Filed: Saturday, 12th January 2013
By: Staff Writer
The backbone of West Ham's United's successful Championship promotion campaign was the team's form away from home - yet that is now threatening to prove its Achilles heel.
West Ham returned to the Premier League last spring on the back of a record-breaking 14 away wins - or 15, if you count the play-off Final win at Wembley. But after today's demoralising defeat at Sunderland, Sam Allardyce's team find themselves looking over their shoulders once again as a result of another hugely disappointing away day defeat.
The manner of earlier reversals at Wigan and Reading had raised questions about West Ham's appetite for tricky away days - whilst Allardyce and his players knew that it would be important not to drop another three points to another team who may yet be fighting relegation later in the season.
But this defeat - the result of another insipid performance away from home - was perhaps even worse than those defeats at the DW and Madejski Stadiums and leaves Allardyce's goal-shy side with a tally of just five away goals all season.
For the fourth successive away match, West Ham, who gave debuts to Joe Cole and (sub) Marouane Chamakh were unable to find the back of the net. That, combined with some desperately poor defending - plus a touch of magic from Sebastian Larsson - left them reflecting on a (thoroughly deserved) 3-0 defeat.
United were behind as early as the 12th minute when some indecision in defence gave Larsson time to fashion a shot that fizzed into the back of Jussi Jaaskelainen's net from 25 yards out.
Lucky to be just the one goal behind at the break, West Ham - who were weakened further by the loss of James Collins with a torn calf ten minutes before the break - saw the deficit increased further less than two minutes after the restart.
Teenager Danny Potts, who performed so admirably against Manchester United last week was chief culprit as he failed to clear his lines, allowing Adam Johnson to steal in and poke the ball over the line. Potts summed up the feelings of those fans who had endured a six-hour plus round trip by thumping the turf in frustration.
The rout was complete 16 minutes from time when Sunderland - who also hit the woodwork and had a Steven Fletcher effort ruled out for offside - breezed through West Ham's defence and Stephane Sessegnon's deflected shot found James McClean, who was on hand to finish from a tight angle.
Although it was a miserable day all round there was some good news with the return of Mo Diame to the subs bench - although that was tempered somewhat by the unexplained absence of Mark Noble.
Sunderland 3-0 West Ham Utd: Match Facts
West Ham Utd: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Collins (Tomkins 34), Reid, Potts, Diarra, Collison (Vaz Te 46), Nolan, Jarvis, J.Cole, C.Cole (Chamakh 56).
Subs not used: Spiegel, O'Neil, Diame, Taylor.
Booked: Diarra (52), Tomkins (58), Reid (69).
Shots (on/off target): 8 (3/5).
Sunderland: Mignolet, Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Colback, Larsson, Vaughan, McClean, Johnson (N'Diaye 84), Sessegnon (McFadden 88), Fletcher (Wickham 79).
Subs not used: Westwood, Bardsley, Kilgallon, Campbell.
Goals: Larsson (12), Johnson (47), McClean (74).
Shots (on/off target): 11 (7/4).
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
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11:51PM 12th Jan 2013
''I blame Sam. We must have all hoped for a Man Utd performance; at half time, only 1-0 down, we'd have taken a Chelsea. What we got was 90 mins of Reading. What we got was what we deserved - nothing. Were I a Sunderland fan, I wouldn't be too cock-a-hoop after this. Against a side that, essentially, failed to turn up, they laboured (and mostly failed) to create decent chances in the first half, though Larsson's goal was a belter. In the second, they were a little fortunate to keep a clean sheet against an attack that pressed only fitfully at best. All this with the assistance of a linesman who missed two obvious offsides, and a referee who ruled in their favour on the vast majority of 50-50 decisions.
Sunderland are where they are for a reason & will stay there. On this sort of performance (yet again!), we ought to be in the bottom three, though. So yes, I blame Sam. Game after game away from home we get this. He calls the shots (not that, away, we seem to have many, and score fewer!), he carries the can. The match was lost in midfield today. Nolan's role seemed to be to give the ball away, Diarra's to give fouls away, Jarvis missed fire whenever he was anywhere near the ball, and Collison & Cole could do nothing with what they got of it. As a unit, the midfield simply failed to impose themselves on the game. Let's face it, Sunderland did not press us the way Reading did, which is why I give them little credit for the victory - we just handed them the result on a plate with an insipid, passionless performance.
Sam's second half substitutions made little sense. If Diame was fit enough to be on the bench, why on earth was he not used? Collison, who came off, was not the problem; Diarra was. His poor headed clearance gave Larsson the chance to hammer the opener, he gave away foul after foul, he got caught dallying on the ball at least 3 times. And Chamakh for Carlton? CC was completely ineffective today, but what would you expect with the woeful service he got? How was Chamakh going to improve matters? Surprise, surprise, he didn't.
Jussi did what he could, which was little enough, but only 3 outfield players emerge from this with any credit at all. Vaz Te displayed the strength of a wet lettuce leaf (much like Jarvis and, if it comes to that, Sessegnon, who goes over far too easily), but at least when he came on, he gave us a little creativity & worried the Black Cats' defence enough to have them fouling him. Potts, on his first Premiership start, blundered for their second goal. That aside, though, he had another mature & near faultless game. Adam Johnson, a tricky & experienced opponent, got very little change out of him. I know Danny will be dropped as soon as a senior LB is available; in the meanwhile, every game he can get under his belt will stand him in good stead for the future.
Thank the gods for James Tomkins! It looked like Collins did his hamstring; this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. I cannot believe that, according to the rumour mill, we are likely to lose the outstanding individual amongst our current crop of young players because Sam won't play him. Tomkins ought to be the foundation of our defence for the next decade, not allegedly off to Newcastle! He made several fine tackles once he came on, nearly scored and, frankly, was the only player out there today who looked like he cared about how badly we were playing. To the extent that he even managed to get himself booked for winning the ball cleanly, courtesy of Mr Swarbrick. It is to be hoped that, if Collins is going to be out for a few games, James can now cement his place in the side, the dissipation of his dissatisfaction then ensuing.
Man Utd next. If we perform like this on Wednesday, we're going to be humiliated. Let's hope they get their pampered backsides in gear at Old Trafford, as they did not today...''