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Watford 2 West Ham United 0
Saturday, 31st October 2015
Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says: “bugger”.
Watford is the home of a good mate and his family so pre-match was spent in a quiet hostelry where we spent a pleasant couple of hours watching two mediocre teams in the shape of Chelsea v Liverpool, Chelsea's capacity for self-destruction apparently still not having reached its peak.
However, I should have realised that it wasn't going to be my day and that West Ham's own capacity for ruining what was a glorious autumn day would hold sway - things started badly when the barrier at the tube station failed to open despite my having a perfectly valid ticket. Which isn't a problem if you have staff visible and on site. Which they weren't so if you're the guy who monitors the CCTV at Moor Park - the guy crawling under your poxy barrier was not a fare dodger, ok?
There were a few surprises when the team news came out. Sakho had picked up a knock in training and was nowhere to be seen in the squad, giving Carroll his first start of the season. Despite encouraging noises from the camp during the week there was no return for Reid. Moses came in for Zarate having been "league-tied" for the Chelsea match giving us a starting XI of Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Tomkins, Collins, Noble, Kouyate, Payet, Lanzini, Moses, Carroll.
Well the best that I can say is that the first few minutes were even. However, we were showing an alarming tendency to try to shoot ourselves in the foot. Tomkins and Adrian conspired to give away a needless corner as early as the tenth minute. Carroll cleared the first effort. The second corner from the other side caused problems. Nobody tracked Ake's run and he had a free header which was blocked by Adrian.
There was a bit of pinball which saw Deeney's shot hit Carroll from close range. From our distance even if the ball had hit Carroll's hand direct from the shot it would have been an incredibly harsh penalty to give - doubly so given that replays showed that the ball had actually ricocheted off the player's head.
They had another shout for a penalty shortly after. Deeney started the move with a nasty foot left in on Kouyate that really ought to have been punished as the ball went past. The ball was flicked up again at close range onto Collins' hand. It would still have been harsh to give as a spot kick, especially as the incident took place several yards outside the box. However, calamity was not that far away and the wheels were to come off with five minutes of the half left to play.
Anya, like a number of his teammates had a habit of diving and, having misplaced a pass in the direction of an offside team-mate he threw himself to the ground in embarrassing manner. More embarrassing was the decision by ref Stroud to award the free kick despite Tomkins being a good couple of feet away from making any contact and despite Stroud having a good view of the incident.
It takes some doing to get yourself removed from the select group of referees for incompetence given that the whole sorry set up is designed to protect poor officials. Only five referees have ever been demoted in the 14 years since the select group was formed and, with that decision Keith Stroud showed precisely why he was one of them.
From there it went from bad to worse. The free-kick was poor and should have been dealt with comfortably. Instead Carroll did an air shot. Still he had time to control the ball and get shot of it. Instead Carroll elected to attempt a Cruyff turn deep inside his own penalty area.
Now call me old fashioned but even Cruyff himself didn't try Cruyff turns that deep in his own box - and he was actually good at them - the clue is in the name. Predictably, Carroll lost out to Ake who played the ball across goal where Igalho claimed the opener, though it looked more like a Cresswell og to me.
As an attacking force we created, well not much. Even when Payet set Moses free on the right Moses' touch was shocking and a promising move came to naught.
Half Time Watford 1 West Ham United 0
The half time entertainment consisted of a couple of teams of schoolkids contesting a penalty shootout which was pretty much as bad as the first half had been. Meanwhile behind the scenes things needed changing and, as we've seen this season, the manager is not averse to switching things around when required. Off came Moses and Lanzini, neither of whom had contributed much to the cause and on came Valencia and Zarate. Good. Surely a decent start to the second half would sort things out? We didn't get one.
Three minutes after the restart Anya went into the box on our right and, despite Cresswell being only a few yards away, decided to stay on his feet for once, putting in what was a pretty lame cross. The one thing lamer than the cross was Tomkins' attempt to deal with it and the defender lazily let the thing squirt under his boot. Then Igalho had all the time in the world to pick the ball up, control it, make a cuppa, read the papers - broadsheets rather than tabloids, and including cryptic crosswords - and bury the ball past the woefully exposed Adrian, with neither Tomkins or Ginge getting anywhere near making a challenge.
