Saturday, 28th December 2013
If you've read one of these before you'll note that I'm not a fan of really early kick-offs. You're never quite sure of what time you should be leaving home and other commitments meant an even earlier departure from Gnome Towers than usual, not helped by sitting up all night watching England's cricketers do their best West Ham impression.
There were changes to the starting XI. Adrian's error against Arsenal cost him his place and the curse of the central defender had hit Ginge leaving Tomkins as the only fit central defender, leaving Linda to partner him. Starting XI: JJ, O'Brien, Rat, Tomkins, McCartney, Noble, Diame, Jarvis, Cole (J), Nolan, Cole (C ).
The first few minutes were a bit tentative and the first chance went to the visitors, a deep cross leaving Brunt unmarked to volley into the side netting. However, within a few seconds of the restart we were one up. JJ's goal kick was nodded on by Cole C. Nolan and Cole J swapped passes with the latter bearing down on goal to beat Foster at his near post.
A confidence-boosting 1-0 up inside five minutes, what could possibly go wrong? Well I mentioned the curse of the central defender didn't I? Tomkins' troublesome groin, presumably not helped by his being thrown about by Essex Plod the other week started acting up. Barely ten minutes had passed before Tomkins limped off to be replaced by Demmel who went to right back with Joey O'B moving into the middle to partner Linda. So there we were with 80 left to play and a back four full of full backs. Different.
There was a pattern to the next 30 minutes. This consisted of the visitors passing the ball amongst themselves whilst every now and then we'd nick the ball and break forward with more intent. Carlton burst through down the right and fed Jarvis who ought to have shot from similar position from that when he'd scored against Spurs. The ball fell eventually to Nolan whose shot was blocked. Another burst forward led to a free-kick which Noble curled wide. Demel then clipped the post after being set up by Carlton.
The makeshift defence was doing its best but inevitably with players playing out of position something was going to give. A nothing ball caught Joey O'B the wrong side of Anelka. JJ seemed a bit slow off his line. Anelka's finish looked a bit like he was trying to take the ball around the 'keeper but had overhit it but whether intended or not the ball ended up in the net. Anelka's celebration landed him in hot water – though I have to admit until the morning after the match I had absolutely no idea what actually constitutes an anti-semetic gesture.
Carlton Cole then earned himself a caution, overstretching for a loose ball he caught Olsson high on the thigh. It was a yellow card but with Dean in charge you never know when the dishonesty chip the aliens replaced his brain with is going to kick in. Olsson tried to milk it pointing at the mark on his thigh to everyone who would look at it, a bit like we used to do when we got stitches when we were 8 years old but after an interminable wait whilst Dean made sure the cameras were on him the right card was produced.
Of course with Dean in charge a match-altering decision is never far away. As we entered stopage time, Cole challenged Morrison and the ball went out for a goal kick. Only someone with an interest in deliberately ignoring the laws of the game could possibly have decided that it was a corner. Unfortunately, as years of experience have shown, Dean has just such an interest. Predictably, West Brom scored from the corner, Anelka prodding home after Olsson's header had been blocked on the line.
The goal was met with boos. The defending from the corner was poor – almost as if we'd had a defence full of full-backs. Not much happened in the remaining 2 minutes of stoppage and the teams left to louder boos.
The injury to Tomkins had left us so short in defence that we mused that there might be an announcement asking for “anyone who can play centre-half to report to the home changing room”. The appearance of Anton Ferdinand on the pitch for a half-time interview prompted the comment that he'd obviously heard such an announcement.
Such was the mood about the place that the second half rendition of “Bubbles” satisfied all the conditions to qualify for “desultory” status in its own right, though interrupting it to announce the replacement of Cole C. by Maiga didn't help matters any.
Maiga did make a difference, though it took a while. Rat got forward to have a pop from distance but his shot failed to give much bother to Foster. Diame then got a volley horribly wrong but it was all pretty turgid stuff for a bit, exacerbated by some rather blatant timewasting. A minute to take a goal-kick? In the 52nd minute? Seriously?
