David Hautzig's Match Report

Crystal Palace 1, West Ham 1. Grateful For The Point

Carbamazepine. Depakote. Lithium.

These are all known medications for the treatment of bi-polar disorder. I have no knowledge of the efficacy of any of them, and thankfully supporting West Ham is the only psychological issue one could argue that I have. But when asking oneself how the same team that beat Arsenal and outplayed Liverpool can ship four goals to AFC Wimbledon, maybe that’s the route the club medical staff should look at? Can an entire football club, from the corporate level down to the kit-man, have such a condition? By the look of the two halves today, it might be something the club should explore.

The confidence West Ham played with against Liverpool seemed evident in the opening few minutes. Anderson and Cresswell showed a good understanding of each other’s movements to overlap and win a corner, and then Anderson moved to the right and did the same with Antonio to win another corner. There was no end product to those missives, but they looked positive.

Palace asked a few questions as well, with Zaha beating Fredericks on the left to win a corner, and Schlupp winning his own corner from a low shot that was deflected wide. The tempo was fast and entertaining.

In the 14th minute, the Hammers had the first real opportunity of the match when Antonio got the ball at the top of the Crystal Palace eighteen yard box. Most of us likely expected one of those wild Antonio shots. Instead he rolled a lovely ball for Fredericks to run onto, but Guaita did well to stop it. Minutes later Anderson sent a ball over the top of the Palace defense that Snodgrass ran onto inside the box, but he didn’t get off the cleanest of shots with his left foot and again Guaita was there to keep the score even.

A few minutes later it was Palace who had a chance to open the scoring when McArthur got in behind the West Ham defense for an open shot but Fabianski made a superb stop. Seconds later Anderson was on the run again for West Ham and sent a low cross into the box for Hernandez. The pass was a few inches off, forcing Chicharito to chase it down in the box. That gave Sakho the time needed to get across and block the shot out for a West Ham corner.

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West Ham took the lead in the 28th minute, and it started with a simple free kick from 40 yards out after a foul on Hernandez. The ball came to Rice just outside the eighteen yard box, and he showed the kind of touch you’d expect from…say…Anderson, with a little flick into the box. Antonio showed a lot of courage going after it when nobody else did, and he was clattered into by Guaita. Pawson pointed to the spot, and Noble did the rest.

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Crystal Palace 0
West Ham 1

The home side had a great opportunity seconds after conceding the penalty and the goal when Benteke was played onside by Fredericks and had nobody between him and Fabianski. But with both the left and right side of the goal beckoning for a low shot, he fired high enough for Fabianski to reach to his right and get a hand on it.

Back down the other side, West Ham won a free kick just outside the eighteen yard box when Wan Bissaka got a piece of Cresswell and sent him flying. Snodgrass took the set piece, although I wondered why it wasn’t Anderson going for goal. The threat ended when Antonio and Guaita met again, only this time Pawson awarded a goal kick. A couple of minutes later, Hernandez tried a rare shot from outside the box but it was right at Guaita.

Just before halftime, Palace had more good movement that perhaps on another day would have resulted in something. Zaha rolled the ball into the right side of the box for McArthur, but his low cross wasn’t met by a teammate and rolled all the way out for a West Ham throw.

Halftime
Crystal Palace 0
West Ham 1

I have rarely seen a player better than Mark Noble at drawing a foul by simply surrounding the ball with his body, turning his back to the opposition, and then getting toppled over. He did it again at the start of the second half. It meant absolutely nothing. But I wanted to make that point.

I don’t know how to describe the McArthur miss in the 53rd minute. He was fed by Van Aanholt, and played onside by Fredericks. The second time today the new right back misread the line. Everything stopped as if the linesman raised his flag. The amount of time McArthur had was kind of spooky. Fabianski went down. And still the shot didn’t come. When it did, it was like those bullets in Pulp Fiction that made Jules find god. It missed. And nobody will ever be able to explain how. All I could think was thank heavens it didn’t happen to us because I’d have a hard time shaking that off.

Van Aanholt got on the end of a mis-hit clearance by Ogbonna in the 58th minute with a terrific volley, but it just went over the crossbar. A few minutes later Palace were let off when Milivojevic took out Noble at midfield. Already on a yellow, it should have been a second and a sending off. But Pawson allowed West Ham to play the advantage, and by the time play stopped it was as if Pawson forgot the foul itself and did nothing.

