Premier League
West Ham United 3 Crystal Palace 0

Saturday, 14th January 2017
by Gordon Thrower

Whatever happened to Harchester United?

So there we were at the end of a week when the old lazy journalistic clich? using the words "from hero to zero" actually seemed apt for once. It was cold and, if anyone gives a monkey's, the arthritis in my ankle had been giving me grief. So yeah I think all in all some of us could be forgiven for not really looking forward to this match, particularly given the type of football often associated with the visiting manager.

Team news was that we were going to start with three at the back with Collins returning to action for the first time in a bit. Payet was missing - I forget why but I think there was something in the paper about it. Team: Randolph, Collins, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Antonio, Noble, Obiang, Feghouli, Lanzini, Carroll.

Well in truth the first half was probably what everyone would have predicted of this match beforehand. Given a home side that had been through a soap opera of a week against a team whose last 12 months had been so bad one might almost have thought that they were a celebrity.

There was little of note. Noble reacted petulantly to an off the ball kick which prompted a lengthy lecture from ref Swarbrick that on another day might have been a yellow. Later in the half Carroll did see yellow for a late but non-malicious challenge on Ward whilst chasing him down in the corner.

You'll gather that goalmouth action was at a premium given the focus on matters disciplinary thus far. And you would be right, though there were two good chances in the half, one for each side. Just short of the half hour Noble found good space on the right and looked up to see Carroll holding back on the penalty spot. If anything Carroll caught Noble's fine cross slightly too cleanly and his first time effort cleared the bar by a couple of feet to deny what would have been a fine goal.

Shortly after Noble gave away a free kick on the edge of the box, his tackle bringing him the yellow he might have merited earlier. Townsend's cross was challenged for by many but somehow found its way to Tomkins at the far post. However the arrival of the ball appeared to take Tomkins by surprise and his snatched effort went wide when it might have been easier to score. The miss prompted chants of "he's one of our own".

The visiting manager will no doubt have been the happier of the two, a suspicion confirmed when the teams emerged for the restart. We reverted to a flat back four with Byram returning from injury to move into right back. The consequent sacrifice of Ogbonna allowed Antonio to push up front and the tactical change was key to a half that was as different to the one that had preceded it as the performances of those involved in the previous night's Bobby Moore tv "drama" had been to real acting.

There was an early tater as Carroll's first time effort from Antonio's header straight after the restart went wide. Having seen it again it was a lot close than I originally thought. The lively Feghouli was beginning to get into the game a bit more and Carroll was beginning to receive the service he thrives on, a fine Tomkins defensive header preventing us from going one up.

Feghouli was instrumental in creating another chance for the no.9. Cabaye clipped the winger and the resulting free-kick from Lanzini was deflected to the left hand side of the box. Carroll made wonderful space for himself but couldn't keep the shot on target.
Obiang then played a clever ball out to Byram whose angled drive may have been a shot or a cross but failed to become either in the end, the ball beating the far post.

We took the lead on 78 minutes. Carroll won the ball in the air and Noble played a clever pass over the top for Antonio, who was greeted by an onrushing Hennessy whose odds on getting the ball were longer than the walk back to Stratford Station.

Antonio took the ball around the 'keeper and played the ball towards goal. Shot or cross it proved to be the perfect delivery for Feghouli who banished memories of his missed effort from similar range against Man City by tapping in from inches. It was a lead that had been totally deserved on the balance of play in the second period and it was a lead that was doubled shortly after.

Byram had picked up a (correct) yellow from Swarbrick who (credit where due) had had an unusually competent afternoon by the standards of what we have seen recently. Cresswell then played a superb ball down the left wing to Lanzini who held the ball up before laying it off to the supporting Antonio.

Antonio clipped a ball across goal and, well, I expect you have all seen I by now. Carroll's finish was, quite simply, magnificent. I'm now watching it for the 500th time and even in slow motion it's a blur. I would say its right up there with DiCanio's effort v Wimbledon it the list of great goals I have seen live. Excuse me while I press the "keep" button on my Sky Q box....

