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Premier League
Saturday, 17th August 2013

West Ham United 2
Cardiff City 0

by Gordon Thrower


Ah the start of the season. As Roger Waters put it when writing stuff that also involved crossed Hammers “that warm thrill of confusion”, (though to be honest it’s hard to imagine Romford for one ever admitting to “that space-cadet glow).

In a summer without a major tournament we were all reduced to shouting “Heron” at the screen at every mention of Jill Scott’s name during the women’s Euro 2013 tournament. So the final arrival of the new season has come as a blessed relief, not least to those who have to sit with me while I shout “Heron” at tv screens every few minutes.

The close season is the time for new signings and anticipation. However, none of our new boys made the starting line-up. Rat’s omission from the starting XI didn’t come as a major surprise following coach Ian Hendon’s comments after last week’s friendly, whilst Downing had only had about five minutes to meet his new chums. Carroll’s heel, which sounds like one of those wars they had in colonial days, is likely to take another two weeks to, er, heal so we were left with a starting line up of JJ, Demel, O’Brien, Reid, Collins, Noble, Diame, Cole, Jarvis, Nolan, Maiga, In our part of the ground we were pleased to welcome the West Ham debut of three year old Fraser Smith, who has replaced his much-missed grandfather Alan in the coveted “sitting next to Gnome” seat.

Pre-match we were given the opportunity to celebrate the career of Billy Bonds MBE. Bonzo was given a Lifetime Achievement award and seemed genuinely touched by the affection and regard held for him by the crowd. I suspect that the names Redknapp and Beauchamp were conspicuous by their absence from that particular guest list.

Of the two teams we settled the better and, without either side creating much in the way of clear-cut chances. The visitors survived an early scare as ‘keeper Marshall came to the edge of his box to gather a ball, coming perilously close to handling outside the box. His feet appeared to be on the line whilst there was a palpable lean forward required to gather the ball. Webb gave him the benefit of the doubt.

It seems that our delivery into the box, not always the greatest last season, is something that has been worked on over the summer and crosses were beginning to cause problems for the visitors. Jarvis got into a little bit of space but the ball came at him in awkward fashion. By the time he had sorted his feet out the defence were able to smuggle it clear. This left them with numerical supremacy on the break as Collins backed off Bo. However, with Bellamy making ground to his left, the Korean midfielder elected to go it alone and his shot sailed harmlessly wide.

We took the lead on 13 minutes. Cole started the move off picking up the ball in central midfield before laying it off to Diame who, in turn, moved it on to Jarvis. The winger taunted his marker before playing the ball back into the box. The ball actually went behind tmost of those in the box. However, Cole was able to check his run, control, rmake space, swivel and curl a low shot into the bottom corner. It was an excellent finish – vaguely reminiscent in style of the goal scored by Scotland’s Miller in the England match the other night, should you require a point of reference.

The noise all got a bit much for young Fraser at this point and our 3 year old chum promptly burst into tears. We reassured him that the this was a far from uncommon reaction and that he would spend much of the rest of his life being reduced to tears by the club but this didn’t really reassure him much to be honest.

Cole ought to have doubled the lead shortly after. The busy Diame wrestled the ball away in midfield and Cole in. Whether or not Cole thought he was offside, of if it was simply a matter of his not reckoning he had the legs to stay clear of the defender I’m not sure. His decision to try a chip may also simply have been an attempt to try the spectacular. Whatever the reason, it was a pretty feeble effort, lacking height, direction and just about any of the qualities that would have been required for the shot to go in and Marshall was able to gather with little fuss.

The match was not one of much in the way of incident, though we did have a yellow card shortly before the half hour. When fed, Jarvis was looking sharp and was capable of taking on his full back, seemingly at will. On one of the occasions that he elected to lay the ball back into the middle, Connolly took him out with a late one. Webb played the advantage and, though a significant period elapsed before the ball went dead, eventually the deserved caution was issued. Good spot of refereeing.

