David Hautzig's Match Report

Watford 2, West Ham 0. I Want To Believe It Will End Up OK.

Did you know I also have a column here on West Ham Til I Die? When I write a Match Report and go to the administrative part of the site, I choose David Hautzig Match Report as the category under which I post. There is also a heading called David Hautzig Column. I have posted a grand total of one in my four years doing this.

Relieved, aren’t ya?

The single solitary contribution to that faux journalistic endeavor was written days after the club decided not to offer Sam Allardyce a new deal. Names like Bielsa, Rafa, Emery, Bilic, even Klopp were thrown about. Here’s how I finished that piece;

“Which leads me to the final name that has made the rounds, David Moyes. To my somewhat risk averse way of thinking, he provides what we need. A fresh look at things all the while being as safe a pair of hands as Allardyce. I’ve read many a tweet and comment that oppose the idea almost as fervently as they oppose Sam, saying it’s no more than a sideways move. Yet for all we know his edict while at Everton was to play a style that made the Toffees hard to beat, and that if asked he could switch things up. And it’s not like Van Gaal has had an easy time at Man U, leading me to believe Moyes was given a raw deal at Old Trafford. Until recently I thought him joining us was pretty close to a dead cert. Tony Henry is on board, he has a release clause to join an EPL team if asked, Etc. But after his interview with Sid Lowe in The Guardian it’s more dead in the water than nailed on. Which I’m very disappointed about. I think David Moyes has a lot to say about what kind of manager he is.

I hope he changes his mind and let’s West Ham United hand him the microphone."

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Supporter anguish over the appointment of Moyes has centered around his last two jobs, and how they were “failures”. Failing at Sunderland was as likely as sinking with The Titanic. As for Real Sociedad, I think the judgement is a bit unfair. He arrived there in 2014 after eleven games, of which the club had only won two. Familiar ring, huh? Anyway, they were just above the drop zone. He finished the season in 12th, eleven points clear. Over the summer, Moyes warned supporters not to get carried away. They began his second season poorly, and he was sacked after eleven games and Sociedad in the drop zone. His point total over the 38 games he was in charge was 46. A number I would kill for now.

My point is this. David Moyes is about right for us. Any notion that a “top manager”, or “next level manager” would be willing to join us and work under our board is, in my opinion, folly. I was one of those supporters who bought into the stadium move and what it would bring us. But now I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz when the curtain gets pulled back and we see a silly old man. One can always dream, but we know where those dreams end up.

I was not anticipating abject fear seven seconds into Moyes time in charge, but when Carroll swung his arm out and clocked Zeegalaar in his English debut, I saw red. Thankfully only in my anger at AC’s potential recklessness and not from the referee. Seconds later Carroll sent an infuriatingly dangerous back pass to Hart from near the halfway line. Hart had to leave his area just to punt the ball away.

For all of West Hams early aggression and pressing, Watford had the little bit of luck we needed in the 11th minute. After running down a long pass to the touchline, Zeegalaar sent a cross into the box that Gray scuffed. But the ball dribbled towards Hughes in front of Hart, and he calmly put it into the back of the net.

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Watford 1
West Ham 0

For the next ten minutes after the goal, Watford gave a clinic on good shape and organized defending. The Hammers moved the ball around. Side to side. Short passes, followed by a long pass cross field. Then a pass back to Hart. But not one ball into the box or anywhere near Gomes. In the 22nd minute Watford may have a had a shout for a penalty when Zabaleta tangled with Richarlison at the top of the West Ham penalty area, but Mariner continued on his merry little way.

In the 28th minute, Carroll continued his role as villain in the eyes of Watford supporters when he leaned into Richarlison after trying to pretend he was Iniesta or something. That time Mariner decided to show Wolf’s dad yellow, and we all knew we would spend the rest of the game cowering every time the big man went in the air, arms flailing.

Watford came close to doubling their advantage in the 32nd minute when Richarlison and Doucoure worked a give and go at the top of the West Ham penalty area. Hart was able to push Richarlison’s low shot away, but right to Kiko who tried his own low effort that went wide for a goal kick.

