Saturday, 3rd May 2014
You'll appreciate that I don't normally approve of these early kick-offs. Neither players nor fans seem quite at their best. I'll be honest and say that the portents didn't exactly fill me with hope prior to the match either. The problem was that the marvellous IQ were due to launch their new album (available from Giant Electric Pea records if you haven't already bought it) later that evening and, in living memory, West Ham have never won a match played on the same day as I've been to an IQ gig so you'll appreciate the lack of optimism.
Team news was that the starting XI was much as expected, with Taylor returning from compassionate leave to take up a spot in midfield. Starting line-up: Adrian, Demel, McCartney, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Taylor, Dimae, Downing, Nolan, Carroll.
Whether it was the glorious spring weather or a general desire to end the home season on a high I have no idea but there was a spring about the step of both players and fans, though there was an early scare as an Adrian clearance hit Kane and rebounded thankfully to safety. We dominated the early proceedings and, remarkably, actually looked dangerous from corners with a Reid effort requiring what was ot to be the first save of the afternoon from Lloris. The visitors' efforts were limited to breakaways though they ought to have done better when having a man over from a breakaway from one of our corners. Adebayor's side footed effort was tame in the extreme.
We always looked the more likely and Demel had Lloris scrambling to keep one out that came back off the crossbar. However, after 25 minutes things took a turn for the better. A ricochet saw the ball played out to Downing who had the angle to bear down on goal. Kaboul's desperate lunge was outside the box and ref Dowd gave himself a few seconds to consult with his assistant before deciding (correctly) that a goalscoring opportunity had been denied and issuing a red card. Kaboul took an age to depart but he really could have had few complaints.
Carroll took the resulting free-kick and brought another fine save out of Lloris who was at full stretch to turn the goalbound effort around the post for a corner. However the respite was short lived. Noble's corner found Carroll whose downward header came off the hapless Kane whose deflection took the ball over the despairing dive of Lloris.
The goal shut up the visiting support permanently. Kane was sacrificed to bring on Chiriches to leave Adebayor on his own up top. There is a way to play when you are down to ten men but Spurs never quite worked it out. You have to defend from the front but Adebayor seemed singularly uninterested in putting in a shift. This left us to push forward at will.
Carroll fed Nolan with a through ball the skipper pulled it back and had Lloris at full stretch to cut out the cross, neither of them having seen the lino's (correctly) raised flag. More importantly, Taylor's shot was turned around the post by another Lloris great save.
We doubled the lead a few minutes before the interval. Noble, who had been bossing the midfield, went on a diagonal run that was cynically ended by Dawson's trip, earning the defender a yellow for his troubles. It was Downing's turn to have a pop and his effort went through the wall as if it wasn't there, which, in a way, it wasn't. Lloris had no chance and the big screen showed that the 'keeper had been badly let down by Paulinho and Adebayor who had not so much gotten out of the way of the ball as ushered it in the general direction of the goal giving it a packed lunch for the journey and an emergency phone number to call should it get lost.
If there could be a measure of sound that is less than total silence. That's what was coming from the away end. There was just time in the two minutes added on for stoppage for Carroll to pull a shot wide before the interval at which point the team left with a merited lead and to equally merited applause.
The second half was slightly lower key. We were still light-years ahead of the visitors and Lloris was the sole reason that the score remained the same. Diame was first to find the Spurs 'keeper in annoyed mood, his overhead effort from Downing's cross being well saved.
Carroll went close before Lloris foiled Nolan once more with a double save. Clearly wasted at White Hart Lane that one.
The main thing of note for the second half was the amusing baiting of the visiting support who were shrinking back in their seats looking more and more embarrassed at the efforts of their team. “It's happened again” was one of our better uses of the slightly cliched Sloop John B theme this season. Equally inventive was the “Tim Sherwood we want you to stay” chant, a sentiment with which I'm pretty sure our opponents would disagree. Meanwhile congas developed on the Chicken Run and the hokey cokey made an appearance in the Sir Trevor.
