Saturday, 5th December 2009
Let’s face it few would have predicted a win in this one, given the absence of key players and the general absence of anything resembling a solid defence. However, at the very least one would have hoped for a bit more in the way of guts and determination.
Team news was predictably bad. Upson was still out, Noble had a virus and the defensive pack was shuffled in an attempt to come up with a back four that would provide some sort of test for our opponents. Da Costa was the one to miss out in favour of the returning Tomkins, giving a starting line-up of Green, Spector, Ilunga, Gabbidon, Tomkins, Parker, Kovac, Collison, Stanislas, Hines, Franco.
Ref Walton set his stall out early doors, applying the unwritten law that thou shalt not upset Ferguson by giving a ludicrous free-kick against Ilunga who had clearly taken the ball. Giggs’ delivery was, thankfully, poor and the subsequent cross from the right was easily dealt with by Green. The game settled down with the visitors enjoying a lot of possession but the midfield was working hard at closing them down. In fact they looked rather ordinary for much of the first half. Heck we even looked comfortable at corners and the clearest chance of the opening exchanges came our way.
Clearing up after a cross had been headed clear, Giggs inexplicably played the ball back into his own box where Hines was first to react. Twisting and turning Hines played the ball across the box where Collison seemed odds-on to tap in, only to be thwarted by a last ditch tackle by Giggs. To add insult to injury, the ball flicked off Collison to go out for a goal kick.
We were then treated to the sight of Neville going for a succession of headers leading with the arm then having the brass neck to ask for the foul. Just for variety he decided to haul Franco out of the way in a manner that surely would have been punished had he been wearing a shirt of a different hue.
The visitors forced a number of soft corners but little came of them. After one such incident Giggs was caught offside. Ref Walton insisted on the free-kick being taken from the precise blade of grass where the offence had occurred, a degree of fussiness not afforded to the visitors who were given a “plus or minus ten yards” degree of error to play with.
In truth it was a scrappy first half with the visitors posing little threat, often being forced into 30 yard back-passes to the ‘keeper. Chances at either end were few and far between, a Stanislas effort being easily blocked on the edge of the box. We then won a free-kick on the left. Hines went down the left and was thrown off the pitch by Fletcher. Neville instructed the referee to give a goal kick, so he did.
Tomkins then cut out a dangerous cross for a corner. The ball fell to Scholes whose effort from distance was deflected wide for another corner which fell to Gibson who sliced wide.
Then the highlight of the game. A through ball was over hit and went safely through to the ‘keeper. Neville pulled up sharply holding his groin area. Now having played lord knows how many games in a fairly undistinguished amateur career which ended as a result of a snapped Achilles, I am loath to wish injury on any player, even one as obnoxious as Neville. So let’s just say I felt no sorrow at his predicament. He hobbled on for a bit before leaving the pitch in the sulky manner of a kid who’s been embarrassed by his mum calling him in from a kickabout because it’s bedtime. He was replaced by Michael Carrick who went into an unaccustomed position in the centre of defence.
Rooney then got onto a long through ball but Green was alert enough to smother it on the edge of the box. His kick was a bit wonky though, but happily nothing came of the half block.
Of course no match would be complete without a West Ham injury and Hines was hobbling about for what seemed like an eternity. He couldn’t even move to latch onto a promising Franco pass and, quite frankly, should have gone off before half time. Unfortunately he didn’t and the fact that we were effectively playing with ten men cost us dearly as the visitors took an undeserved lead in stoppage time. A cross from the left was headed out to the edge of the box as far as Scholes who chested the ball down and hit a half volley that green got a decent hand on but was unable to keep out. There was barely time to kick-off before the half time whistle blew.
At half time the chairman handed over the proceeds from the pre-season match against Napoli to the Bobby Moore Fund, having held on to the cash since August. Obviously our need was greater than the Fund’s in the intervening months. We were optimistic for the second half. The visitors had looked anything but champions and we thought there was at least an outside chance of picking up something from the game. Oh how wrong we were.
To nobody’s surprise Hines failed to reappear for the second half, Diamanti coming on to replace him. There was, at first, no hint of the lunacy that was to follow as Stanislas failed to continue a run onto what would have been a decent ball from Franco had Junior not hesitated. A promising run from Diamanti was then ended with a foul by Anderson, an infringement that went unpunished by either a free-kick (Walton saw advantage where there was none) or a yellow card – it had been a cynical challenge that merited the caution. A far less serious challenge on Franco on the left was, of course, pulled up for a free-kick as it was in territory safe enough to not upset the visitors. Diamanti’s free-kick reached Tomkins at the far post but the defender’s header was pretty tame and was held easily by the ‘keeper.
Anderson then hacked down Diamanti again about 35 yards out. We decided that the ozone-layer bothering effort from Diamanti was just a sighter for what was to follow, Row Z being the eventual destination of the kick.
About this time Green was giving cause for concern as the physio came on to give him some sort of pill. Whatever it was it didn’t work as Green was seen to deposit the contents of his stomach on the pitch – something I’ve seen on a number of occasions in the aforementioned amateur career but never, as far as I can recall, in a professional match.
