Every game a little better . . .

A good performance from the team today against Stoke City.  Brittania Stadium is usually a loud, difficult place to play and the Stoke fans were in full voice once again.  I have felt watching the team this year that we struggle the first 10-15 minutes in halves, so I find myself wishing and hoping that we don’t give up early goals and shatter any confidence the players possess.  The game got off to a disjointed start, with neither team looking particularly sharp.  Stoke City came out flat, and West Ham didn’t have any movement or impetus to break their midfield pressure.  The first 15 minutes passed with barely a negative moment, and the team seemed to grow into the game.  The rest of the half, barring the last couple of minutes before the break, was controlled nicely by West Ham, resulting in a Scott Parker’s goal.  It wasn’t a pretty goal by any means, but it was nice to see the mayhem and confusion in front of an opponent’s goal for once instead of our own.  The element of luck that has been missing from the season so far finally showed up as Parker tucked away the first goal of the game from a dead ball situation. Frederic Piquionne nearly doubled the score with a beautiful curling shot that beat the Stoke City keeper, but caromed back off the cross bar.  The first half ended with the West Ham defense standing strong against the crosses and corners and Rory Delap long throws.  You knew going into the game that the defense was going to be sorely tested, especially considering our inability so far this season to deal with any sort of balls in the box.  Robert Green was once again shaky with balls sent into the box, but at least no major harm was done.  Drafting Manuel da Costa into the side definitely helped in the aerial battles, and it was nice to see Piquionne and Carlton Cole back and helping the defense with their size as well.  A well-played first half, with a score that probably was a fair reflection of the game to that point.

Tony Pulis is probably developing a reputation as 2nd half manager, as following his team’s inspired play against Aston Villa last week, his players came out with a completely different attitude again.  Once again, the first minutes of the half were our undoing.  Jermaine Pennant ran onto a through ball and lifted a perfect cross for Kenwyne Jones to nod home over da Costa.  Jones nearly added a second ten minutes later, prevented only by a fine save by Green who tipped the goal-bound shot onto the post.  Green has shown the ability to be a top-class shot stopper, but he needs to be able to command his area better and not give up any rebounds.  Every cross into the defensive box or long distance shot makes me cringe, but he has produced some truly first class saves at times.

After the first Stoke goal, it seemed an almost certainty that a second one was coming.  To their credit though, the West Ham players weathered the storm (aided by Green’s tremendous save), and slowly took control of the game again.  The Hammers nearly got a second goal on back-to-back occasions, as Victor Obinna took a shot that had the Stoke keeper at full stretch for the save, and da Costa had a good header turned away as well.  The run of luck that’s been with West Ham this game held, as a Ricardo Fuller header from a Delap throw-in came back off the crossbar in what was the last good chance of the game.

The final result meant that West Ham claimed their first point of the season, in a solid performance on the road against a team whose direct style of play has been a weakness for our defense so far.  I’m glad that we’re a team who will at least try and play some passing football, as I find the Stoke City and Blackburn Rover style completely unappealing.  I still feel that movement, passing, and possession was better in last week’s game against Chelsea, but the glimpses of good football were there again today.  Considering our recent woes on the road, the point gained from this game is very welcome.  This week sees us traveling to Sunderland for a Carling Cup match-up on Tuesday, and next Saturday has Tottenham coming to Upton Park.   I hope we can keep on improving our performances and maybe nick some points from a strong Tottenham club.

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~ by ar_sage on September 18, 2010.

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