David Hautzig's Match Report
I did not set an alarm for this morning, and I was kind of hoping the exhaustion of current life would catch up with me today and just let me sleep through what I was concerned would be a disastrous day for us. Now that both kids are sleeping like true to form teenagers, there was a shot. But the furry feline child is always the wild card, and she was having none of it. “Get up, dad! You have a game to watch! And while you’re at it, feed me”. So up and at em I guess.
Noble stepped back in to the starting eleven, and in a way I can see the logic. The problem was that logic seemed to indicate Moyes thought that we needed some stability to help avoid a bad result against the worst team in the league, at a stadium we have not won in since the year before Richard Nixon resigned. With Villa playing Palace tomorrow and Bournemouth, perhaps buoyed by their point against Spuds, playing Leicester we could have been looking at a truly awful weekend. Thanks to Antonio, that won’t happen.
West Ham had the first opportunity on the day when Antonio split the defense coming in from the left. He tried to find Soucek in front of goal, but the Czech midfielder’s first touch was a little heavy and his shot hit the side netting. A few minutes later the same pair hooked up again, with Antonio tee-ing up Soucek near the top of the Norwich eighteen yard box but his low shot went wide. In the 11th minute Cresswell was sent on a run down the left. His cross connected with Antonio in front of goal but Krul got a hand on it and sent it out for a corner. The initial delivery was cleared for a second corner, and the this time West Ham took care of business. Diop got a touch on the set piece, sending it to the far corner where Antonio was unmarked and found the back of the net.
West Ham 1
Norwich put a little fear back into the West Ham faithful in the 17th minute when Hernandez sent a through ball into the West Ham box that Buendia chased, but Fabianski just beat him to the ball. Moments later Cresswell put a cross into the Norwich penalty area that was a hair behind Antonio, and his attempted volley went high and over the bar. A few minutes later Norwich were on the attack with Lewis finding Pukki in the box with a cross, but Finnish striker’s header had no pace and floated over the bar.
Norwich had a golden chance to equalize in the 30th minute when Lewis again got on the ball on the left, a spot they seemed to want to test, and his cross went to Hernandez in front of Fabianski. But his side footed effort went wide when almost anything on target would have done the job. MInutes later Fornals was called for a foul, and Norwich had a free kick from 25 yards out. Vrancic stepped up, but his shot went over the bar. West Ham came back down with Antonio and Bowen combining near the top of the box, but the January signing’s low shot went wide.
In the 37th minute Fornals won a free kick on the left side of the Norwich penalty area, and with The Canaries troubles on set pieces it was a real opportunity. But Noble’s free kick to the far post was too high for Soucek to handle and it went out harmlessly for a Norwich goal kick. Five minutes later Krul made a very good save on a Soucek volley, putting it out for the first of two West Ham corners. But the visitors couldn’t capitalize on either.
Just before halftime, West Ham got a vital second goal after a foul by Buendia gave The Hammers a free kick. Noble’s set piece from just outside the penalty area hit Antonio in the box, and the seven million pound bargain from Nottingham headed it home.
West Ham 2
The Hammers could have made it 0-3 when Noble sent a pass to Fredericks streaking down the right, but his shot went over the bar. Then Fabianski was forced to make his first difficult save of the day just before halftime when a Buendia shot forced the Hammer’s keeper to punch the ball away.
West Ham 2
West Ham started the second half brightly, winning a corner in the opening minute. But the set piece amounted to nothing, and when Bowen had the ball with a bit of time and a bit of space near the top of the Norwich eighteen yard box he skied his shot into the empty stands. Moments later West Ham won a free kick just outside the Norwich box. They tried something off the training ground, with Noble looking for Rice inside the box. But the shot was blocked, so more work on the training ground might be in order for that little move.
The match, and perhaps West Ham’s Premier League survival, were possibly wrapped up in the 55th minute when Noble sent a through ball in between Godfrey and Klose that Antonio ran onto. Bearing down on Krul, Antonio tried to side foot it past the Norwich keeper who made the initial save. But the ball bounced high and behind him, Antonio never stopped running, and a header into the open net finished the job. Hat Trick Time.
West Ham 3
Reading the play. I wonder how long it will be until Fornals starts to anticipate the movements of his teammates. In the 64th minute he and Antonio were together in the Norwich box, and the man on the hat trick expected Fornals to cut into the area right in front of Krul. He didn’t. Earlier in the match Soucek rolled a pass on the right fully expecting Fornals to move into that space. He didn’t. Both times, Fornal’s teammates looked shocked that the young Spaniard was not where they expected him to be. And there have been more than a few moments like that this season. I still feel Fornals will come good, because the ingredients are all there.
The 74th minute delivered something I don’t think I have ever seen from a West Ham player. To be honest, I don’t even recall the last Hat Trick, although my mate Alex reminded me that it was Andy “Man Bun” Carroll. But when Bowen kept the bull alive near the top of the Norwich penalty area with a looping pass to Fredericks on the right, a possibly historic play was set in motion. Fredericks overpowered Lewis and then rolled a ball to Antonio in front of Krul. Surrounded by three Norwich defenders, Antonio showed a bit of craftiness by nudging the ball with his heel into the near corner. Thanks to my best mate Jon and likely Google, I can now confirm that David Cross against Spuds was the last time a Hammer bagged four on the day.
West Ham 4
The most noteworthy moment after Antonio’s fourth was when Troy Deeney scored his second penalty of the day at Watford, giving the Hornets a late winner and pouring the bad news thick and heavy on Villa and Bournemouth. Me being me, I of course took the news badly for us. It’s just how I’m wired. Sue me.
West Ham 4
I won’t say survival is now assured, because results tomorrow could re-ignite my anxiety. Not that it takes much to do that. And rest assured, I will be given a lot of stick by Jon, Nigel, Sean and the gang for my negativity going into today. But without a win there in close to 40 years, coupled with our innate ability to turn an opportunity into a problem, I think trepidation was appropriate. But thankfully we did the business, and our overall play looked like a side deserving of another year in the top flight. Our play the last four matches has been far better than in the first two of Project Restart, Burnley included, and there is reason to hope for a few more points in our last three games. In fact, a draw against Watford helps both sides, so is it hard to see a Moyes-Pearson snoozefest on Friday?
I’d take it.