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Premier League
Sunday, 7th December 2014

West Ham United 3
Swansea 1

by Gordon Thrower


13 more points and we're safe!

Maltese Hammer was over for this one. In the past his visits have often coincided with 0-0 draws though to be fair in recent years he has seen a few goals. However, great though it always is to see an old mate, whenever I see him I do worry about the score.

Team news was that, despite speculation to the effect that we would have a full first team squad to select from for the first time since, well, probably ever, Noble hadn't made the 18. Song was back whilst Sakho was on the bench with Carroll and Nolan both in the starting line-up of Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Tomkins, Reid, Song, Nolan, Downing, Kouyate, Valencia, Carroll.

The first 18 minutes or so were pretty much one-way traffic as Swansea seemed to have come with a containment plan rather than with any thing much of their own to do. Nolan in particular was looking a bit dangerous, a Jenkinson cross coming to him a bit too quickly for him to have enough control over his shot which went wide to the right.

A couple of minutes later Swansea were surviving by the skin of their teeth. Fabianski blocked Nolan's shot from a Downing free-kick. Jenkinson kept the ball alive and Tomkins' follow-up effort was similarly blocked by some last-ditch stuff.

We were in charge so it was an unwelcome throwback to the past on 18 minutes when Swansea took the lead in a manner that doesn't do the phrase “against the run of play” justice. It was a good goal, mind, just one that seemed out of context with the whole pattern of play at that point. Sigurdsson's fine ball inside Cresswell fed Montero who pulled the ball back for Bony who sidefooted home from 12 yards to give the visitors a somewhat undeserved lead.

The goal seemed to knock us off our stride for a few minutes and we struggled to keep the ball. However, tellingly, Swansea failed to emulate the crisp passing move that had given them their goal and we slowly started to re-establish ourselves in the game. Song was beginning to boss things in midfield and with 5 minutes left before the interval he fed Jenkinson.The right back's cross ws another peach and was matched by Carroll's movement to gain space. The striker's header was beautifully placed and we were back on level terms.

That was pretty much your lot for the half – started brightly, saw the work undone and pulled ourselves back into it through hard work if you want a summary.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Swansea City 1


We made a change during the interval. Valencia hadn't had one of his more effective 45 minute spells and his replacement by Sakho was the logical move to make. And boy did he make a difference.

The second half started in much the same way as the first had done, with us dominating possession and having the lions' share of the play. Again we could have gone behind against the run. After the first yellow of the day when Reid's progress forward was halted by a Routledge trip, Bony nearly restored the visitors' lead when on a break he drove forward and hit a dipping shot that clipped the top of the bar.

We tightened up a bit after that and Sakho's pace was beginning to cause a number of problems in the final third so the goal that put us into the lead was well-merited when it came. Sakho put a dangerous ball across goal, Rangel's clearance preventing Carroll from doubling his tally for the day. Temporarily.

Downing took the corner and a once more unmarked Carroll headed home. Actually the last touch came from Leon Britton but given that he is one of the few professional footballers that I can look at and call “shorty” (and they call ME “Gnome”) his chances of keeping the ball out were about as small as he is. Carroll's celebration involved a sprint over to the bench, presumably to thank the medical boys as well as management.

Two minutes after the goal came the game's big controversial talking point. Carroll nodded on to Sakho who got the wrong side of Williams. Fabianski in the Swansea goal came out, Sakho, aided by a shove from Williams, got to the ball slightly before the 'keeper, who clattered into Sakho.

Now this is where it gets a bit complicated. From where I was sitting it appeared that ref Foy had allowed play to continue as Sakho had creditably stayed on his feet before shooting from a narrow angle, his effort coming back off the far post. At this point it became clear that Foy had pulled play back to award the free-kick for the foul on Sakho dishing out a red card to Fabianski in the process for denial of goalscoring opportunity, decision that, on the face of it, appeared to be wrong since by continuing Sakho still had the opportunity.

