Monday, 29 August 2011

Victory at the City Ground

This game was being billed as one of the toughest away matches West Ham will face this season, with Nottingham Forest making the play-offs consistently, yet unable to get themselves back into the big time, they would be a tough opposition for the Hammers to face in their fight to return to the Premiership at the first time of asking.

Forest are renowned for being extremely solid at the back, but their attacking line always had some questions hanging over it, were they good enough to fight strong defensive lines? Here would be a good chance to find out as they faced a West Ham squad with 2 changes of note from the Leeds game. Parker had not travelled with the squad, over what is believed to be a potential transfer to our fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur, with Faubert replacing him, meaning a much more natural midfield, Collison playing in his preferred centre midfield role alongside Nolan and Noble, with Faubert providing width from the right and as usual Taylor on the left. The other change was at left back, where many fans had been begging Ilunga not to play there, after multiple mistakes in recent games, he had been dropped for George McCartney who plays on the left once more for the Hammers, a welcome change for everyone!

As kick off approached, we would see just how good we are away from home, with 2 wins already, it was hoped we could take that form into the stern test Nottingham Forest would be. The game was a very scrappy affair right from the get go, neither team could keep hold of the ball, especially in that final third, both teams strikers had no support when the ball was sent their way, when support did arrive for Cole, it was from Faubert or Taylor, which resulted in West Hams midfield losing width and it's shape. As the first half progressed, Forest looked much more dangerous, keeping the ball in our half and trying to calve out chances, McGugan blasting over a couple of times, then also being miraculously beaten by Green when he saved with his right foot, Findlay also came close for Forest, seeing his shot go just wide of the post, if it wasn't for these wasteful chances and a superb Green, the scoreline could have been very different. West Ham then finally carved out there first goal, the ball was knocked out wide to Taylor who drilled a low cross across the six yard box, which Luke Chambers, the unfortunate Forest defender sliced into the back of his net. West Ham benefiting from yet another own goal.

West Ham then saw there second goal come quickly after from a quick corner delivered towards the far end of the area which Tomkins headed back into the middle for Nolan to redirect the ball into the back of the net and West Ham were 2-0 up. This didn't stop Forest though who kept attacking and causing problems for the United back line, but again Forest just kept wasting good chances. A major problem for Nottingham Forest by the looks of it this season.

Just after the half hour mark Forest were truly punished for there poor finishing when a Taylor corner missed everyone and O'Brien picked up the ball outside the box and crossed a lovely ball back into the area which the tall No 9 of Cole rose to head home and score his third goal in as many games, a promising return so far from a striker West Ham are use to seeing miss his oppurtunities.

The second half saw Forest use all their subs by the 65 minute mark, with the away side still yet to use theirs, but it seemed Forest had lost a bit of hope in the second half, giving West Ham much more time on the ball and letting our midfield knock it around for fun, although the introduction of Andy Reid, a Forest favourite seemed to kick start Forest back into life. Forest managed to create a lovely passing move which was finished with Findlay slotting home from close range and seeing the score set to 3-1 by the 70th minute, had this goal came much earlier, Forest may have pushed themselves back into the match, but it definitely seemed too little too late for the home side, especially when West Ham won another corner which was poorly cleared by the Forest back line and the ball landed straight back to Taylor who crossed the ball in and it was missed by everyone apart from Winston Reid who tapped home to make it 4-1, scoring his first goal for West Ham in his career and topping off a good performance from himself.

In all honesty, the scoreline flattered West Ham and didn't do Forest any justice, who could have quite easily scored 2 or 3, had lady luck shone on them. Our defence once more was superb and McCartney now playing on the left gave a much more convincing performance than Ilunga has in a long time for us. Our midfield in the first half seemed sloppy, there wasn't much shape at times and they just couldn't dominate possesion as you'd expect they can do, but again from set pieces we were very dangerous and made this pay and having natural wide midfielders is proving to be pivotal to our success with the two own goals it's caused to help us. I am hoping with the introduction of new signings Sam Baldock and Brian Montenegro could prove to help us play 4-4-2 at home, as we don't seem to create enough at Upton Park and that could be the reason why, 4-5-1 away from home seems to be working perfectly, with our team using a solid back line as the foundation and trying to be much more counter attacking with the ball. 9 goals scored and 9 points gained away from home is a lovely stat to have so far and this can only help in our chase for promotion. If the squad can keep organised and create more at Upton Park we could yet see ourselves as the toughest team to play against in the Championship.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A point apiece at Upton Park

This is possibly one of our biggest games in this league. Everyone knows West Ham and Leeds do not like each other. The game didn't show too much hate until the last couple of minutes but still provided to be an interesting affair.

