Thursday, January 06, 2011

Best in show

Newcastle Utd 5 - 0 West Ham

Before we get into the glory of last night's match, I thought I'd share two pre-match conversations I shared with a fellow mag on facebook:

B: "Leon Best up front? If ever there's proof of the need to spend money it's this"

P: "Do you think Pardew is trying to make a point to Jabba?"

B: "I don't know. But if he thinks best is going to do the business I'm very worried about his judgement"

P: "Making a point to Ranger about his timekeeping?"

B: "I just hope he's trying to put him in the shop window. But if he plays like he normally does, his value can only go one way"

P: "Lovenkrands and Best up front tonight. Can't see us scoring lots of goals somehow. Hope I'm proven very wrong."

B: "I'd take and own goal and one nil with that 'attack'"

Think it's fair to say that we both felt a little bit sheepish last night. Sheepish, but delighted, after Leon Best (3), Peter Lovenkrands and Kevin Nolan had put a dismal West Ham side to the sword in spectacular fashion.

With Ameobi injured, Alan Pardew opted to make one change to the side which beat Wigan, bringing in Leon Best, to make his first Premier League start for the club (the man who had been at the club for almost a year without scoring a competitive goal), leaving Nile Ranger on the bench.

It wasn't long before Best had an opportunity to make a good impression, but he was unable to direct his header on target after good work from ASBO. At the other end, Scott Parker saw a swerving long range shot well saved by Steve Harper.

However, it wasn't long before Best started to make my pre-match criticisms look decidedly stupid. Following the breakdown of a West Ham attack, ASBO launched a long ball forward from left back. Best beat his marker to the ball and flicked his header inside to Peter Lovenkrands, who raced on to the ball before knocking it back in to the Irishman's path, and he slotted the ball past Robert Green and into the far corner of the Leazes net.

Best's second came shortly afterwards, following a sharply taken free-kick by ASBO. His ball fed Lovenkrands, whose cross fell to Best to shoot home from close range to add his second of the evening.

Before half-time the game was essentially won when an ASBO ball into the box appeared to strike a Hammer's arm. Referee Mike Dean ignored the protests of Kevin Nolan, who made a bee-line for him in protest, before deciding better of it, and as the ball came back into the box courtesy of Spidermag it was only half cleared by James Tomkins straight to the feet of Nolan, who calmly stroked it round Green and prompt another funky chicken celebration.

Any fears that the second half might see something of a West Ham come-back were quickly dispelled when the ball fell to Best, flirting with offside but in any event completely unmarked, and he took one touch before crashing the ball into the goal to seal a stunning hat-trick (the odds of which were apparently 80-1 before the match).

Lovenkrands then added a fifth from close range, after more good work by ASBO to fully show up my pre-match concerns, and there was still time for Nile Ranger to create his own little bit of football history, when, with the goal at his mercy our young forward contrived to side-foot the ball horribly wide. Expect Ranger to feature on every footballing bloopers video for the next ten years. As the player himself later commented on Twitter: "How did I misss... I feel like s**t!!" How, indeed?

Still, better he saves his goals for a game in which they will be needed. Given how toothless and defensively inept West Ham were last night, their future in the league looks bleak (although given my prediction record, Hammers fans should probably take heart).

The one note of caution I would add is that, while Best's performance was fantastic, it was against an appalling defensive team. Only when he starts scoring against better organised teams will he demonstrate the potential which Chris Hughton identified last January when he signed him. What this result should not do is persuade anyone at the club that we don't still need to strengthen during the transfer window.

Caution aside though, and humble pie firmly in mouth, it was an excellent performance by the team, with Best's the stand out display (although to be fair ASBO gave him a run for his money) and he should rightly be given a further chance against Stevenage to maintain his run.

A Hammer's fan's view: Hammered
Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Anonymous Craig said...

I think we were all surprised but he took his goals well and deserves credit.
How good was Joey Barton though? outstanding....

11:31 a.m.  
Blogger Michael said...

Arguably Ranger's most entertaining tweet since the one about Lucky Charms. Looks like he should've borrowed one from Leon Best.

He needs regular games on loan, I reckon. And about 500 hours of shooting practice.

12:38 p.m.  
Blogger Ben said...

Humble pie never tasted sweeter. Marvellous stuff.

I think Lovenkrands deserves a mention too - out of sorts for most of the season, but excellent last night and involved in everything.

As for Ranger, he said in a pre-match tweet that he'd had a dream of having his own chant, a variation of the Power Rangers theme tune. Might yet happen, but he'll need to be able to hit a cow's arse with the proverbial banjo first...

1:39 p.m.  

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