West Ham should have leveled in the 43rd minute when some fabulous one touch football at the top of the Watford box by Carroll, Obiang, Lanzini and Kouyate sent the Senegalese midfielder in on Gomes alone. But the Watford keeper made an excellent save to keep the home side on top. Watford were able to launch a counter on the ensuing West Ham corner, but Hughes attempted bicycle kick in the box sailed high over the bar.

In the 48th minute, Gomes made what I can only describe as a superhuman save off of Arnautovic. Carroll fed Zabaleta down the right. The Argentine right back sent a cross to Arnautovic that Gomez somehow stopped. To make it even more frustrating, Arnautovic got his own rebound alone in front of goal but Gomes somehow made another save. As the announcers said, Gomes was more responsible for Watford being ahead than Hughes.

Halftime
Watford 1
West Ham 0

Watford asked the first question of the second half in the 50th minute when Kiko made a run down the right and crossed to Gray in the box. The Watford striker who in the summer was rumored to be coming to East London was able get to the ball but his shot went over the bar.

West Ham saw yet another chance go begging moments later when Arnautovic beat Britos on the right and rolled a pass to Kouyate in the box but he couldn’t keep his shot down and it flew high over the bar. A few minutes later Hughes and Kiko worked the ball down the right before getting the ball to Doucoure, who tried a curling right footer that left Hart standing still but the ball went wide.

Watford won a corner in the 59th minute when a Gray effort went out off of Reid’s leg. The initial delivery into the box was cleared, but not far enough to avoid another Watford wave. The ball was sent back into the box by Cleverly for Mariappa, and his header gave Hart a chance to be brilliant.

Watford’s attacking efforts in the second half finally reaped a reward in the 64th minute when Hughes, after what was adjudged to be a ball to hand as opposed to a hand ball, fed Richarlison streaking down the left. Reid forced the Brazilian to shoot with his left, his second favorite foot. He accepted the challenge and beat Hart with a low shot to the far corner.

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Watford 2
West Ham 0

If West Ham didn’t have bad luck today, etc etc. In the 73rd minute, after Sakho and Masuaku replaced Carroll and Arnautovic, the two Hammers substitutes combined in the box to set up Lanzini from 15 yards out. His low shot beat Gomes, but wouldn’t you know it Kabasele was there to clear the ball off the line.

Final Score
Watford 2
West Ham 0

I feel the need to look for positives here. Maybe to confirm what I believe, that the decision to replace Bilic with Moyes was correct? That wouldn’t be beyond me. But while Watford looked more creative and decisive on the ball, West Ham had two chances from Kouyate, two from Arnautovic, and a Lanzini shot cleared off the line. So we had opportunities to score. I also think we looked better pressing, and more solid at the back despite conceding two. Yet the facts are clear. This is our second worst start ever to an EPL campaign, and we all know what happened the year that was worse.

I want to be hopeful. I have to be fearful.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Liverpool 4. We Lost Again.

Here’s how a wine salesman prepares to pretend to be a football writer on a match day.

I sit at my kitchen counter with the first coffee of the day and think about what theme is bouncing around my thick head and try to correlate those often absurd thoughts to the impending events of the day. I then type the word TODAY, just like that, at the end of the paragraph to remind myself to go back and include a final sentence about what we all just saw. That’s a clue by the way. Once or twice I’ve forgotten to do that, so if you see TODAY typed out you know I’m exhausted, sick, or just plain tired of giving West Ham another thought and I’ve forgotten to remove it.

Yet as I finish my blend of Ethiopian and Mexican coffee from my local Argentine coffee roaster I cannot think of any theme other than the gloom many of us feel. A gloom I expect to continue later today. A gloom I fear will be with us all season, possibly ending with what the people who theoretically could alter the course of history have called “Armageddon”. And of course, I was correct.

The first moment of defensive anxiety for West Ham came in the second minute when Obiang fouled Moreno, giving Liverpool a free kick from thirty yards out. The ball sailed over everyone in Claret and Blue and Firmino found himself with the ball at his feet right in front of Hart. I expected an early goal, but Hart was able to make the save.

