Premier League
West Ham United 1 Newcastle United 2

Saturday, 23rd October 2010
by Gordon Thrower

Oh dear! This was a day of multiple disappointments and it should no, ought - to have been so different.

Team news was that Upson, whose neck spasms had kept him out of the 1-1 at Wolves the previous week, had recovered enough to take his place at the centre of what now appears to be our first choice defence, with Gabbidon reverting to left-back. However, there were major changes further forward.

The 4-4-2 that had seen us go five unbeaten was abandoned in favour of a 4-3-3 or possibly a 4-3-2-1 or even possibly a 4-4-1-1. This saw the return of Behrami in midfield with Boa-Morte dropped to the bench and Dyer nowhere to be seen. Carlton Cole came in for his first start for a while leaving us with a starting XI of Green, Jacobsen, Gabbidon, Da Costa, Upson, Parker, Noble, Behrami, Obinna, Piquionne, Cole.

Well we started brightly attacking, unusually, the Bobby Moore end in the first half. For the first 15 minutes or so we took the game to the opposition. The passing looked good and there was pace and movement a-plenty to admire as the confidence of a decent run shone through.

The first chance came our way on 3 minutes. Piquionne and Cole seemed to get in the way of each other as a ball was played into acres on the right. Piquionne won the toss and brought the ball under control before unleashing a low, hard cross into the 6-yard box. Cole couldn't get anything on it in the middle whilst the attentions of a defender prevented Obinna getting anything on it at the far post wher Krul was able to gather the loose ball. Piquionne and Cole then combined nicely in the box but Cole dallied over the shot and instead of putting Obinna in he elected to try an effort that was never going to trouble Krul. Piquionne then brought a good save out of Krul though he had strayed offside.

It was no surprise, when we took the lead on 11 minutes. Noble received the ball from Parker in the middle and Piquionne's fine run was matched by Noble's equally fine ball into the space behind the defence. Piquionne's effort as Krul came out to meet him may have been a shot but Carlton Cole was first to the ball as it traversed the 6-yard box putting the ball away from close range.

So, one-nil up and playing well against a team out of sorts. What could possibly go wrong? Well it's been a common failing of ours in recent years that, having taken the lead, we have a bit of a rest. A bit like that bloke in the old telly ad who, when decorating his house, makes one paint stroke on the wall before announcing "that's broken the back of it" and sitting down for a can of whatever beer it was they were advertising. The problem with playing like that is that it is incredibly hard to get the momentum going again once you've started to sit back.

Newcastle slowly started to take the opportunity given to them to get back into the game. Tiote had an on-target effort diverted by Parker for a corner. Carroll's foul at the corner went unpunished but Colocini failed to make anything of the possible opportunity. The equaliser came as little surprise when it arrived in the 23rd minute.

Since the goal we had decided that those nasty things called "crosses" were actually ok and, instead of preventing them at all costs, they were something to be invited into our box so that Da Costa and Upson would have some heading practice. Da Costa failed to prevent Carroll getting on the umpteenth cross of the afternoon, Parker wasn't close enough to Nolan who was able to turn the ball past Green first time.

Almost immediately Obinna had the chance to restore the lead. A Green clearance was nodded on by Cole. Piquionne got on the end of the flick but overran it slightly before pulling it back to Obinna whose first time effort was high and wide. With a little more composure the Nigerian would have scored, with Krul nowhere to be seen in the Newcastle goal. A Noble free-kick then found Piquionne but his header lacked power, direction or any of the other requisites necessary for the scoring of a goal.

Obinna then embarked on a fine run down the left but seemed to have over-elaborated on entry into the box, twisting and turning like a twisty-turny thing ((C) Black Adder) before powering a low cross into the area. Colocini got just enough on the ball to divert it away from Cole. Another Obinna spot of trickery saw him pull the ball back. Behrami dummied and Parker put his shot high into the Bobby Moore.

So half time came with cause for some cautious optimism. We'd dominated the first 15, sat back for the second 15 and held our own in the third. Unfortunately we chose the second 45 to have one of our worst halves of the season.

Like the second part of the first half we elected to sit back and watch. We had an early warning when Nolan nodded back to Carroll whose shot was well saved by Green. Clearly those tactical talks over breakfast had been paying dividends - though what Mrs Nolan's thoughts are on the matter haven't been recorded. Then things started to go really wrong.

As an over hit cross went out for a throw in Upson collapsed in the area. Parker signalled that a substitution would be required immediately, something that was confirmed by the physio. Upson went straight down the tunnel muttering "bollocks" to nobody in particular, though I believe this to have been a curse of frustration rather than a medical diagnosis. Ilunga came on to deputise with Gabbidon moving across to partner Da Costa in the middle.

