COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Another point toward Europe but two points dropped in the same direction from a game that never got going from a Blue perspective as we laboured all over the park. Gaining Euro qualification is without doubt a boost for the club in both recruiting new players and indeed retaining players and fans know it, but today’s performance seemed to suggest that the players had already decided to yearn for the beach or make sure they are unscathed when boarding the plane for South Africa, much to the displeasure of many in attendance.
The line-up showed one change as Bilyaletdinov replaced Rodwell and Osman moved to the Arteta role. An odd move, I thought at the time... and still did at the final whistle.
The game started with the Hammers tentative and looking to get players behind the ball while the Blues were out of the traps more like tortoises than hares. The Hammers in fact were first to have a go at goal when a poor clearance from a corner fell to Parker but he put it over the bar.
We had to wait 20 minutes for our first effort and it was from a free kick but Baines typically hit the wall. We then got another free-kick after Parker fouled Cahill and was booked. Saha took control of this one and he missed the wall, the goal and the corner flag.
Just when fans were thinking how out of sorts we were, with no threat whatsoever, we took the lead on the 25-min mark. Baines put in a cross that was headed out but only to Cahill who headed back in and found Bilyaletdinov turning up in the old inside-left channel and glancing home. 1-0 and many thought this would settle us... but it didn’t. Cahill did have a driving run but his shot was a scuffed drag that the keeper waved by.
With about 10 mins to half-time, Distin won a race with Cole and as he shepherded the ball back to Howard, Cole went over his legs, with no appeal from any West Ham player. Referee Howard Webb awarded a penalty, much to the consternation of players and fans alike; he also awarded Distin a yellow card yet he was clearly last man and under the rules should have seen red. This Ref. is our representative at the World Cup and throughout the match seemed to make up his own rules, perhaps no more than playing to the Sky global audience, but you do wonder if this is the standard FIFA accept then there should be some very contentious issues in South Africa.
However, in fans' eyes, justice was done when Mido put a slow shot to Howard’s right and his dive easily saved. Mido had looked poor to that point and when he fouled Pienaar, his own fans chanted
"off-off-off. Then just before the break Bilyaletdinov came from obscurity and alive again in that inside-left channel and chipped just over, I thought he should have taken it on and tested the keeper. That virtually brought the half to an end.
The half time chat was one of discontent yet relief that we had managed one goal without any decent build up after dominating proceedings but only up to the final third where ideas went out of the window.
The second half started and after only a few minutes, fans' anxieties heightened as we seemed not to have come out of the dressing room, such was our lethargic approach... and, with the Hammers desperate for any points, they were gaining an upper hand. Jags cleared in last-ditch fashion from Mido, Neville was finding their players with his passes in unerring fashion, and Osman and Pienaar were back to being as weak as wet lettuce.
The Hammers drove forward prompted at every step by the impressive Parker who fed Noble at the edge of the box, his chip shot struck the bar and came back into play and fortunately we hacked clear. Then, on the hour mark, it happened, we succumbed. Noble took a corner and, with no-one in the ‘Carsley’ position to head clear, the ball fell in the centre of goal and caused a melee. The centre back was first to react by a mile and had the easiest of tasks to bundle it over the line.
We were now paying a heavy price for our less than enthusiastic performance and, it has to be said, the team on six straight defeats were better than the team on seven straight home wins. Cole was next to go close when poor play allowed him a sight of goal and his snap-shot was just wide.
At last, we had an attack and Saha powered into the box only to be brought down by the centre-back. Nailed-on penalty said players and fans — Mr Webb waved arms wide and merely told him to get up, much to the annoyance of all assembled, who broke into song — suggesting he had masturbating habits.
The Yak was introduced with over an hour gone to replace Bilyaletdinov, who had got his 8th goal for us... yet I still can't tell what sort of player he is or what might be his natural position — still, he scores goals... so the manager should persevere and see if he can be incorporated in a meaningful way that both he and his team-mates understand.
The half continued in frustrating fashion for Blues fans as we created nothing in the important areas and on 80 mins Rodwell replaced Osman, way too late I thought, just five minutes later we put in our best movement of the game with a passing spree of some dozen passes with interchanges between Baines and Pienaar culminating in a superb cross from Baines that the Yak met and left Green helpless as it found the corner.
We all thought that's it and ready to accept three points from a woeful display but that woefulness continued when the right back was allowed to run some 45yds with the ball unchallenged and put in a superb cross that was met by the sub with a great diving header giving Howard no chance. Zola went wild and danced the dance, Moyes rushed out and remonstrated with his charges for such profligacy.
Final whistle and not so much booing but more of a disgruntled moan by all making for the exits. The walk from the ground was a bit of a trudge as snatches of conversations seemed to indicate most thought what could have been a strong end to the season was on the wane. Many commented on the rumour that was circulating that Arteta is now out for the season and the chances of a win at Villa look a little forlorn, thus leaving us with the title of the best of those that qualified for nothing.
I hold on to the fact that nothing is certain in football and today may have been just one of those bad days at the office... but I am realistic enough to know we can’t have any more of them. Ten days now for the manager to mentor and motivate as well as find a team selection that can perform in that vital final third, could 4-6-0 be the unlikely answer?