Green wasn’t the only one to feel ill shortly after. On the hour, Giggs swapped passes with Rooney then appeared to play the ball just a touch too far in front of him. Unfortunately, Gabbidon was the only person in the ground who appeared not to realise that the ball should have been his and, having taken the first step forward, he inexplicably changed his mind and held back. Giggs needed no further invitation to push forward, feeding Gibson who unleashed a fine first-time shot from the edge of the box that gave the ailing Green absolutely no chance.
Almost immediately we won a free-kick some 30 yards from goal. Diamanti’s effort was bound for the top corner before being tipped over by the ‘keeper.
With 67 on the clock the pedestrian Kovac left to be replaced by Kieron Dyer in an attempt to provide some inspiration. It didn’t work. Evra burst into the box and dodged both defenders and the results of Green’s psychedelic yodelling to pull a shot just wide. The respite, however, was merely temporary.
Rooney fed Anderson who, not for the first time, had been totally ignored by Spector. Anderson’s low cross eluded three defenders, much in the same manner as had occurred the previous week against Burnley and Valencia had the easiest of tap-ins at the far post. Poor defending at its worst. – though a look at the replay suggested that Valencia was offside.
This prompted a mass exodus, including, thankfully, the idiot a few rows back that thinks it’s great to have his five year-old using the “F” and “C” words as much as possible. Now I don’t have a problem with so-called industrial language per se. I’ve ben going to football matches at the Boleyn for over 40 years now and I’m quite comfortable with the fact that the air will turn blue from time to time. I may even be responsible for the odd “damn” or “blast” myself. However, there’s something wrong with such stuff coming out f the words of infants and I’m pretty sure that had I ever come out with that sort of stuff at that age my reward would have been a clip round the ear rather than encouragement from Dad. Er, I’m beginning to sound a bit old here aren’t I?
To the credit of those that remained after the third, the gallows humour that pervades on days like these saw a fair bit of singing in a gesture of support that the team scarcely deserved. The lower bit of the Sir Trevor certainly showed up the tourists from Kingston upon Thames that made up the bulk of the so-called away support.
Just to rub things in the fourth was only a minute behind the third. It was a mirror image of the third – Rooney fed Berbatov who fed Valencia who crossed low for Rooney to tap in, Tomkins having decided not to bother trying to cut the cross out.
Green had had enough by this point and, clearly unwell he retired for the afternoon to be replaced by Peter Kurucz who was making his first XI debut. More worryingly, Rooney was replaced at this point by Owen whose record against us suggests that he only has to turn up to get on the scoresheet. And there were still 18 minutes on the clock to play.
Thankfully that was it as far as the visitors were concerned. Indeed we had a chance of our own when Diamanti played Ilunga in down the left. The ball eventually found Stanislas on the right but the shot was pulled wide. Diamanti then won a free-kick off Scholes whose ludicrous protest saw him booked. Walton moved the wall back all of six yards and, predictably, Diamanti’s free-kick went straight into the wall and that was just about it.
This was a thoroughly unsatisfactory performance. Too many players had awful games and the fact that at least two of the goals were identical to two of Burnley’s proves that lessons are not being learnt. This is something that we can’t afford at the moment and defensive frailties married to a lack of fight spell danger. Sort it out guys.
Just to cap a thoroughly miserable afternoon, the traffic of Man Utd supporters heading south of the river meant that it took us over an hour to get from the ground to the tunnel. I’m thinking of moving to Manchester simply to get home quicker!
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Might have done a bit better with th first but it was hard not to empathise with him. I felt sick as well.
Dreadful. Still, on a day of few positives, we can at least take some comfort from the fact that he plays for the USA who are our first opponents in the World Cup.
Seems at least a yard short of pace at the moment.
Similar to Gabbidon really, Seemed well placed to cut out at least one cross. Didn’t.
Got one superb tackle in late on. Unfortunately his indecision cost us at least one goal and his failure to block a cross arguably cost us another.
Failed to take the midfield by the scruff of the neck in the way w know he can.
If he wants to spend 90 minutes watching a football match he should pay for the privilege like the rest of us.
A wretched afternoon. Barely picked out a pass and seemed ill at ease with whatever it was h was supposed to be doing.
Some lively moments but kept straying offside.
Some nice control but faded from view as the game went on.
Not his fault but he should have been off well before half time.
(Replaced Hines, 46 mins) Just about our only threat – and I use the word very loosely.
(Replaced Kovac, 67 mins) Barely registered, though it was nice to get a reminder of what he looks like.
(Replaced Kovac, 67 mins) Clean sheet! Barely tested really.
Did not play.
Manuel Da Costa
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Peter Walton.
Man of the Match: Alessandro Diamanti.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Herita Ilunga, James Tomkins, Danny Gabbidon, Scott Parker, Radoslav Kovac, Jack Collison, Junior Stanislas, Guillermo Franco, Zavon Hines.
Booked: None booked .
Sent Off: None sent off .
Kuszczak, Neville, Evra, Brown, Anderson, Giggs, Scholes, Fletcher, Valencia, Gibson, Rooney .
Substitutes: Carrick (Neville 34), Berbatov (Gibson 67), Owen (Rooney 72).
Subs not used: Foster, De Laet, Park, Nani.
Goals: Scholes (45+1), Gibson (61), Valencia (71), Rooney (72).
Booked: Scholes (80).
Sent Off: None sent off.