West Ham should have taken advantage of some good luck in the ninth minute when Lanzini ran at the Liverpool defense. His attempted pass to Ayew took a deflection and floated over Klavan and Matip. Ayew was able to stay onside and run onto the ball, but instead of using his right foot he tried a shot with the side of his left and hit the outside of the post.

Is there good refereeing in the world? I mean anywhere? In the span of three minutes, Swarbrick ignored an obvious foul on Hernandez, a slightly less obvious foul on Noble, and then called a questionable foul on Obiang. I’m not pointing those incidents out as a way of saying “whoa is us, the refs hate us”. If I cared about another club I’d certainly notice similar time periods in those games. But I don’t.

You know, when you win a corner you like to think it’s to your advantage. Right? But this is West Ham. Fernandes won a corner after some decent work from Ayew. But Lanzini’s outswinger was cleared, and when Fernandes decided to commit himself to trying to beat Salah and Mane to the ball you knew it would end badly. Salah pushed the ball forward to Mane and Liverpool were off to the races, three against the lone Cresswell. An easy rolled pass back to Salah and the net looked like the Red Sea.

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West Ham 0
Liverpool 1

Because I’m writing now while watching instead of putting the report together after the match is over, my head was down when the two NBC presenters announced the second goal. I was unprepared. A low cross from Salah deflected off of Noble’s shin, forcing a diving save from Hart. But the only players that followed the path of the ball wore cheese dip colored orange shirts, and Matip tapped it in.

West Ham 0
Liverpool 2

When Noble was shown a yellow card for simulation in the 37th minute, I made a mental note that it would be a small miracle if he lasted until he was subbed off. A reckless challenge leading to a second yellow leading to four or five goal drubbing felt inevitable. Along with an inability to string any passes together and a look of fear and loathing over the faces in West Ham shirts, the day felt lost with almost an hour left.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Liverpool 2

Did you know that Andy Carroll hadn’t scored a goal at The London Stadium since that Crystal Palace game last January? I didn’t. The halftime substitution made sense in that West Ham hadn’t asked any questions of a Liverpool defense that has been among the worst in the league on the road. I was just unaware that the threat of AC was so statistically remote.

West Ham got themselves and the crowd back into the game for a moment in the 56th minute when Ayew sent a long cross to Lanzini in the box. The Jewel showed lovely skill to control the ball with his chest, turned Gomez around, and flicked the ball over Mignolet.

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West Ham 1
Liverpool 2

The wee bit of optimism that had swept over the home supporters lasted less than a minute. Firmino beat Reid near the top of the West Ham penalty area and slid the ball on the right to Oxlade-Chamberlain. Cresswell looked like he had watched the baseball World Series and wondered what sliding into a base felt like. It would have been nice if he had tried that on his own somewhere, not when he was responsible for marking Ox. He slid by, Ox had his first effort saved by Hart but he tucked in the rebound.

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West Ham 1
Liverpool 3

The game remained wide open, and West Ham came close to closing the gap to one goal again in the 59th minute when Carroll headed the ball down to Lanzini on the left but unlike his flick minutes earlier this effort sailed high over the bar.

West Ham had a solid shout for a penalty in the 69th minute when Arnautovic sent a short cross to Hernandez is the box. Just as Chicharito went up to head the ball Moreno gave him a little shove in the back and the ball went over the cross bar. Moments later Firmino was in on goal down the right but his low shot rolled past the far post and out for a goal kick.

With less than twenty minutes to go, Bilic added Sakho and used the last of his three substitutions. So West Ham had the following players on the pitch at the same time. Hernandez, Ayew, Carroll, Arnautovic, and Sakho. Offensive? Yes. But how was the defense? Offensive. Same word, two different meanings. In the 76th, Mane ran at the West Ham defense as if they weren’t even there. He even lost the ball for a second, but easily won it back. He saw Salah alone in the box and rightly passed to him. He beat Hart with ease.

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Final Score
West Ham 1
Liverpool 4

I’m not going to go over the same stuff over and over again. Here’s my summation of the day. West Ham played. West Ham lost. West Ham in my opinion are in deep trouble, top to bottom.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Crystal Palace 2, West Ham 2. From Worst To Bad.

