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Premier League
Saturday, 22nd December 2012

West Ham United 1
Everton 2

by Gordon Thrower


Today we saw two people who had been given contracts to perform a role clearly beyond the scope of their respective abilities. Irritating though the “One Pound Fish Man” clearly is, I suppose he’s harmless enough.

However, allowing Anthony Taylor to referee a professional football match is a more serious matter. I sometimes get stick for pointing out that refereeing standards aren’t a millionth of the level that they ought to be in this country. Anyone who wants to debate the point ought to be made to watch this game on an endless loop.

Team news was that, given we were down to the proverbial bare bones, the last thing we really needed was to lose a player on the morning of the game. So we did. Guy Demel was ruled out with an unspecified illness which brought James Tomkins in to an unfamiliar right back role. The rest of the team picked itself giving us a starting line-up of JJ, Tomkins, O’Brien, Reid, Collins, Noble, O’Neil. Taylor, Jarvis, Nolan, Cole. The bench included the first public appearances for a while of both Jack Collison and Alou Diarra. Welcome as those apparitions were, one cannot but think that had the injury list been a bit shorter those two particular players might have been given a bit more in the way of recuperation.

The unusual stat of the last few weeks had been that we have been the only club this season not to have conceded a headed goal. There was an early warning that this stat might not see out the afternoon on 8 minutes. A free-kick came in from our right and Collins failed to pick up Distin who ought to have done better with the free header, his effort bouncing off the deck and over the bar.

We countered and some nice passing found Nolan on the left hand side of the box. If the skipper’s effort was meant as a cross it was rotten with Howard gathering with some comfort. If it had been meant as a shot it wasn’t much better.

We got the first indication that the officials might not be up to the required standard on 10 minutes. The visitors won a corner on our left. Baines delivered, Osman headed home. The linesman flagged for an infringement – Anichebe on JJ seemed to be the concecsus. It looked harsh – especially given all the mayhem to which referees usually turn a blind eye. I’d have felt aggrieved had we had such an effort disallowed, let’s put it that way.

The visitors had the right hump a few minutes later. Noble played a short pass into Taylor who moved the ball on to Cole. Heitinga gave Carlton far too much time and space. His first touches bought him a yard and he buried an unstoppable drive past Howard. A splendid finish from a player in a good bit of form at present to put us 1-0 up.

There was much amusement to be gained from one-time Hammers target Jelavic, whose main contribution to the match was to prove that he could be as ignorant of the Laws of The Game as the officials. Time and time again he was caught offside, though his subsequent pointless “finishes” suggested that shot accuracy is not the player’s strong suit. A case in point being Osman’s turn and through ball which set Jelavic up to plant the ball yards wide as the lino gave his flag arm a bit of exerxcise.

Just after the half hour a cross in from our right saw Collins head clear, the challenge being made slightly more tricky by the fact that Anichebe was trying to kick the ball that Collins was trying to head at the time. Collins picked himself up, dusted himself down and trotted away. A free-kick was awarded and the world got on with its business of not actually having ended the previous day. In fact it’s not even an incident that even in my most desperate of space filling moments that I would normally have considered mentioning. However, it was not until the second half that the significance of the foul was to become apparent.

Jarvis won a corner on the left which Noble took. Collins won the header and Cole, off balance due to the handful of shirt that Heitinga had grabbed, handled. The most notable thing about the incident had been the corner, which Noble had played deep. Maybe the penny about beating the first man has finally dropped?

Jarvis was beginning to get some joy on the left. Riding a challenge that would have seen many go to ground, he played the ball into Nolan whose clever back heel return was spotted in the nick of time by Neville, who played the ball out for a corner. Noble again went deep but Howard was able to punch clear.

JJ was called into action with five left in the half, erring on the side of caution to turn over a Gibson free-kick. Probably catchable. Probably right not to chance it.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Everton 0


At half time we were treated (?) to a performance (?) by the internet phenomenon known as “One Pound Fish Man” whose street market calls have been put to music (?) so that thick people can buy a recording of it. The visiting fans were as unimpressed as I was – presumably on the grounds that if anything in Liverpool costs a pound or more they shoplift it anyway. The whole shambles was a testimony to the dangers of giving contracts to people to perform roles for which they are totally unqualified.