We needed a spark and nearly got it on 63 minutes when Maiga dug the ball from out of his feet to send a curling shot towards the top corner, bringing a fine save out of Foster. Albion's respite was short-lived. Getting on to a pass from Nolan, Maiga found himself in similar position and tried a similar shot that, unlike its predecessor, kept low. Foster appeared deceived by the bounce and the ball went in to the far corner.
Things got even better within a minute. A rejuvenated midfield pushed forward and fed Demel, whose cross was only partially cleared. Noble kept things alive and bought himself some space with a clever twist and turn before crossing back into the box. Maiga headed down for Nolan to hook the ball home from close range.
So there we were 3-2 up and all we needed to do was to hang on for about 25 minutes. We could do that couldn't we? Could we heck. Berahino was given far too much space down our right and his low shot across goal went in via the far post.
Both sides pushed forward in the last twenty or so, the visitors coming closest with Berahino's free-kick coming back off the bar in the 81st minute. Dean finally got something right – though one can't help but feeling that Ridgewell's yellow for timewasting was more one for the cameras than anything else, Dean finally punishing him for taking half an hour to take a free-kick while whining that Maiga was only the statutory ten yards and not the twelve Dean seemed to have been insisting on for our defenders. The game petered out to the inevitable draw.
As I said it's a bit difficult to work out whether one should feel happy that we'd rescued a point or cheesed-off that we'd thrown two away from a winning position. Certainly at 2-1 down and looking devoid of ideas I'd have bitten your hand off for a point but having gone 3-2 up there was more than a feeling of let-down at the end, though even that was tempered by the fact that we'd played 80 minutes without a recognised centre-half.
So there endeth 2013. I'm not a superstitious chap on the whole (touch wood) but personally I've had better years. However things perked up luck-wise eventually. Surely the club's fortunes are due a similar upturn. I mean we can't lose any more centre-halves can we? I mean for a start there aren't any left.
And hopefully the “random” selection of referees might find us getting someone in the pack who isn't dishonest, corrupt or incompetent. There must be some somewhere.
Happy New Year*!
*Greeting does not apply to Mike Riley.
* Want to submit your match reports to KUMB.com? More details here ...
Click here to view all match reports by Gordon Thrower
A couple of easy-ish saves but was a bit low off his line for Anelka's first.
Joey O Brien
Not a central defender – and it showed.
Steady enough but the problems in defence seemed to restrict his forward ambitions.
Probably the pick of the defenders – remarkably so given his position.
Not his day.
Varied between bossing the game and getting caught in posession.
Not one of his better days I'm afraid.
My MOTM. One goal, two assists and chased a lot of lost causes. Did a hell of a lot of the sort of work that goes unnoticed.
Got into some good positions early on but faded.
Took his goal well but didn't impose himself on the game until finally replaced by Collison.
The only impression on the game he left was on Olsson's thigh.
Never quite seems to be in control of things. Gave Berahino far too much room for their third.
Won a lot in the air and deserved his goal – even if he had a bit of luck.
Didn't really add anything to proceedings.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan.
West Ham United
Jussi Jaaskaleinen, Joey O Brien, Razvan Rat, George McCartney, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Kevin Nolan, Matt Jarvis, Joe Cole , Carlton Cole.
Goals: Joe Cole 4 Modibo Maiga 65 Kevin Nolan 67 .
Booked: Carlton Cole 43 Kevin Nolan 57 Mo Diame 81 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
West Bromwich Albion
Ben Foster, Gareth McAuley, Diego Lugano, Jonas Olsson, Billy Jones, James Morrison, Youssouf Mulumbu, Chris Brunt, Liam Ridgewell, Saido Berahino, Nicolas Anelka.
Substitutes: Morgan Amalfitano (Diego Lugano 68), Claudio Yacob (James Morrison 78), Stephane Sessegnon (Saido Berahino 85).
Subs not used: Boaz Myhill, Scott Sinclair, Matej Vydra, Craig Dawson.
Goals: Nicolas Anelka (40, 45), Saido Berahino (69).
Booked: Youssouf Mulumbu (48), Liam Ridgewell (90).
Sent Off: None sent off..