Slaven has two games to save his job.

Save Our Season.

Watershed moment.

Blah blah blah. We’ve heard it all before. I was almost surprised that I was so annoyed before today’s match as opposed to my regular feelings of despair. I said after the Newcastle match that the sample size was big enough to make a strong argument for a change at the top. The cat was already out of the proverbial bag, yet the board were supposedly still contemplating. Reviewing. And after reading a superb piece on Claret & Hugh by Bobby Galbraith, http://www.claretandhugh.info/west-hams-thinking-must-change-from-bottom-to-top/, I don’t feel much confidence that the club as a whole can climb out of the ditch we always find ourselves in. And yes, I do know what we did Wednesday night. It was enthralling and brilliant. But a nice meal and a film with your partner doesn’t mean a relationship that has been awful for a year should continue. Three points today would ease the pain. Control the rot. Maybe I’m being dramatic, which those who know me won’t be surprised by. But I stand by my opinion, and today only reinforced it.

One statistic that has driven me nuts lately is that West Ham have played the most long balls in the Premier League, precisely what supporters hated during the days of He Who Shall Not Be Named. So what did we do twenty seconds into the match? Ogbonna sent a long ball to nobody that ended in a Palace goal kick. Another area of concern has been our defensive mistakes. So what did Lanzini do two minutes later? Commit a silly foul just outside the West Ham penalty area, giving Palace a dangerous free kick. The more things change, etc.

The opening fifteen minutes were a combination of dire and boring. With a few injuries for good measure. Hideous giveaways, passes to phantom players, and virtually zero skill. Even Hernandez gave the ball away time and time again. Like a tennis match with unforced errors all over the place. Neither team looked even remotely Premier League quality….yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but I ain’t gonna write that. In fact, I didn’t know what to say at that point. My trip to the garbage dump this morning to unload an old set of stairs was significantly more exciting. So I decided silence in the written form, along with some coffee, was my best bet.

Like an alarm clock when you are fast asleep, West Ham woke us up in the 31st minute. After Zaha and his fellow Palace players wanted Madley to call a penalty on Fonte, West Ham broke on the counter. Lanzini fed Ayew on the top of the box. The man with the brace on Wednesday rolled a pass to Cresswell on the left, who then whipped a low cross that Hernandez guided in with the outside of his right foot.

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Crystal Palace 0
West Ham 1

West Ham almost doubled their lead a few minutes later when Lanzini sent a corner into the box that Ogbonna should have done better with but the ball rolled out for a goal kick. Moments later, Palace earned two quick corners, and on the second Hart showed the qualities that made him one of the better keepers in England for a few years. Palace had a number of unmarked headers in the box, a potentially bad sign for sure, and the third one came off the noggin of James Tomkins. It was headed for goal but Hart somehow got his right hand on it. The rebound fell to Schlupp two yards out, but his shot hit Hart’s left armed and went over the bar. If that series of events happens 100 times, 99 result in a goal. So West Ham got one of a few mulligans for the day.

When Andre Ayew signed for Swansea, reportedly over West Ham, I knew a few supporters who were royally disappointed. When he jumped the Welsh ship for us last year, many were pleased in spite of the price tag. He has scored a few goals, but overall he has been a disappointment. But Wednesday gave us a glimpse of what he can do if he fires on all cylinders. In the 43rd minute, Milivojevic took a turn playing the Horrible Giveaway game, and Ayew went to the races. He turned Dann inside out before rifling a shot past a dining Speroni.

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Crystal Palace 0
West Ham 2

Zaha earned Crystal Palace a corner in the dying seconds of first half added time. The set piece flew into the West Ham penalty area, and again it looked like no West Ham defender had any interest in, well, defending. Dann had a free header that he sent to Loftus Cheek at the near post. Hart may have had it covered, but he didn’t need to because the ball went wide.