The half wound itself down and young Fraser, who by now had perked up a bit, picked up his first win in the “how many minutes of stoppage time” competition that we always have in our part of the ground, wisely electing for the one minute that was actually added.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Cardiff City 0



When Billy Met Sam: manager #7 meets manager #14


Fraser and I spent the interval having a dogfight with the toy planes that he’d brought along, though I think it was a bit unfair of him to have had first choice of planes – I mean it’s obvious that a Stuka is going to have a slight edge over what I think was a Tiger Moth on the grounds of the former not being made of bits of wood and string.

There were no personnel changes during the break and we started the brighter of the two sides after the restart. Diame worked himself into good space and, with the Cardiff midfield opening up like some sort of last human gateway, he bore down on goal only to get under the shot which cleared the goal with ease.

The second half was a scrappy affair and, although the visitors enjoyed more possession than they had done during the opening 45, we were nothing but comfortable in our play. At the back, Reid was in particularly impressive form and JJ had little to do. We did have one weird moment when JJ came a long way to deal with a loose ball on the edge of the box but was beaten to it by an opponent. It was clearly a goal-kick but Webb saw it differently. The resulting corner did cause a spot of (very) mild consternation but it was nothing to worry the cardiac patients in the crowd and the ball was cleared, much, I suspect, to the relief of Webb.

We came a matter of inches from going 2-0 up on the hour. Some fine work in the left channel by Mo Diame saw him play in Mo Maiga on the left hand side of the box. Maiga’s shot (and I’m pretty sure it was a shot) caught the finest of fingertip touches from Marshall with Nolan just failing to connect, sliding in at the far post.

With 20 minutes left we made our first change as Jarvis, who hadn’t received much in the way of service, since the interval, was replaced by Downing. This prompted a bit of a switch with Cole moving over to accommodate the new-boy’s preferred role on the right hand side. Downing’s introduction had an immediate effect on the game as, seemingly in an effort to make up for lost time, he started to torment the Cardiff midfield, taking on and beating his marker with invariable ease.

On 74 minutes Bellamy was replaced for the visitors by Gestede. Bellamy had been booed throughout the match by a small minority who were presumably ignorant of the full circumstances of his transfer from the club, though with the 24 hour wall to wall internet coverage of the game these days, it’s hard to imagine how the details might have eluded them. As Bellamy came ashore that minority booed. However, the hitherto silent majority (you can hardly applaud the player every time he touches the ball), in making a point, quickly drowned the disapproving noises with the more generous sound of applause – something that, to his credit, the player acknowledged. Nobody’s saying that Bellamy should be awarded legend status for his spell at the Boleyn but he was a decent player for us when fit and, at the time of his transfer, was more sinned against than sinning, so I was happy to give him a more fair-minded departure.

At the same time as Bellamy left, the visitors brought on Maynard for Bo. Maynard’s last appearance at the Boleyn had seen him score a fine effort against his current employers and he too arrived to a round of applause from the home support.

As if to reward the fair-,mindedness of the home support we were rewarded with the second goal a few minutes later. Downing started the move on the right feeding Diame who, in turn fed Noble, who, in turn, moved the ball on square to Nolan. Whose first time effort curled away from Marshall to give the ‘keeper no chance. Again the eruption of noise was a bit much for little Fraser, though our demonstration of the Nolan chicken dance did cheer the lad up a bit. It was a fine goal, and one to add to the list of videos to ram down someone’s throat next time you have to deal with an ignoramus giving you all the “it’s all hoofball” line.

With 9 left of normal time, the apparently rehabilitated Diarra came on for Diame Three minutes later Cardiff really ought to have reduced the deficit. We failed to cut out a cross from our left and Maynard was handily placed on the edge of the six-yard box. You’d have thought it more difficult to put the ball over than to score from there, but Maynard got underneath it and put it into the STB. It was by far and away their best chance of the match.

As five minutes of stoppage were announced, Vaz Te replaced Cole, who had been awarded the sponsors’ MOTM award. The final scare came deep into stoppage time when Noble gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box. Whittingham measured it up much in the same way that Jonny Wilkinson used to measure up a penalty. The effect was much the same as Whittingham too failed to get the ball under the bar and between the posts and the ball sailed harmlessly wide. And that was your lot.

