Not the wanted result, but signs of life . . .

Another poor result for West Ham on Saturday at Upton Park.  Bolton Wanderers came into the game having not lost in the previous six match-ups between the two teams and the latest fixture proved to be no different, though as Avram Grant stated, it was indeed a “strange” game.

At least for this match, the Hammers showed up to play.  Grant seemed to have learned something from the toothless showing at Aston Villa, and opened up in a formation resembling a 4-4-2 with Carlton Cole, Frederic Piquionne up front.  Pablo Barrera made his home and starting debut along with the long-lost Kieron Dyer, who has finally appeared to have recovered from some of the fitness problems that have plagued his West Ham tenure.  The offensive play was very much stronger than in the previous game, and in all honesty West Ham deserved to be in front going into half time.  However, poor finishing (or unlucky finishing, whichever way you want to look at it) and Carlton Cole’s missed penalty meant that West Ham came away with nothing at the half.  The pressure was decidedly one way, with Bolton carving out just one clear cut chance at a goal.  The Hammers will have to learn quickly to put in goals when there is a decided advantage, or as we leaned in this game, everything can turn against a team in the blink of an eye.

A bogey team has to have a bogey man to lead the line, and Kevin Davies has accordingly tormented West Ham teams ever since he began playing in the league.  The first goal right after half time was a result of a Bolton-specialty long ball which was headed into his own net by Matty Upson, with a little help from a shove in the back and kick to the face by Davies.  This is twice in two weeks that missed calls have resulted in an opening goal against West Ham, and once again the team’s response was poor.  It seems like heads drop too easily when we fall behind and this game was no different.  Bolton added a second goal 20 minutes later, and even though a Mark Noble penalty provided a glimmer of hope, the visitors were able to kill off the game with a third goal scored while the Hammers were pushing for an equalizer.  I had hoped that Grant would be able to break the worrying habit of letting one bad thing lead to another, but that remains a work in progress, it seems.

Taking some positives out of this game is a lot easier than trying to do the same last week.  The offense looked much more potent, with good movement, accurate passing, and plenty of chances created.  Barrera seems to be quickly acclimating to the league, as he gave the Bolton defenders a torrid time with his pace on the wing.  Winston Reid was forced to come in with Upson’s facial injury, and the Kiwi looked much more comfortable playing in the middle of the defense than he did out on the right side.  That being said, he was still bullied around by Elmander and Davies (although this is West Ham vs. Bolton – when do we ever win those battles?) and looked out of sorts in general.  For a young player he is getting a hard introduction to life in the Premier League, but he is showing glimpses of what he can do.  Kieron Dyer’s return to some semblance of fitness allowed for width and pace on the wings, and it will be good for both him and the team that he continues to recover and play a part this season.

It would be hard to say that this was a must-win game, but with upcoming fixtures against Manchester United and Chelsea, followed by a trip up to Stoke and visit from our friendly Tottenham neighbors, it is a little difficult to see the opening month of the season going particularly well.  A Carling Cup tie with Oxford looms on August 24th, and perhaps a good showing there will help the team’s confidence going into a tough stretch of games.  With Villa thumping us in their first game, then subsequently getting trounced by six at Newcastle, it goes to show that teams are still going to be up and down early in the season.  West Ham will play worse in games than this last one and still win, but it will be important to start turning things around quickly, before the hole gets too big to recover from.

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~ by ar_sage on August 23, 2010.

3 Responses to “Not the wanted result, but signs of life . . .”

  1. I travelled from New York for this game, and the first half was certainly promising although at half time the question seemed to be more with Jaaskelainen could be beaten.
    The depressing thing was almost from the get go in the second half we went from being dominent, to being very second best.
    West Ham have had problems, of one sort and another, for so long (the West Ham ‘disease’) that there’s not the spirit or the optimism in the crowd these days. Any thought of Upton Park being a Fortress is long gone. When Cole was subbed it was difficult to know if the booing was for Cole’s lacklustre performance or that he was being taken off.
    Grant said that it was a strange game,and there’s some truth in that. I’m not sure about the comment that West Ham will play worse and win games this season. There’s not much point in having a decent first half and then losing the entire plot in the second. It’s hard to win games with that as a plan of action.
    This year’s Premiership looks strange already, with way too many 6-0 thrashings being handed out. The gulf between the have’s (e.g. those with deep pockets) and those without (and despite G&S efforts include West Ham) is getting depressingly wide. We may have ManU and Chelski coming up, and thoughts of sneaking a point would be nice, but damage limitation on the goal difference is also going to be important.

    • @Paul

      Thanks for the comment! Sorry that you had to travel all that distance to see that performance, but I hope the overall experience made the trip worth it. I’ve only been able to see West Ham play once, and that was at Columbus Crew Stadium at one of the friendlies they played before the MLS All-star game. I’m happy that I at least got to see Dean Ashton and Craig Bellamy play during one of the brief windows in which they were both healthy. I hope to be making a London trip sometime soon so I can see what a match day is really like.

      In regards to your post, I think it’s really disconcerting that opposing players (specifically Zat Knight) can openly admit to the media that West Ham fans will turn quickly against the team when things aren’t going well. You can only imagine the added pressure of playing under such circumstances. Players will start playing to not make mistakes, and being so reactive will never lead to any progress or wins. Of course there are idiot fans everywhere, and I’m betting we have no shortage of them among us, but the home crowd really needs to start getting behind the team. A great support can seemingly add an extra player on the pitch, and inspire performances that are beyond the normal reach of a team. As for Cole getting booed, it shows the short memory span of fans, as he was such a hero last year (before getting hurt). He’s gone from being booed, to cheered, and back to booing again so fast it’s probably making his head spin. Of course if the performance was that poor, I would say he fully deserved it.

      With winning games while playing worse than this, I just meant that there are going to be some really ugly, terrible games where nothing seems to go right and we’ll eke out a 1-0 result by some grace of God. I hope that the Oxford match isn’t a preview of wins like this to come. But I agree with you, there’s no point to playing like that or hoping for victories in that way. You also made a good point about damage limitation with these next two games. We really need to make past the Tottenham game so we can get to an easier part of the schedule. I’m really apprehensive about these next two fixtures, but knowing West Ham, we may pull a surprise and grab a point or two out of this!

  2. […] Not the wanted result, but signs of life . . . « West Ham Across …Another poor result for West Ham on Saturday at Upton Park. Bolton Wanderers came into the game having not lost in the previous six match-ups between the two teams and the latest fixture proved to be no different, though as Avram Grant … var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www."); document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E")); try { var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-8419090-4"); pageTracker._trackPageview(); } catch(err) {} […]

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