Saturday, 29th November 2014
For certain, it was a battling performance rather than a scintillating one, and largely sterile in the first half. Come to think of it, that was true of both teams. Of the Everton game, I said that we earned a result, but perhaps didn't quite deserve it, on the grounds that they made the better chances.
Here, though Toon fans will feel inclined to disagree, I think we just about deserved the three points (although that's a little harsh on Newcastle) for the same reason. The first half really was sterile, practically chanceless, but we certainly made the better opportunities in the second.
Truth is, though I'm not a great lover of stats, Newcastle managed one shot on target. That came on 57, courtesy of the often threatening Perez, but from an acute angle. It was never going to be other than comfortable for Adrian. He had one of the easiest afternoon's work he's ever going to see.
Their next best effort was Perez again, again from an acute angle, a flick into the side netting. It would have been a spectacular, astonishing goal had it snuck in, but the reality is that it was no more than a half-chance.
Both teams lacked something around the penalty box. We improved in the second half; Newcastle didn't. I wouldn't describe the game as drab or dull, but it was very bitty. There were flashes of quality from both sides, but that's what they were - flashes. In the first half, Newcastle had the edge, if bluntly. In the second, it was West Ham; more of an edge, sharper, sharp enough to score the goal that the Magpies never really looked like managing.
The goal itself was rather emblematic of the match. One of those flashes, a decent move led to Downing playing in Kouyate on 56 minutes. Kouyate slipped the ball through to the onrushing Cresswell. Well, actually he didn't; typical of the game, he scuffed a shot into the floor.
But it ran kindly for us, and Cresswell, who'd made an excellent run, found himself perfectly placed to take advantage. He neatly clipped it past Elliott to claim his first ever Premiership goal, and that was enough to separate the sides.
Twenty minutes later, Sissoko made a very silly boy out of himself. First, a needless booking for frustratedly kicking the ball away after being penalised. Tomkins, not for the first time, was quick smart in defence, winning a foul in the process. Less than a minute later, Sissoko catches Carroll.
Now, there was nothing particularly bad in the challenge, but Match of the Day replays show that Sissoko, a tiny bit late, has accidentally stamped on Andy. Mike Dean is not the most popular ref in the world (though perhaps less unpopular than a certain Mr Clattenburg), but this shows ref's football fans as what they are.
Dean had a blessedly anonymous performance; all I ever want from any ref; but the one decision he really had to make he got right, unfortunately for Newcastle. It was a booking, but the next time we get Dean, fans will have forgotten, preferring to remember his errors that have cost us. Such is the life of a ref, but it is worth also noting that Pardew, gracious in defeat, had no beef at all with the two quick yellows.
Speaking of Pardew, I thought his after-match comments were very fair balanced. In a nutshell, there was very little between the teams, and neither created very much. The Magpies managed one last alarm in stoppage time, when a quickly taken free-kick was cleared for a corner.
Even goalkeeper Elliot came up, but Newcastle couldn't make anything of it. Instead, he had to charge frantcially back, when Zarate broke upfield. As last week, "Champagne" Zarate played with real fizz; having come on for the last 25 minutes, he had already forced Elliot into one acrobatic save a few minutes from the end.
In the 93rd minute, though, he didn't have the pace to outstrip the covering defender. Elliot was back between the sticks, and a scuffed shot neatly summed up a rather scrappy game, where defences were largely on top.
A game of small margins, then, where one goal decided matters. The three best chances were all for the Hammers, so it's just about right (as last week) that the team that made them took the spoils.
Beating the legendary (alright, semi-legendary!) Steve Potts' Premiership appearance record for West Ham today was Mr West Ham, Mark Noble; his 205th game (if my stats are right). Fittingly, he put in a captain's performance (which he was until Nolan came on the armband was handed over; not quite sure why...).
I'm slightly surprised to find he's actually 5' 11", he always seems to me to be shorter than that. Regardless, he was, metaphorically, head shoulders above everyone else in the first half. Perhaps only head above everyone else in the second, he is nevertheless an easy nomination for Man of the Match.
