David Hautzig's Match Report
During World War II, the British mathematician Alan Turing used his rather elite level of intelligence to help the Allies break the code of the Enigma machine the Nazi’s used to send coded messages. And the rest, as they say, is history. Yesterday was my turn. Sort of. Because instead of helping break a code, my best mate Jon and I had to create a code that my wife couldn’t break.
As Iain told you yesterday, I had a family event yesterday that started at kickoff. It had been planned for months, and family and friends had traveled far and wide to gather for it. Watching the game live was out of the question, unless divorce proceedings were something I wanted to “check out”. And since my wife and I were kind of the hosts of this shindig, looking at my phone during the game was also not in the cards. The same restrictions, however, did not apply to Jon. So he and I devised a plan. A code. A code of such simplicity yet genius that I am willing to bet six pence that good ol’ Alan himself would have looked at me and said “Well done, son”.
Jon sat directly behind my dad. Thus it was perfectly natural for me to glance his way every now and then, right? If I caught Jon’s eye, he would scratch his head with his right hand for every goal we had and with his left hand for Burnley. A slight shake of his head meant no change since the last scratch report. It worked perfectly. As did many other things yesterday.
Needless to say, this report will read a bit differently than my previous ones because I am writing it a bit differently. Last night, basking in the double joy of a very good time with family and friends as well as the knowledge of three points in the bag, Jon and I opened a bottle of Vineyard 29 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (ridiculously good wine) and watched the match. In some ways, it’s a useful thing to do from time to time. Emotion plays very little part. You watch in a more analytical way because the normal West Ham paranoia that takes over at 2-0 up isn’t there.
If I didn’t know the result, the first ten minutes or so would have scared me to death. Burnley were all over us. We could have been down 2-0 before I finished my first glass of vino. George Boyd deserved a goal not only for his 7th minute strike but for the skill he showed to chest the ball down and get himself into position to blast it with his left foot. A couple of minutes later Danny Ings splits us apart and fired. Adrian makes a nice save and Lukas Jutkiewicz was ruled offside on his shot off the rebound. There were times last season that I thought Reid and Collins were our best tandem in central defense. In those first few minutes yesterday, however, they looked out of synch with each other. “You got that? Wait, I thought you had him? Where’s the ball?” Not that Burnley didn’t cause some of those problems. Jutkiewicz in particular was a handful.
“I didn’t realize we were that outplayed early on” Jon said when the possession stats for the first 15 minutes or so came on. 66 percent for the home team. In fact, we really didn’t look like we had even gotten out of bed for the first twenty. But then West Ham showed a glimpse of waking up when Noble sent Valencia on a run that ended in a shot that sailed way over the bar. In the 27th minute Cresswell made the first of what would be many fine runs to send in a cross that Sakho almost put away for the opener. I know Sam said in post match interviews that he told Cresswell and Jenkinson to attack more in the second half, but Cresswell in particular looked like he had that in mind all along.
Can I get something out of the way? Hey Sky. Or BT. Or whoever did the game over there. We got it. David Moyes was at the game. And then he was still at the game. Oh look, Moyes didn’t leave! Isn’t that interesting?!?!
“Collins looks really shaky” I said to Jon at the half hour mark. I would have been very nervous about that had I watched the game live. Even Downing made a few bad passes, something I don’t think I’ve seen him do this season. Jutkiewicz and Boyd, Burnley’s two best players so far, again almost gave them the lead before Downing hit the post a minute later.
Halftime took me 30 seconds. I wish DVR’s were a bit more accurate when you fast forward or rewind. You never quite end up where you think you will so you have to go back and forth a few times. My only quibble of the day.
It isn’t often that a player from a lower division comes up to the Premier League and looks like he’s been there for years. If Sakho was a bargain at 3.5 million pounds, then Cresswell is nearly of equal value. Those two hooked up to put us ahead in the 49th minute. And while Cresswell deserves the lion share of the credit for his amazing cross, Sakho still had to be where the ball was going to make it all worthwhile. He was, and West Ham were in the lead.
When you know a goal is about to be scored and you still yell WHOA! when you see it happen it has to be a pretty special bit of play. My daughter walked into the room after Sakho’s goal and sat down next to me on the couch. Jenkinson has a post football career in propulsion and laser guided technology if his cross to Sakho is any indication. When Valencia snapped his head back to meet Sakho’s header to him, even my little girl knew it was something special. “That was amazing” she said with real excitement. I leapt up, careful not to spill my wine, and high fived her. Then she left. She will stay longer as she gets older. Or not watch at all. We shall see.
Adrian is a good keeper. I like him. I’m glad he’s with us and over time I think he will make far fewer mistakes than he has this season. But he botched the corner in a way that could rival many How To Screw Up An Attempted Catch entries in Rob Green’s highlight reel. Not to say that George Boyd didn’t deserve a goal from his overall play. He did. And maybe Ings deserved a goal a minute later when his header came inches away from leveling things. Not to be.
The introduction of Carlton Cole didn’t surprise me, and I doubt it surprised any of you either considering the options available to replace Valencia. What did surprise me was how damned effective he was. Seconds after he came on Cole almost came out of a scramble inside the penalty area with the ball in prime shooting position, then had a header cleared off the line. He was everywhere, showing glimpses of the player Zola found napping inside of him yet had all but vanished of late. Downing’s corner was great. Sakho’s header across the goal mouth was also great. But Cole’s commitment to get on the end of that Sakho pass and slam it home with his shiny noggin was awe inspiring. It was also a reminder that just when you think you have a guy figured out, you don’t. I wonder if a certain scouser in our squad will be the next “has been” to be reborn.
Downing came close to a fourth, as did Sakho. Burnley might have made the last five minutes painful to watch….live, that is….had Ashley Barnes shot from a Kieran Trippier pass not hit the bar. But it did. And we won 3-1.
Maybe because I had a very nice day with my family I was a bit more emotional than usual. But yesterdays win felt oddly special. We all know that games like Burnley away are exactly the kind of game we screw up when we either have a chance to end a bad run or kick on with a good one. The fact that we did what we should do if we are to push forward as a club gave me a feeling I don’t think I’ve had.
This thing, building a club worthy of the move into the OS, might actually work.