Saturday, 13th November 2010
This was the first visit to the Boleyn of Blackpool since Halloween 1970. We won that one 2-1. Sadly, I am old enough to have been there! The big news was that, despite having had an appendix operation only a couple of weeks ago Mark Noble was fit to return to his usual place in midfield. My stomach feels sore just at the thought of it. Manuel Da Costa's ankle injury had failed to ease, keeping him out for another week, whilst Carlton Cole's hamstring had recovered enough for him to get a place on the bench. Valon Behrami was sidelined with a hip problem, leaving us with a starting line-up of Green, Jacobsen, Ilunga, Upson, Gabbidon, Parker Noble, Dyer, Boa-Morte, Piquionne, Obinna.
The match was preceded by a period of silence and both teams wore shirts embroidered with poppies as those who gave so much were rightly honoured. We doff our caps in your direction.
The early exchanges were even, consisting as they did of weak efforts at both end that were easily dealt with by the respective 'keepers or that went harmlessly wide and over. One header, from Campbell (who likes to be known as DJ rather than his less street given name of Dudley), was preceded by a worrying challenge on Varney by Noble which, had the Blackpool player gone down, ought to have resulted in a penalty. To Varney's credit he stayed on his feet to complete the move rather than taking the theatrical tumble one would have expected had he been wearing an Arsenal shirt. It was an element of concern that Noble was off the pace though.
By 17 minutes we had been forced into a substitution. The odds on Kieron Dyer playing two lots of 90 minutes on the trot were always going to of National Lottery jackpot proportions, and so it proved, the luckless midfielder cutting a forlorn figure as he trudged off to be replaced by Barrera.
The Mexican's first meaningful contribution of the game was to go on a run in the box. The defender went right through the back of Barrera as the ball ran over the goalline. There was no question that it was a penalty to any sane person. Unfortunately sane referees are in short supply and we'd been given the worryingly incompetent Kevin Friend for this one. The decision process should have been simple did the player get the ball? If yes, corner, if no, penalty. The one decision it was impossible to give was a goal kick. So Friend gave it. It was a terrible decision so bad in fact that I reckoned that it ought to have been impossible for the official to make a worse one. Oh how wrong I was.
Some good passing saw Obinna just able to get a shot in that was deflected for a corner. Piquionne got on the end of the corner but was unable to direct his header under pressure and a chance went begging. Vaughan was then allowed to run across goal but the shot was never beating either Green or the post, though the 'keeper made sure anyway with a dive that covered the upright.
This was followed by Friend's next major error. Green's goal kick was nodded on by Piquionne to Barrera who got enough of a header on it to divert the ball back to Obinna. Obinna's shot was goalbound but was diverted wide by a superb save. Call me old fashioned though, but when a player dives and makes a save of that quality, I usually prefer him to be wearing a goalkeeper's shirt, rather than the outfield kit that was worn by Cathcart. There was no way an intelligent sane human being with any experience of the game could have awarded anything other than a penalty. Unfortunately we had Kevin Friend who decided that, well I have no idea of the thought process that went into awarding a corner I suspect that there wasn't one. He had the perfect view and, whilst there is all the talk about technology being used to assist referees I reckon that he'd have still got it wrong after 100 views. Let's face it if you don't reckon that's a penalty you are probably too stupid to work the tv remote anyway.
Friend then cautioned Adam for a pretty innocuous challenge Parker just beat him to the ball. A foul? Yes, a booking? Hardly.
Noble then cleverly lobbed a ball out of defence to set Obinna on his way. It was irritating and soul destroying to then see Piquionne wander offside when there was really no reason for to do so. It all seemed a bit dim really. Piquionne didn't have the nous to stay onside while Obinna didn't have the sense to see that Piquionne had strayed and, instead, of taking the ball himself he played it to Piquionne anyway. With predictable consequences.
It was pretty much end to end stuff. Varney got the better of Upson and dragged a shot that took a slight deflection for a corner. As the corner was cleared the ball came up off Parker at the junction of chest and arm. I've seen them given, as the saying goes, but the appeals of the two Blackpool players was half-hearted at best, which probably tells its own story. Parker broke free and placed a marvellous pass through to Barrera who cut inside and shot, his effort taking a major deflection and looping over the bar. Except Friend didn't quite see it that way, the major diversion in the trajectory of the ball presumably being the result of some sort of force field projecting itself into E13 from a parallel universe or dimension. Ok that seems daft but I've seen things on episodes of Dr Who that have made more sense than some of the refereeing in this match.