It could have been even worse. Igalho was put through by Deeny a minute later but elected to shoot, Adrian's save being completed by a less than convincing clearance by Tomkins.
Gradually we started to get a bit more possession but it was pretty turgid stuff really. Payet's diagonal ball found Carroll in promising position on the hour but the striker's day didn't improve any as his attempted first-time effort was sliced wide, with Zarate just begging to be teed up on the edge of the box.
Watford tried themselves to get in on the self-inflicted bandwagon with 20 minutes left. Cathcart played a back-pass without looking. Valencia was lurking and played the ball first time only to see the shot come back off the post. Carroll couldn't control the loose ball and was upended by a defender but Stroud, who had hitherto been only too happy to give free-kicks where no contact had been made, bottled the decision. Clearly he prefers life in the lower leagues.
With little going our way Bilic replaced Noble with Jelavic but frankly Cruyff himself in his pomp (rather than in his current post heart op recuperation period) would have struggled to make anything out of this game so poor were we playing, and just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, they did.
Firstly the home support did that stupid waving the light on your smartphone thing. Then the ball was played up to Igalho and Ginge went through the back of him. The key to the whole mess is rather a matter of intent.
Only Ginge will know what was going through his mind but the slight case for the defence would be the fact that Igalho's mis-controlled the pass and Ginge's hack, wild as it was, might have connected with where the ball might have gone rather than where it actually was. In the event I look forward to reading about Watford's forthcoming ?50,000 fine from the FA for failing to control their players as they congregated round the ref. While they are at it the powers that be can and another ?50,000 to the bill for that stupid waving the light on your smartphone thing.
And so a miserable afternoon came to a close. The truth is that far too many players had off-days all at once today. In that respect this put one in mind of the Bournemouth game. Like that game we could actually have nicked a point - it certainly would have been interesting had Valencia's effort gone in. However, much like the Bournemouth game it would have been a point that we wouldn't have been anywhere near deserving.
And in a perverse way losing might actually be better for the team in the long run - losing tends to focus the mind a wee bit more in a successful side. In the meantime I'm off to stick some embrocation on the dodgy knee that got a whole lot worse following my attempts to demonstrate the Cruyff turn to the neighbours' kids as I popped out for my paper this morning.
My version was still better than Carroll's though.
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Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Though his defenders didn't give him a prayer with either goal his kicking was a bit off today.
Do we have to have an MOTM this week? He was probably the least worse I suppose.
A bit off the pace all afternoon.
When you have a lumbering ox of a centre forward to look after Ginge is your man. When you haven't, his lack of pace is a concern. The red card was at best clumsy and at worst nasty. Only he knows which.
Seemed as if his mind was on other things for some reason. Cost us a goal as a result.
They stuck someone on him most of the time which curtailed those runs out of defence he usually does.
Struggled to exert any influence on the midfield today.
Poor - if he'd been taken off before the interval instead of during it nobody would have complained.
Made little contribution to proceedings before going off at half time.
One or two decent balls but seemed to be suffering from the general malaise affecting the team this week.
Messed things up up front. Messed things up in defence. Lousy day all round really.
(Replaced Moses, 45) Given how poor we were it was a bit of a thankless task trying to rescue things.
(Replaced Lanzini, 45) Unlucky to hit the post.
(Replaced Noble, 75) Came on and promptly disappeared.
Did not play.
Joey O Brien
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
West Ham United:
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, James Collins, James Tomkins, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Victor Moses, Manuel Lanzini, Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll.
James Tomkins 85 .
James Collins 84 .
Heurelho Gomes, Nyom, Miguel Britos , Craig Cathcart , Nathan Aké, Etienne Capoue , Ben Watson , Ikechi Anya, Troy Deeney, Almen Abdi, Odion Ighalo.
Subs not used:
Sebastian Prödl , Víctor Ibarbo , Giedrius Arlauskis , Alessandro Diamanti .
Aaron Cresswell og (38), Odion Ighalo (48).
Nyom (65), Nathan Aké (81), Etienne Capoue (85).
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