The second half started with Jelavic getting caught offside. Again. He was also in an offside position a couple of minutes later as he found himself free on the edge of the six yard box and he really ought to have levelled the scores instead of placing an anaemic effort straight into the grateful arms of JJ. It would have counted too – the ball having come through to him off Collins.

With 57 gone we made our first change of the day with O’Neil, who had been an injury doubt for the match, coming off for Maiga. This prompted Nolan to drop back a bit allowing Maiga to join Cole up front.

Ref Taylor, who had hardly inspired confidence anyway, was causing increased concern. JJ dropped a cross under pressure from Jelavic, that pressure consisting of a forearm into the chest followed by a full on hauling to the floor. The ref didn’t see any of the potential offences as fouls.

Then on the hour Noble released Cole on the left. The striker bore down on goal and squared it. The pass was slightly behind Maiga which meant he had to take a touch before getting in a shot that was, nevertheless on target, requiring a block from Distin to send it out for a corner. Except ref Taylor deciding that the 45 degree change in the ball’s trajectory was due to natural causes rather than the block. Another worrying decision – and they were getting worse.

Maiga then tried to over-elaborate in Everton territory and fouled Pienaar in chasing back. Quite why the ref thought the challenge worthy of a yellow you’ll have to ask him yourself. I don’t speak idiot. You may want to compare the foul to a similar challenge by Jagielka on Jarvis in the first half when the Everton man had cynically shoved the winger to the floor when done for pace. You may want to ask why Jagielka had escaped a yellow. Another worrying decision – and they were getting worse.

We went to sleep in the aftermath of the free-kick which was taken short. The ball found its way out to Pienaar whose cross found Anichebe unmarked to put his header into the far corner for the equaliser. This prompted a thick Everton supporter who had found his way into the Upper West to start shouting his mouth off. One or two people had a word prompting him to tell us that he’d done 5 years in Belmarsh, something I presume was meant to scare us. We’re still laughing. It was an obvious lie – 5 minutes in Trumpton would have been too much for that moron.

Talking of people living in fantasy worlds, ref Taylor finally abandoned all pretence of actually having the slightest idea of what he was doing on 66 minutes. Cole went to control a high bouncing ball when Baines came in from the side. Cole caught the Everton man who, to his credit, got straight back up. As we settled down for the free-kick we saw the ref brandishing a card. Not a yellow we thought – a foul, yes, but never a booking. Well we were sort of right.

I have seen Professor Brian Cox on the telly explaining concepts of dark matter, Higgs bosons and the possibility of the use of tachyon particles to exceed the speed of light. All of which made more sense to me than the fact that a referee paid to officiate in a professional football match actually thought that the challenge was worthy of a red card. It was one of the most baffling and disgraceful decisions it has sever been my misfortune to see in 45 years of going to the Boleyn. What made it worse was that it was nigh-on identical to the challenge by Anichebe on Ginge in the first half. If the ref had though Cole’s was a red surely Anichebe’s was equally as reckless? That’s Anichebe who wouldn’t have been on the pitch to score the equaliser by the way.

The mantra from the “ref’s can do no wrong” brigade is always “oh it’s a difficult job”. Yes it is – which is why it’s important that it’s done by somebody who is there because he’s capable of doing it. As opposed to somebody who happens to be part of the right clique.

The fact that a number of Everton players went across to commiserate with Cole as the astonished striker trudged of the pitch should tell you everything you ought to know about just how awful a decision it was.

The ref’s incompetency changed the whole dynamic of a game that, despite his worst efforts, had hitherto been nicely poised. Maiga, who was now the lone striker, isn’t really suited to the role of holding the ball up. The fact that the ball was now coming straight back more often than not was placing our midfield under pressure and things went pear shaped on 72 minutes.

Pienaar played a short ball into the box to Osman who made full use of the space to get the ball down to the by-line. Quite how the ball made it from there into the net is unclear. Pienaar was in there, Matt Taylor and JJ were all involved. Pienaar claimed the goal though it looked like the contributions from the two Hammers were all more significant in getting the ball across the line. Either way it didn’t really matter how, we were 2-1 down

The remaining 17 minutes were a bit surreal. With 10 left Spence replaced JO’B and we did fashion a couple of decent chances. A Spence throw was cleverly nodded by Maiga into the path of Nolan who controlled and volleyed, a deflection off Heitinga took the effort wide. I suppose we should be grateful that the ref gave the corner.

