Premier League
West Ham United 3 Southampton 1

Saturday, 22nd February 2014
by Gordon Thrower

Former World Heavyweight Champion (when there was only one) Muhammed Ali had a tactic called “rope-a-dope” whereby he'd position himself on the ropes and take punches, the force of which would be absorbed by the ropes rather than by the body. Then, when his opponent was looking tired Ali would come out and flatten him. Which is pretty much what we did to Southampton.

Team news was pretty much as one would have thought given the form and those available leaving us a starting XI of Adrian, Demel, McCartney, Tomkins, Collins, Noble, Taylor, Jarvis, Downing, Nolan and Cole C.

Pre-match saw the arrival of an understandably knackered Jonjo Heuerman who, I am sure you are all aware, has (and this is something of an understatement) has raised a bob or two for charity. As kids I'm sure we all spent our half terms kicking a ball about. Jonjo decided to do exactly the same, with the slight difference of starting at Southend and ending at the Boleyn. Top man.

We were also invited to join in with a minute's applause in memory of the great Tom Finney who passed away last week. Whilst I have no problems with the underlying sentiment - there can be few more deserving cases - I always feel it a bit odd when it's a minute's applause. It doesn't seem quite, well British. Just me I expect.

We were a bit slow of of the blocks and had a warning shot abut the bows early on when a long ball (and for a club whose fans are deluded enough to think they play like Barcelona boy do they play lot of those) saw Rodriguez get the wrong side of Demel. Thankfully the England (it says here) forward's touch was awful and Demel was able to smuggle the ball away.

It was not a warning that was heeded, though they needed some assistance from the ref to take the lead. Lallana, who has previous for the offence of simulation, pushed the ball far too far as Tomkins slid in. Seeing the ball was going out the midfielder threw himself into the air - well before Tomkins got anywhere near him. Clattenburg bought it - well he's not exactly the brightest of referees in the league and we're starting from a pretty low base in any case. Yoshida nodded the free-kick in, Linda having given him a bit too much space in the box.

The first goal conceded in six hours seemed to wake the side up and it was, thankfully, only a matter of minutes before the equaliser came. Nolan picked out Jarvis's run and the winger's touch was just good enough to beat Boruc's challenge to level the scores. A look at the replay suggests that Jarvis was offside by a matter of inches but it was certainly marginal.

Put it this way; if we get another 20 of those this season the officials will still probably owe us given some of the rubbish that have cost us points this term. Boruc, on the other hand can probably thin himself lucky that the ball went in, his foul on Jarvis would have seen him march had Jarvis's prod gone wide. As it was it was worth a yellow which was strangely not forthcoming.

Three minutes later we were ahead. Nolan cleverly flicked a ball out wide to Downing who forced a corner. Downing took the corner himself and Cole's header came back off the post. Yoshida made a right pig's ear of the attempted clearance and Cole buried the loose ball. Fine poacher's finish - and a change from the occasional comedy goal we've come to know and love.

We pretty much bossed the rest of the half. Downing forced a corner that they failed to clear. Noble fed Collins who had an unlikely attempt from the edge of the box saved by Boruc. The visitors' main tactic at this point seemed to be to launch it hopefully in the general direction of Lambert, a tactic that appears to be missing from my copy of "Football The Barcelona Way". To be fair to them, it did nearly pay dividends as a 40-yard cross saw Lambert get the better of Ginge only to see his header come back off the base of the post.

Just before the break Cole was fouled, the unusual thing being that, despite defenders having spent the match arms draped around Cole's neck like two year-olds trying to get a piggy back from a favourite uncle, this was the first time Clattenburg had seen fit to give a free-kick. It was take quickly and Downing bought himself enough space to put over a curling effort that was possibly more cross than shot, the intention behind the effort being somewhat academic in view of its ultimate destination a yard or several east of the far post.

Half Time: West Ham United 2 Southampton 1

The half time confectionery was accompanied by Alan Taylor being interviewed pitch side together with some speculation that the bloke sat at the end of our row might be actor Chris Fairbank - better known as Moxey out of the superb Auf Wiedersehen Pet. We never did discover whether it was hi or not.

We were treated to a familiar sight in the second half. That was a side passing the ball from side to side in the mistaken impression that goals are awarded for possession. They're not, as the visitors were soon to discover. A typical exchange saw maybe a dozen passes before somebody, Chambers springs to mind, decides to have a shot and put the ball into the crowd. Themost interesting and fun thing to happen about this time was when McCartney, Chambers and the Chicken Run side lino all had a coming together resulting in a flattened lino. Always funny that.

There was room for further comedy as a cross that hit Downing brought outraged shouts for handball, shouts that conveniently ignored the fact that Downing had been stood two feet away from the ball when it hit him. They had a moan at the resulting corner when a hand went up and seem to play the ball. Again the fact that the hand had belonged to Lambert anyway was conveniently ignored.