West Ham started the game brightly, keeping the ball and making Leeds chase the game, we looked dangerous from set pieces again, Sam Allardyce really has sorted out this teams aerial ability. First we had a long throw from the left by Ilunga, Cole jumped perfectly to flick the ball behind him and produce a save from the Leeds goalkeeper Lonergan. This led to a corner which was whipped in by Taylor as expected and the first man to that ball was Tomkins again, almost getting the chance to celebrate his second goal in as many games, but unfortunately for him the keeper was equal to it again. The second corner as a result saw Carlton Cole, somehow get his foot in front of the Leeds defender and guide the ball beautifully into the back of the net, Upton Park was sent in to a frenzy, as West Ham go up within 6 minutes.

Once West Ham scored, it appeared Leeds decide to up the pressure, giving West Hams players absolutely no time on the ball, making players make the odd mistake, Leeds carved out a very good chance thanks to Clayton and Gradel, but Green spotted the danger and tipped the ball over the bar. Leeds continued to threaten, with no real clear chances at goal, West Ham managed to carve out another chance around 20 minutes in with some quick one touch passing and Noble moving to create himself a little space and curling a right footer towards the bottom right corner, again the keeper being equal to it. Then something unbelievable happened, a throw in was sent in and Matt Taylor lent down to chest the ball and the ball clipped his hand resulting in a Leeds penalty, up stepped Max Gradel, a former West Ham target, he went straight for the bottom right corner but tried to get so much pace into the shot that he guided wide, West Ham let off. West Ham then had a penalty shout of their own, where Carlton Cole nodded the ball past a defender and charged into the box when the racing back defender clearly caught Coles leg and brought him down, yet the referee waves away the protests from players and the crowd.

Gradel managed to create another chance among a lot of moments of the ball bouncing up and down the pitch, each team sharing the ball, his shot was a strong accurate strike from outside the area, Green was equal to it and managed to push it wide, a lovely save from the ex England number one! The chances then seemed to be equally shared, with neither side looking overly dangerous, I was particularly impressed with how well West Hams midfield coped when forced under pressure to keep moving the ball about and another great half from Tomkins, winning the aerial battle and timing some very good tackles. Gradel had probably been their best player, creating chances from himself and others, although he wasn't having too much luck as the West Ham team didn't want to give him much time to be as much of a threat as he can be. Half time and 1-0 up, it's all looking good so far, Leeds probably had a better half overall but never created a really clear chance, but with the amount of pressure they used fatigue could easily be a factor in the second half.

The second half unfortunately for West Ham, started much like the second ended, Leeds piling on pressure constantly, keeping the ball in the West Ham half, with constant threats around our goal, a third penalty shout, this time for Leeds from a Scott Parker tackle, on initial thoughts it was a brilliant tackle but replays show Parker didn't actually touch the ball. This didn't stop Leeds though they were constantly threatening after as well and the pressure eventually paid off when the ball was slided in from the right to McCormack's feet and he slotted it home, right after Faubert had come on for Collison, 1-1 and Leeds defintiely deserved it. 2 minutes later though and the tactical sub from Allardyce paid off as Faubert delivered a beautiful ball which was slotted home, by a Leeds defender, a perfect delivery and West Ham restore their lead, 2-1!

Following on from this and Leeds' pressure continued but West Ham were fighting for this game as well, finally showing a bit more passion and both sides were creating oppurtunites at each end. Then on came John Carew for his debut for Carlton Cole. Suddenly Leeds really did look like they were starting to tire out, running out of ideas, always giving the ball to Gradel in a hope they could get past the defence of West Ham or draw fouls. Faubert and Carew linked perfectly to almost get a lovely goal, unfortunately the ball trickled wide. Faubert delivered the ball brilliantly again almost seeing another own goal from Kisnobro but thankfully for him it went wide, then West Ham had a corner which met the head of Tomkins only to be denied by Lonergan again, resulting in another corner which Tomkins headed down to Reid who smashed the ball towards goal and somehow, out of nowhere Lonergan threw himself low and deflected the ball wide, amazing goalkeeping from the Leeds United man.