Halftime
Crystal Palace 0
West Ham 2

The second half brought an unexpected substitution from Slaven Bilic, with Cresswell coming off for Masuaku. As an attacking move I could see it. But at two-nil up, it had to be an injury to Cresswell. There were reports on Twitter that Cresswell was seen limping at the end of the opening forty five minutes. Masuaku was beaten by Townsend on the right, but Palace couldn’t capitalize. But moments later, a pass into the West Ham penalty area was run down by Townsend. Ogbonna stupidly bumped him in the area, and Madley pointed at the spot. Milivojevic, the man responsible for sending Ayew off on the run for West Ham’s second goal, stepped up and put it past Hart.

Crystal Palace 1
West Ham 2

Palace went right back on the front foot after their goal, and couldn’t have come any closer to an equalizer if they tried. After good work by Zaha on the left, the ball went to Cabaye near the top of the penalty area. His shot hit the inside of the far post and rebounded out to safety. For years I have always feared two-nil leads. One of those crazy West Ham neuroses we all have in some form or another. My fear felt appropriate.

Antonio came on for Zabaleta in the 60th minute in what could only be thought of as injury related again. At least I hope so, because if that was a tactical move you would be hard pressed to find anyone to defend it.

With 17 minutes to go, Fonte went down and signaled his day was done. To those who wanted to see youth given a chance to show what they can do, Declan Rice entered the game while Fonte hobbled off. Despite the desire for The Academy Of Football to return, it was the kind of moment West Ham fans know can be a turning point for the worst.

Moments after the switch, Hart again came to the rescue with a lovely save off of Zaha. A minute later, Ogbonna was again at fault for a bad challenge, giving Palace a free kick at the top of the penalty area. I couldn’t watch. I walked out of the room but heard the groans. Thankfully the replay was the same as the live action as Hart dove to his left to make the stop.

Crystal Palace kept up the pressure and won their ninth corner of the match in the 81st minute. The ball bounced around before Milivojevic fired a shot well over the bar. A few minutes later Masuaku saw yellow for continued infringement, and Cabaye whipped in a set piece that West Ham handled well. Then Townsend again beat Masuaku on the right but nobody was in the box to get on the end of his cutback.

I fired another antacid tablet down my throat.

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In the 88th minute, my stream died. I got a little bit of audio, most of which sounded like Tony Gale saying West Ham were sloppy and daring Crystal Palace to level the match. Hart made a great save on Tomkins again, and Rice made a good play to intercept a cross. But West Ham had chances to kill off the game, and in the end couldn’t. I’m told Antonio was downright negligent when he flipped the ball to Speroni with two Hammers in the box. Zaha beat Kouyate and Rice to score in the final seconds of added time, and we dropped a 2-0 halftime lead to a team that had conspired to lose 29 games this year while not scoring in 17 of them.

Final Score
Crystal Palace 2
West Ham 2

We are on a path that is eerily similar to the season under Grant. If we don’t act soon, and in my opinion it’s already later than it should have been, we could suffer the same fate. And if the board don’t realize relegation at the London Stadium would be far different than it was at Upton Park, they are sadly mistaken. Which doesn’t mean I have any faith in them fixing what appears to be broken. They would rather put tar on a hole in their roof than replace the roof itself. So I still expect Bilic to be in charge in May.

I only hope it’s more like Zola than Grant and we stay up.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Burnley 1, West Ham 1. Pleased And Disappointed.

When your teenage daughter is able to cut through the truly neurotic thinking that is part and parcel with being a football supporter, you’re probably in a pretty weak position debate-wise.

“Dad. There were no games last weekend. You were pretty calm, didn’t go through any f-ed up mood swings. Things were good. But this morning you’re a wreck again and yet you say you’re happy it’s back. How on earth is that healthy”?

Pause.

“Did you do your Spanish homework”?

It’s become virtually cliche to call a game like this crucial. Mathematically it wasn’t. Psychologically it was pretty damned important. The stats showed that starting Carroll would be a good move, with Burnley giving up more corners than any team in the EPL thus far. They also have given up more total shots than any other side, but a large percentage of them have come from outside the eighteen yard box. So a poacher like Hernandez would be sensible at the very least. But we’ve seen how Bilic handles having those two on the pitch together, and needless to say the reviews have been Luke warm. But with Lanzini in the starting eleven along with Arnautovic and Antonio, it had to be called a positive lineup from our manager.

