Saturday, August 20, 2005

Wanted: cutting edge

Newcastle 0 - 0 West Ham

A clean sheet and a first point of the season. Hooray!

Or, rather, not. We've now failed to score in 180 minutes of Premiership football this season and - more worrying still - we've not even looked that likely to register on the scoresheet. Given that our most recent opposition, newly promoted West Ham, counted Tomas 'here, help yourself to a goal' Repka amongst their ranks, that's got to be serious cause for concern.

No sooner has Dyer signed up to his new improved contract than he's picked up another injury, so out he went. Worse still, Emre's knock suffered during Turkey's friendly in Sofia on Wednesday kept him from taking part in proceedings. Milner and N'Zogbia stepped up from the bench, but with Ameobi and Chopra already ruled out (suspension and injury respectively), that left us looking appallingly blunt up front.

And so it proved. After a slow opening period in which the Hammers settled quicker, Bowyer, Milner, Jenas and N'Zogbia all tried their luck without success. At the other end Israeli international Yossi Benayoun was proving a handful, pulling the strings in the opposition midfield. Benayoun was interesting Souness before he made the switch to East London, and we were lacking precisely that sort of creativity.

The game petered out towards half-time, but within ten minutes of the second period it had been brought back to life, thanks to referee Dermot Gallagher. JJ, himself sinned against last week despite playing the ball, was brought down by West Ham left-back Paul Konchesky. After consulting with his assistant on the touchline, Gallagher reached for the red card, much to the disgust of Alan Pardew who felt Konchesky had made contact with ball as well as man. They say these things even themselves out over the course of the season - this one evened itself out in the space of a week.

What followed, however, underlined the difference between ourselves and Arsenal. Whereas last Sunday the Gunners piled on the pressure and eventually made us crack, we couldn't do the same to West Ham - the problem being that there was no-one to turn the screw, and no-one on the bench who could liven things up in attack.

As it was, Lee Clark came on for his first appearance for the club since leaving for Wearside in 1997 and before long saw a shot tipped round the post by Roy Carroll. Bowyer, Shearer and Jenas also had efforts that came to nothing, and a fairly miserable afternoon was summed up when Parker blasted over in injury time.

Not a good sign that just two games into the Premiership season the players were booed off the pitch, and it's important we keep things in perspective, but this result doesn't look good in any light. Beforehand I just couldn't see us failing to win, and thought we'd have too much for the Hammers, especially with a midfield including Bowyer, Parker and JJ, but I was proved wrong.

If nothing else, this should reinforce for the benefit of Messrs Souness and Shepherd that our squad is paper-thin, especially in the attacking department, and that we urgently need some high-quality signings. In short: get busy - and quick.

West Ham fans' perspectives: Parallax View, Upton Lark

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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