Everton were shrewd – realising that they’d got a care in the community ref on the pitch they started throwing themselves to the floor safe in the knowledge that Taylor would fall for it. Naismith’s five yard leap into the air with Winston Reid two yards away from him was particularly impressive. While we were waiting for the free-kick Collison came on for Jarvis.

Everton then forced a corner which fell on the edge of the box to Osman. JJ saw the shot late and was only able to parry. Jelavic, presumably confused by being onside, put the ball wide then tried to claim a corner to save his embarrassment. Which just made his efforts for the day all the more embarrassing.

As we neared stoppage time Noble’s block fell kindly to Nolan who put the ball just wide, it looking like he’d taken the shot with the “wrong” foot.

There was still time ref Taylor to make one final contribution to the game. In case we’d forgotten how he’d ruined the match already he decided to make one last effort to ensure that he’d be the main topic of conversatiom. Another high-bouncing ball, another higher than normal foot, another totally ludicrous red card. Darron Gibson was the unlucky victim of yet another appalling piece of refereeing incompetence. Mr Taylor may just have got a clue when the “you don’t know what you’re doing” chant rang out from the HOME supporters.

Jem confused everyone by announcing that the sponsors had given “No 5 James Collins” their MOTM and that was about it. The whole sorry shambles was a testimony to the dangers of giving contracts to people to perform roles for which they are totally unqualified and this time I’m not talking about £1 fish man.

Full Time: West Ham United 1 Anthony Taylor 2


It is to be hoped that the appeals by both players will be successful. What would be nice would be if someone from PGMO could come out and apologise to both sets of supporters with a statement to the effect that Mr Taylor’s performance was not of a high enough standard and that he’d be given remedial lessons and, until such time as he’d shown himself capable of being capable of handling a professional match he would be suspended. Sadly that won’t happen until someone removes the job of assessing PGMO offocials from PGMO itself. Referees may be incompetent but few turkeys vote for Christmas and Riley isn’t going to put the cushy little number he and mates have at risk.

So with a nasty taste lingering in the mouth like stale sprouts it just remains for me to wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas. (Goodwill comments do not apply to PGMO officials – I hope Phil Dowd eats all your turkey and your sprouts are off.)



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Partly culpable for the goal and his kicking wasn’t at its best today.


James Tomkins
Had some dodgy moments against Moses but stuck to the task and eventually saw off his tormentor.


Joey O Brien
Usual reliable self at left back in the absence of Linda.


James Collins
Strangely given the MOTM award by the sponsors. Although there were some important interceptions throughout the game there were a number of occasions where he lost his man in the box – the first goal being a case in point.


Winston Reid
The better of the two centre-halves on the day in my opinion.


Gary O Neil
Decent solid performance, especiallg given that he was about “80%” fit.


Mark Noble
Better corners but lost the ball a few too many times.


Kevin Nolan
Busy match but ought to have equalised at the end.


Matt Taylor
Solid without being eye-catching – got a bit overrun when we went down to ten men.


Matt Jarvis
Looked lively going forward but another who struggled to cope when the ball started to come straight back.


Carlton Cole
Another fine goal. Another excellent display of holding up the ball. Ought to sue the ref – there are 35,000 witnesses who will back him up.


Substitutes


Modibo Maiga
(Replaced O'Neil)
A bit unlucky that he didn’t get a corner from the effort that Distan deflected wide but probably ought to have done better with the shot anyway.


Jordan Spence
(Replaced Tomkins, 45)
Just a wee cameo from the youngster.


Jack Collison
(Replaced Cole, 87)
Good to see him back – though part of me worries about the possibility that he’s been rushed in view of the injury crisis.


Raphael Spiegel
Did not play.


George Moncur
Did not play.


Alou Diarra
Did not play.


Sebastien Lletget
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Attendance: 35,005.

Man of the Match: Carlton Cole.

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, James Tomkins, Joey O Brien, James Collins, Winston Reid, Gary O Neil, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Matt Taylor, Matt Jarvis, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Carlton Cole 14                  .

Booked: Mark Noble 65          .

Sent off: None.

Everton

.

Substitutes: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Carlton Cole