The first five minutes were a punchfest. Too bad I don’t write about ice hockey because that wording could have been fun. West Ham won a corner thanks to Lowton’s face, but after taking it short the ensuing delivery into the box was punched away by Pope. A moment later Hart showed his version of Football Fisticuffs when he punched away a cross from Defour. I had a feeling we would see a lot of this today.

In the thirteenth minute, Burnley likely should have opened the scoring when Wood lost Zabaleta on a run into the West Ham penalty area. Lowton sent a deep cross that found Wood all alone in front of Hart. Left would have scored. Right would have scored. But straight ahead was an easy save for Hart.

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You cannot teach pace. I don’t know who said that, but I know it’s a sports cliche. In the 19th minute, Hart intercepted a long cross. He took one look and saw Antonio off to the races. The ball landed at the right foot of Mee, but he couldn’t control it. Yes, that will go down as a mistake by the Burnley defender. But Antonio stayed with it, touched it around Pope, and slotted it home.

Burnley 0
West Ham 1

In the span of seconds, West Ham’s day went from promising to dumb. Andy Carroll went up for a header against Tarkowski, and caught him with an unintentional elbow. Atwell showed him yellow. It could be argued that Carroll did catch him in the face, so intention isn’t as relevant. But the second one was pure knuckleheadedness. Carroll flew into Mee, chasing a long ball, and flattened him. NFL scouts would have been impressed. You didn’t need to wait for Atwell to reach into his pocket to know what was coming. The lack of discipline from Carroll, knowing he was on a yellow, was as infuriating as the idiocy shown by Arnautovic at Southampton.

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I guess we will see Sakho and Hernandez against Brighton on Friday.

The day should have gone from very bad to incredibly awful in the 32nd minute when Brady threaded a ball to Wood, who had split open the West Ham defense. Hart dove out to meet the ball, met Wood’s feet, and a penalty would have been no surprise. But Atwell pointed to the corner instead, and West Ham could be thankful for the charity.

The first half carried on as one would expect, with Burnley using the extra space on the pitch to dominate possession. The moved the ball side to side, but The Hammers back line did their job well. Burnley couldn’t manage anything other than a few long range shots that didn’t find a target. In fact, West Ham had what could be considered the best chance of the half post Carroll lunacy when Arnautovic and Lanzini combined at the top of the Burnley area but The Jewel’s shot was deflected harmlessly into the waiting arms of Pope.

Halftime
Burnley 0
West Ham 1

The second half started with a sensible substitution. Arnautovic and his 25 million pound price tag gave way for Obiang and his, what was it, four million pound receipt? Even though that was a defensive move, West Ham started the second half on the attack and came inches from scoring a second. Hernandez rolled a perfectly weighted pass for Lanzini in the box, who then whipped the ball across the face of goal where Antonio just missed it at the far post.

A few moments later West Ham again showed more endeavor with ten men when Zabaleta, Lanzini, and Obiang worked the ball well at the top of the Burnley eighteen yard box but Obiang couldn’t get much power into his shot and it floated softly into Pope’s arms.

Burnley had a chance to level the game in the 55th minute when Fonte gave up a silly foul twenty five yards from goal, giving Brady a chance to show what he can do from a set piece. But the West Ham wall showed what they can do and West Ham averted danger.

The 57th minute brought us the best bit of football West Ham have shown all season. A back heel pass from Obiang set off a series of quick passes that culminated with Pope making a diving save on Antonio. Moments later a long cross from Defour somehow eluded everyone in the West Ham penalty area, including a diving Lowton and went out for a goal kick. Minutes later Brady sent a beautiful ball in between Reid and Fonte that Vokes chased down, but there was nobody there to poke it in. Minutes later Gudmundsson fired a long range curler that beat Hart, bounced off the post, and landed right in front of a grinning Hart. Two minutes later Defour tested Hart with a long range shot, and the England number one handled it easily.