In keeping with the rest of the match, Blackpool went up the other end and Green had to be alert to save at the feet of Grindin. There hadn't been any stoppage so 1 minute was added for the sake of it. Some good work between Noble, Barrera and Jacobsen saw the Dane cross, the clearance falling to Obinna whose shot was deflected wide for the corner. The ref blew up before the corner could be taken, which, under normal circumstances, he would be perfectly entitled to do. However, the reason that there hadn't been time to take the corner was because the opposition had picked up the ball and held onto it to delay the restart of the game. Under those circumstances the referee is required to take the delay into account. Friend decided he'd had enough of all that hard decision-making for one half and blew for the interval. Note to players if we get this ref again and give away a free-kick in stoppage time, simply pick up the ball and hold onto it until the final whistle goes.
The second half commenced with a substitution by the visitors. Gilks in the Blackpool goal had picked up a picked up a knock at some stage in the first half and was replaced by Richard Kingson who had wrapped himself up under several layers as insulation against the autumnal weather. Either that or he'd had a pre-match trip to Nathan's.
Well it was more of the same really. Both sides were going for it. We had a glorious chance to take the lead when Parker slipped another fine ball in behind the defence and Boa-Morte was clear through on goal only to slide his shot wide of the right hand post. He should have scored probably would have done had he used his right foot instead of his left.
Their turn and Varney got the better of Jacobsen before getting a cross in from the by-line which Campbell handled. Friend, realising that there was no penalty decision involved, decided to award the free-kick for this one. Which was nice. Then Adam moved into our half and attempted an audacious chip from all of 40 yards that saw Green scrambling back. If it had been slightly lower I'm not sure that he'd have made it but thankfully it cleared the bar. Fine effort from the Blackpool midfielder though and just a little too close for comfort.
We then won a corner from which Obinna failed to clear the first defender. The clearance came oyt as far as Campbell and Dudley found Ilunga crawling all over him. Friend had completely lost the plot by this point and ignored Cheri's challenge if one can call it that, further annoying the visitors by giving a free kick when Parker was upended having been first to the loose ball. Campbell had been nursing a back problem and signalled that he wanted to come off, though he shrewdly waited until the ball was in our possession before going down injured. His replacement was one M. Harewood esq who was given generous applause on his return to the Boleyn with a due sense of foreboding as we all considered the likelihood of that law of the ex counting against us once more.
Boa-Morte then gave away a free-kick down by the corner flag a correct decision that made the non-penalty for the earlier challenge on Barrera all the more baffling. The free-kick was played into the box and cleared by Upson. The ball was volleyed back in and took a deflection off Parker, finding Harewood who calmly put the ball away, only to see the linesman's offside flag held aloft. Which was nice except for the fact that Harewood was well onside at the time the ball was played. Maybe the lino thought he owed us after the disgraceful first half that he'd had. Maybe he'd flagged for another Blackpool player who was sitting in the six yard box as the ball was volleyed back. Whatever the reason it was a rotten call I guess we were due one in our favour eventually.
A chance at our end meant that it was our turn to attack. Obinna, Parker and Boa-Morte linked up with Boa-Morte playing in Parker to the dead ball line. Parker pulled the ball back to Barrera who elected to try to side foot it home, his effort being cleared off the line be Evatt. The ball eventually came back to Obinna whose shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide for a corner. Barrera's timid shot showed what is wrong with us at the moment as an attacking force anyone with an ounce of confidence would have put their foot through the ball rather than playing safety first.
At this point Boa-Morte was substituted to some rather shameful boos from those who would find it difficult to cheer him had he scored a hat-trick, set up another three and reconciled the Israelis and the Palestinians during the half time interval. Noticeably, his team-mates appreciated the effort put in up to that point with several making the effort to acknowledge him as he made his way off. Carlton Cole came on to replace the midfielder.
Cole could have scored with virtually his first touch. Barrera went down the left and got a cross in. Cole just about got across his marker but, in a tangle of legs, could only touch the ball onto the post.