The cliche is usually The Hits Keep Coming. But for Palace it could be The Misses Keep Coming. In the 68th minute, it was Fredericks yet again who got his line wrong and played Batshuayi onside in front of Fabianski. Ogbonna slid in and certainly pressured the shot, but at 170 grand per week you’d think the Chelsea loanee would put it in the back of the net. He did not.

The goal that had been coming finally came in the 76th minute, and no West Ham supporter could say it wasn’t deserved. While the goal by Zaha inside the box came from a lucky deflection off of Diop, as opposed to the many good chances they had, Palace deserved it. Simple as that.

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Crystal Palace 1
West Ham 1

Palace had a great chance to go on top in the 81st minute when Meyer worked with Zaha inside the West Ham box. Zaha got on the ball, took a step to his right and fired a hard shot that Fabianski got down to his left to stop.

Crystal Palace won a free kick in the 88th minute when Diop fouled Meyer just outside the box. As Milivojevic stepped up to take it, visions of a player who probably should not have been on the pitch scoring a winner were hard to fend off. Thankfully his set piece hit the wall. Moments later, Zaha had a good look at the goal but his shot was right at Fabianski.

As the minutes of extra time rolled on, it became obvious that a draw was the best we could hope for. The Hammers were simply battered in the second half, with barely a sniff at goal. In fact, I’m not sure Arnautovic even had a touch after he came on until quite literally the last touch of the game, and that was after he was offside.

Final Score
Crystal Palace 1
West Ham 1

So instead of the inconsistency we have come to expect from game to game, we saw it half to half. West Ham played some lovely football in the opening forty-five minutes, and virtually none in the second. So at the end of the day, I don’t think we should respect the point.

I think we can be grateful for it.


David Hautzig's Match Report

AFC Wimbledon 4, West Ham 2. Utterly Pathetic.

I hate to show off, but we have it mighty good here come FA Cup time. ESPN shows every single FA Cup match on their ESPN+ service. The time of the match was curious. Why would TV executives think this match above all others would do well in a Prime Time Saturday slot? I mean, AFC Wimbledon has only beaten one team in a league above them since re-entering The Football League in 2011. They are awful this season. What could possibly happen?

West Ham. That’s what.

I had to spend the first five minutes watching on my phone while making a late lunch for my son. I saw we won an early corner, and the hosts had an effort sky over the bar. When I finally made it down to my basement, Wimbledon had won a free kick just outside the West Ham eighteen yard box. Pinnock curled it towards goal, and Adrian punched it away. Moments later Wimbledon were back on the front foot with Thomas chasing down a ball in front of the West Ham goal. Maybe I’m being harsh, but seeing our beloved Spaniard fumble and look slightly lost gave me fresh appreciation of how comfortable we feel with Fabianski in between the posts.

West Ham launched an attack of their own in the 12th minute when Snodgrass sent a through ball for Hernandez to chase down. The sometimes brilliant, sometimes invisible striker sent a low shot that deflected off Watson before clanging off the post.

I know Ogbonna has done well while Balbuena has been injured, but I maintain he has more mistakes in him than Diop and Balbuena combined. His terrible miss trying to clear a low cross from Pinnock didn’t hurt us, but it could have. I certainly hope a central defender is on the summer shopping list.

Halfway through the opening half, you had to be impressed with Wally Downes team. They looked comfortable on the ball, pressed effectively, and kept a shape that kept us out of the match.

Wimbledon should have taken the lead in the 28th minute. Thomas sent a perfectly weighted pass behind the West Ham defense that Connolly chased down. His cross found Pinnock in the box, but his header was too soft and too straight. Adrian cradled it with ease, but nine times out of ten he would have been retrieving it from the back of his net.

Dear Pedro. Your strike last season at Spurs was astounding. A world class bit of football skill. You are unlikely to repeat it. So please. Pretty please. With sugar on top. Stop taking those wild, speculative shots like you did in the 32nd minute.

In the EFL Cup, Wimbledon got an early goal. It took them a lot longer today, but score the opener they did. After a long ball to Carroll was intercepted, Wordsworth used a little flick to send Appiah into space. His shot took a deflection, caught Adrian wrong footed, and landed in the bottom corner of the net.

