David Hautzig's Match Report
The fourth game of the season shouldn’t have that much significance. But as is often the case with West Ham United, normal rules don’t always apply. From a strictly rational point of view, the season hasn’t begun that badly. If you filled out some predictor sheet like I did before the fun began on August 16th, you might have hoped to bag four points from the first three league games. I thought Spurs were going to run up a cricket score on us, I hoped we would get a point from Palace, and I fancied our chances against Southampton. We played well against Tottenham, played very well against Crystal Palace, and were pathetic against Southampton. When you add in the decent football we played against Sheffield United, that’s three well played games out of four.
But rational thinking goes together with West Ham about as well a whole pig roast would do at a vegan colony. Instead, on the heels of the Saints marching all over us there are fresh calls for Sam’s head and worries about another painful season. With Liverpool coming to Upton Park next week, today at Hull had the feel of a “we’d better get something from this” game. It also had the added dimension of an opportunity to prove some kind of point after last season’s frustrating encounters. The loss at the KC on a pretty dodgy penalty for Hull which was made worse by the non call of a pretty clear penalty for West Ham. Then the odd 2-1 “loss” at home in which we scored more goals than them and were allowed to keep all three points. Probably some kind of mercy rule we had never heard of was implemented.
And finally, Mo Diame. Enough said.
The starting eleven was once again worthy of anticipation. Valencia, Sakho, and Zarate were all in from the get go. Question was, how will they be set up? Could Sam have gone through some type of heavenly visit from the West Ham gods? “Play two up front….or you shall burn in the fires of hell!” I was also happy to see Carl Jenkinson on the bench. I’m so used to the new guy getting hurt and being out for months that seeing his name was an odd relief.
There wasn’t much to the first ten minutes or so. Valencia’s first shift on the ball was in a defensive position, and he handled it with composure. The same couldn’t be said for Demel, who was doing a great impression of Vaz Te. Loads of step overs and other ballet moves that amounted to absolutely nothing, as well as less than stellar crossing. Kouyate also proved to be human by giving up possession twice in two minutes, which I suspect will disappoint a few people who wondered if the guy could possibly make a wrong move.
West Ham started to get in gear around the 12th minute, when Downing and Sakho combined on a nice run only to be disappointed at the new man from Metz’s finish. Downing and Cresswell also hooked up for a lovely little give and go. Am I seeing things? Is there fluidity? Is there movement? Is there……I can hardly believe I’m saying it…..creativity?
In the 34th minute, West Ham came ohhhhh soooooo close to scoring the opener when Valencia flicked a quick pass to Sakho, who did what strikers are supposed to do but ours don’t often do. He made a run for goal, giving Valencia a target. The pass bounced off Sakho’s chest, and Allan McGregor made a Tourette Syndrome save by wildly flicking his left arm out and deflecting the ball wide. The kinds of near miss usually instill me with fear, not optimism. I wanted to focus on the nice interplay between so many of West Ham’s players on the attack, but my mind kept going into the abyss that says “that’s gonna cost us”.
Which, of course, it did. Do you remember when Hull was promoted, watching the end of the Watford game on TV from their changing room? When promotion was assured, Ahmed Elmohamady did an absolutely absurd dance for the cameras. He looked ridiculous. And that’s all I could think of when he whipped in a terrific cross that Abel Hernandez headed home. Tompkins could have done, and should have done, a lot better at marking Hernandez. And if I must be honest…and I usually am…I think Adrian reacted slowly.
The story seemed to be in the works. Their new guy scores, our new guys don’t. And it was almost 2-0 when the aforementioned new guy for Hull forced a save from Adrian and old guy Jelovic slotted home the rebound. Offside, and halftime couldn’t come soon enough.
The second half started much like the most of the first half was played. We moved the ball well, asking more questions of them than they did of us. I wasn’t prepared, however, for what I was about to see.
Valencia got the ball about, I don’t know, 35 yards out. Moved a bit to his right, and stopped. Usually, whenever we show signs of a nice build up, I’ll move a bit in my chair. I might even stand up. Like the crescendo building, and I want to be ready for the climax. Not this time. That thunderbolt of a shot caught me by surprise to such an extent that I didn’t do anything at first. I just watched it go in. Uhhhh, brain. Wake up, brain. It’s time to react. That wasn’t an optical illusion.
OH MY F-ING GOD!!!!
I’m glad my kids weren’t around. My son has complained many times that I am too loud and scary to be around when I’m watching West Ham.
Hull put on a little pressure right after we equalized, and Adrian made a pretty pathetic attempt at punching a cross away. I wonder if “uh oh” was what went through his mind. I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, we all got carried away with our Adrian worshipping last season? As I said earlier, I think he was slow to react to the Hernandez goal. Hernandez almost gave Uruguay a 2-1 lead over Ecuador when he gathered up a ball that James Tompkins head wanted to go farther, but Adrian bailed us out. Sorry I doubted you before, sir.
In the 54th minute Tom Huddlestone hacked down Kouyate and was lucky not to have been sent off. Not the only time in the match Huddlestone was made to look a few gears slower than the game around him. It probably made Kevin Nolan smile because in comparison to Huddlestone, our man Kevo is a speed demon.
Mauro Zarate gave way for Alex Song in the 62nd minute. Not because he did anything wrong or was even looking tired. It looked like a pragmatic, sensible change to make without sacrificing skill. That’s not the kind of substitution we are used to seeing.
When Cresswell threw the ball in the way I toss laundry into the washing machine, I did lean forward. Only now it was like watching a replay of a car crash in an F1 race on the news, where you know what’s going to happen. I watched Diame say “thanks very much, I’ll take that”.Kouyate, the newly found human being in our midst, made no attempt to receive the pass, and neither center half thought it wise to close down their former teammate.
Our worst nightmare for the day, the one we would have negotiated with Lucifer himself to avoid, was upon us. And had Mo been is a West Ham shirt and the entire scenario was reversed, you know he would have sailed it miles over the bar.
Iain, I bloody hate you now. This is the time I would normally turn the damned game off and leave the room. Not an option as long as I’m doing this for you. I actually HAVE TO watch this to the end. And at that time, every West Ham cell I had told me it was over. Nothing good could happen.
I didn’t take into account that we had two players up front who had worked, and worked hard, all game. I didn’t take into account that those same two players had already developed a little bit of ESP between each other, anticipating the others moves. I didn’t take into account that Sakho could fight his way into position to get on the end of Downing’s low ball….and that it would go in.
It wasn’t pretty. It might have been an OG off of Davies. You could make an argument that McGregor should have stopped it. None of that matters. What matters is, it went in. The predictable ending, where we lose and have to listen to Sam talking about missed chances, didn’t happen. The alternative universe, where we get the occasional rub of the green, showed itself.
I like it there.
Three words we have all come to know intimately under Sam; Respect The Point. With Liverpool coming up next this single solitary point has real meaning. West Ham had 60% of the ball tonight. West Ham had more than twice as many corners as Hull. West Ham were by and large the better team. And while the difference between four points and three points is probably not earth shattering, it will likely steady the ship before Hurricane Scouser lands in East London.