Sunday, August 25, 2013

Two zeroes, no heroes

Newcastle Utd 0 - 0 West Ham

Our first home game of the season turned out to be a complete snoozefest well deserving of bottom billing on Match Of The Day, hardly boding well for the months to come. Not that the new campaign has exactly been eagerly anticipated, but this performance was enough to crush any eve-of-the-season optimism out of even the most glass-half-full of supporters.

Credit to the Silver Fox for sending out an attacking line-up, nominally at least. Two changes from Monday's side were enforced due to injuries to Mr T and Spidermag, their replacements Vurnon Anita and Sylvain Marveaux promising to offer more going forwards, while Big Lad was drafted in in place of Goofy to provide Papiss Cisse with a bona fide partner. Meanwhile, Davide Santon's return to fitness was perfectly timed to coincide with the start of Saylor's suspension, MYM moving infield to a more familiar role in the centre of defence.

It was a centre back in the opposing ranks, Winston Reid, who was at the heart of the first-half action, though. When Moussa Sissoko nipped in to nab the ball and attempted to thread it through for Cisse, the New Zealand international intervened but was somewhat fortunate to see his backpass drift inches wide of the far post as Jussi Jaaskelainen scrabbled in vain to cover.

At the other end, Reid then blasted over from close range before being left unchallenged again and just failing to make contact with a long free kick punted dead straight down the length of the pitch. When the Silver Fox applauded a much improved defensive display in his post-match interview, he seemed to have forgotten that particular incident.

The Hammers only really created one other chance before the break, when new signing Stewart Downing headed the ball back across goal from a left-wing cross and MYM did just enough to prevent Modibo Maiga from flicking past Tim Krul. The alarming ease with which Matt Jarvis skinned Mathieu Debuchy in the build-up was testament to the fact that Dreamboat's chum was once again far from showing us the form that's won him French caps. As for ourselves, we had nothing to show for our own paltry efforts on goal, Sissoko and HBA all lashing efforts off target.

While our performance stepped up a gear in the second half, there was no flood of chances to match the downpour. Indeed, it was the visitors who continued to carve out the better opportunities. Unlike last season, our former skipper Kevin Nolan decided to be merciful, sending a header over the bar when unmarked from Downing's whipped cross, and the winger's replacement Joe Cole fired a shot over the angle with Krul beaten. Cole's fellow substitute Ravel Morrison, meanwhile, made his entrance wearing gloves...

But even that wasn't quite as staggering as our own substitute Goofy's miss in stoppage time. When Little Big Lad's lofted cross/shot bounced off the far post with Jaaskelainen totally bamboozled, Goofy reacted instinctively but ballooned his shot high into the stand. In truth, it would have been a thoroughly undeserved winner, and West Ham had themselves come very close to stealing victory at the death, Maiga knocking home in the 89th minute from a deflected shot but rightly ruled offside.

There were some positives, to be sure: a point on the board (and one we didn't get last season) and a clean sheet following the calamitous defending at the Etihad. But the negatives were plain to see: a fourth successive home game without a goal and an almost complete lack of attacking threat. If Dreamboat does leave before the transfer window closes, as expected, then we'll be deprived of one of the very few players in the squad who can pick a critical pass - without him we were hoping HBA and Marveaux would deliver, but they couldn't. In that respect, another positive of sorts is that there's no papering over the cracks. The fans' chants demanding new signings were largely redundant - the match itself was a sufficiently stark reminder to Jabba and JFK that reinforcements are urgently needed.

Other reports: BBC, Observer

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goofy was flagged offside

7:05 pm  

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