AFC Wimbledon 1
West Ham 0

This is likely an overreaction on my part, but could we call that Italian club that wants him and tell them the deal is on? And while we are at it, can they take Ogbonna too? In the 41st minute, Obiang lost the ball in midfield. Wagstaff marched in on Adrian all alone, in no small part due to how out of position Ogbonna and Diop seemed to be, and calmly put it past Adrian.

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Halftime
AFC Wimbledon 2
West Ham 0

The second half began with Manuel Pellegrini making three changes. Anderson replaced Obiang, Perez replaced Carroll, and Fredericks replaced Diangana. And just like that, another goal.

Ahhhhhh, you thought I had you there, didn’t you? Changes would bring a better West Ham? Nope. We were still awful. Appiah sent a curling pass over what seemed like every West Ham player on the pitch and there was Wagstaff to finish it off with a clinical shot off the outside of his foot.

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AFC Wimbledon 3
West Ham 0

The Hapless Hammers got a goal back in the 57th minute after a few minutes of reasonably decent pressure. Snodgrass fed Fredericks down the right, and the finally fit right back tried to find Antonio running into the box. The ball deflected out to Perez who fired it low into the far corner.

AFC Wimbledon 3
West Ham 1

Perez had a chance to cut the lead to one a few moments later when he tried to flick a cross with the outside of his left foot directly in front of Ramsdale. He probably should have struck it with his right foot. The ball went over the bar.

West Ham got their second goal in the 71st minute when Snodgrass won a free kick 25 yards from goal when Nightingale hacked him down. Anderson stepped up to take the free kick, and curled it over the wall….and a ducking Diop….past Ramsdale.

AFC Wimbledon 3
West Ham 2

West Ham pressed and looked to complete a remarkable comeback. Antonio made a few of his textbook bull in a china shop runs, Anderson had passes that were on different wavelengths than his intended recipients. But Ramsdale had nothing to do, and if the keeper had nothing to do than the equalizer was far from inevitable.

Wimbledon won a corner in the 86th minute, and Nightingale put a thumping header that Adrian did very well to save. But a few seconds later, it was nap time again for Ogbonna, Masuaku and Company. Wordsworth was left unmarked in the box, and had all the time in the world to send a looping pass to the far post for 19 year old Toby Sibbick to head past Adrian.

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Final Score
AFC Wimbledon 4
West Ham 2

West Ham asked a few questions in added time, and Antonio should have scored, but so what? We got a draw that any Premier League team would have loved to get, and what did we do with the chance? How many teams are left in the competition that we would truly want to avoid?

Nigel Kahn called me after the match and was pretty clear. “In my lifetime, as far as Cup upsets go for us, this one is up there”. It’s not an exaggeration or an over statement that today was an embarrassment. We lost to the last place side in League One. They were losing games. Yet they scored four goals against us. We were inept at the back. Not much better at the front.

I hate ESPN.


David Hautzig's Match Report

Bournemouth 2, West Ham 0. Let It Snow, Let Snow, Let It Snow.

I have an idea I’d like to share with the board.

From this day forward, if we are in negotiations to sign a player from any club on the globe, if said player exhibits any behavior that even resembles going on strike to force the move, we hang up the phone. Over and done with.

The start of the match was very, very interesting. Not because of anything on the pitch. Far from it. My NBC stream had no commentary. None. So I had to quickly set myself up to make up for that lack of help. For example, in the second minute Bournemouth moved the ball around our penalty area before sending a shot high over the bar. Number 8. Like I know or care who wears number 8 for The Cherries. It’s some guy named Lerma. I had to look that up. I hoped like hell the commentary would turn on sooner than later.

And just like that, it turned on. With it came a corner for the home side after Ogbonna couldn’t control the ball after winning it off the 75 million pound man himself, Callum “No Knees” Wilson. West Ham handled the set piece, but moments later Wilson sent a ball across goal that Brooks got to. But the Welsh international tried to hit the near post instead of going back across the face of goal and it hit the side netting.

The early goings looked like a match between a team well drilled at what they were supposed to do, and a team that hadn’t quite realized the whistle had blown. The visitors looked mildly awake in the 18th minute when Carroll, of all people, started a counter with a beautiful diagonal ball to Anderson on the right. The Brazilian returned the favor with a cross that Carroll headed back into the center of the eighteen yard box but Antonio couldn’t get there first.

