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West Ham United 1 Everton 2
Saturday, 16th May 2015
A home defeat to Everton? Business as usual then.
You can tell when I've got ticket for a test match. The weekend before when there's football the weather is glorious with crap stiff forecast for the cricket.So it was for this one. On arrival at the ground the team news was that a family bereavement had prevented Nolan's involvement. Winston Reid had passed a fitness test affording us the luxury of no fewer than three (count 'em) fit central defenders leaving us with a line-up of Adrian, Jenkinson, Cesswell, Reid, Collins, Noble, Kouyate, Song, Downing, Valencia and, for probably the last time at the Boleyn, Cole.
The first half was not one to live long in the memory. Adrian was forced into a save early doors. Barkley fed Osman whose low effort was goal-bound until the 'keeper turned the effort around the post. Collins blocked Lukaku's shot from the corner and the rebound fell to Stones who mis-hit the loose ball wide.
We forced a few corners on the left from blocked crosses. The third of these should have been a penalty. Coleman stuck an arm out at the ball and failed to withdraw it. A clear penalty. However I was far from surprised that it wasn't given. Frankly these days I'm gobsmacked whenever a referee actually gets something right. It would be nice to know exactly why these fraudsters do what they do but unfortunately Kevin Friend and his colleagues can hide behind the fact that they don't have to come out and justify their incompetence, safe in the knowledge that no matter how bad they get they'll never be in danger of losing their jobs. Meanwhile Song dragged his shot wide from the resulting corner a Coleman's guilt look spoke volumes.
That luxury of having three fit central defenders? It lasted all of 13 minutes as Ginge limped off with an as yet unspecified injury to be replaced by Burke.
The fair play league thing raised its ugly head (how on earth is a team full of divers such as Liverpool top of the thing?) as Lukaku was checked by Reid who'd been caught flat-footed on the wing. The resulting yellow was justified.
On 27 minutes Noble had a rare effort from open play. Bursting forward from midfield he played the ball into the box where Valencia laid the ball into the skipper's path. His shot was played into the ground though with the erratic bounce worrying Howard probably more than it should have done.
If the players weren't worrying too much about the fair pay thing the fans were using it as an excuse to liven up proceedings. Coleman's yellow for his sly little tug back on Valencia was greeted with more joy from the home support than you might normally expect from a routine yellow for example. Though overall I think it might have been better had the players of both sides not taken the fair play thing quite so far by giving the ball back to the opposition uite so often.
One of the better chances in a half in which they were at a premium occurred just after the half hour, Downing's clever first touch took him past his marker and his powerful shot rom about 25 yards had to be beaten away by Howard. Song played the ball back into the box and whilst Howard's claim was an easy one, it was assisted by the fact that Cole was being bear-hugged away from making a challenge by a defender in one of those challenges that referees can't wait to give outside the box but dishonestly turn a blind eye to the second it takes place in the area..
The yellow card count went 2-1 in our favour as Reid's turn on the left saw him crudely hacked by Barry as the Kiwi moved away. More cheers and that was pretty much yer lot for the half which was concluded after a pointless minute of stoppage.
The half time interval include an interview with Ray Stewart. A post-match discussion about the player brought forth the information that "Jock" had taken over 80 spot-kicks in his ten or so years at the club. That's 8 or 9 a season over the period he played for us. I think we've had something like four in the league in total over the past couple of seasons. Just saying ref.
There were no personnel changes at the interval and the second half was definitely an improvement on the first. Not on the refereeing front obviously as Friend managed to decide that poking the ball through an opponent's legs was now somehow contrary to the laws of the game. Reid was the supposed culprit much to everyone's surprise, including Everton's. Lukaku's free-kick was a yard wide, hitting the support post at the back running along the back of the goal, prompting celebrations amongst some of the visiting support which were sheepishly curtailed as the truth dawned. Always amusing that.
On the whole we were dominating possession, and most of the play was in the Everton half, though it was far from penetrative. So the opening goal, when it came on the hour, came as something of a pleasant surprise. Downing laid off a ball to Song and promptly lost his marker for a second. Song played the ball into the box where Downing's first touch was clever enough to give him an angle to curl a low drive into the far corner. A good goal that was better than the match deserved.
The lead didn't last long - they rarely do these days. It doesn't help when you instantly retreat back and try and defend the lead you've just won of course. Only a few minutes after we'd gone ahead Lukaku was given far too much time and space to play the ball into the box. Osman had a lot to do but we let him do it and a decent finish on the turn once he'd teed himself up levelled the scores.
Less than a minute after we'd conceded we could have gone behind in identical fashion as Barkley turned in acres of space only to put his effort high into the crowd. Lesson not learned.
On 70 minutes Carlton Cole left the Boleyn for what is presumably the last time. He left to generous applause, more in recognition of past services rendered than for his contribution on the day. Nene was, as ever, his replacement.
If we are to enter Europe via the fair play league Kouyate certainly doesn't fancy an early return from whichever beach he's got lined up for the summer. He spent the latter part of the game looking for a barney. The first occasion came when Galloway won the ball fairly but followed the tackle up with a niggly little flick. One of those that as a player you'd not bother with until later when you'd put just a little bit more weight into your next tackle than was strictly necessary just to let the little git know not to take liberties. What you don't do is stand up in confrontation and start shoving people around. That you save for the potential leg breakers. Possibly much to his annoyance Kouyate escaped with no punishment other than a quiet word from this week's care in the community case in the middle.