Burnley had another chance handed to them by Atwell in the 71st minute when they were awarded a free kick from thirty yards out. The ball bounced off the wall, and the rebound shot went off Lanzini and out for a corner. West Ham handled it well, but all they could do was hoof it down the pitch and wait for the next Burnley onslaught.

Bilic removed Hernandez in the 74th minute and inserted Sakho. Hernandez was clearly angry at the move. Ian Dowie on television thought it was the correct move. I would have taken Antonio off, both because he looked spent and because Hernandez had shown what he can do in a ten man setup at Southampton. That’s not a criticism of Bilic. Just an opinion.

My goodness, Obiang has a longer name than I was aware. Pedro Mba Obiang Avomo. That’s what the FotMob app calls him. Very formal app I must say.

Burnley continued to search for a late equalizer, and they finally got it in the 85th minute when Gudmundsson beat Cresswell down the right and sent a terrific cross into the box that Wood headed past a helpless Hart.

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Burnley 1
West Ham 1

The announcement of four extra minutes could not have been met with joy by the visitors. It was likely very easy for West Ham supporters to visualize a late Burnley winner. But despite the disappointment of Wood’s late goal, our version of Claret & Blue held on for the point.

Final Score
Burnley 1
West Ham 1

Mitigating circumstances. Other than stupidity, that’s the term that will dominate West Ham’s thinking. It’s hard to judge how much we have improved since Newcastle. The results absolutely indicate an upward trajectory. But the performances have been mixed. But had Carroll not….OK, no more pejorative adjectives about him, I think we would have won. But you never know.

At the end of the day, with the still fragile state we are in as a club, I’ll stay satisfied with the point.

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Swansea 0. Late Relief To Calm The Storm.

When Carlo Ancellotti was sacked by Bayern Munich the other day, my heart skipped a beat. I recalled the time when it was reported, or maybe manipulatively leaked, that Karen Brady was after the Italian a few years back. Every sense of logic and common sense told me that replacing Bilic with Ancellotti was an absurd pipe dream of the highest order. But I decided to ask a friend of mine who knows the former Milan, Madrid, Chelsea, and now Bayern manager if there was any reason for me to fantasize.

No was the pretty succinct answer.

I made my feelings about Slaven Bilic known after the Newcastle match. While many agreed with me, and with Sean Whetstone in his rather controversial piece the other day, there were those that expressed….displeasure, shall we say….with both of us. Sean took far heavier punches than I did, I must admit. Just imagine if Nigel Kahn had let either of us feel his wrath!

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There was a healthy dose of irony in the starting eleven to me. When we were chasing Andy Carroll after his loan spell, I remember the almost minute by minute updates on Twitter. I genuinely believed signing him would virtually guarantee we wouldn’t ever have to look over our shoulders. Once that bubble burst from his almost comical injury list, I always thought his return to the lineup would be the panacea to all that ailed us. That has all changed. So when the original projected lineup today did not include him, I was pleased. Then Arnautovic caught my son’s ear infection or what have you, and there he was. Number Nine. And my spirits dropped. Which may be unfair, but that’s how I felt. Then there was a clamor that Bilic was going to set us up 4-4-2, but I wasn’t so sure. When things seem obvious for us, it never happens. Today didn’t go according to plan, but at least it ended well.

West Ham asked the first question in the fourth minute when Cresswell sent a cross into the box. Antonio met the delivery near the far post and slammed a volley into the ground. It bounced high and towards the far post, forcing Fabianski into a diving save with his right hand.

The next ten minutes were a little worrying in that Swansea had more of the possession by some margin, and when the home side did get the ball they either ran wildly with it, eventually losing it, or sent a pass to nobody. It culminated in the 15th minute when Bony received the ball just on top of the West Ham 18 yard box. Fonte and Reid backed off, and Bony let it go. Hart made a diving save, and the contest thankfully stayed at nil-nil.

