Sunday, 4th October 2009
Most people were optimistic before the start of this one. I had a nagging doubt however that this wasn’t going to be our day – I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why though. The team news prior to kick-off was encouraging – the idea of playing Parker and Kovac together had been ditched and Upson was fit to resume his place in the back four. Dyer was, of course, nowhere to be seen, a fact that came as a surprise to nobody in particular. This left us with a starting line-up of Green, Faubert, Ilunga, Upson, Tomkins, Parker, Noble, Jiminez, Diamanti, Hines, Cole.
It was a bright start with Cole getting a sighter in from the very first attack. Things settled down a bit after that and Fulham mustered a couple of long-range efforts from Kamara were a) comfortably saved by Green and b) pulled wide.
Things were fairly quiet until the quarter hour when some decent combination work on the right saw Faubert cynically taken out by Hangeland who was rightly carded for his sins. Diamanti stepped over to deliver a superb free-kick finding Carlton Cole who had got in front of his marker to bury a powerful header past Schwarzer.
For the next few minutes we were the only team in it and we forced a corner almost immediately after. Diamanti’s delivery was accurate once more but, not for the first time this season, Tomkins failed to make the most of his header which he powered a few yards wide.
Things then started to get a little daft. Jiminez was penalised for a trip on the influential Gera. Whilst the defence were trying to sort themselves out Murphy played a quick free-kick along the floor to Johnson who, thankfully, pulled his shot wide of the left hand post. Dowd then inexplicably failed to caution Murphy for a cynical pull-back as Parker was on the break. If Fergie thought Wiley had been unfit earlier in the weekend he’d have had a fit at the site of Dowd puffing his way through this match.
We pushed forward and first Noble, then Cole went close. Another attack saw the ball fall invitingly for Parker who did well to keep the ball down to bring a save out of Schwarzer.
Then things started to get really daft. Parker and Dikgacoi stood toe to toe. The South African – who has the brilliant middle name of “Evidence”- shoved Parker in the face. Unbelievably Dowd showed Parker a yellow card before, as an afterthought, showing another yellow to Dikgacoi. At this point things got a bit complicated. The fourth official had a quiet word with Dowd before Dowd who then went and had a word with the linesman on the West Side. This was a tad optimistic given that the lino on that side had hitherto shown all the awareness – and pace – of a hibernating tortoise that had spent its previous six months on high doses of valium. However Dowd eventually came to a final decision and brandished the red card. It was about the last thing he gave us all day – even the resulting free-kick was pulled back lest we make anything of it.
The goal seemed to galvanise us. Faubert had a decent effort saved by Schwarzer whilst Noble did the hard part in making room for himself but his shot lacked power and gave Schwarzer a slightly easier save to make. Hines then started to get some joy on the left and curled a shot a foot or so both high and wide. Dowd added a mere three minutes of stoppage. This seemed baffling given that the sending-off had taken that long and there’d been a stoppage of similar length for an early head injury to Parker. And at least one other visit by the physio. As the players went off Hodgson rather shabbily indulged in a spot of finger pointing at Parker. FA please note.
The half time interval was punctuated by some American wrestler or other who invited us to make some noise if we wanted the team to “Whup Fulham’s Asses” whatever that means. Sorry, but that WWWWFFFFCCCC or whatever it’s called leaves me cold and I couldn’t help having a tinge of nostalgia for the days of Kent Walton Mick McManus and Kendo Nagasaki.(whose Mum knew him as Peter). There’d have been none of this “Whup their asses” stuff from them.
Well if we’d been in a good mood during the interval, that was all to change within seconds of the restart. Dowd was again at the centre of attention - which is probably just as he loves it. Kamara leant into Upson eventually flattening the defender. Dowd saw it differently and decided it was a penalty. Poor decision. Murphy sent Green the wrong way to give Fulham totally unearned parity.