We had another penalty shout denied as Stones, having missed the bounce, decided to haul Valencia to the ground, gambling on the fact that the ref would continue to apply his dishonest double standard to fouls depending on their location on the pitch. Stones was of course right.
Friend's nadir of the afternoon came around this time as we were made to retake a quick throw in because, well we took it quickly and had got into a promising position and that would have been jolly unfair on our opponents who hadn't had the chance to get all eleven behind the ball. I'm sure the referee felt much happier delaying the restart. I know Everton bloody did.
We were treated to another yellow as McCarthy left a leg out to stop Nene's break out. Cue semi-ironic cheers and choruses of "we're all going on a European tour" then.
Another penalty shout was ignored as Howard shoved sponsors' MOTM Kouyate out of the way to enable his defender to clear a ball he'd made a mess of. I suppose this was at least a slight improvement on the previous week when Nolan had been penalised in similar circumstances but really we ought to be seeing officials doing the right thing on these occasions. The decision could have proved costly as Lukaku forced Adrian into a smart save. Lukaku then put the resulting corner out. Friend was now enjoying himself and gave a corner despite his linesman's flag, and the evidence of his own eyes. More dishonesty.
So with three minutes of stoppage announced Galloway finally got the yellow some of his niggling had deserved, another spot of cynicism preventing Kouyate's break out of defence. More European tour songs.
And then there was the usual last second goal. Sitting back far too deeply McGeedy had all the time in the world to chip over a cross, Burke allowed his man to peel off and Lukaku got his statutory goal. There was just time for a ball to be played into the box before Friend blew to bring Everton another three points. Kouyate made another bid to keep 2nd July free by picking an argument with anyone who'd listen but Friend couldn't be bothered to dig out the card. He'd not been bothered to do anything properly all afternoon so I suppose there was no reason for him to start so late in the day.
The players returned to a half empty stadium for the end of season presentations, the generally unsatisfactory air of the day not being helped by some of the West Stand Upper Tier stewards who prevented kids from moving into the posh seats in the middle to get a better view. Note to one particular fool in a hi-vis vest - when you find yourself having to rely on the phrase "I don't make the rules" to justify an unjustifiable position maybe it's time to think about what you are doing. If you can. A number of families gave up and left at this point - nice way to encourage the youngsters guys. Not.
Europe? I suppose it's looking like a distinct possibility and a few days somewhere in July with a decent beach to lie on with a cold one would be nice. However, the first qualifying round will be comprised mostly of teams from countries ranked 18-54 in the UEFA rankings. There's an awful lot of teams from what used to be the former Soviet Union in that lot and knowing my luck we'll end up being drawn against a team that was formerly the works XI of some chemical plant in Kazakhstan or somewhere. Keep your fingers crossed for Gibraltar or Cyprus then.
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
It would not be right to say that we'd have lost were it not for... I'm sure Jussi would have done equally as well. But the man between the sticks has to stay alert through dullish periods, and do his job when the time comes. Adrian did. And he saved the penalty and so nearly got to the rebound. Dammit!
Had a lot of defending to do today, which he did well enough. That limited his chances to go forwards, though.
Had a fairly stiff test defensively today. He passed (especially with that cross, aha!), but not with flying colours. A few errors in amongst...
A good return to the side. A pity we shall lose him.
Whilst he did a decent job; with Reid, made Kane largely anonymous; I'm starting to get very cheesed off with his play-acting. First minute of stoppage time, Soldado's high boot catches JT on the... arm! The arm, James, the arm! But you start clutching your damn head again! Cut out the blatant cheating, you prize twit!
A couple of bad moments, giving away a soft, silly penalty particularly. Otherwise, a solid under-the-radar display today - a lot of good work, though little to catch the eye.
By not very much, Man of the Match. Energetic, committed, and wasn't that a lovely thumping header for the opener!
A little lucky not to be sent off. He looked decidedly miffed to be taken off, but I think it was the right decision - he was walking a knife edge by then. Decent but not outstanding.
No shirker, but definitely somewhat subdued when not at the point of the diamond.
Doesn't he run! I'm not one for stats much, but I'd be interested to see which of him and Sakho covers the most ground. Speaking of Sakho, Enner might be having a few words about the lack of a square ball for an easy tap in just before we did score our second...
As per Valencia, terrific work rate up front. A bit greedy with that chance on 58, but made up for it by sneaking in at the back stick a few minutes later.
(Replaced Noble) On for Noble on 66; off again 20 minutes later with what looked like a pulled hamstring. No effect on the game.
(Replaced Valencia) Came on, ran around for 20 minutes. Can't remember him doing anything notable.
(Replaced Cole) On when Cole had to be withdrawn with less than 10 minutes to play. No chance to make an impression.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
West Ham United:
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Stewart Downing, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho.
Aaron Cresswell 8 .
James Collins .
None sent off. .
Subs not used:
Rose (81), Kane (pen 90+6).
Man of the Match:
Taking the long view
Take your own advice, Sullivan
Bravo to the Few - and the team!
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