With 25 minutes left they made a double substitution with Sandro replacing Paulinho (once he'd emerged from Taylor's pocket) and Soldado coming on for Sigurdsson, an effort akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Within five minutes of his arrival Soldado made his one proper contribution to the proceedings, picking up a yellow for a late challenge on Demel. His next involvement in the game consisted of a weak effort that was as cringeworthy as it was wide.
Sandro was next to incur the wrath of Dowd, the latest of a number of late challenges on Noble earning another yellow. As the visiting upport started a conga of their own. Unfortunately they seemed to miss the point and the queue went straight out of the exits never to be seen again,
Carroll, who had held the ball up well and deserved the goal that will probably be given to Kane, came ashore to be replaced by Carlton Cole and, such was the ragged nature of the opposition, the no.24 was able to embark on a few mazy runs. Not something for which Carlton's usually been noted. Jarvis then replaced Nolan whose contribution off the ball had merited the ovation he got as he let the pitch.
The visitors fashioned a few half chances but only once was Adrian really called on, his save being as good as any of the five or six efforts from Lloris that had kept the score down. Nothing came of the corner and the game petered out in carnival atmosphere after three minutes of stoppage, the ref blowing up to spare the visitors further punishment.
This was a well-deserved result – we were the better side even before the sending off. It has to be said that our opponents capitulated horribly after Kaboul's departure but it also has to be said that ten men still have to be dealt with. Hull City previously showed that it is possible to make things difficult for opponents when playing a man down. Going one up so quickly helped but the play subsequent to the goal was an object lesson in how to spread the play when yur opponents are down to ten – especially when one of those ten is as uninterested as Adebayor seemed to be.
So that's it for the home season and, since I won't be at Man City, as is traditional, this report ends with the end-of-season credits. Big thanks go to Milly and Barbara who look after Mr Howlett and me in the press room every week, to the smashing people I sit with: Upton Girlie, Tomas, Trevor, Frazer, Nan, Dan, Anne and the boys - even when the match isn't great it's still nice company to be in. To Preview Percy (I suppose) and all the inhabitants of the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for the Bewildered and the Swan & Superinjunction.
The last load of special thanks go to some special people. The very wonderful Sam Smyth who saved my life a year ago – happy birthday miss! Mr and Mrs Graeme Howlett of this very site who, through an extraordinary act of generosity and friendship this time last year ensured the continued appearance of these poor-quality reports for another twelve months – and never once complained when circumstances prevented me from getting stuff done. Finally, my wonderful family for all their support over the past 12 months when it was most needed.
See you in Gelsenkirchen!
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A couple of less than confident kicks early on but these were more than covered by a fine save at the end.
Spurs' lack of attacking threat allowed him to get forward to good effect.
Same as Demel. Only on the other side.
Seems to have recaptured the form that he had prior to the injury that interrupted his season.
Made Adebayor look very ordinary. Which of course he is.
Ran the show. Although Lloris got most MOTM plaudits in the papers he's our candidate.
Some good moments but I'd dearly like to know what he sees down those blind alleys he keeps seeking out.
Keept Paulinho so quiet I had to check the team sheet to see if he was actually playing.
Good first half and contributed with a goal – though Adebayor's assist helped.
Got through a fair few miles off the ball which is the sort of thing that often goes unnoticed.
Virtually unplayable. Held the ball up well and brought others into play.
A couple of good runs in his cameo.
Didn't really show in the few minutes he was on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Did not play.
Referee: Phil Dowd.
Man of the Match: Stewart Downing.
West Ham United
Adrian, Guy Demel, George McCartney, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Matt Taylor, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll.
Goals: Harry Kane OG 27 Stewart Downing 44 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Hugo Lloris, Kyle Naughton, Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul, Danny Rose, Aaron Lennon, Joe Paulo Paulinho, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Christian Eriksen, Emmanuel Adebayor, Harry Kane.
Substitutes: Vlad Chiriches (Harry Kane 28), Raniere Sandro (Joe Paulo Paulinho 65), Roberto Soldado (Gylfi Sigurdsson 66).
Subs not used: Brad Friedel, Nabil Bentaleb, Alex Pritchard, Zeki Fryers.
Booked: Kyle Naughton (19), Michael Dawson (43), Roberto Soldado (71), Raniere Sandro (84).
Sent Off: Younes Kaboul (25).