Tuesday, April 08, 2008

West Ham 0 Portsmouth 1

With Portsmouth looking tired and with West Ham forced into changes the first half of this game was rather disjointed. The West Ham players looked like they were unused to playing together and the spine of the side was made up of pairings (Spector and Ferdinand, Mullins and Parker and Ashton and Zamora) who just haven't had much time together this season.

West Ham's best chance of the half fell to Zamora. In the 16th minute Solano played a through ball that sent Zamora free. Zamora dragged the ball around James in goal but forced himself a little wide and then scuffed his shot across the face of the open goal.

Portsmouth's best chance fell to Nugent, when a Mendez flick gave him space on the edge of the box. Nugent's shot however flew two yards wide of the right hand post.

Late on in the half Ashton forced James to palm the ball out for a corner with a rasping 25 yard effort. Two minutes later Solano had a free-kick from about the same spot but his shot deflected off the wall and wide of the right hand post.

Whereas West Ham were only poor in the first half, in the second half they were awful. The general tactic seemed to be to stroll about passing the ball across the back-line with the occasional pass into midfield to be passed straight back to the defence, who would then dawdle on the ball until they hoofed it aimlessly up field where Distin or Campbell would head the ball clear.

Because West Ham were so awful Portsmouth decided they might as well wake up a bit and have a few pot shots at goal. West Ham allowed Krancar and then Johnson twice to have space to shoot from around 25 yards. Whilst those efforts missed it didn't need a degree in rocket science to see that West Ham were losing the midfield battle and needed cover in that space in front of the defence.

Curbishley brought on Sears up front for Zamora.

Three minutes later Krancar strolled off the left wing into that space in front of the West Ham penalty area and shot from 25 yards into the bottom left of the goal.

Mullins and Parker were completely overrun in midfield defensively and were creating nothing going forward but Curbishley decided to leave them both on for the whole game. Consequently I don't think West Ham created one chance in the second half.

As I said, awful. In all honesty against a stronger, more alert team that could have been another thrashing.


At 8:32 AM, Anonymous portugal said...

I agree that we cud have easily conceded 2 or 3, as in the 10 minutes prior to the goal, we allowed them several unchecked shots on goal from just outside the area. The goal was almost a case of when, not if, given the space we were allowing them at that point in the game.

Where I don t agree with Keir is in his assessment of the first half. I didn t think we were poor, and felt that even apart from Zamora s chance ,we had a couple other decent ones, and seemed to be causing them trouble. I can t disagree with his view on our second half performance ,tho I do feel that once Sears and Cole came on ,we improved. Clearly with no Upson, and with no Ljungberg or Noble ,our distribution from the back all the way up suffers. I was irritated that Neill didn t do more to try to help us move the ball upfield when we regained possession. I feel that a lot of the backpassing, and lateral passing in our own half was down to Neill not doing enough to help us get the ball out of there ,and also down to Boa Morte not doing enough in that regard.

Having said that ,and as annoyed as I was to see Boa Morte start ,with Noble not even the bench ,and with Pantsil not starting,Boa Morte played much better than he has done the last few months. He didn t have a stellar game, but he did create some things ,and looked improved. I t must not have been easy for him to hear himself booed when the line-ups were announced.

It wud be easy to fault Parker for holding on to the ball too long, and not passing it faster ,which is something Coker used to do, but in fairness, with no Ljungberg ,and no Noble ,he didn t have many options .

Unless Noble picked up an injury in training,I can t understand why he ,at a minimum, didn t make the bench ,no less start . Even if Boa Morte had an adequate,if not better game, I d prefer to have Noble playing instead of Boa Morte. And frankly ,I d also prefer Pantsil to start over Boa Morte . I m not saying that Boa Morte is bad,although obviously his previous recent appearances left something to be desired- I just thing either Noble or Pantsil are better options .

For much of the game we did close them down and deny space. but for a critical 10 to 15 minute period, during which we conceded ,we did not. And to be failing to close down properly so soon after the half time talk at the interval ,makes no sense. And it does make me concerned about whether the players listen to the manager, and whether the manager commands enough respect/authority in the dressing room. It is just basic stuff ,to not allow opponents repeated pops from 20-25 yards. at some stage you are going to pay. Yes ,key players are injured, yes ,it is ultimately the responsibility of the players(including the captain), but it can t be denied that it does not reflect well on the manager.

what is most frustrating about this is that ,without Defoe and Baros, we should have had a real chance here. Apart from a 15 minute spell,I don t think that Pompey offered that much of a threat. My point is that even with the previous ,and more recent injuries,we still had enough resources available to have gotten a better result. It didn t require a miracle- it was within our reach,but has been the case many times the season,it eluded us.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Keir Clarke said...

I agree that Boa Morte wasn't as bad as he has been lately.

One thing I'd like to check is the number of wins and goals with Etherington in the side as opposed to when he is out.

If all our players are fit the right wing looks strong. But the left wing doesn't seem to have any cover when Ethers is out.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous portugal said...

Your point on Etherington is a great one. A guy who sits next to me at Upton Park is a big fan of Etherington ,and he made the point last nite. He said that as far back as our promotion push in the Championship right through our current position in the Premiership, we have always looked more dangerous with Etherington in the side,either as a starter or coming off the bench. As he described it, and I can t disagree with him, Etherington is able to get not only out wide, but behind defenders in a way our other players on the left do not. To have neither Etherington nor Ljungberg available makes it incredibly difficult for us to achieve any kind of rhythm in our passing and movement. And there is a bit of a domino effect- when the passing and movement isn t there ,it leads to Parker holding onto the ball longer than he wud want to, too many lateral passes etc.

I have to admit that when I think of key players who have been out ,I tend to initially think of Bellamy and Dyer ,but you cud argue that in terms of overall team performance ,Etherington isn t too far behind those two in terms of the impact he can have on the team.

Sure ,Bellamy scored the opener away to Reading ,but to a certain degree ,it was Etherington who carved them up.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity,does anyone know what the deal was with Noble? Was he injured in training, or was he simply left out of the squad?


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