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Premier League
Saturday, 1st February 2014

West Ham United 2
Swansea City 0

by Gordon Thrower


Strange day all round. I was woken by the sight of bright yellow thing in the sky making my eyes hurt. A brief look in my Observer's Book Of Strange Things In The Sky, a few pages after the entry for Peter Crouch's head, showed that the bright shiny yellow thing was, in fact, the Sun, a yellow dwarf star about which this planet orbits at a distance of about 93,000,000 miles.

Just a bit of info there in case it ever reappears. Another useful hint is that, if ever Upton Girlie offers you a lift, give her a pick up time of some 90 minutes earlier than you actually need to be picked up – thus giving you a sporting chance of her arriving on time.

Team news was that O'Brien was missing after the 19th century assault from Cahill in midweek left him with a dislocated shoulder. Linda came in to deputise. Diame's trip into the home end at Stamford Bridge has let him with another knock but on the bright side Winston Reid was fit enough to take a place on the bench. Of the new signings, the two Italians made the bench, leaving us with a starting line-up of:

Adrian, Demel, McCartney, Tomkins, Collins, Noble, Taylor, Jarvis, Downing, Nolan, Carroll.

It was a quietish start to the game, as it often is with these silly o'clock kick-off. In fact there wasn't much in the way of incident other than the irritating habit that Howard Webb had of punishing perfectly fair tackles.

However, it was clear that the confidence gained from the midweek draw at Chelsea was still coursing through the veins. We looked the better side though neither side created much in the way of chances. We did have a Carroll knock-down fall to Tomkins who failed to keep his effort down. It fell to the wrong player really. However, the lead was only 8 minutes away.

Pushing forward down the left hand side Linda played a ball into the box. Carroll's header back found Nolan who took a touch on his thigh before dispatching his shot low past the 'keeper. Excellent finish from the skipper.

We needed to keep it tight straight after the goal and a loose pass was not on the order list, Noble picking up a justified yellow for a tug back on Bony who had got wrong side.

If Tomkins had been the wrong man in the wrong place earlier on, the reverse was true ten minutes after the goal. We were a bit short-handed at the back as the visitors eschewed their prior tactic of making twenty passes along the back and midfield for a quick ball over the top towards Bony.

Bony seemed to have got the wrong side of Tomkins and was bearing down on goal only for Tomkins to get in a tackle that was perfectly timed and got our bit of the ground of our backsides in appreciation. The timing was perfect – a microsecond either way and we'd have been looking at a penalty and a red card so Tomkins deserved every pat on the back that he got.

The season hasn't been too kind to us thus far so we were musing that a second goal before the interval would be a rather splendid thing if it wasn't too much bother. Clearly Carroll had the same idea as he first had a header saved by Tremmel, an effort that was followed by an optimistic shot from the edge of the box after a clever take and turn, an attempt that was again easily dealt with by Tremmel.

Carroll was on a mission and, with the ball played out short he hounded Williams into conceding a corner as one minute of stoppage was announced. Downing's corner was kept in by Carroll at the far post and Nolan did marvellously well to arch his back to guide the ball home for what I am told was our first headed goal of the season. Another fine finish. The remaining 40 seconds were played out without further fuss and that was it for the half.

Half Time West Ham United 2 Swansea City 0


The half time interval saw Sky's Charlie Webster finishing off a charity run in aid of a domestic violence charity, an event she marked by kissing the centre spot that Howard Webb had been occupying for the previous 45 minutes. All in a good cause.

The second half started with a sense of optimism that, for once, was justified with us winning a couple of corners. Carroll, predictably, was at the centre of things, having a number of headers go wide. The centre forward also set up Jarvis who took the ball round Tremmel but saw his cross blocked by Davies.

Jarvis was, I'm pleased to say, honest in beating the 'keeper. In a similar situation we'd have seen – to take a cheat at random, say, Oscar, deliberately trailing a foot in an attempt to win a penalty. Unfortunately it was honesty that was not reciprocated by our opponents.

A deflected effort aside Swansea created little and clearly they were going to have to do something to stop the player who was giving them so much trouble. However, nobody was quite prepared for just how low they would stoop.

A ball from the back was played towards the no.9 who had the inconvenience of Chico throttling him. As the players separated there was the lightest of brushes on the top of the defender's head as Carroll spun round – if anything Flores, who was flinging his left arm with obvious intent, made contact with Carroll rather than the other way round.

Flores clutched his face and spun round and round on the floor in what was simply the most embarrassing bit of play acting ever seen on a football ground outside of Anfield (where, of course the local brain donors like to defend such actions).

What was equally disgraceful was the way Howard Webb fell for a dive that even Stevie Wonder looking the other way would have spotted. People say that Webb is one of our best referees – it's a mantra trotted out time and time again and is based on the fact that he once refereed a World Cup Final.

This ignores a number of facts. Like the fact that World Cup Final appointments are largely political in nature and depend on which countries are still left in the competition. It also ignores the fact that his dreadful refereeing came pretty close to ruining said final. It also ignores the fact that his domestic performances before and after the tournament have been increasingly erratic and inconsistent.

It's about time Webb and the other fireproof idiots that are contributing to the spoiling of the game got marked on their actual performances, rather than an inaccurate assessment of their reputation.