Overall a disappointing afternoon all round where MotM was undoubtedly Scott Parker... but for the Blues, only Cahill, Baines and Distin put enough in to have a shout. Villa away next and maybe a team from the near top can galvanise us into a performance as playing teams from the bottom seem to produce lethargy. Or is it that, at the moment, we just can't handle pressure situations?
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 05/04/2010 at 08:12:52
2 Posted 05/04/2010 at 08:55:08
What I find most frustrating though is not only giving Rodwell just 10 minutes to try and manage to inspire something (that he actually did is remarkable), but rather that someone like Coleman is out on loan at Blackpool where he has proven to be a game-changer against the right opposition, and make no mistake about it, these were the right opposition for someone of his pace, determination and guile.
If we can put Wallace and Duffy on the bench we can put Coleman on the pitch, it's despairing to think Nevilles keeping him out. Come on, Moyes, sort it out... or is everyone at the Club now thinking about next season already?
3 Posted 05/04/2010 at 09:37:31
And yes, Parker was the best player on the pitch for either team. But then again WHU were fightinging for their future. What were we fighting for?? Pie in the sky! (Not sure about if the pun was intended or not...)
4th?? ... dream on. 5th 6th 7th catch the rs?? Name your own straw to grasp at in decending order.
The fact is money talks and we are deaf dumb and blind, but we do play a mean hoofball to the Hammers giants 4 5 6 at the back. In the end we were lucky to get the one point.
I can only remember two goals like their 2nd. The Hungary goal vs Brazil in 66 and Mc Dermoott's vs Spurs(?). And I'm glad to say I jumped up and roared "What a fucking goal!" when it went in.
4 Posted 05/04/2010 at 10:34:19
5 Posted 05/04/2010 at 11:22:45
6 Posted 05/04/2010 at 11:22:44
Osman and Neville were truly awful and should be dropped, they are good pros but they're too inconsistent. That was a woeful display. The Russian doesn't get involved either, we carried no threat down the right hand side.
We desperately need another wide player and a quality centre-mid (bring on Donovan, Marin and Moutinho).
7 Posted 05/04/2010 at 11:42:31
Just watched the game again to get a different perspective from my Goodison seat. Not sure how people can claim we played 'hoofball'?? I counted five long balls all game. We definitely switched off second half, but on balance we still should've won. I do agree that Ossie and Neville didn't play well at all.
Three or four players may have been under-par yesterday, but for the last four months they've been excellent. For some reason we've took the foot off the gas against 'lower' teams — Wolves, Bolton, Stoke etc — if we can sort that we'll have a great year next time round.
8 Posted 05/04/2010 at 12:37:07
9 Posted 05/04/2010 at 12:14:50
Donavon showed what a midfielder ought to be like. He was strong Osman is weak. He was fast Osman is incredibly slow... I could go on but anyone with half an eye does not need telling.
The best thing is, I don't rate Landon in the PL's top 20 midfielders.
10 Posted 05/04/2010 at 16:34:23
11 Posted 05/04/2010 at 17:16:45
Howard Webb's performance was the poorest on the field. Moyes said their pen was correct. Diplomatic? He could then go on to say that our non-pen was, to use my words, a travesty of justice. The number of 'tackles' from behind and anywhere else he tolerated from the visitors was inexcusable.
I wonder if he'd prefer them to stay up rather than some of the teams around them? I know what I think.
12 Posted 05/04/2010 at 23:03:06
Also I just cant understand why Moyesie plays Pienaar on the right side like he did second half Sunday. When has he ever created from he the right? hes much more effective with Baines, Osman should have gone right side when Bily went off, not left - we lost 20 minutes of opportunity with Pienaar on the right right.
Just shows as many of you have said, no balance, We need Donovan back, or a wide right hand player , plus a striker in the summer - that will do it for me.
13 Posted 05/04/2010 at 23:29:35
The substitutions were too late. It was obvious that Saha was not interested in playing and Osman was having a bad day. Again we missed the variation that Donovan had provided us, width and speed on both flanks. So we were dreary and predictable.
Let's hope Moyesie's learned another lesson.
Frustrating all round, particularly when the RS were dropping points at Birmingham.
14 Posted 06/04/2010 at 03:48:29
Jags is a long way from where he left off and I will be optimistic and assume he will return to the stopper he was.
Offer Neville the same money in a coaching role and give Coleman an opportunity or find another attacking full back. We are never a threat on the right despite all of the ball Neville gets. Things did improve during the Donovan stint. Osman... well, one good game and half-a-dozen poor games doesn't cut it at this level, as everyone knows he is just a bit player.
Bily, well it's hard to criticise someone that can score but at times the price for that is that it's like playing with 10 men. For me, it all got worse when our most potent attacking force in most games, Baines, suffered an injury to his knee that put an end to his normal aggressive attacking style. By his standards he had a quiet second half.
Thank heavens for Heitinga, he is another class act who rarely puts a foot wrong (though he could possibly have been on the end of that cross!!)
15 Posted 06/04/2010 at 10:33:03
16 Posted 07/04/2010 at 09:46:52
In mitigation, though, why I care what you think is why it is ok to admit that a good goal is a good goal.
I go back (as may you, for all I know) to a time when we used to go to a game every Saturday. Goodison, Liverpool in the 2nd Division. If cash was short, I would go to South Liverpool. If it was none existent, Garston Park... It 's all about the Game.
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