I’ve said this before, but today it bears repeating. The two prevailing emotions in my life supporting West Ham have been fear and relief. Last season was a rare exception, possibly even a one off, where unbridled joy had a place at the table. But we’ve reverted back to the norm, and I went into today’s match absolutely terrified. Logic dictates that a nine-point cushion along with a possible extra point from goal differential should get us over the line at this point. But the fixture list isn’t as friendly to us as it will be to some below us, so if suspended animation were offered until May I would seriously consider it. With early morning coffee came rumors that Sakho was available. While I knew the tweets about Bilic being sacked and Lacazette signing were a product of the calendar, Sakho had a hint of maybe to it. Alas, it was as believable as something Sean Spicer would say. Other than Collins, it looked to be a fairly attacking lineup, something I admit added to my fear factor. Yes, today was a day I’d have played not to lose. To respect the point. Right or wrong. After our second half display, I’d say I was right.
The minute you know who decided to abandon ship for reasons both spoken and unspoken, it was pretty clear Lanzini would be asked to fill those shoes. In the sixth minute a good run by The Jewel into the box showed promise, but the end result failed him and not even a shot was attempted. Moments later Byram, hoping to take advantage of a run in the squad, got on the end of a Feghouli pass and tried to take a tight angle shot but Hull did their defensive job.
There have been many calls for Masuaku to get his own shot at the starting eleven due to the questionable form of Cresswell. That argument was in play in the twelfth minute when the once automatic selection dawdled one ball in the box and, not surprisingly, lost it to Niasse who then whipped in a cross that Fonte deflected out for a corner.
West Ham had the first real chance on goal in the 14th minute when Feghouli threaded a cross into the box that Snodgrass got on the end of. Replays showed he was offside, so if he had played the ball well he very well might have scored. Unfortunately Snodgrass didn’t take advantage of the linesman’s mistake and tried a one timed header that Jakupovic handled easily. A few minutes later, Andy Carroll got on the end of another good cross, this one from Cresswell. After turning Davies inside out on the box, Carroll chested it down perfectly and did what a striker is supposed to do. He put the ball behind the keeper.
Hull City 0
West Ham 1
Remember when Adrian had a total brain fart at Southampton and got red carded? Yeah, it was rescinded, but it wasn’t the brightest move on the Spaniards part. Nor was it doctoral thesis material last season when he got sent off against Leicester City last season. In the 23rd minute, with Hernandez and Markovic bearing down on him, Randolph decided to channel his inner Lanzini and run the ball out of the box. Yes, the back pass to our keeper was ill advised but just as two wrongs don’t make a right, two mistakes don’t make anything but a disaster. Randolph and the Hammers got lucky there.
In the 30th minute, Lanzini made another of his signature moves near the top of the box before unleashing a wicked right-footed shot that was deflected out for what would be the first of three consecutive corners for the visitors. The cumulative effect of those three set pieces was time for me to make a cup of tea. Milk and sugar in case you’re wondering how a yank takes his PG Tips.
Minutes 31 to 45, plus three added on, were…..uhhhh….a football match. Passes, corners, throw ins, Carroll injury scare, the basics. But that was it.
Hull City 0
West Ham 1
With so little action so to speak I found myself thinking that the defense looked more solid up to that point with the inclusion of Ginge. Well, my superstitious nature should have known better than to allow my mind to be positive about our Achilles heal this season. In the 53rd minute, Markovic won the ball in midfield and threaded a pass to Grosicki on the left. The Hull halftime substitute saw Robertson running from his own end and laid the ball off for him. To my eyes, Fonte was in a position to intercept that pass. He didn’t, Robertson cut into the box, beat Ginge and slipped it past Randolph.
Hull City 1
West Ham 1
Hull should have taken the lead minutes later when a counter ended up at the feet of N’Diaye in the West Ham penalty area. His right-footed shot went off the post, the MOTM as we all recall in the home fixture a few months ago, and bounced right out to Grosicki. His shot missed the other post by an inch and went wide. Normally Bilic is at least the equal of the two managers in a match at halftime. His record in second halves is quite good. After the first ten minutes, however, it was Silvia’s man Grosicki who made the difference.
Sometimes circumstances play a part in long-term decisions. In the 66th minute Snodgrass was replaced by Fernandes, and two minutes later Cresswell pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury and was replaced by Masuaku. Two players that have disappointed many replaced by two players many supporters think deserve an extended run. Time will tell on both of those players.
As the second half rolled on, the more positive play came from Hull. Not surprising as they were at home. But much of was assisted by more bad passing and more bad touches from the likes of Feghouli and poor crosses from just about everyone. By the time Feghouli tried a dink, or a soft cross, or whatever the heck it was in the 78th minute I was 100% ready to accept the point and call it a day. But I was terrified, yes terrified, that it would slip away like so many other points in the dying seconds of a match.
In the 82nd minute, Hull took advantage of the total lack of pace in the West Ham center back universe with a long ball to Niasse. When the pass was made, Collins had a decent lead. It disappeared in about three steps. Hull worked the ball in and around the West Ham area before Markovic and Henrikson linked up well but the latter volley went out for a throw in.
The inevitable happened just as we all thought it would. In the 85th minute, Hull won a corner. The delivery from Grosicki wasn’t actually that good. But Ranocchia made a run towards the near post and threaded a header past Carroll and then Randolph and plunged West Ham into full-fledged crisis mode.
Hull City 2
West Ham 1
Slaven Bilic made one final substitution in added time in search of a equalizer to stop the bleeding, inserting Calleri for Kouyate. Carroll had a shot from the top of the box and decided to give it a whirl, but it went out with a whimper. Much like the Hammers season.
Hull City 2
West Ham 1
While the math might still favor us, the reality staring West Ham in the face is so obvious it’s transparent. West Ham look lost. Disorganized. If the season were a few weeks longer, the odds on relegation would be much lower than they currently are.
Hopefully time is on our side. Because currently nothing else is.