In the past this season we've been on the end of a number of match-changing errors by referees who have not been up the job and we've often been guilty of letting such incidents affect us. Not this time. The injustice of what was a ludicrous decision seemed to galvanise the team and, tellingly the opposition were unable to take advantage of their 12-10 numerical superiority.

Five minutes after the sending-off Jarvis was sacrificed for Carlton Cole to give us an outlet up front. Swansea carried on passing the ball across the middle but, my stats people inform me, they didn't muster a shot on target from the moment Chico was shot to the end of the game.

Probably the most welcome sight of the second half came on 78 minutes. Taylor, who had had a fine game at Chelsea and had continued the good work into this match came off and was replaced by Winston Reid, who was greeted by his own personal “who put the ball in the pikey's net” chant. Reid's arrival prompted a switch to five at the back, Swansea having heralded a possibly more direct approach with the introduction of recent signing David N'Gog.

As it happened there was little change to the visitors' approaach. Tons of sideways passes with little penetration. A few corners, sure, but we never really looked bothered by them. Collins even had the time to take the mickey out of Flores, clutching his face in mock agony as the cheat came up for a corner.

We made our final change with four minutes left on the clock. Nolan had done a lot of good work – even discounting the two finely-taken goals- and merited the generous applause given to him. He was replaced by Nocerino – or Little Walnut as his name translates or so I am told.

The game continued in exactly the same featureless manner as it had done so since Chico and Webb, who both sound and acted like a third-rate 1930's music hall act – had totally ruined the game as a spectacle. Webb added four minutes of stoppage which seemed just about right – a tad generous perhaps but frankly the opposition didn't seem to have much idea as to how to break down a team playing with a man short and when the final whistle went there was a sense that justice had at least been partially served by the result.

Full Time: West Ham United 2 Swansea City 0


This was a decent performance under trying circumstances. The draw at Stamford Bridge – and even to a certain extent Mourinho's petty post-match whining – all appeared to have added something to team unity. There were good performances all over the pitch and it's probably just as well – as we have seen other teams have been picking up points meaning that the anyone in the bottom half of the table could be said to be in trouble. For example, had Stoke lost to Man Utd they would now be behind us in 18th place instead of 11th.

As for the red card well hopefully common sense will prevail – though with the FA common sense is often at a premium. If there were any true justice Flores would serve the three match ban that we'll have to go to the bother of appealing against on Carroll's behalf. As would Howard Webb – but we'll have to wait for the appointment of truly independent assessors (ie those not instructed by PGMO as to who they can mark down) for that sort to thing to take place.

Until then our Premier League future could lie in the hands of people like Webb – which is a scary thought.



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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Little to do in the way of shot-stopping but he commanded the box well. Confidence in your 'keeper is handy for a back four.


Guy Demel
Not given much to do defensively in the first half whe he got forward well. Had a lot of covering to do after Flores' maiming but tracked his men well.


George McCartney
Same as Demel – it was his willingness to exploit space going forward that led to the first goal.


James Collins
This was his sort of game – sleeves up and battle away. Took an early – and probably deliberate – elbow from Cheato which Webb saw. Simply dabbed a bit of blood off his lip and got on with it. Someone might want to add that bit of footage to Carroll's appeal tape. And show it to those who think Webb is actually a good ref.


James Tomkins
Excellent performance – the perfectly-timed tackle on Bony was worth the mark on its own.


Mark Noble
Ran his legs off again – even more so when we went down to ten men.


Matt Taylor
Not a player that you'd be usually be looking to for inspiration but in this match and in the match at Chelsea the sheer amount of hard work that he got through merits comment. What we need at the moment.


Matt Jarvis
A little bit in and out of the game but was looking dangerous sporadically. His sacrifice was less a reflection on his performance more on the game situation – “needs must when Webb has a nightmare” if you like.


Stewart Downing
The defensive covering side of his game is not one that you'd be looking for as a rule but once the game changed he was another one who knuckled down and got through more than his fair share of the work burden.


Kevin Nolan
I'm still not convinced that he should still have the skipper's armband after what he did at Fulham. However, this was a fine game for him. He looks twice the player when Carroll's around. The goals were superbly taken and he was another who ran himself into the ground when it was needed. Credit where it's due – MOTM.


Andy Carroll
Set up his mate for the goals brilliantly and was dominating proceedings so much that it took a disgraceful combination of Flores and Webb to stop him in his tracks. Had he lasted the ninety he'd have been on the scoresheet without a doubt. It's a travesty that his next few games depend on the whim of an organisation noted for its lack of intelligence and common sense. Keep them crossed.


Substitutes


Carlton Cole
Came on to give us an outlet when Carroll wet off. Bless him he battled gamely but his first touch isn't improving with age.


Winston Reid
Replaced Taylor late on. Good to see him back – he'll have sterner tests to come.


Antonio Nocerino
Came in for Nolan and carried on where the skipper left off.


Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.


Roger Johnson
Did not play.


Ravel Morrison
Did not play.


Marco Borriello
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Howard Webb.

Attendance: 31,848.

Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan.

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    .

Swansea City

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.

Goals: None.

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan


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