Full Time: West Ham United 2 Cardiff City 0



A good debut: Stewart Downing enjoyed a brief cameo


For a few moments we were actually top of the league until Villa added their third at the library. As Jem put it when reading out the scores, it was almost worth not being top of the league to hear the Arsenal result. It’s good to have an announcer with a bit of personality (imagine having that bloke at Anfield who sounds like he’s about to slit his wrists at any moment). Clever move too using the stadium emergency all-clear announcement as the title for his (excellent) book. Mr Moon was in and out of the stadium so much in this match Jem got a nice few quid’s worth of free advertising!

This was a decent win. Cardiff rarely threatened. There were a number of reasons for this. I believe that six of their starting XI were new signings, which will always problems early on in a new season. Possibly more worrying for them might be a lack of firepower, a cutting edge. They can point to the absence of one of their new boys in the shape of Cornelius as a contributory factor to that. Of course it’s far too earlyto make any real judgements but they’ll need to address that lack of penetration sooner rather than later if they want to avoid a hard season.

Us? Well that was job done. A good team performance that bodes well. Yes there are tougher tests to come and it remains to be see how we will perform on the road, our away form being the one disappointing factor of last season’s fine 10th place finish. Or, to put it another way in traditional West Ham supporter cautious style, another 37 points should see us safe!



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
The new goalkeeper’s kit’s a bit bright isn’t it. “Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be a traffic cone”. Barely tested at all during this one – I’m struggling to think of one save worthy of the name.


Guy Demel
Not much to do defensively and he contributed well on the attacking side of things. Some nice signs of a proper understanding with Cole beginning to develop.


Joey O’Brien
He’ll have tougher afternoons but coped perfectly well with the little that Cardiff gave him to deal with. Roland might have to wait a bit.


Winston Reid
Pick of the defence. Seems to have carried on where he left off after last season. Barely a foot wrong.


James Colins
A typically unfussy display from Ginge. Distribution not his strong point but there again that’s not what he’s there for.


Mo Diame
Busy bustling display from the big fellah. Played a major part in both goals.


Mark Noble
A quietly efficient 90 minutes. A couple of needless fouls given away – something he’ll have to watch.


Joe Cole
Fine finish for his goal. Could possibly have added another one or two. Less influential in the second half.


Matt Jarvis
Set up the first goal and looked lively – though he can only perform if he gets the service that became less forthcoming as the match progressed in the second half.


Kevin Nolan
Looking back through the match report I barely mention the skipper. This was basically because his work was largely performed off the ball. The closing down, chasing back and generally running his legs off were all a major contribution to the victory, if not an obvious one. I, what was a fine team performance it’s difficult to single anyone out for MOTM and it’s a toss up between Nolan and Reid for the honour. It came down heads. Sorry Winston.


Modibo Maiga
Difficult for the lad as, when we play him in on the deck he looks useful. Did a lot of useful chasing down, though he was a little too ponderous in getting back onside on occasion for my liking.


Substitutes


Stewart Downing
Nice little cameo from the new-boy who seems to have a point to prove.


Alou Diarra
Came in to do a holding job for the last ten or so. Did ok.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Might have done better with a late shot but otherwise given little time to have much of an effect.


Adrian
Did not play.


Razvan Rat
Did not play.


James Tomkins
Did not play.


Ravel Morrison
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Howard Webb.

Attendance: 34,977.

Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan.

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Joey O’Brien, Winston Reid, James Colins, Mo Diame, Mark Noble, Joe Cole, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, Modibo Maiga.

Goals: Joe Cole 13 Kevin Nolan 76                .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Cardiff City

David Marshall, Matthew Connolly, Steven Caulker, Ben Turner, Declan John, Gary Medel, Aron Gunnarsson, Peter Whittingham, Bo-Kyung Kim, Fraizer Campbell.

Substitutes: Rudy Gestede (Craig Bellamy 75), Nicky Maynard (Bo-Kjung Kim 75), Jordon Mutch (Fraizer Campbell 90+6).

Subs not used: Mark Hudson, Don Cowie, Tommy Smith, Joe Lewis.

Goals: None.

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan


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