We made our first change on 55 minutes when goalscorer Jarvis came off to be replaced by Diame. Taylor then pounced on a loose ball - many had stopped when the ball had been played by a Southampton hand on its way through - and got down to the by-line. Taylor's cross caused some mild consternation before being put out for a corner. Collins got on the end of said corner but couldn't keep his effort down.

Collins wasn't having one of his better games at the back. He found himself caught in no-man's land as Shaw broke down the Southampton left. The defender's pull back deserved better of Lallana who,seemed confused at the idea of staying on his feet and fluffed it. The visitors had, by this time, brought on Ramirez who looked as if he was capable of going forwards rather than from side to side. The Uruguayan nutmegged Collins then inexplicably decided to plant his shot into the crowd rather than give Adrian something to do.

With Collins in "sudden rush of blood" mode, this was the point at which we decided that bringing on Winston Reid might not be that bad an idea. This view was reinforced when a long clearance from their back (note) caused us a few problems and Lallana got goal-side only to pull his shot wide.

Clearly a finishing lesson was required and one was delivered on 70 minute. Nolan played a ball wide to Downing. The winger's cross was superb, finding Cole whose header was partially blocked by a defender. The ball sat up for Nolan to throw himself acrobatically volley home from mid air. Superb finish.

Nolan lasted a couple more minutes before being replaced by Reid, the standing ovation being a deserved as the stick he got earlier in the season.

We could have made it four a few minutes later - Diame won the ball on the left and hit one from 30+ yards that hit the bar with Boruc beaten all ends up - the bar is still ringing now I expect.

Adrian had a rare save to make when Diame made a mess of getting the ball away from the corner and the 'keeper wend down sharpish at the near post to keep out a low Lallana effort. Yoshida was given another free header which Reid blocked. A long bal (note again) found Rodriguez who controlled and volleyed from distance - the effort wa only a foot r so wide but the 'keeper seemed to have it covered.

Clattenburg - ever keen to get in on the act - gave a free kick for another imagined offence but where these were flying in earlier in the season, Ramirez simply pulled it wide.

Three extra minutes were added - though the way they were playing they were much more adept at running down the clock than we ever have been - and once they'd gone we were another step closer to safety.

Full Time: West Ham United 3 Southampton 1

There'll be a lot of comments over the contrasting styles of the two sides in this match. There's a danger of overestimating the amount of football that Southampton play.

As suggested, thinking you play like Barcelona and actually doing so are two separate things. There's a world of difference between passing the ball from side to side because you haven't a clue how to break down a defence, and actually passing your way through said defence and Southampton, or at least their supporters anyway, haven't worked that out.

Which is fun!

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Player Ratings

For all the hype he had few saves to make. Best of which was a free kick that bounced wickedly in front of him and looked a lot easier than it actually was.

Guy Demel
Basically sound but there were a few worryingly wayward passes that invited pressure.

George McCartney
Went walkabout for their goal but had an otherwise fine game.

James Collins
Ok for much of the game but there were two or three rushes of blood that caused problems.

James Tomkins
Another decent showing - despite being harshly penalised by Clattenburg for their goal.

Mark Noble
Good tight match - lost the ball a couple of times but invariably won it back.

Matt Taylor
Got through a prodigious amount of work alongside Noble. It was a toss-up between Linda and Taylor for MOTM. Taylor gets it for me. Just.

Matt Jarvis
Some good work down the flank and took the goal well - bravely so given the 'keeper's efforts to give him an unplanned vasectomy.

Stewart Downing
Had a hand in two of the three goals. His cross for the third was superb.

Kevin Nolan
His redemption continues in the best possible way. Fine finish for the third and the ball to Jarvis for the first wasn't half bad either.

Carlton Cole
Spent most of the game with arms around his neck so the goal was just reward. Well taken too.


Mo Diame
Bolstered things a bit and was unlucky with the one that hit the bar.

Winston Reid
Had little involvement.

Jussi Jaaskelainen
Did not play.

Pablo Armero
Did not play.

Jack Collison
Did not play.

Joe Cole
Did not play.

Antonio Nocerino
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Adrian, Guy Demel, George McCartney, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Matt Taylor, Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing, Kevin Nolan, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Matt Jarvis 20 Carlton Cole 23 Kevin Nolan 71              .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Southampton: Artur Boruc, Calum Chambers, Maya Yoshida, Jose Fonte, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert.

Subs not used: Kelvin Davis, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Guly Do Prado.

Goals: Yoshida (8).

Booked: None booked..

Sent off: None.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.

Attendance: 33,148.

Man of the Match: Matt Taylor.