You couldn’t have scripted this better if you were able to manipulate the space-time continuum. As we all know, Sam Allardyce made some pretty odd comments about using (or not using) youth in the first team. I was pretty dismayed by those comments, and went so far as to Tweet that it was one of the most awe inspiringly dumb things I’d ever heard him say. So when the rumours started creeping in that Reid had picked up a new hamstring injury in training and Reece Burke might be handed a surprise start in his place, I took to Twitter to predict Kouyate would start at CB, weakening our midfield. I was sooooo ready to slam Sam for the decision.
And then he went and did what nobody thought he would do and completely ruined my rant. Thanks Sam.
The opening minutes of the game were frenetic and exciting for both sides. In the first minute Noble lost the ball to Matty Phillips near the top of the QPR penalty area. Phillips played Sandro in on the left side but his low shot was saved by Adrian. Minutes later it was the Hammers turn to attack when Valencia did well to win a corner off a long ball that was headed nowhere. Jarvis sent the corner into the box and onto the head of none other than Reece Burke, who won the header and came inches from a dream start but Onuoha cleared the ball off the line.
And just as quickly as the game began, it slowed down. For the next 18 minutes, very little happened. And then something big happened. QPR enjoyed some possession and worked the ball into Zamora in the box. The former Hammer hero tried to lob the ball over Collins and Adrian, but Collins raised his right arm way over his head for a clear hand ball. When Charlie Austin stepped up to take the penalty, I started to write about being down 1-0. Then I remembered Adrian doesn’t give up goals from the spot, and for the third time in a row our newest cult hero saved a penalty kick.
I am still very much in the pro Enner Valencia camp. I believe he has been played out of position for much of the season, which has hampered both his performances and his confidence. But there are times when I say to the TV, “Enner, what the hell are you thinking”? The 32nd minute was one of those times, when Valencia beat Hill on the byline and moved in on Rob Green. But with Jarvis sprinting into the box, and Nolan trailing at the top of the area, Valencia chose to take a bad shot from an impossible angle.
Minutes later West Ham had another chance….kind of….when Joey Barton gave the ball away to Nolan at the top of the box. But with plenty of time and plenty of space he attempted a quick shot that rolled harmlessly into the waiting hands of Rob Green.
For the majority of the first half, one had to wonder if every player out there had simply forgotten how to play the game. Passes were way off target, the ball flew through the air sometimes for what looked liked minutes without ever touching the ground. One could easily have mistaken it for a game played in a field by a bunch of amateurs. It was that bad. The second half was better, but not by much.
In the opening moments of the second forty five minutes, Clint Hill headed the ball to Bobby Zamora in the West Ham penalty area. Zamora seemed to rush his shot, likely unaware that he had a second to compose himself. Instead his quick side footed effort went right into Adrian’s arms.
In the 50th minute, West Ham had their best chance of the game to that point. Nolan got on the end of a long ball from Collins and knocked it down to Valencia, who was then fouled by Sandro to set up a free kick from a very dangerous area. Cresswell curled his effort over the wall, and if not for a superb save from Green he would have repeated his heroics against Stoke. If I were king of Hammerland, I’d have Cresswell take the vast majority of free kicks from here on.
QPR then enjoyed a period of possession that put West Ham on the back foot, with both Sandro and Zamora taking shots that went either wide of high. West Ham tried to change the tone of the game by removing Jarvis and inserting Cole. And only because I love Cole for his loyalty and professionalism, I’m going to credit his entry into the game for West Ham’s next half chance. Let’s call it artistic license, shall we?
In the 57th minute, Cole won a header and Nolan got on the end of the knockdown. Nolan threaded a long pass that both Downing and Green raced after. In real time, it looked like Green got their first and cleared the ball from danger. The replay showed that Downing might have gotten their first and missed his attempt on the ball.
While Austin’s missed penalty may still be the number one talking point of a rather listless match, another one happened in the 72nd minute. After Jenkinson put the ball out for a corner, Adrian and Caulker both went up for the ball. They collided, the ball fell to Dunne, and he put it into the West Ham net. But Mike Jones blew his whistle as Dunne was shooting, calling a foul on Caulker for his collision with Adrian. If such a play was available to be reviewed by video, that goal could have been allowed because it looked like Caulker simply went for the ball and Adrian mishandled it. If I’m wrong, I have no doubt I will be informed below.
QPR kept up the pressure, with Fer having a good look at goal only to misfire, and then Dunne winning a header in the box but his attempt went right to Adrian. Burke then fouled Austin, giving QPR a free kick which came to Fer but his header went over the bar.
West Ham countered in the 80th minute when Valencia used his pace to beat Dunne down the right hand side. With both Cole and Kouyate running into the box, Valencia slid a low cross to the latter. If this can be a game of inches, Valencia’s pass was one of millimeters. The pass was just slightly behind Kouyate, and his shot sailed high over the bar. Nine times out of ten, Kouyate handles that and it’s a goal. But like so many things in the second half of the season, this was the tenth out of ten.
The Hammers created one more chance in the 89th when Jenkinson ran the length of the field at full speed to get on the end of a pass from Downing down the right. Jenkinson sent a low cross through the goalmouth but neither Cole nor Valencia could reach it for an easy tap in.
The final chance of the game came in the final minute of the ninety when Phillips ran onto the ball in the West Ham box and fired a volley that looked headed for the roof of the net. But Adrian got his fingertips on the ball and saved the point for West Ham.
Final Score: QPR 0, West Ham 0.
If either team could see this as two points dropped, it’s Rangers. From the missed penalty to the disallowed goal, with other chances mixed in, Chris Ramsey’s side played more like a team going for three points than West Ham. Valencia had the kind of game that one could look at and say in a different system, he could be lethal. And despite a few mistakes that made Burke look like he’s 18, the boy had a decent game. So I can hang on to those two things as small positives. But overall it was yet another performance that hammers home the point…pun intended…that West Ham need improvement in many areas. Our midfield was dreadful today. They looked incapable of keeping possession against a team that often handed them the ball. And with two substitutions available, for Sam to ignore both Amalfitano and Nene was absurd. I’m cynical enough wonder about his motives.
On the bright side, at least we didn’t give up a late goal again. Thank heavens for small favors.
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