West Ham tried to keep possession and work their way into the game. They moved the ball around the perimeter, looking for a ball into the box. But Carroll doesn’t make those kinds of runs. Despite that, the Hammers did come close when Nasri got a shot off from a deflected ball out to him near the top of the Bournemouth eighteen yard box but it went wide. Minutes later, he was in the West Ham box receiving a short pass from Fabianski. If Nasri needed to be that far back to get on the ball, it was going to be a very long day.

There was a moment in the 35th minute when West Ham broke on a counter. Anderson had the ball about 35 yards from goal. He looked up, and Carroll was so close you could see him on the TV screen. I swear I saw Anderson raise his hands as if to say “where is everyone”? He rolled a hopeful ball into the box that amounted to absolutely nothing. But it really wasn’t his fault. Other forwards would have made a run into an attacking area. With the yellow card already collected, I hoped Carroll would be removed at halftime.

As the halftime whistle blew, the stats were damning. Zero shots on target for either side.

Yawn.

Halftime
Bournemouth 0
West Ham 0

The opening moments of the second had more than the opening forty-five combined. First, after Ogbonna gave away a foul, Cook got on the end of the set piece but Fabianski dove to his right to make a very fine save. Seconds later Fabianski had to make a second save low to his right, only that one came off of Zabaleta.

West Ham came down the other way and should have scored. Noble floated a ball into the box that Carroll headed back to Antonio. When Antonio couldn’t control it, the ball rolled to AC two yards out. The net was there. The goal was there. Instead, AC skied it over the bar. How he did that I don’t know. The physics of it didn’t make sense.

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The breakthrough came in the 53rd minute. Diop was caught upfield and Bournemouth broke with Fraser on the left. Diop did well to get back and put in a good tackle on Fraser, but the ball deflected high and to the top of the West Ham eighteen yard box. Wilson was there and caught the volley perfectly. The ball sailed past an almost motionless Fabianski.

Bournemouth 1
West Ham 0

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Tackling in the box is among the riskiest things a footballer can do. And it’s not like Noble doesn’t make badly timed tackles from time to time. But in the 64th minute, King made an outstanding run through more than a few West Ham players. As he entered the box, Noble came in sliding. He got the ball, King went down, and West Ham hearts paused. Hooper waved it off.

The Cherries came oh so close to killing the game off in the 71st minute, again on a break. After another run by King, he rolled the ball to Wilson near the top of the West Ham box. The West Ham killer beat Fabianski with a low shot but the ball clanged off the post.

Ogbonna has a history of giving away penalties. When he is very close to the attacking player, and that player is making a run across the box, it can get dodgy. When Brooks made that run, Ogbonna challenged him, and Brooks went down. I fully expected a penalty. I was relieved it was waved off.

When Chicharito took a shot from just outside the box in the 80th minute, it was saved easily by Boruc. I must admit when the announcer said it was our first shot on target, I was a little surprised. I knew we had been….uhhhh…..poor. But that was poorer than I thought.

The clock ticked away, and West Ham looked for an equalizer. Hernandez made a run and Anderson tried to find him, but sent the pass to the wrong side. I had to wonder if Hernandez, or even Silva had started, would we have had more moments like that? And with more chances like that, maybe we get a goal?

The killer blow came in extra time when Brooks picked out King alone in the box. Easy.

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Final Score
Bournemouth 2
West Ham 0

A lot of things went wrong today. The obvious one centered on who wasn’t there. But it also had to do with who was there. On the pitch. I’m not bashing AC. He plays a role. But the rest of the setup has to be tuned into that role. It didn’t help that Bournemouth are a bit of a bogey side for us. Even the wins over them have been by the skin of our teeth. In the end, we created hardly any chances, even of the half variety. That allowed the home side to earn their first ever clean sheet against us. I would have liked a result to help keep me warm with the big snow storm coming my way.

Guess I’ll have to use tea instead.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Arsenal 0. What A Good Day.

There is a 500 pound gorilla in the room. And I’m going to get it out of the way. Because I want to. And yes, it will make roughly half of you mad. I shall deal.

Marko. His brother says he wants to chase trophies in China. I know nothing about these trophies, and short of some of the greatest food available on the planet I see no reason a footballer would want to move there.

Ohhhhhh yeeaaaaahhhh. Money. Lots of money. Well, if money and soup dumplings are what float your boat, who am I to judge? I myself love soup dumplings, and I could always use more dough.