Leeds started trying to up the tempo again, keeping West Ham pegged back, thankfully for West Ham they didn't get a clear target at goal. The chances then appeared to switch between the two sides, although Faubert and Parker linked beautifully to carve out a wonderful chance but were denied by the woodwork. Leeds, as dangerous as they have been just couldn't seem to create a decent chance, whether it was West Hams organised defence, along with a lack of really dangerous crosses, this game could have been very different at times. Then in the 90th minute, just like at home against Cardiff, heartbreak, Leeds' constant pressure finally paid off with a superb but far too easy to make cross was sent in and the ball was smashed against the bar, only to drop right out to a Clayton who smashed the ball home with a chance he couldn't really miss.

In hind sight Leeds were truely deserving of 1 point and had they been more lethal in front of goal, it could so easily have been 3 for them and 0 for West Ham. It's unfortunate as we had a few chances to get 2 goalss ahead but Lonergan was outstanding and that was probably a Man of the Match performance.It's tough to really say who deserved it overall so maybe a point a piece is fair. I personally feel we need McCartney to get fit fast though, Ilunga was not quick enough to close down the crosser for Leeds' second goal, which cost us dearly again. Carew looked very sharp though and Faubert played extremely well at right midfield, so we could see a lot more of those two. So 1 point from 2 home games, is slightly disappointing, but teams are always going to play their best at Upton Park, as for them it would be like us playing at Old Trafford, it's never going to be easy and our away form will probably count towards a lot more than it would normally.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


So after the disappointing start to the Championship, it appears 2 more games can turn this round into sheer delight.

I didn't report on the Doncaster game as unfortunately I was only able to use the West Ham site for the game report, which is always dodgey if you ask me as I find it a little biased, especially in our torrid season just gone. But, I can be proud, despite what sounded like a few shakey moments, we seemed to dominate the game and this time were rewarded with a 1-0 win rather than a loss, thanks to a well finished Nolan goal within 5 minutes.

Watford was a whole different story, almost a minute into the game and Watford had one decent chance to take the lead early on, not good for the nerves, yet just as I was praying for the side to wake up, they took the ball to the other end and won a corner, the delivery was met by Tomkins and West Ham were 1-0 up inside 2 minutes. The game became a little more equal for a while with both teams have chances and Tomkins always threatening from set pieces, a very pleasing sight considering we use to be terrible at defending and attacking these. Then right before the half time whistle, Joey O'Brien picks the ball up at the halfway line, makes a darting run through the Watford side and shoots on goal, his first shot is stopped but he manages to get a foot on to the rebound and slots it into the goal. 2-0 West Ham at halftime, a very pleasing sight.

After the break the two sides came out and both seemed to be sharing the chances, but West Ham never looked too threatened by Watfords attack, with Tomkins and Reid especially doing well at the back. West Ham managed to score a 3rd through Carlton Cole from a nice pass from Herita Ilunga, hopefully this can do the defender a lot of good and boost his confidence to help him play better, although McCartney could easily come in and do the job once fully fit. Parker then scored a lovely goal right before the end to make it 4-0 and West Ham record back to back away wins. Beautfiul.

If I could think of many negative points, then the ones I would say were the early chance from Watford, showing the side need to be as alert as possible from the word go and possibly the lack of possesion at times, but this wasn't very often. Also Ilungas performance at times was questionable, but like I said we always have McCartney. I would also like to see the squad with Big John Carew up front, he has tweeted that he should be fit for Sunday, so maybe he will have a role to play against Leeds!

Lots of positives to take from this match especially, another clean sheet, proving Big Sam is definitely whipping these guys into shape as they are not running out of steam. 4 goals in one game, I was worried we wouldn't be the biggest goal threat at times, as noted in the Cardiff and Doncaster games, but it seemed against Watford people were knowing each others runs better and providing good chances from the off, being threatening at set pieces as well, is all going to benefit this. We now sit in 3rd place, despite it being early days, 6 points in 3 games is good and can only help us in our quest for promotion.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Relegation Hangover?

As I start to write this blog, we have just lost 1-0 to Cardiff at home. There are a lot of people already shouting on Twitter about how it's the same sh*t different day (league). I on the other hand do not think that at all. Here is my view of the game.

