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Premier League
Saturday, 14th December 2013

West Ham United 0
Sunderland 0

by Trevor Twohig


The West Ham faithful sat through yet another stalemate at Upton Park, as Sunderland rued missed opportunities to win the game.

Well, that is the last time I will be making any predictions before a West Ham United game. I was that confident I put them in my acca, breaking one of my many gambling rules of fun. Don't back West Ham, or any team that is so woeful in front of goal for that matter.

It all started so well, with the Man City and Arsenal goalfest, followed by some relatively pleasing team news from Big Sam. I think he picked the best team he had at his disposal, with Tomkins passing a late fitness test and Joe Cole coming into the starting line up.

Nolan was suspended (a blessing in disguise I thought) so Ravel came back in and lined up with Jarvis, Noble and Diame to make up the midfield. Maiga kept his place up top after a fairly decent performance against Liverpool last week.

This was touted as a 'must win' for both teams, yet I suppose being brutally honest, Sunderland needed it more than us. This was indeed evident by the way they started and kept up the relentless pace of the game.

The Sunderland midfield hurried us off the ball and did not let us create any real chances of note. This was mirrored by Andre Marriner's shockingly poor refereeing decisions, leaving us with little to no chances in the first half with fans and players extremely frustrated.

An example of Marriner's ineptitude came in the first half when West Ham had a free kick that big James Collins was lining up to boom into the box. Jozy Altidore, crept forward as a one man wall, causing Marriner to blow up and rightfully usher him back.

He promptly ignored the ref's requests only to shuffle ever closer to the dead ball, much to the crowd's disgust. Altidore looked at the ref, the ref shrugged his shoulders before ushering Collins to get on with it, at which point Altidore leapt forward and at the point of contact was literally two yards from the dead ball.

To add further insult to injury, the ball cannoned off the striker's right bum cheek and towards the West Ham half. Altidore, waiting for the referee's whistle and ensuing card/free kick, hears the golden sound of silence and finds himself through on goal and bearing down on Jussi.

Due to being apoplectic with rage I didn't see what happened, but he clearly didn't score. This most certainly would have been for the best as I daresay he would have had a few hundred West Ham fans wanting to send the boys round if he had.

Sunderland continued to press hard and Jussi tipped a rifling effort onto the bar at the end of the half. West Ham continued to look, like headless, leaderless chickens.

The second half started, subs came and went, they were all pretty useless and we continued to get played off the park by bottom-of-the-pile Sunderland. Nerves were jangling and the crowd remained quiet until the final 25 minutes or so where we tried fruitlessly to inspire this desperately misfiring team.

It was to no avail and the game ended in a horrible 0-0. Sunderland will quite honestly feel very hard done by. They had 59 per cent of possession and 19 shots on goal. Luckily we had a keeper who had one of his better games.

My favourite part of the game was when Jack Collison came out for a cheeky little warm up at the start of the second half. He was eating a banana and managed to stretch, applaud the crowd and take a chunk of the fruit simultaneously, without a second thought.

It was mightily impressive to say the least and I only wonder if he could transform these multi-tasking skills onto the pitch we might be onto something. Imagine a West Ham player who could run, look up and shoot at the same time, eh?

I think Noble had his worst game so far this season. Jarvis was equally very poor. Maiga has the ability to jump really, really high. Like he seems to hang in the air for what seems like an age before ultimately missing the ball and bottling out of the subsequent tackle.

Ravel ran around and around and around the opposition penalty box, either too frightened or too lazy to pull the trigger. James Collins continues to amaze me how he plays Premier League football, he literally offers nothing. His free-kicks are usually over hit and inaccurate and gone are the day of his aerial threat.

At the death, he had a chance to win it with a clear header but the ball glanced off the side of his big ginger bonce and dribbled out for a goal kick, a beautiful and poignant metaphor for West Ham's general attacking threat at present.

It was the first time I have been bored at West Ham this season, there really was nothing to shout about at all. We keep banging on about the striker situation but it's the least of our worries. The team have no belief and no drive at the moment which is a massive concern in a relegation scrap. I actually missed Nolan for a brief moment in the game, which goes to show what sort of a state we are in.

I would not have been surprised to see the back of Big Sam this morning after such a feeble display at home. Also, I thought his post-match comments were laughable and embarrassing, praising the point and the clean sheet, bemoaning the fact that we needed 'just one goal in eight of the games' etc. etc.

I wonder if Pellegrini sets his side up to think 'just one goal, that's all we need today.' It's farcical really, but hey ho this is West Ham United, where anything can happen.

Even before the game, David Sullivan came out having a little whinge about Andy Carroll and his injury. Apparently he would not have signed him if he'd have known he would not have played so far this season.

In other news, the publishing firms that rejected Harry Potter wished they had have given it another read and people are quite sad that Nelson Mandela died too. I mean really, what is the point? I wish our owners could keep their mouths shut at times and let the football (for better or worse) do the talking.

Or at least spend some time thinking whether Big Sam is indeed still the man,? From where I am looking, the players and fans seem to have lost faith. But these are owners who like to stand by their man, just like they did with Uncle Avram. We can only hope there is not the same result at the end of the season.

This week we go away to manager-less Spurs before a trip up north to the champions, Manchester United. That is followed by the visit of Arsenal on Boxing Day. This fan is a little anxious to say the least.



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Man of the match - kept us in the game.


Guy Demel
A solid game.


George McCartney
Did nothing of note - poor crossing.


James Collins
A bit of a liability for me.


James Tomkins
Fights solidly for the cause - came bursting out of defence with some good runs.


Mark Noble
Looked a bit lost today.


Mo Diame
We are completely reliant on his energetic runs.


Joe Cole
Without my rose-tinted JC specs on, nothing really of note today.


Matt Jarvis
Very, very poor.


Ravel Morrison
Didn't know what to do with the ball when he had it.


Modibo Maiga
Tries hard - fails miserably.


Substitutes


Jack Collison
Very little of note from his half-hour or so on the pitch.


Joey O Brien
Did a sound job at the back but got the jitters evey time he crossed the halfway line. Take him on, son!


Carlton Cole
No threat at all.


Adrian
Did not play.


Razvan Rat
Did not play.


Matt Taylor
Did not play.


Alou Diarra
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Attendance: 31,843.

Man of the Match: Jussi Jaaskelainen.

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, George McCartney, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Joe Cole, Matt Jarvis, Ravel Morrison, Modibo Maiga.

Goals: None.

Booked: Mark Noble 25          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Sunderland

Vito Mannone, Ondrej Celustka, John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley, Lee Cattermole, Sung-Yeung Ki, Emanuele Giaccherini, Sebastian Larsson, Fabio Borini, Jozy Altidore.

Substitutes: Adam Johnson (Fabio Borini 72), Steven Fletcher (Jozy Altidore 73), Andrea Dossena (Phil Bardsley 82).

Subs not used: Adilson Cabral, Jordan Pickford, Valentin Roberge, Craig Gardner.

Goals: None.

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Trevor Twohig's Man of the Match: Jussi Jaaskelainen