You all know the supposed offer. In the end, the most relevant point is this; if accepted, West Ham would profit roughly 3.9 million pounds. That would represent an 18% profit in 18 months. This much I can tell you. If you owned anything, whether it was a stock or a bond or a stamp and you showed an 18% growth in value in 18 months, you should be pleased. Especially if there was a decent chance that commodity would begin to depreciate sooner than later. Your financial advisor would put a sell tag on it straight away. I understand this is football, not Wall Street. But they are equally ruthless.

Even with the offer said to be on order, show the man and his brother the door.

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Arsenal.

We hardly ever beat those guys. And often going into a match, we think we have a chance. They have injuries, they are soft in the middle, all sorts of things. And then we lose. Other than the drama surrounding Arnautovic, the inclusion of Nasri in the starting eleven was intriguing. He showed glimpses of what he is capable of against Birmingham. Some pundits and podcasters lauded him to the heavens. I didn’t see it that way, but that doesn’t mean I saw it correctly. Well, he set up the winner today so I’m thinking maybe I was wrong.

The first moment of excitement came in the 6th minute when Antonio went on a run down the right, somehow kept the ball in play, and rolled a pass to Noble at the top of the Arsenal eighteen yard box. A few more touch passes around the area and Noble had space and a look at goal. But his shot was feather soft and rolled easily into the arms of Leno. Moments later Lacazette attempted a volley from 25 yards out that was closer than it looked to be at first. While I may have had a tough time waking up, the match started to.

Arsenal asked their first question of Fabianski in the 13th minute when Iwobi sent a through ball for Lacazette to run onto. The one time imaginary target for West Ham ran through the West Ham defense and got a hard shot off that Fabianski blocked but did not hold onto. Thankfully the rebound was too high for Lacazette to handle and he sent it over the bar.

Arsenal threatened again in the 22nd minute when Kolasinac broke down the right and got behind the West Ham defense. He tried to send a low cross into the box for Lacazette but Rice was there to intercept and clear the danger. Moments later West Ham won a corner, but Cresswell’s delivery was too high for anyone of human height to handle.

The Hammers had a decent spell of possession halfway through the first forty five minutes. Nasri and Arnautovic worked well together to open up space for the former Gunner but the dream of scoring against his former club curled high and wide. Then Arnautovic looked ready to slam a shot but Sokratis put in a world class tackle to thwart the Austrian. Minutes later Noble sent a long ball for Arnautovic. After fighting off Mustafi for the ball, he laid it off for Nasri. The newest Hammer showed great presence of mind to wait for Anderson to run into the box, and as he arrived the ball was there. Unfortunately for the home side, his low shot just missed.

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Funny moment here on NBC. Arlo White quoted Arnautovic’s brother, saying Marko should be allowed to go to China to fight for titles.

“Oh stop it” was the reply from Graeme Le Saux. I laughed pretty hard.

The do-over is something rarely seen outside of the playground or school yard. But in the last minute of the first half, Zabaleta won a corner. Anderson stepped up to take it, and totally flubbed it. But Moss saw tussling in the box and ordered Anderson to take it again. The do-over was much better, and Rice got under it. But he tried to direct his header into the corner, and it went wide. A touch with his forhead would have likely at least hit the target. Youthful exuberance got the best of him.

Halftime
West Ham 0
Arsenal 0

West Ham started the second half on the front foot. Anderson won a free kick 25 yards from goal. Cresswell’s delivery whipped into the box and Mustafi had no choice but to send it out for a corner. The visitors handled that set piece, but they couldn’t get the ball out of danger. Noble intercepted a clearance and got the ball wide to Anderson. The record signing ran to the end line and passed to Nasri in the box. Like in the first half with Anderson, Nasri showed that patience can be more than a virtue. It can be a weapon. A little roll to Rice, and the young man guided the ball behind Leno for his first ever EPL goal.

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West Ham 1
Arsenal 0

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The Hammers kept up the pressure with a superb run into the box by Anderson. After dribbling around close to 132 Arsenal defenders, he won a corner. Then Noble was mistaken for the ball near the corner flag by Lacazette, a mistake which earned the Arsenal striker a foul and Anderson another free kick. It was a good display for football and fortitude by West Ham.

