Monday, 15th September 2014
We'd long known his desire to move to the Big Six team that Hull... aren't. Having left, he further complained, with some justification, that he was mostly played out of position; true enough last season, though the reasons aren't merely down to Sam. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, we got one good season out of him, and £3.5M for someone that was originally a free transfer.
So tonight he got to be centre of attention and star of the show... Except that he didn't. For most of the game he showed exactly why he wasn't getting 90 minutes for us. Biggest laugh of the night was the Hull stadium announcer claiming he was man of the match. Really? He scored their second, yes, but that was a gift from Aaron "I'll just blot my copybook" Cresswell.
Let's take the result first; 2-2? I reckon that was fair. On balance, we probably edged the game. Not by much, but a little. Whilst we nearly stole it at the death. the first goal was just sloppy defending from us. Reid wandered off into the distance leaving, JimmyT to make up ground... And he couldn't. Adrian had no chance; the striker was gifted too much time and space.
Their second? Well, that was just a bloody stupid throw in from Cresswell. Kouyate might have done better, but it was a horrible and nonsensical throw. Nice finish by Mo! It was inevitable, I guess. Our ex-players always seem to score against us. I reckon if we ever sell Adrian, even he'll come back and score!
Our goals? What a cracker from Enner! No back lift at all; never mind half-a-yard, I think he only asked for 9 inches of space. Boom! Enner the Hammer! Instant hero. It was a very nice counterpoint to Hernandez' well placed opener. The second was a bit scruffy, which wouldn't be an unfair summing up of the Tiger's second. They got lucky, what a rubbish throw in; we got lucky, how the heck did that squirm in?
The goals aside, both sides were energetic, both sides were generally tidy, neither side had much in the way of penetration. Twenty-seven shots, but only ten on target (and several of those were easy saves) tells its own tale. It was that curious beast - not a dull game, not a terribly exciting one in the last third either and, the goal aside, short on good chances in the first half.
Still, it was a decent point for both sides, each of whom could just as easily have won or lost. Bruce summed it up rather well afterwards, saying "Sam and I are going to have a glass of beer now and talk about how we usually don't play like that. We are both usually a lot tighter." Words echoed by Sam, who came straight out and said our defense needs to tighten up. Just a bit, Sam!
Despite that, I'm going to make what many of you may think is a slightly odd choice for Man of the Match. Although he didn't even finish the game, Guy Demel gets my vote this time. Why?
Well, the curious decision to try Downing as part of, seemingly, three in the middle rather stifled his game, I thought, but left lots of space for Guy to get forwards, which he duly made use of. The end product wasn't always there; frankly, it mostly wasn't there; but he nevertheless caused Hull more trouble than any two other of our players (if you ignore Sakho, anyway), and he still got back to do his defensive duties without fault.
The rest of the team? Mostly they didn't do much wrong, and certainly we got a far better performance than last time out against the Saints. There still, though, was something lacking. Cohesion and familiarity, probably. That will come, and the attacking intent, at least, is certainly there, if the end product is still not fully realised yet.
We could only improve on the Southampton game (so we all hoped, I'm sure!). Spurs was a decent performance, Palace a good one. If this turns out to be about average for the season, it'll be a better average and, importantly, a more entertaining average than we got last time round. It's certainly a platform to build on and, fingers crossed, come next April I'll be able to look back and say this turned out, actually, to be below par.
However, with The Reds at home and the Red Devils, who are starting to hit their stride, away in the next two games, performances like this, whilst encouraging rather than otherwise, will see us a distant second.
We need a Spurs performance (but not a Spurs result), a Palace performance (a Palace result, oh yes!), or we may just get buried. We need a tighter defence, and a clean sheet in either match would be a great achievement. I suggest, Sam, starting with sorting out Reid and Tomkins, because they're looking like strangers at the moment...
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Had a couple of slightly dodgy moments, one decent save, and no chance with either goal.
You can make a very good case it should have been Sakho, but my Man of the Match.
Oops! And you all know why. Did his duties well enough, other than that, but wasn't the attacking threat that he has been. And hopefully he'll think before attempting a throw in like that again!
He may be a Kiwi, not an Aussie, but it didn't stop him going walkabout for Hull's opener. Has his head been turned by thoughts of going to a "bigger" club? I don't know where it is, but he needs to get it back on the pitch, where it should be. Still not showing last season's form.
Not an awful game, but the central unit of he and Reid isn't working well at the moment, for which he must share the responsibility. Left in no man's land for Hernandez' goal.
Run of the mill game for Mr West Ham tonight.
Busy and energetic again, did his bit in keeping Mo mostly quiet!
Energetic and enthusiastic in the first half, if not terribly effective. Couldn't get into the game at all in the second and replaced by Song on the hour.
Not entirely his fault, but playing tucked in certainly didn't work very well tonight, in my opinion.
Our liveliest player on the night, and next best MotM contender. His "goal" has been ruled an oggie, but will probably feel he has arrived and I think he has. Lots to learn yet, but looking very useful so far...
Despite an absolute cracker of an equaliser, despite nearly winning it at the death with a header, only a 6. Showed flashes of ability, but still finding his feet.
(Replaced Zarate) You can see the class is there, though I'm not quite sure how he'll fit into the starting line up.
(Replaced Demel) Made his debut, didn't make any mistakes, will no doubt be starting games quite soon...
(Replaced Sakho) Third and final debutant sub, only had a very few of minutes to stretch his legs and dirty his boots.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Man of the Match: Guy Demel.
West Ham United
Adrian, Guy Demel, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mauro Zarate, Stewart Downing, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Enner Valencia 50 Diafra Sakho 67 .
Booked: Winston Reid 90 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Allan McGregor, Ahmed Elmohamady, Michael Dawson, Curtis Davies, Andrew Robertson, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Mo Diame, Stephen Quinn, Nikica Jelavic, Abel Hernandez.
Substitutes: Robbie Brady (Stephen Quinn 58), Gaston Ramirez (Abel Hernandez 79), Hatem Ben Arfa (Mo Diame 79).
Subs not used: Steve Harper, Liam Rosenior, James Chester, David Meyler.
Goals: Abel Hernandez (39), Mo Diame (64).
Booked: Tom Huddlestone (54), Andrew Robertson (60), Jake Livermore (90).
Sent Off: None sent off..