First Half:

We started brightly, dominated possesion and never really looked like having any difficulty defending. Set pieces against us we were brilliant, they didn't really have any proper chances on goal, a promising sign from last season when we could defend these to save our lives. A big improvement, showing exactly why Sam Alladyce was chosen as manager. We looked good on the ball but the major problem we had was creating clear chances, Piquionne had one decent attempt, but in the first half there wasn't much else. Sears needs to work on getting to the by line and crossing, otherwise I can't see him playing much in the future unless we resort to a 4-4-2 and have him playing off of Cole/Carew/Piquionne, personally not the latter, I feel he dropped off the attack far too much for a lone striker and was never threatening in the air despite his height. I was on the other hand impressed with Reid, Tomkins, O'Brien and Taylor, the first three defended brilliantly and O'Brien also looked good going forward, this continued for the whole game, Taylor was a constant threat for us which was pleasing but he had no one to deliver to as Piquionne was never really a goal threat until later on in the second half where he hit the woodwork, but 2 chances from a striker just isn't good enough in 70 minutes. The first half ended 0-0 with West Ham being the far better side.

Second Half:

A little more equal at the start, Cardiff looked more of a threat but again never really had a clear cut chance on goal like ourselves, as the game got closer to finishing we had one really good chance from Taylors cross to Piquionne where he hit the woodwork as I said earlier, but shortly after he was replaced with Cole, who I personally felt did okay, he was more of a nuisance to the centre backs of Cardiff and despite coming on and slipping on the ball, he was up quickly and through to run, but the referee had already called for a free kick, which is a big shame as I felt he could have created something, Barrera also came on for Sears. Barrera did well also for me, his delivery is much sharper than Sears, but I don't think Sears is a completed wide man. Barrera also had a decent header for someone of his size but unfortunately the Cardiff keeper was equal to it, as he had through out the whole game and I felt he was probably deserving of a man of the match award. Then the dreaded moment, Ilunga had the ball, in plenty of space and rather than playing it quickly, he tried to turn on the ball, alerting a Cardiff player who charged at him and so Ilunga tried turning again and fell to the ground, a potential foul but nothing was given and he should have never ended up in that situation, then the Cardiff player was through, delivered a quick pass to Miller who turned away from goal but hit it very well and it went in through Greens hands and thus West Ham looked at an opening day of defeat. Green maybe could have been better there but if you think about it, the ball should never have ended up there, had Ilunga just played the ball early when he was safe.

Overall I feel we played very well and dominated the game, partly because of our midfield, but we defended well for 90 minutes, if it hadn't been for Ilunga forgetting what to do we probably would have had a well worked 0-0 draw, with a little question mark over our attacking play. Taylor was superb, O'Brien did well, Nolan had an okay debut and Reid looked much better for us. I feel Piquionne shouldn't be getting a look in this season, he was never the main threat like a lone striker should be, it's either Cole or Carew if we are playing the 4-5-1, Barrera should be given the nod ahead of Sears on the right too as his crossing along with Taylors should be threatening. I would personally like us to try a 4-4-2, which is tough as it means 2 of Nolan, Parker, Noble and Collison have to sit out but if any Premiership club has a brain they will go for Parker which means a rotation of Nolan and Noble/Collison. I would probably opt for Noble against a tougher side and Collison against teams we'd expect to win against, with Taylor on the left and Barrera on the right we have enough wide quality. Then up front I would probably opt for Carew but I feel Cole can do just as well, to partner them is the big problem, I wouldn't want to see them together as they are exactly the same, which brings the question of do we try Sears there or even risk Hines, if not then we need to sign a quicker striker and use the big man and little man tactic to full effect. The defence for me shouldn't change apart from Ilunga, he didn't have the best game, there were parts where he looked okay but he did slice a lot of passes, I would either play Spence when he is back but get another player in for now and as cover. 4-5-1 will be perfect for tough away games though as we defended pretty well as a unit for the majority of the game.

Could the lack of threat be a relegation hangover? I think not, I just feel we haven't looked dangerous in front of goal for the past 2 seasons (other than Ilan who we let go). So hopefully 2 more major signings and we will be fine, I'm still predicting us to reach the play-offs, but we need a little work up front!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

West Ham United V Cardiff City - Preview

Well the season is now less than 1 week away, it's time to let ourselves get excited, then experience all the happiness/sadness and general mix of emotions bring when you beat teams you thought you couldn't, lose to those you felt should be a walk over and see the season unfold.