Arsenal created a half chance in the 63rd minute when Maitland-Niles won a tussle with Anderson near the corner flag and was able to send the ball into the box for Ramsey. After trying to create some space, the soon to be Juventus player crossed to Aubameyang but his header went over the bar. Moments later Kolasinac broke down the left and rolled the ball into the box for the onrushing Aubameyang, but Cresswell tracked back and did just enough to force the Arsenal forward to rush his shot and send it over the bar. A few minutes later, Iwobi just missed with a low shot from the left side of the box. Arsenal were knocking.

The conventional wisdom is that you don’t make a substitution before you defend a corner. Granted, Andy Carroll is very good defensively on set pieces. Thankfully, West Ham didn’t have to defend at all when AC and Snodgrass came on. The corner flew out before it ever hit the ground.

As the match entered its final ten minutes, the TV presenters here said that Arsenal had won eight points this season in the final ten minutes of a match, the most in the Premier League. Pellegrini probably heard that and made the sensible switch of Obiang for Antonio. Still, Arsenal being Arsenal, the threat was there and very real.

As the fourth official showed three minutes of stoppage time, I wondered a few things. First, where did those minutes come from? Second, what happened to the final ten minutes of the half? I had written nothing. Not because nothing happened. I just watched football. West Ham were doing a fantastic job of closing out a match they would never have closed out in most years. But from back to front, let’s be clear.

We Were The Better Side.

Period.

Final Score
West Ham 1
Arsenal 0

The announced attendance was close to 60,000. We played a possession and pressing style of football. We won against an Arsenal team undergoing its own rebirth. Pellegrini has crafted the beginning of what I hope will be a West Ham team that will give us more days like today.

A good day for sure.


David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 2, Birmingham City 0. Should That Have Been Easier?

I put my hands up. With a few very notable exceptions, The FA Cup has rarely meant as much to me as a league match. Maybe that’s what the stunning levels of money in the game has created. But when it has captured me, it’s been a blast. In the mid 90’s, I remember losing to Spuds at home in the quarterfinals, I believe. I watched in a fire hazard level crowd at McCormacks on 3rd Avenue in Manhattan by my old apartment. I think Kitson scored to cut the deficit to one, and I went nuts with the Hammer next to me. 2006 was a lone venture in my house, but I did book a flight and a train to Cardiff in case I got a ticket. Which I didn’t. The refund process for the train to Wales was excruciating by the way. And Slaven and Le Snake sure gave us a good ride, although it’s hard to deny our strength in the table played a large part in me enjoying that.

So this morning, using my brand new ESPN+ subscription, I tiptoed down to my basement after feeding the cat to watch Nasri, Silva, Captain Adrian and the fellas. I obviously wanted to win. I really wanted Silva to score and be set up by Nasri. I got neither. But at least I got another FA Cup weekend with something to do.

We have a rule in our house. No food or drink in the basement. Well, I ignored that rule with my second cup of coffee so I would be well caffeinated for kickoff. West Ham started with a similar spurt, winning two corners in the opening moments. The second was from a hard shot, albeit from a tight angle, by Xande Silva. The set piece delivery found Ogbonna, who in all honesty is a useful threat in the box from set pieces, who sent a hard low header that was saved by Camp. But he couldn’t control the rebound, and Arnautovic was there to calmly use his noggin to put it in the back of the net.

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West Ham 1
Birmingham City 0

The visitors had their first moment of any kind in the 13th minute when they won a corner. Jutkiewicz was called for a foul in the box, so that was the end of that. The Hammers came back down and won a corner of their own from a deflected Diangana attempt, but the delivery sailed over everyone. Corner corner, nothing nothing.

Before the match began, the television cameras showed Arnautovic walking around with the left side of his shorts pulled up. I immediately wondered if he did that because he felt tightness. Whatever the reason, he was replaced by Carroll in the 19th minute. He did not look happy, and he appeared to voice his displeasure with Pellegrini. The whole affair could have turned disastrous seconds later when Carroll was put down by Gardner and rolled around in obvious discomfort. Thankfully he was able to continue.

While not creating any real chances, Birmingham did a good job of calming the match down and having some time in the ball. Some of that came on the heels of West Ham mistakes, but after the early goal and 88% possession for the hosts it could have been much worse.

In the 29th minute, after West Ham won a free kick and Diop forced Camp into a good save, Birmingham launched a counter that very well might have seen them equalize on another day. First they won a corner on a timely block from Ogbonna, and then Carroll cleared a Jutkiewicz header off the line. West Ham were now on their heels.