Sitting back and watching is fine if you're in the crowd. If you're on the pitch it's a different matter. If we got the ball back we gave it back to them. Ameobi had a distance shot that failed to cause Green any worry. Then Piquionne became the next to visit the treatment room. On a rare sortie forward he got on the end of a Noble cross that was subsequently cleared. However he failed to get up, appearing to land heavily on his knee.

Whilst we were waiting for the substitution the way we were playing was summed up in one neat two second cameo. Green came for a cross and, keen to get the attack moving, launched out a throw to Obinna. Whether the throw was too strong or Obinna was simply showing a lack of awareness I don't know. However the ball ended straight back in Newcastle possession with most of them still forward from the previous attack.

Eventually Benni McCarthy came on to replace the stricken Piquionne and shortly after we were behind. The ball was played out to our left where Gabbidon seemed content to allow Ameobi the time and space to do whatever he liked. What he liked was pulling it back to Barton whose cross found Carroll totally unmarked in the middle of the box to put the easiest of headers away. It was awful defending of the lowest order I'm afraid.

It could have been worse - with 17 left Barton tried his luck and the deflection off Gabbidon could have gone anywhere - thankfully it went over. The final substitution came shortly after - Barrera (who I felt might have been better employed being on at the start) replacing Behrami. Behrami's sprint as he left the field was probably the fastest run we'd seen in claret and blue all evening.

Jose Enrique then became the next to take advantage of our general ennui, running a good 60 yards without challenge before shooting, again a deflection leading to a corner. Ameobi had a go, his shot coming off Gabbidon's backside with Green stranded by the deflection had it been an inch or two the other side of the post. Carroll then decided that, if we weren't bothering to put in a challenge, he'd have a go and ran straight through the middle before shooting narrowly wide.

Predictably the team left to boos from the crowd - understandable in view of the performance in the second half. There was so much to ponder after this one. Firstly the team selection. Having alighted on a formation that had seen us go unbeaten in five, it seemed strange that we changed the formation and personnel so radically. Ok it appears that Dyer isn't capable of playing two weeks in a row - which is a shame because he's been a revelation this year. However, when Dyer has been missing in the past Barrera has shown promise and, being a natural wide player, the balance of the side would not have been disrupted.

Frankly, despite Cole's goal, bringing in Cole and Behrami failed to work. A ten minute spell in the first half aside, Obinna seemed confused as to whether he was a fourth midfielder, a third striker or something in between. Team selection aside, those who did appear in this one were well below par. The number of times we gave the ball away was, simply, unacceptable. Before this match we were three points from mid table. Now we're three points from safety. The rot must be stopped and soon. Hard labour in training for both players and management this week please.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
No chance with the goals. One good save but his distribution was poor in this one.

Lars Jacobsen
Ok defensively but our failure to keep hold of the ball meant that he was unable to contribute as an attacking force.

Danny Gabbidon
Got dragged out wide for the winner. Which wouldn't have been so bad had he actually done something to block the cross.

Matthew Upson
Was having a torrid time which got worse with his withdrawal through injury.

Manuel Da Costa
His recent "problems" seemed to have been playing on his mind. Allowed Carroll to head back for Nolan's equaliser and, in common with most of his team mates, his passing was poor today.

Scott Parker
His recent "problems" seemed to have been playing on his mind. Allowed Carroll to head back for Nolan's equaliser and, in common with most of his team mates, his passing was poor today.

Mark Noble
At the heart of what little was good in this match - if I had to plump for a MOTM it'd probably be him.

Valon Bahrami
At the heart of what little was good in this match - if I had to plump for a MOTM it'd probably be him.

Carlton Cole
Couldn't miss the goal but failed to hold the ball up for the rest of the match - on those rare occasions his team mates could find him.

Victor Obinna
A good first half spell aside he seemed bemused as to what his role should actually entail. He wasn't the only one.

Frederic Piquionne
Failed to make much of an impression and hobbled off in the second half.


Benni McCarthy
(Replaced Barrera, 69 mins) Came on to replace Piquionne. Apparently.

Herita Ilunga
(Replaced Barrera, 69 mins) Went walkabout for the winner, causing Gabbidon to get drawn out of the centre.

Pablo Barrera
(Replaced Barrera, 69 mins) Not given enough time to make an impression, which was a shame as his brief run out showed potential.

Marek Stech
Did not play.

Tal Ben-Haim
Did not play.

Luis Boa Morte
Did not play.

Julien Faubert
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Danny Gabbidon, Matthew Upson, Manuel Da Costa, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Valon Bahrami, Carlton Cole, Victor Obinna, Frederic Piquionne.

Goals: Carlton Cole 12                  .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Newcastle United: Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Enrique, Barton, Nolan, Tiote, Gutierrez, Carroll, Ameobi.

Subs not used: Soderberg, Guthrie, Routledge, Perch, Taylor, Smith, Lovenkrands.

Goals: Nolan (23), Carroll (69).

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Chris Foy.

Attendance: 34,486.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.