Saturday, 2nd November 2013
Team news on a bright, mild autumn Saturday afternoon was that Jack Collison, surprisingly, had been preferred to Mo Diame, but with few options up front we went for the topless look with the side pretty much picking itself thusly: JJ, Demel, Rat, Reid, Tomkins, Noble, Collison, Downing, Jarvis, Morrison, Noan.
This being our closest home match to Remembrance Sunday wreaths were laid in the centre circle in memory of those who gave so much. Villa fans need to take a good look at themselves at this point. Booing David Gold at the point he was about to lay a wreath was pretty bad darts in my view. They were hardly the quietest of groups in the minute's silence either. Wisely the home support elected to wait until the silence had concluded before giving its collective opinion.
We were a bit slow out of the traps. In particular Rat seemed incapable of completing a pass – finding either the opposition or touch with alarming regularity. We survived a scare on 6 minutes. Weimann got goal side of Tomkins, latching on to a long ball from the back but his shot lacked confidence. JJ made himself look big and the ball rebounded off him to safety.
The incident seemed to wake us up. Downing, spurred on by the jeers of the visiting support went down the right and crossed. Jarvis nodded back but Collison failed to get a clean strike in and th ball was cleared to safety.
We were getting some joy down the flanks. Rat, for once, failed to find touch, though Jarvis had to go some to keep the ball in. The winger's cross found Nolan who turned well but, like Collison earlier, the shot was fluffed. Next it was Downing's turn. Cutting in from the right, his run across goal ended up with a shot that had the misfortune to be right down Guzan's throat.
Jarvis then won a corner which led to a bit of pinball before being cleared long to Weimann. The Villa man seemed to have a yard or two start on Morrison but the youngster got back superbly, and even Howard Webb wasn't fooled by Weimann's rather embarrassing attempt to win a free-kick by throwing himself to the floor when Morrison proved to be too strong for Weimann to shove off the ball.
Nolan broke away from central midfield. His through ball wasn't the greatest but Jarvis nipped in after a messed-up clearance, only to shoot at Guzan.
There really ought to have been a sending off next. Noble had his legs taken away and a free-kick was rightly given. With Noble still on the floor Lowton came across with a disgraceful stamp on his shin. Webb was certainly close enough to have seen the incident though it is questionable as to whether he was actually looking at it. The FA ought to be taking a look at this and, if Webb saw the incident, they really should be considering whether someone whose judgement is that poor ought to be refereeing at this level. If Webb didn't see the stamp than Lowton should be looking at a three match lay-off.
We tried to be cute with the free-kick by playing it short into the box. It didn't work is probably the nicest thing I can say about it.
There was more questionable refereeing shortly after Demel's flick made a mug of Bacuna who hauled Demel back. Quite why the yellow card such situations demand wasn't shown you'll have to ask Webb who is, apparently, one of our best referees you now. Sadly standards are so poor that may actually be true.
The resulting free-kick flicked off a defending head and forced a corner. Guzan who under a slight bit of pressure from Reid did the standard throwing himself to floor bit to remind referees of the special but strangely unpublished laws of the game that apply to 'keepers these days.
The second period started with an immediate foul from Bacuna who, clearly recognising that he had been given a freebie from Webb at the end of the first half, elected to use it on a hack at Webb, who brandished the resulting yellow with all the guilt of someone who knew he'd messed up earlier.
Sadly Webb hadn't learnt his lesson. Lowton thought he'd use up his freebie on a cynical trip on Jarvis. The free-kick was awarded but no yellow was forthcoming. Noble's free-kick failed to beat the first defender. Lowton made the most of Webb's leniency by promptly bundling Jarvis to the floor again. Webb finally twigged what was going on and gave Lowton a yellow he shouldn't have been on the pitch to receive. Noble's free-kick was cleared to the edge but Morrison's effort was wayward.
Just on the hour we made a couple of changes. Jarvis and Collison came off to be replaced by Cole J and Coe C. It was nice to see that some things never change, with web going into referee guaranteed failsafe mode no.1, which is to give a foul against Cole C whether or not he is the guilty party.
Villa then had their best chance. Benteke, who had been hiding all match got free at the far post to head against the bar. In truth it would have been a travesty has Villa scored but it would also have been typical West Ham. We then went up the other end and Downings clever reverse pass into the box deserved much better than the pig's ear Nolan made of it in shooting wide at the near post. Benteke then got the better of Tomkins and shot across goal, JJ diving low to his left to tip the ball around for a corner.
With stoppage time looming Diame replaced Rat. Demel played in Joe Cole whose turn lost a defender but Guzan was able to turn the shot away and that was just about yer lot.
This wasn't bad game of football and, overall, we were by far the better side. However, like one of Wayne Rooney's tarts, our play was all rather toothless. The fact that Villa could have nicked an undeserved three points was a bit worrying. On the other hand, the draw did end a run of home defeats so I suppose we ought to be grateful for that. In the meantime, with the opening of the window only a couple of months away it is rather to be hoped that someone is, as we speak, addressing the striker situation.
Even if Carroll is back in a few weeks – and that deadline seems to be an ever flexible feast – we simply don't have anything else at the moment with our alternatives being too unfit, too injured or too goal-shy to warrant selection in the manager's eye. Going into the first half of the season like that is one thing – Carroll's second injury was something that was unforseeable - but seeing out the second half in such fashion would be lunacy.
And we've had enough of that over the years at the Boleyn thank you very much.
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Largely unemployed he was required on three occasions and was not found wanting.
A bit patchy but defensively at least he looked pretty sound.
A bit of a 'mare, particularly in the first half when he seemed incapable of finding a team-mate.
Another outstanding effort. People are beginning to notice I'm afraid. A new contract is a must if we are to progress.
Another good day at the office. Has anyone seen Benteke?
Influential and at the heart of much of our play. Ded ball deivery could be better though.
Tidy game but I'm not sure he did enough to justify selection ahead of Diame.
Got the sponsors' MOTM award which was a reflection more of who they wanted to have their photos taken with. Whether by accident or under instruction he seemed to be playing a bit deep which seemed to nullify his effectivenes.
Had the beating of his full back but his crosses were invariably cut out.
Same as Jarvis really,Had 45 minutes to get at a defender on a yellow but filed to make the most of the opportunity.
Hard work is not enough. Wasted a couple of decent opportunities.
I can see why Sam has been reluctant to throw him in – he's clearly still got few lbs to shed. Whilst his backside isn't quite up to Razor Ruddock levels it's still one for the “wide load” signs.
Failed to exert any influence.
I'd have preferred him to have started instead of coming on for all of four minutes.
Did not play.
Joey O Brien
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Howard Webb.
Man of the Match: Winston Reid.
West Ham United
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Razvan Rat, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Jack Collison, Ravel Morrison, Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan.
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Brad Guzan, Ron Vlaar, Nathan Baker, Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton, Yacouba Sylla, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Leandro Bacuna, Andreas Weimann, Christian Benteke.
Substitutes: Libor Kozak (Andreas Weimann 57).
Subs not used: Nicklas Helenius, Jed Steer, Chris Herd, Jordan Bowery, Aleksandar Tonev, Daniel Johnson.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..