Sunday, 18th January 2015
Team news was that Reid had recovered from the ankle knock that kept him out of the Everton replay but, given their fine performances in that match Tomkins and Collins were given the nod in the centre of defence. The other change from Everton was Nolan coming in for Jarvis, leaving us with a starting XI of Adrian, Jenkinson, Creswell, Tomkins, Collins, Noble. Song, Downing Nolan, Valencia Carroll.
I was a bit tired after watching Tuesday’s efforts and the players seemed similarly lethargic (though I bet none to many of them have been lugging crates up and down stairs for a house move!).
Hull carved a number of early chances, many of them by playing through balls inside Tomkins whose internal GPS seemed to have lost its signal. The best of these saw Aluko get to the dead ball line and pull the ball back for Elmohamady whilst three defenders in the middle watched. Elmohamady had all the time in the world to line up the shot but still, thankfully pulled it wide.
If that effort was supposed to have been a wake-up call we must have been wearing earmuffs because we didn’t really improve. The passing was shockingly bad. We seemed to be hitting it too hard, or underhitting, or simply playing astray every single pass. We were also what you might call ponderous.
There were numerous passes across the back four but nothing seemed to be that incisive going forward. Part of the problem seemed to be (and we called this as early as five minutes into the match) that the Downing had been shoved out wide rather than operating in “tip of the diamond” role that has seen Downing improve so much this season. A waste.
There was a bit of a flurry in the last five minutes where Hull failed to clear a corner with the ball seemingly destined to return to Downing time after time. During this spell both Valencia and Tomkins had efforts saved in quick succession, the flurry coming to an end as McGregor came out bravely to save at Valencia’s feet. Bruce picked up a knock having collided with a team mate, the referee being satisfied that the “dazed and confused” look was merely the result of family genetics rather than a head injury.
More worrying was the injury to James Chester who landed awkwardly after an aerial challenge. It looked like a dislocation because that is what it was. The seriousness of the knock could be gauged by the sympathetic applause from all sides of the ground and the fact that, despite there being no more than seconds of stoppage to play, they immediately brought on Figueora.
I guess we ought to give a doff of the cap to whoever it is has to edit the 45 minutes of footage into the “highlights” that they show on the big screen during the interval. Had it been left to me I’d have simply shown the ref blowing for half time.
The second half was different and this is where my Mum comes into the equation. On speaking to the folks on Sunday night Mum told me she had asked Dad how it was going as he watched the match on the box. “0-0 – but they’re playing rubbish” came the reply.
At this point Mum apparently invoked an old Irish good luck/blessing that my late Grandmother used to say to me whenever I was losing at cards. Irish being the language it is (everything is spelt using none of the letters actually used in the pronunciation of the word) the spelling will forever remain a mystery to me but it used to sound something like “Doosha dorsha”. Whatever the spelling, within a few seconds of Mum’s intervention we were ahead.
We’d looked livelier from the restart and Downing had returned to his more central role in the diamond. Valencia cut in from the left and shot. Valencia’s effort had pace but it was a late dip in front of MacGregor that foxed the goalkeeper who made a complete mess of it and spilled it back into the danger area. Davies was in the best place to deal with the rebound but reacted with all the speed of a hibernating tortoise on mogadon, allowing Carroll to poach the opener.
Before the restart Reid replaced Collins who had been, er, gingerly holding his back since the start of the half. We had the ball in the net again on 56 minutes when Valencia beat the offside trap. The lino, acting on some rewriting of the offside law which the authorities seem to be keeping a secret decided that Valencia had strayed when he hadn’t. Still at least he wasn’t in his own half I suppose.
We made our second change of the day on 65 minutes when Noble, who had not had one of his more influential afternoons and was sitting on a yellow for a clumsy rather than malicious first half challenge, was replaced by Amalfitano. We should have doubled the lead immediately after as Valencia pounced on a loose ball across the box from Dawson. Unfortunately the Ecuadorian’s first touch let him down and side netting from the wrong side was the result.
We did double the lead shortly after though. Song brought down a stray pass and played the ball through the middle to Valencia who headed towards goal before playing Amalfitano in. The Frenchman’s little dinked finish was sublime, leaving McGregor on the seat of his pants in the process.
Three minutes later it was three. Tomkins showed impeccable timing to intercept a through ball and take a sidestep away from a challenge. Song took over and played a superb pass inside the Hull defence leaving Downing to run through one on one wit the keeper, who left a large gap at the post. Downing gleefully accepted the invitation and rolled the ball in to make it 3-0.
The goal was pretty much it for Tomkins, who had clutched his hamstring the second Song had relieved him of the ball in the build up to the goal. O’Brien came on to complete the substitutions. There was enough time for Nolan to get on the end of a Downing pass and rattle the crossbar from a tight angle and that was pretty much it in terms of meaningful action.
It was an odd game insofaras had Hull been less profligate in the first half we could have had real problems. As it was, realistically there was only ever one side going to win in the second half – especially with Downing coming in from the cold as it were. And, of course, especially with my Mum intervening at an appropriate moment.
Now if only I could persuade her to do the blessing before the start of the match instead of at half time – life’d be a lot less stressful for us all round!
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
One duff kick in the first hale. One good save in the second. Largely unemployed otherwise.
Pretty similar to Cresswell, really.
Solid enough but didn’t seem quite himself in this one.
Much much better in the second half after a pretty average first 45.
One of the few that seemed ok in the first half, which made his injury slightly more annoying than usual.
A bit out of sorts in the first half presumably as a result of his efforts on Tuesday.
Was probably as good in the second half as he was bad in the first when his passing was distinctly sub-par.
Improved immeasurably once brought inside from his exile on the wing. On balance I give him my MOTM award.
Did a lot of chasing about off the ball which is the sort of stuff that often goes unnoticed. A bit unlucky to hit the bar.
Always a handful and was alert enough to be first to the loose ball for the all important first goal.
Lively throughout and whilst he didn’t get on the scoresheet he caused Hull problems throughout.
(replaced Collins) Looked confident and assured when coming on for Ginge. Far too good for Spurs. There again I’M too good for Spurs.
(replaced Noble) Lively runout for the Frenchman who, to these eyes, always looks more dangerous from the bench than he does when he starts.
Joey O Brien
(replaced Tomkins) Did a good enough job in replacing Tomkins for the last 20 or so.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Man of the Match: Stewart Downing.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, James Tomkins, James Collins, Mark Noble, Alex Song, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Andy Carroll 49 Morgan Amalfitano 69 Stewart Downing 72 .
Booked: Mark Noble 21 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Subs not used: .
Sent Off: None.