We continued to push forward. Barrera's second attempt cross came through to Piquionne which appeared as something of a surprise to the Frenchman who failed to control it whilst in good position. Noble then burst forward and fed Obinna whose low shot appeared to be covered by the 'keeper but was cleared from in front of Kingson by Evatt. Obinna's corner was a shocker though. Again.
The failure to beat the first defender once more set up a counter attack by the visitors. As Noble's return pass to Jacobsen was cut out, the ball was taken out of defence by Harewood deep into Irons' territory. With Lurpak stranded upfield, Harewood played in Phillips who had all the time in the world to pull the ball back to Taylor-Fletcher who made a right mess of his effort, calmly shinning his shot well over the top.
Noble then had a go. A neat little turn losing his marker, he moved forward and his goal-bound effort was superbly tipped round the post by Kingson. The corner came out and was won back by Piquionne whose attempted cross was awful. It got a ripple of applause for effort mainly from those who would have been bursting a blood vessel had the crosser been Boa-Morte. People, as the Doors used to say, are strange.
Vaughan then won a corner off Noble on their left. Adam's corner was played back out to the midfielder who brought the ball down and left Obinna for dead, the Nigerian's outstretched leg upending Adam inches the right side (from our point of view) of the penalty area. Eardley's free-kick missed all.
Piquionne came ashore for McCarthy but the change heralded only another good chance for the visitors. A superb ball out of defence saw Varney in space on the left. Varney got to the goal line before pulling the ball back to Crainey whose first time shot lacked pace and intentional direction. However it went straight to Harewood who, with the goal at his mercy, placed his first time shot wide. Two thoughts ran through my mind at this point. Firstly, that some things never change and, secondly, the words thanks Marlon.
Blackpool forced a corner. Green got a bit under the cross and managed to push it out only as far as Cathcart who did well to get a powerful first time volley in. Green had recovered to make a fine block though. A subsequent cross saw Green collect and send Barrera on his way with a quick throw. Barrera's through ball to Cole was a bit on the heavy side.
That, as far as I can recall, was it. The predictable boos were heard at the final whistle the result yet again disappointing more than the performance. In retrospect, looking back at the match as a whole, it had been an entertaining 90 minutes both sides lacking finishing ability at the death. On the balance of play the chances that had been created at both ends meant that the draw was probably the right result, though, as ever, we were left wondering how the game might have panned out had the officials done the job they were paid to do rather than making it up as they went along. Sadly we are unlikely to know. Tony Pulis? You don't know you're born mate.
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Looked a bit out of position on a couple of crosses. He'll probably tell you Adam's long range effort was covered I'm not convinced. Good save from Cathcart at the end though.
Not his best effort in the Claret & Blue. Varney caused him problems.
Not a patch on the player of a couple of years ago. I suspect a spell on the bench will be the order of the day once Da Costa is fit again.
Seemed to lack a bit of urgency for some reason didn't seem tight enough to his man on occasion.
The pick of the back four not that there was much competition for the title this week.
At the heart of all that was good. Yet again. MOTM.
Remarkable effort to come straight off the operating table and play so well.
Luis Boa Morte
Ok he had a poor game going forward but he put in a lot of hard work defensively which went unnoticed by many. Once more he didn't hide.
Hamstring again. Apparently.
Frustrating. One minute he goes forward and you think that he's a world-beater. Then he shoots when he should pass and passes when he should shoot.
Not his greatest game. Got into some good positions but his touch was lacking.
(Replaced Dyer, 18 mins) Another who frustrates. Showed some good touches but got caught offside too many times.
(Replaced Boa Morte, 71 mins) Missed a sitter. That's about it really.
(Replaced Piquionne, 82 mins) Came on and disappeared again.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Man of the Match: Scott Parker.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabbidon, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Luis Boa Morte, Kieron Dyer, Victor Obinna, Frederic Piquionne.
Goals: None .
Sent off: None.
Gilks, Eardley, Cathcart, Crainey, Evatt, Adam, Vaughan, Varney, Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell, Grandin.
Substitutes: Kingson (Gilks 45), Harewood (Campbell 67), Phillips (Grandin 59).
Subs not used: Edwards, Carney, Euell, Sylvestre.
Booked: Adam (28).
Sent Off: None.