Everything about his performance was good today. His energy - on 72 minutes he made a surging challenge run. It was always going nowhere, but he kept at it, to win a throw 15 yards from the Newcastle goal line that quickly became a corner.
His passing, short or long, was an essential part of most of our flashes of good play. His tackling was just as essential. If it wasn't preceding a pass of his own, it was still breaking up Newcastle's efforts to come forwards.
Amalfitano aside, everyone else had, at the least, a decent game. After embarassing himself (and the rest of us) last week, Tomkins was the pick of the defence today, even to the extent of taking a boot in the face from our own Andy Carroll! No great harm done, thankfully (some might say "No sense, no feeling...").
Carroll himself got through another hard-working 90 minutes, both in attack defence. He has never scored against his former club, apparently, and didn't look like doing so today. Nevertheless, whilst I suspect he won't last the full game on Tuesday, this will again have done him the world of good.
He, and not only he, would benefit from better delivery in the final third, mind you. I can't be the only one who thinks we've been poor around the penalty box in the last couple of matches. The final pass (or cross) or two has not been as incisive as previously. The effort has been great, but the attacking intent has been somewhat stymied as a result.
Tuesday, of course, brings more black white opposition in the shape of a visit to The Hawthorns. The Baggies are an an unhappy family at the moment. They haven't scored in more than 5 hours, and the fans are starting to display their dissatisfaction, with chants against their manager being heard against Arsenal.
We continue to ride high in fifth. The form of the last few games hasn't been all that we could have wished, perhaps, but we are still missing three top class players through injury, all of whom are said to be in contention for the next game.
So, being West Ham through through, Tuesday will be one of those days when the form book goes out the window, then... Let's hope not!
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Won't sleep well tonight, having had a nap for 90 minutes. On the other hand, he's Spanish, so perhaps he's used to a mid-afternoon siesta!
Busy on the right, and better than against Everton, though not quite worth a 7.
His first goal, the winning goal; a nice finish too; is enough to turn a tidy 6 into a 7.
Safe game today, no great alarms. Great tackle on Perez on the hour worth a mention, though!
Pick of the defence, apart from one missed tackle right at the end.
Stand-out player from both sides in the first half; not quite so stand-out in the second, but still comfortably MotM.
Industrious without necessarily having a great impact.
The new Mattie Taylor? Never stopped running, working, harrying, for his 70 minutes. Not always to any great benefit, not least because he didn't always get good ball to feed on, but terrific effort on his first start of the season.
Much more involved than last week. Unfortunately, much more ineffective. Work-rate good, but delivery decision making (especially that cynical yellow card) poor. Slightly surprised he wasn't subbed.
Not a MotM performance, but I wrote his name down too many times not to give him a 7...
A 6+, perhaps. As last week, and like Jarvis this, would benefit from better service. Still, another 90 minutes looking very Valencia at the moment (by which I mean that he's not firing on all cylinders yet, but you can see the class...). Some good defensive work, even late in the game, inclines me to mark the 6+ up, rather than down.
(replaced Jarvis) Only on for 25 minutes, despite being first sub, but fizzed, as he did against Everton. The formation would have to change a little but, if the injury status remains the same, should he start in place of Amalfitano?
(replaced Kouyate) Too little time to have an impact on proceedings.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Joey O Brien
Did not play.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Man of the Match: Mark Noble.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Matt Jarvis, Morgan Amalfitano, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll.
Goals: Aaron Cresswell 56 .
Booked: Mark Noble 66 Morgan Amalfitano 78 Mauro Zarate 87 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Rob Elliot, Daryl Janmaat, Mike Williamson, Paul Dummett, Massadio Haidara, Cheick Tiote, Jack Colback, Moussa Sissoko, Ayoze Perez, Yoan Gouffran, Sammy Ameobi.
Substitutes: Papiss Cisse (Cheick Tiote 62), Remy Cabella (Yoan Gouffran 63), Steven Taylor (Daryl Janmaat 70).
Subs not used: Vurnon Anita, Emmanuel Riviere, Jak Alnwick, Adam Armstrong.
Booked: Mike Williamson (18), Jack Colback (54), Moussa Sissoko (75).
Sent Off: Moussa Sissoko (76).