Saturday, 19th April 2014
Without the sauce of victory to make the dish more palatable, we've another defeat to swallow. In the grand scheme of things, though, it makes little difference to our season. Despite Sunderland's astonishing win at Chelsea, with Fulham losing and Cardiff managing only a draw, we are practically, if not mathematically, safe.
On the day, a couple of mildly controversial refereeing decisions cost us even a point, as a dogged Crystal Palace mugged us just slightly, but my first words on the game are in praise of the opposition fans.
They respected, perfectly, the minute's applause before kick-off for the unfortunate Dylan Tombides. Better yet, when another round of applause broke out as the the clock reached Tombides' shirt number, 38 minutes, they enthusiastically joined in with that too. May that be some little consolation for his family.
As for the young man himself and the general atmosphere, Staff has already said everything that need be said. Since I can't hope to match it, I'll stick to the match hereafter.
On the two penalty shouts, Atkinson's decision to give the Eagles their's was soft but correct. I've said already that Armero looks useful but error prone. Wholly unnecessarily, he did clip Jerome and the ref had little choice.
Earlier, just after the half-hour, amidst our best spell of pressure, Carroll went to ground in their box. Was it a push, or was it a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge? I'll need to see what will no doubt be the last game on MotD before I can make my mind up. Atkinson must have thought it was the latter; I can't tell you whether he was right or wrong.
Only a few minutes later, Speroni in the Palace goal saved well twice in 30 seconds from, first, a Diame shot, after some neat interplay, and then from Carroll's header. Alas that it was directly at him! Two feet either side would surely have been the opener.
Those were our best chances. In truth, apart from a late cameo from Joe Cole, we created precious little else. Big Andy fluffed a good chance just after the re-start, provided by a terrific 50 yard run and cross from Downing, who was dangerous for most of the game. Five minutes later, AC had a decent shot blocked out well for a corner.
But if we were the better team in the first 45, we were the worse in the second. Once Armero had clumsily felled Jerome, we never really looked much like equalising, and Allardyce's paucity of invention was exposed again.
Whilst he brought on Carlton and apparently went 4-4-2, he took off Jarvis to accomodate him; a decision met with derision; and then Downing. So two big men up front, but no wingers to supply the ammunition? I can see how that's going to help matters, Sam!
There were some jeers of frustration at the end of the game. A little unfair, I thought. We weren't awful today, we might easily have gone in a goal or two to the good at the interval. Ultimately, though, Mr Functional himself, the only man in the division who can out-functional Allardyce, proved the superior tactician, and the luckier manager.
I hesitate to say that Palace were good value for their win. They did, however, play some decent football at times, had plenty of corners, and Bolasie was the equal of Downing in causing trouble up the flank. On balance, they had slightly the better of the chances.
We still need another win to be absolutely sure of safety. Either of our next two games might provide it. Honestly, though, and despite the not unusual end-of-season surprise results, I still can't see any of the bottom four passing our current points total, and our much superior goal difference is worth an extra point. I just hope I'm right!
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Did not have a heck of a lot to do, in truth.
Struggled a little bit on the wrong side of the pitch, but generally coped quite well with the dangerous Bolasie.
Gave away the penalty to spoil an otherwise decent performance.
A fairly quiet and relatively untroubled game.
Not for the first time, our best defender.
Had a very busy game in the centre, if not always effective going forwards.
Manufactured himself a couple of chances and had one of his better games this season. Nothing that says he belongs at a top six club, mind you!
Hauled off after 69 minutes, which did not seem a popular decision! Didn't see his fair share of the ball, which seemed to go up Downing's side rather more often, but played quite well.
Reluctantly, Man of the Match. Reluctant, because I find it hard to single anyone out from this performance. Did create more threat than anyone else, and passing and crossing was infinitely improved on the Arsenal game.
Walks back into the team, as usual. Wasn't terrible, but I'd rather have been watching Nocerino!
Double-teamed for most of the game, he struggled manfully, but not always successfully, to escape the attentions of his markers.
Had 20 minutes, achieved nothing noteworthy.
Only had a quarter of an hour, but looked lively and had a half-chance or two.
Can't do anything much when 84 minutes have already passed before you're brought on...
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Man of the Match: Stewart Downing.
West Ham United
Adrian, George McCartney, Pablo Armero, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll.
Goals: None .
Booked: Winston Reid 81 James Collins 90 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Subs not used: .
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..