By the time we hit the halfway mark of the first half, the crowd at The London Stadium sounded restless. With good reason I might add. Swansea had enjoyed 70% of the possession, and West Ham looked rather dire. Bilic switched Antonio and Ayew on the flanks, but it had so little impact it took minutes for me to notice the change. Passes were terrible, touches were made of lead, and the side looked genuinely lost. Against a side with more quality, it could have been a much uglier scene. I looked for things to be optimistic and hopeful about. The Blueberry pie from a terrific local farm that the wife was bringing home later came to mind immediately.

From the perspective of clutching at straws, West Ham at least made everyone pay attention in the 37th minute when Antonio sent a long pass to Carroll on the right wing. Not exactly where you want Carroll to receive the ball, but whatever. Carroll crossed to Ayew in the box, not exactly where you want Ayew to receive a high cross, but whatever. Ayew sent a weak header that Fabianski cradled like a stuffed animal, but whatever.

West Ham looked a bit better in the final five minutes of the opening half, sending in a few crosses for Carroll and Company to chase. We even won a corner. Thank heavens for small favors.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Swansea 0

If you wanted a highlight that described West Ham this season so far, Mark Noble’s complete mis-kick in our penalty area at the start of the second half would be perfect. And in all fairness, Noble played well against Spurs and wasn’t as awful as the rest of the side in the first half today. So I wasn’t having a go at the captain.

In the 53rd minute, I thought West Ham were going to open the scoring when Antonio looped in a cross from the right to the far post. When Carroll began his run to meet the ball, I thought he would get there. In the end, he was half a yard short. Would that signal an upturn in fortunes on the day? Time would tell.

The crowd went from restless to openly annoyed in the 58th minute when Ayew lost the ball while attempting a run into the Swansea penalty area, which was followed quickly by an awful cross from Cresswell, which was then followed by Noble losing the ball when West Ham were on the offensive. It was all going quite badly at that time, and West Ham needed a spark. Something to give the crowd a reason to liven up.

Cue Manuel Lanzini for Noble. I would have taken Ayew off, but what do I know?

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By the 70th minute, something dawned on me. Despite playing the 4-4-2 so many were asking for, I couldn’t recall Hernandez seeing the ball. At all. Which only added to my concern about what I was watching and what we were in store for the rest of the season. This squad should look at least like a competent Premier League side, and we didn’t by a country mile.

In the 75th minute, West Ham were extremely fortunate to not go down one-nil when Olsson ran the ball from the left to the top of the West Ham penalty area and tried a curling shot on goal. If there had been more curl on that shot, it would have gone in because Hart was beaten. The fact I was ready to accept an abject nil-nil draw at that point wasn’t a good omen.

I scared the absolute life out of my poor cat in the 86th minute when Masuaku sent a low cross into the box that Carroll got a little touch on and curled a shot towards goal. Fabianski didn’t move, and the ball looked to move in slow motion as it floated and then banged against the post. I slammed my fists on the desk holding up my IPad, causing it to fall down. My electronics looked a lot like my team.

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If there has been one man on West Ham that has made a difference when he has come on this season it has been Masuaku. The past few matches have seen him deployed as a substitution on the left side of midfield. He has shown skill and endeavor, particularly with his crossing. In the 89th minute, he made a run down the left that looked almost exactly like the one he did last week to set up Kouyate’s goal. Today, he delivered a ball that beat two or three Swansea defenders and Sakho was there to tuck it in to the top corner of the net.

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Final Score
West Ham 1
Swansea 0

“What a good change from the manager. Well done the manager. Great change. The manager has made an inspirational decision for me” said Tony Gale. I’d add the Sakho inclusion to that commentary, because those two made the difference to me. And despite the concerns that remain for me about Bilic, he was the man that made those changes so he must be applauded for them.

There was a very famous basketball coach and executive for the Boston Celtics named Red Auerbach. Think of him as the Fergie of basketball. He won more NBA Championships than I can even count. One of his best players, and one of the best players in the history of the sport was John Havlicek. And he almost never started a game. In fact, the NBA has an award for the best “Sixth Man” that was created in his honor. Auerbach used to say he didn’t care who started a game for him, that it was more important who finished it. Maybe Bilic could borrow that ideal and twist it a bit because for me the eleven who finished the match deserve to wear the shirt in two weeks. Or maybe not.

I’m just happy we won.

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