsson, Petrov, Holden, Muamba, Chung-Yong Lee, K Davies, Elmander.
Substitutes: Blake (Petrov 88), Taylor (Chung-Yong Lee 81), M Davies (Elmander 86) .
Subs not used: O'Brien, Bogdan, Ricketts, Klasnic.
Goals: Upson (og48), Elmander (68, 84).
Booked: Robinson (10), Steinsson (30), Davies (38), Elmander (74).
Sent Off: None.