A Fan's View: West Ham 3 Albion 1

Why oh why do I support such a club that causes so much frustration?

The day started well, a bacon sandwich on the coach courtesy of CBB and a trip to the Albion Pub meeting a few more of the gang. It was great meeting you all and getting to put a face to your usernames.  I would love to talk about the pub experience more but sadly there was a football match on as well, not that anyone told our players.

The team pretty much picked itself with the usual back seven of Foster, Ridgewell, McAuley, Olsson, Jones, Yacob, Mulumbu out wide we went with Brunt and Dorrans and the two up top were Shane Long and Lukaku. Peter made the bench.

The game started well for us. We had a threat in attack although we couldn’t quite find that finishing touch. Counter attacks were the starting block for us, a usual away day tactic for any manager, and when Dorrans drove forward and had a shot from distance it didn’t look all too bad for our boys.  The shot forced a corner which saw Gareth McAuley bundled home, only for a foul on the ‘keeper to be awarded and no goal.

Lukaku then won a free kick which he stepped up to take himself. He drove the ball goalwards forcing a save from Jussi onto the post and straight back to the ‘keeper’s gleeful hands. In another game that may go into open play or the back of the net.

West Ham had been terrorising our wings with Demel overlapping, causing Ridgewell numerous issues on whether to stand off or press – the answer was press. Brunt had continually tracked back to allow Ridgewell to press the ball, because he can make a recovery run and clear the ball. Ridgewell continually stood off. Crosses were hitting their men as well, with Carroll winning the ball on the chest a lot and trying to get volleys away along with Kevin Nolan.

Matt Jarvis won a corner and a good delivery found Carroll, in middle of the goal, 6 yards out. He wasn’t going to miss. A bullet header by the Englishman, who seems to have had it over Olsson ever since that ponytail pull. Foster had no chance and they were ahead. You could feel the nerves around the ground go away from their fans and players alike as our frustration grew.

Still, they battered our wings with Jarvis missing a volley close in on goal, Nolan sliced one high and wide on the edge of the box. We just couldn’t deal with their very predictable attacks. They were running through the middle of us at one point as Foster quickly pointed out to his team mates. It seemed every time we counter them we went out of balance throwing too many men forward for the Hammers to hit us in the gaping holes we had left behind us.

Inevitably the second arrived with Ridgewell showing them inside (i don’t know why either, Brunt was in the position to recover) Olsson didn’t know whether to press either and that indecisiveness cost us with a square pass finding O’Neill to loop one in (Did it hit Olsson? I still think it did!) If it didn’t it was a great accurate strike, albeit aided by weak defending yet again.

Frustration was turning to pure anger on the pitch. Players were questioning each other and what they were doing when really they should’ve been looking at themselves. No one had stepped up and they were all showing why they were West Brom players and not in the top echelons of the footballing pyramid.

Long and Lukaku hadn’t looked their usual selves. Long looked tired and doggish at times, took a couple of clatters and I wonder whether Ireland had taken it out of him. Lukaku looked like he was back when he first joined us. He couldn’t hold the play up and his touch had gone.

However, we still created (which in a way shows how poor their defence is) and Long pounced on a rebound but could only push it wide and out of play as he was running at speed. It summed up our day thus far, a yard out of play.

Diame had a chance and a fierce drive rose just over the bar for the Irons which would’ve seen them home and dry.

The ref then blew for Half Time as Kevin Nolan was in the box ready to shoot, odd time to blow and it visibly annoyed them arguing with the referee as the under par Albion got off as soon as they could.

After the break

I was hopeful stern words had been said at the break and we could bring it back. It was by far a game that hadn’t gone from our grasp. We knew a goal would change everything, we started well, a little more hunger was there and Lukaku had a strike that just missed the top corner.

We had the ball but it was all sideways and backwards, any through passes were misplaced  or to a player who had his back to goal forcing us to then recycle possession. Pointless for us in the situation we were in. We needed to get at the backline and we couldn’t break down their shape. We’d pushed Jones and Ridgewell on a little more in the second half and Jones nearly got a reward as he somehow got in on goal only to be denied by an onrushing shot stopper.

Collins then sent a free kick into the box and Carroll took a nice volley over his shoulder and into the net. Olsson had again lost his man. It was superb technique by the loanee but how can we as a defence let that ball travel that far connect to someone’s boot and watch it go in as he was unmarked?

Odemwingie had come on with Rosenberg and Odem was giving us some width and purpose to attacks, taking the full back on at every possible attempt. Boos rang out and both sets of supporters were mocking the Nigerian who clearly wanted to keep them quite by shooting at every opportunity.  When two months ago he drove a cross in he was shooting, he wanted to prove a point, I don’t know why as even if he does score he won’t be forgiven. You celebrate a goal for West Bromwich Albion not the scorer.

We managed  to conger up a couple of late chances. One on the break when it was three vs two but Dorrans played it out wide instead of through to the Berg and the cross was pinged around in the box before we, as always, didn’t shoot and we went backwards.

Then the penalty came for a push on Lukaku. It was soft but it doesn’t really matter. Dorrans stepped up and for the first time in his Albion career fired the spot kick straight down the middle. It worked though. 3-1.

Odemwingie then had a weak shot from distance roll wide and as the board for 4 minutes went up the Berg nearly found the net with a smart turn and strike in the box sadly down the throat of the Finn.

Mulumbu then got sent off for kicking the ball at O’Neill. It was a great strike and hit the target well, but it was the most stupid red card I have seen. The game was nearly over and now we’ll miss him for Arsenal, Newcastle and Southampton. And no actual central defensive midfielder to replace him!

On reflection

It was a great day ruined by football. Every side has days like that and we are certainly no different.  But it showed why so many of our team will not make it in any higher sides and in a way shows if we want to progress beyond our current position – we will in a few seasons – these players are not the ones to do it. The lack of Morrison was evident to link up play and we needed that creativity.

If an early chance goes in it could’ve been very different but it wasn’t to be and the players have a lot to answer for. One, for letting their heads drop and two, their mindset because we were very capable of winning that game yet let ourselves down.

Onwards and upwards to that 50 point mark. It is still achievable and Clarke has some big personnel decisions to make. Ridegwell or Popov, who to replace Mulumbu, go 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 Long or Lukaku? Odemwingie to start? Keep the faith guys, we’ve had a great season thus far just need that consistency and game plan away from home to come together. 

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