A post match view of the replay showed that Foy had, in fact, blown the second that Fabianski had hit Sakho. In which case the red card had been correct from Foy's point of view, though he may be regretting the haste with which the whistle had been blow – especially since Williams's nudge on Sakho saw him push the ball forward with his arm. Either way, Fabianski was gone. Britton was sacrificed to allow Tremmel, the sub 'keeper to join the fray and nothing came of the free-kick.

Strangely the ten minutes after the dismissal saw us struggling a bit as the visitors finally mustered some sustained pressure, helped in part by Foy's baffling habit of overruling his assistants when it came to awarding throw-ins. There was some brave blocking going on until the pressure was finally relieved by Bartley's shooting high and wide. We started to restore our superiority and Sakho's tenacity and skill saw him hit the other post.

O'Brien replaced Jenkinson with 12 minutes left – the seriousness of the hamstring injury being emphasised by the fact that it took place while we awaited a Swansea corner. However we continued to push forward and Sakho was foiled by a close-range save from Tremmel. With five left we made our final change with Collins replacing the tiring Kouyate. Shortly after the points were sealed. Adrian's goal kick was nodded on by Carroll. Sakho's first touch took him past a defender, his second was simply unstoppable.

Five minutes of stoppage followed – most of which resulted from the goalkeeping sending-off and subsequent substitution and another three points were in the bag. The pleasing thing was the fact that 12 months ago had we gone 1-0 down you simply couldn't see how we were going to get back into a match. Nowadays we don't panic and where patience is needed we play with patience.

That leaves us temporarily in 3rd place until the Man Utd v Southampton match is played and we'll go into the next round of matches 4th, which can't be bad. Maybe Maltese Hammer should come over more often!



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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
No chance with the goal but his main challenge was keeping warm.


Carl Jenkinson
Another strong performance and his cross for Carroll's first was ecellent. Hopefully his hamstring isn't too serious.


Aaron Cresswell
Caught a bit out of position for their goal but another decent performance overall.


Winston Reid
Dependable as ever despite the challenge posed by Bony.


James Tomkins
Another good runout. I'm not saying he's England class but frankly if Smalling is ahead of him in the pecking order there's something amiss.


Kevin Nolan
Another game in which the skipper got through a prodigous amount f work. A little bit of luck would have seen him on the scoresheet.


Cheikhou Kouyate
Lots of interceptions but tired a bit in the second half.


Alex Song
Keep him.


Stewart Downing
Has had more influential days but was a more effective corner-taker than Noble.


Andy Carroll
Pretty much unplayable. Good to see him back on the scoresheet. MOTM.


Enner Valencia
Hasn't quite been the same since the injury.


Substitutes


Diafra Sakho
(replaced Valencia) Caused them a lot more problems than Valencia (who he had replaced) did. Fine goal.


Joey O'Brien
(replaced Jenkinson) Did ok though he's never going forward as much as Jenkinson does.


James Collins
Did well shoring up things.


Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.


Morgan Amalfitano
Did not play.


Mauro Zarate
Did not play.


Carlton Cole
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Chris Foy.

Attendance: 34,125.

Man of the Match: Andy Carroll.

West Ham United

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Kevin Nolan, Cheikhou Kouyate, Alex Song, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia.

Goals: Andy Carroll 41 Andy Carroll 66 Diafra Sakho 87              .

Booked: None.           .

Sent Off: None.     .

Swansea

Lukasz Fabianski, Angel Rangel, Kyle Bartley, Ashley Williams, Ashley Richards, Leon Britton, Sung-Yeung Ki, Wayne Routledge, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jefferson Montero, Wilfried Bony.

Substitutes: Gerhard Tremmel (Leon Britton 71), Bafetimbi Gomis (Jefferson Montero 75), Nathan Dyer (Angel Rangel 86).

Subs not used: Jordi Amat, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Carroll, Dwight Tiendalli.

Goals: Wilfried Bony (19).

Booked: Wayne Routledge (50).

Sent Off: Lukasz Fabianski (68).

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Andy Carroll