A few years ago, I had a moment on Twitter that I readily admit I felt a bit chuffed about. Lee Clayton has been kind enough to follow me, and I said that Andy Carroll is like having a boat. It’s expensive to buy and expensive to keep. But if you can afford a boat, have a damned boat. Lee retweeted it, and the big man himself liked it. Even at age 50, I rather enjoyed that. But as the first half progressed, something began to look clearer to me. As much as I like having the boat, the metaphor now includes the fact that we don’t exist anywhere near water. Without water, a boat is useless.

Birmingham could have equalized in the 45th minute when Mahoney badly beat Masuaku on the right and sent a low cross into the box. Antonio was there in front of goal to clear the ball out for a corner, but the shift in the nature of the match was complete. Birmingham were on the up, West Ham looked confused.

Halftime
West Ham 1
Birmingham City 0

The second half began just as the first half ended, with the second division side looking more likely to score than the top tier side. An early corner, then a free kick from about 35 yards out. Then a volley just wide from Jutkiewicz. Against a side with more quality I shudder to think what the scoreboard would have looked like.

West Ham won a corner in the 56th minute when Nasri ran down the ball on the right and sent a cross into the box for Carroll to chase down. Harding did well to get in Carroll’s way and put the ball out for a corner, which amounted to absolutely nothing. A minute later, Nasri’s debut in Claret & Blue ended when he was replaced by Snodgrass in a move that at least appeared like a “get this game in the books” decision from the manager.

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The Hammers looked a little more lively as the second half progressed, winning a couple of corners off the speed and guile of Diangana. But there was no end product. When a cross was needed, a little flick was attempted. When it was one on three, an ill advised run was the choice. In the other direction, Birmingham kept working and kept pressing. Even though the scoreboard said it was minute 70 and we were still in front, something felt off.

In the 72nd minute, the Hammers did launch a good counter attack with Snodgrass and Antonio at the forefront. The ball came to Antonio near the top of the Birmingham eighteen yard box and he tried a low shot that just rolled wide of the net. Moments later, Silva found himself open near the same spot as Antonio worked and let fly with a shot of his own. Instead of FA Cup glory, Silva saw his shot fly high over the bar.

Birmingham asked enough questions as the second half progressed, including two corners and multiple balls into the West Ham box, that Pellegrini decided he needed Anderson on the pitch. The pessimist in me said it was to find a winner AFTER Birmingham leveled. The optimist in me…..doesn’t really exist to be fair.

Birmingham won two more corners, their 9th and 10th of the match, in the 80th minute. The first was played out for the second by Diop, and the second was gathered up by Adrian. I started looking at the clock, something I never would have expected after a second minute goal.

West Ham could have put the game away in the 84th minute when a looping ball into the box from Anderson fell to Carroll. From ten yards out, you’d think he would at least hit the target. He would have, too. If the target were near the advertising boards behind the net.

The Hammers were given the gift of Heavy Touch in the 85th minute when Harding ran down a ball on the right side. He was alone on goal, but his first touch was too heavy and it allowed Adrian to get down and gather it up before Harding was able to recover.

Andy Carroll was literally gifted what should have been a goal by Anderson in the 89th minute. A little pass into the box by our record signing and big man was all alone. He really should have just drilled it home. But he decided to go around the keeper. That required a deft touch. Deft and Andy Carroll do not normally belong in the same sentence. This was no exception. The ball went too close to the end line and side netting was all he could find. But redemption was in the cards, and in added time Antonio floated a ball into the box for Carroll to attack. He did.

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Final Score
West Ham 2
Birmingham City 0

I’m glad we won. Of course I am. But after the incredible December run, the losses to Watford (my fault, for which I am currently serving a ban handed down by Nigel, Sean, mt friend Lester and Lester’s dad) and Burnley along with the draw against Brighton took some air out my balloon. Today didn’t help that. We need more strength at fullback. Masuaku isn’t a defender. Neither is Antonio, although he imitates one better than Arthur. Carroll, despite the goal, looks done for us. He’s a Grill Man, and we need Chefs. Pellegrini says we have a squad he’s happy with and no meaningful additions are needed in January. Practically speaking he’s probably right. We are better off waiting until the summer to do business. Relegation looks virtually impossible, which is a gift for us in and of itself. There’s only one thing left to do now.

Breakfast.


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