As far as I am aware we don't have many injuries among the main squad that I would presume to be picked for our opening fixture. Faye being the stand out candidate of being injured, he would be a handy team mate in a fixture where the side will first experience that no Championship side is going to go easy on us and will want to make our life here an absolute misery. Especially when we are one of the favourites to be promoted/win the league. I on the other hand have said from day one that I believe we should make the play-offs, this league isn't easy and it's so tough to predict when you look at some of the teams promoted in the past couple of seasons, no one could have seen Norwich doing so well in their first season, I also wouldn't have said Swansea were a side fighting for promotion, the same could be said for Blackpool last season too. Then you see sides like Nottingham Forest who have been in the play-offs a couple of times and the same goes to our first opponents Cardiff, always there, but never quite acheived their true goal, which should always be a worry, they are always going to be fighting to be up there and the team and fans feel they have the right to be in the top flight, especially now their rivals Swansea have done it.

Now to the line up, we can be thankful we haven't lost our 2 star players over the past few seasons, Parker and Green, so I fully expect them to appear, with the injury to Faye, it makes the back line tough to decide, Reid could come in, yet Spence can also play in the middle. I think a lot of the squad will pick itself though, we've a lot of room for rotation at the start. So here is my predicted team sheet.

Green in goal.

Defenders, Spence on the left, Reid and Tomkins in the middle, O'Brien on the right.

Midfielders, Parker playing a holding/anchor man role, Nolan and Collison in the middle in front of him and Barrera and Taylor in wide positions right and left respectively.

Cole as a lone striker up front.

Subs: Boffin, Faubert, Ilunga, Noble, Stanislas, Sears and Piquionne.

I believe we will line up in a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 hybrid formation as appears to be the case most of the time.

The reason I have chosen this squad is for these factors, Spence and O'Brien as our full backs because I feel O'Brien can play a less attacking Right Back role better than Faubert (if we are 0-0 with 20 minutes to go bring on Faubert to go for it) and Spence because I feel he did well towards the end of last season when called upon and he is a player everyone knows wants to play in claret & blue. If Reid or Tomkins pick up a knock then we'd probably see Spence go in the middle with Ilunga coming on.

Noble people may be saying should be one of the first names on the team sheet and I would normally agree, but with Nolan being captain, he is guaranteed to start and I feel Nobles stronger positions will either be that of Nolans, being the midfield dedicated to picking out passes and trying to win the ball back before relying on Parker and the defence or I could see him playing in Parkers position, Noble isn't afraid to put his foot in and he can pass for fun in that role, I wouldn't be surprised that if Parker goes that will be Nobles future position.I believe that Collison is our best midfielder going forward when it comes to being a threat in front of goal. I have also chosen Taylor because I feel he is our most creative wide player, Stanislas is very good too, but Taylor just has that little more experience to start, but I would want to see Stanislas more as the season continues, I have also chosen Barrera over Sears and Stanislas as I feel if he plays like he can, he could well be a stand out player in the Championship, with fast feet and the ability to take players on time and time again, he could end up creating a lot of chances for us although I could see Sears playing as he is better in front of goal having scored 2 pretty nice goals in pre season.

Cole up front I feel speaks for itself, he is hands down a better player than Piquionne, who I believe has been rather poor and I would happily see Nouble on the bench over him, but I do think West Ham are in desperate need of a proper goal scorer to start in the squad!

Out of the substitutes I can't see much changing although throughout the season but I would like to see players given the chance, Montano, Abdulla and Nouble all looked fairly good in pre season and I feel should be given an oppurtunity to shine, I do feel Hines will have something to prove as well, considering he felt he should get a contract offer from a Premiership team, so if he believes that's the case then he should go out there and show us why he felt that. Also I think Reid will be on the bench normally with Faye being our main defender alongside Tomkins.

I have predicted a hopeful 1-0 win for us at home in our first game, we won't create hundreds of chances but that isn't Allardyce's style, his main aim is to be solid defensively and you can't lose if you don't concede. I would setlle for a draw as Cardiff are not an easy team but I feel a little optimistic.