Saturday, 1st February 2014
It would be him, wouldn't it? Praising him feels like a bad case of toothache, but here goes... Two perfect finishes. He ran, he harried, he hustled, he worked, he played well, and he thoroughly deserved his ovation when he was subbed.
No unnecessary gobbiness, no petulance, no nasty little challenges; just an honest and excellent performance. If he played like that every week, I wouldn't dislike him half so much. Man of the Match? Absolutely no doubt about that - Andy Carroll (sorry, Kev!).
The Big Man Is Back. With a bang. For 60 minutes, he bullied Swansea out of the game. He won everything (or so it seemed). For 25 minutes, the game was a proper (and fair) battle, if a bit low on quality.
We saw the downside of having AC in the side - too many largely aimless balls being thumped into him (which, naturally, isn't his fault). Then, a counter-attack. Terrific vision from Noble to dump a decent pass into acres of space; great running from McCartney, a peach of a pinpoint cross; perfect knockdown from Carroll; perfect finish from Nolan; 1-0.
I dunno about you lot but I'm always nervous about us leading by a goal, especially this season! Then right on the stroke of half-time, exactly what we wanted, 2-0. Andy again did brilliantly to get the ball back in just the right place for Nolan to finish; astonishingly, our first headed goal in the Premier League this season.
Quite simply, Swansea could not not cope with him. Until 60 minutes had passed and Howard Webb made his one farcical decision of the match; a shame, because that aside I thought the officials had decent games.
There's only one word for Chico Flores - cheat. I'm no fan of in-game video technology. I don't want the game constantly being interrupted. Incidents like that, though, point up a crying need for a Rugby Union style post-match adjudication panel.
I honestly though Carroll had been fouled, the way Flores came through the back and over the top of him. No! Red card for Andy! We can only hope that Mr Webb has a look at that afterwards, says "Ooops!", and rescinds it, because it should be a minimum five-game ban for that sort of disgraceful play-acting, instead of which we face losing the Big Man for three. Still AC for MotM, in my book.
We were then left with 30 minutes to manfully defend, and by 'eck, we did it. After Chelsea, I said: "That's all very well, but we have to do it again and again and again". We well did it on Wednesday, and we've done it again today. Swansea created nothing all game long; plenty of shots, but nothing on target. Adrian, apart from showing some great speed off his line at times and taking a few catches, was blissfully untroubled.
Until we went down to 10 men, the defence was also largely untroubled, one cracking challenge in the first half from Tomkins aside after which they really put themselves on the line. For that, praise must be given to our centre midfield.
A special word for Mattie Taylor. I've said more than once after recent games that, whilst I love his commitment and work-rate, he's not quite Premier League-quality. I may have to recant.
In the last two matches, he's formed a really tigerish partnership with Noble. On the flanks, his lack of pace gets exposed, and his erratic passing, crossing, and shooting can be thoroughly frustrating. In the middle though he's a regular terrier; you just cannot get rid of him! If he can't tackle you he'll still keep running, and probably throw himself in the way of whatever you create.
Despite his brace, Nolan only gets fourth place on my list for MotM today. You can toss a coin over whether Noble or Taylor comes second; I can't decide. For 25 minutes today we scrapped; for 35 minutes we bossed; for 30 minutes we said "They shall not pass!" And they didn't.
All of the qualities that have been too often missing this season were there today. Let's hope they're there next week. And let's hope that Howard Webb does the decent thing, so that Andy can be there too!
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Quick off his line when needed; otherwise had little to worry about or do.
His usual hard working, dependable self. Defended well, got forward well, too.
Beauty of a cross for the first goal; otherwise much the same sort of game as Demel.
Solid and untroubled.
The pick of the defence, but the width if that slender first half tackle on Bony.
Superb again. What more can you say?
Rapidly changing my (not-unflattering) opinion of him, and he's making a centre-mid berth his own. The never-say-die attitude makes up for the lesser creativity he brings.
His work-rate continues to be excellent; his delivery & effectiveness going forward was much better today.
As with Jarvis, worked hard, delivered much better, though too many of the corners were still dodgy.
One of too few really good games for us. If he's our leader, he needs to lead like this more often.
All it wanted was a goal for a perfect 10; 60 terrific minutes spoiled by Cheato Flores conning the ref.
Not easy coming on a man down to replace Carroll; did his best for the 25 minutes he was on.
Not on long enough to have much impact. Beyond the impact of simply knowing that he's back in the squad, anyway!
Got a few minutes at the end to show his enthusiasm, but no more.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Howard Webb.
Man of the Match: Andy Carroll.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Guy Demel, George McCartney, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Matt Taylor, Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll.
Goals: Kevin Nolan 26 Kevin Nolan 45 .
Booked: Mark Noble 33 .
Sent Off: Andy Carroll 59 .
Gerhard Tremmel, Chico Flores, Dwight Tiendalli, Ashley Williams, Ben Davies, Jordi Amat, Nathan Dyer, Jonjo Shelvey, Jonathan De Guzman, Wayne Routledge, Wilfried Bony.
Substitutes: Alejandro Pozoelo (Jordi Amat 63), Pablo Hernandez (Jonjo Shelvey 70), David Ngog (Nathan Dyer 77).
Subs not used: David Cornell, Leon Britton, Angel Rangel, Roland Lamah.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..