Jiminez then went into the book as Kamara went down on the break – an identical challenge to that Murphy had got away with earlier – before the wheels really fell off. Upson gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box. Konchesky’s deflected effort was tipped away by Green for a corner. Green came for the corner but, slightly impeded by Kamara, got nowhere near it and Gera had the easiest of finishes at the far post.
The game descended into farce. Dowd abandoned the advantage law to break up what few promising moves we were able to muster and we were being frustrated by a mixture of our own ineptitude and some not so subtle time-wasting by the visitors. This did not go unnoticed by the ref who made great show of playing with his watch at every opportunity – though whatever he was doing with his watch it wasn’t stopping it.
Changes were required and Parker and Hines were replaced by Behrami and Stanislas. Stanislas took over the “standing in space on the left whilst being ignored by your team mates” role that Hines had vacated but strayed inside a few times to get in the odd shot.
We huffed and puffed but seemed strangely reluctant to get the ball into the box – either by shooting or by crossing. Damanti had a couple of efforts that he pulled wide and Stanislas brought a save out of Schwarzer but that the only other decent effort on goal came from an effort from distance from Tomkins spoke volumes.
Dowd decided that a mere four minutes should be added for all the time wasting and lengthy substitutions – all that pointing at the watch was obviously just for show then. Thankfully it was enough. After yet another spell of “let’s see how far forward we can go without entering the box” the ball fell to Stanislas who made a bit of room for himself before unleashing a shot, the deflection of which removed any hope Schwarzer might have had of making the save.
Of course there was still time for us to make a hash of things and, pressing forward for what would have been an undeserved winner, we lost out and the ball found its way out to sub Johnson. Green came haring out to the touchline and needed to get there. His clearance ricocheted off Johnson who bore down on the now empty goal. Upson held him up and Johnson made a complete mess of the shot which he pulled wide.
That was about it. Quite what had gone wrong in the second half I’m damned if I know. The sight of players – chiefly Ilunga, Hines and latterly Stanislas stood out on the left in acres of space whilst play continued to go right time and time again suggested a lack of intelligence on the part of the team. I also wish someone would tell them that there is no invisible force field around the penalty area and that, if they want, they can play the ball into the “Forbidden Zone” – after all that’s where the goal is. If they don’t grasp that basic point we’re in for a long hard winter.
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A couple of good saves were eclipsed by a couple of howlers. Whilst I can understand a reluctance to go to the Ukraine, South Africa is quite nice in places and it’d be a shame to miss out because of days like these.
Good defensively but the crosses lacked penetration.
Got into some decent positions in the second half but seemed to develop a cloak of invisibility as far as his team-mates were concerned.
One of the few to emerge from the afternoon with any credit. About time one of those headers hit the target though.
Though I thought the penalty was harsh he wasn’t at his best today.
Average first half. Poor second.
Decent first half. Back to his recent lack of form in the second.
Largely anonymous – I can only remember his booking.
Was at least trying to create something but too often shot when he should have passed and vice-versa.
Towards the end of the first half it looked like he was in for a stormer. Suffered from the same cloak of invisibility as Ilunga in the second period.
Good header for the goal. Held the ball up well but the lack of support told in the second.
(Replaced Hines, 72 mins) Got fed up with nobody feeding him on the left so he came inside. Just as well.
(Replaced Parker, 72 mins) Decent 25 minutes or so. Hope his injury problems are behind him.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Manuel Da Costa
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Phil Dowd.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Luis Jimenez, Alessandro Diamanti, Zavon Hines, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Carlton Cole 24 Junior Stanislas 90 .
Booked: Scott Parker 39 Luis Jimenez 54 Julien Faubert 59 .
Sent off: None.
Schwarzer, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland, Pantsil, Dikgacoi, Gera, Murphy, Dempsey, Kamara, A.Johnson.
Substitutes: Baird 46 (A.Johnson), E.Johnson (Kamara 81), Riise (Dempsey 83).
Subs not used: Zuberbuhler, Kelly, Greening, Nevland.
Goals: Murphy (47), Gera (57).
Booked: Hangeland (15).
Sent Off: Dikgacoi (42).