Well I suppose if you are a team on an appalling run set up to try for a draw one goal is going to make things difficult. A second one like that is going to knock whatever stuffing you thought you had right out of you. It was therefore little surprise that we made it three five minutes after Carroll's effort.

In a vain attempt to try and wrest something out of the game Remy went down their left but found his cross cut out by the splendid Reid. The Kiwi's headed clearance found Antonio who burst forward and laid off the ball into the path of Lanzini who bore down on goal before placing an exquisite lift over the advancing Hennessy to make it 3-0.

It was a sublime finish that was vaguely reminiscent of one from last season away at the same opponents. Scored by whatsisname. Not that the visiting support would have realised - the so called "ultras" had departed after Carroll's goal, presumably they needed an early night for their paper rounds in the morning.

Lanzini picked up a yellow for "excessive celebration" which was statutory but harsh - a celebration involving Pink Floyd's laser show and a million quid's worth of fireworks wouldn't have seemed too excessive after a week like that in my opinion. And that was pretty much it.

Yes I know it was only Palace but frankly after all that had been going on the psychological boost of the win after all that's been going on was plain to see. Throw in a goal like that and the feel good factor gained was out of all proportion to the strength of opponent.

If nothing else the absence of, er, thingy seemed to unite players and fans alike. The manager's name was sung throughout leaving nobody in any doubt whose side the sympathies of the supporters lie. It's an ill wind and all that....

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Player Ratings

Darren Randolph
Largely untested. Dealt with what little Palace had to offer with relative comfort.

Michail Antonio
Ok at wing back in the first half. Better as a foil for Carroll in the second half. Provided assists for all three goals. All of that after getting out of bed with a temperature approaching that of molten steel.

Aaron Cresswell
The lack of attacking threat from the visitors allowed him to get forward to supplement the attack, which he did well.

Winston Reid
Another strong defensive performance from the Kiwi. I have but one question: is he that angry off the pitch as well as on it?

Angelo Ogbonna
Did ok first half but was sacrificed in the switch to a flat back four.

Pedro Obiang
Another good solid runout from a player who rarely grabs the headlines.

Sofiane Feghouli
Continues to improve. Not the greatest defensively but today he didn't have to be.

Mark Noble
Distinctly mediocre first half as pass after pass went astray. Improved in the second half.

Andy Carroll
Even if you take the goal out of the equation this was AC at his best. Won everything in the air both with his head and I his chest. Laid the ball off well and brought players into the game on a regular basis. Then there was the goal. MOTM.

Manuel Lanzini
Showed signs of coming out of the shadows. Pulled strings and we would all be raving about his goal were it not for.....

James Collins
Did the throwing himself in front of the ball thing to his usual decent standard. Not sure he would be first choce pairing with Reid in most matches but "horses for courses" on this occasion.....


Sam Byram
(Replaced Ogbonna) Received wisdom has it that he is not highly rated behind the scenes. There will be sterner tests to come - possibly against a team who actually pose an attacking threat. However, his introduction and the reversion to a flat back four was the catalyst for the second half. Still early days.

Edimilson Fernandes
(Replaced Lanzini) A four minute cameo - little time to exert any influence.

Ashley Fletcher
(Replaced Antonio) A three minute cameo - so he had a minute less than Fernandes to exert any influence.

Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
Did not play.

Reece Oxford
Did not play.

Domingos Quina
Did not play.

Jonathan Calleri
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Darren Randolph, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang, Sofiane Feghouli, Mark Noble, Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini, James Collins.

Goals: Cheikhou Kouyate 8 Cheikhou Kouyate 22 Sofiane Feghouli 81              .

Booked: Michail Antonio  Sofiane Feghouli  Enner Valencia       .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Tomkins, Dann, Delaney, Ward; Cabaye, McArthur (Lee 70), Ledley (Schlupp 80), Puncheon, Townsend (Remy 70); Benteke.

Subs not used: Speroni, Fryers, Kelly, Flamini.

Goals: .

Booked: Ledley (38), Ward (91).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick.

Attendance: 56,984.

Man of the Match: Andy Carroll.