West Ham United 1 - 1 Everton
It was hard to realize that, barring a cup draw against them, this was the last time we would visit Upton Park (I could never get used to calling it the Boleyn ground) but, once the game started in the wind and rain, such things as that were lost as we fretted with the ease WHU were getting down our left hand side. As early as 2 minutes in, we got cut apart as Moses was put in and his speed and strength was a bit too much for Galloway but luckily he was just wide with his shot.
Much talking and gesturing was going on in our defence as they had started much faster than us. It looked like we were sitting in and looking for the quick breaks and we did fashion one on five minutes by getting Kone in down our right; his excellent cross just evaded the head of Lukaku. WHU charged back at us and the cool Stones lost his cool to panic as he made a hash of a simple clearance yet immediately regained his composure and strode out with the ball in elegant fashion.
Galloway was getting a bit of a roasting from Moses but he was sticking to his task better now, especially with the help of the excellent Barry from time to time. As the quarter-hour mark passed, we were coming to terms with the home team onslaught and the game was getting more end to end. Barkley got himself to the edge of the box, swivelled and hit one but straight at the keeper; then 5 minutes later we got a free kick and took it very quickly and Kone was given a shooting chance in the box but his powerful shot went swerving wide. At the other end, Moses was still causing Galloway trouble and the youngster fouled him for about the third time but luckily for him no card shown.
Deulofeu was showing well now and was becoming a constant thorn in the side of the hosts with his direct running varied with some fancy cross-overs and good crosses that WHU defence dealt well with. Stones was stepping out into the midfield doing a bit of playmaking so the fans sang Money can’t buy you Stones. The Mori was at it raiding down the left, we will have to have a song for him. As the half hour mark was reached it was quite a ding-dong battle with us relying more on the break were the Hammers were more up and at it.
What I was surprised with was for all of the WHU pressure Andy Carroll was mainly anonymous and wasn’t needed when Moses yet again did Galloway and put in a cross that we blocked and cleared... but not far enough as Lanzini picked it up on the left, cut in and curled a beaut over Howard's head and into the top corner. No fault on Howard’s part in that one, it was just a perfectly executed goal but a right downer for the faithful. Still, I thought, here we go... another game to come back in. Well I hoped so!
I thought Barkley was doing well in midfield in wanting the ball and moving forward with purpose but, as their 18-yard line was reached, his pass decision and final ball were woeful today. I counted six occasions when his choice of pass was little more than a pass to their defence; however, if that can be worked on and improved and he can use a little more urgency and arrogance, then we may yet have a super player in our ranks.
Maybe he can take heart from Deulofeu who has certainly upped his game and was getting good results and appreciation for it. He had been a menace most of the first half and, as the clock ticked to half-time, I was hoping to keep the 1-0 score-line and regroup for a second half blast. But that thought was redundant when, on half-time, Deulofeu picked up a clearance from Barry and strode forward to the half-way line and delivered a peach of a pass that carried just the right weight to take WHU defenders out and play Lukaku in. The big Belgian reprised his goal from last week by calmly going around the keeper and slotting home. The faithful went ballistic and Lukaku was with them. What a pass from Deulofeu!
Two minutes were added and, as the last of these minutes were being played out, WHU hit a long one over the top with Andy Carroll after it. As he was gaining on it, the Ref blew up, much to the delight of the Blues fans and the ire of the claret and blue fans. Quite comical that, I thought.
Half-time: 1-1, and a good half of football. WHU just shaded it yet over the piece but I thought we looked the more likely. The half must have been quite even as people’s interpretation of it varied wildly.
We kicked off the second half and we got a free kick early but Barkley took a poor one and many a voice was raised in requesting he be relieved of set-piece kicks. Then the player who pulls the strings for WHU, Payet limped off leaving our fans quite happy but their fans not so.
The game was settling into one where both teams want to win yet neither want to lose so the play reflected this; as soon as an attack broke down for either team, their first thought was get back behind the ball rather than trying to win the ball back higher. WHU had the first really dangerous move and a cross from the right went right across our box and eluded everyone.
On 57 mins (I checked my watch!) Howard charged from his line and grasped the ball ending any danger. See he can do it!
From the hour mark, the game got sort of sloppy and we saw end-to-end stuff with no end product. WHU did have an attack that we defended but only to their goalscorer Lanzini who shot strongly but Howard tipped over in good style. From the corner our keeper was off his line like a train, taking all before him, Ã la Southall, and got a free kick to boot. We used this break in play to replace Kone with Mirallas. In the next WHU attack, Coleman takes no prisoners and the sub Valencia limps off, limps back on and lays down and is then stretchered off... No quarter asked for nor given in this game. He was clapped off though.
We then had a decent spell without really troubling the keeper. Then back came WHU for their turn and in one attack swung in a cross from a dead ball situation; it was their centre-back who rose highest and headed just over the bar. Then we had a go and Mirallas did well to win the ball near halfway and progressed to the edge of the box but, on looking up, not much was on, so he played it back to the supporting Barkley who looked up himself. With all avenues blocked, he fed the marauding Funes Mori some 35 yards out and the Argentinian took on the shot which was high... very high, talk about being optimistic!
Deulofeu took things into his own hands and ran right at them at pace whilst twisting and turning. He got along the by-line but unfortunately the best he could get was a corner that was cleared. On 80 mins, his race was run as Lennon replaced him as he got tremendous applause for his slow walk off arms aloft clapping as he went.
The clock was ticking down and it looked like we had settled for it bar a quick burst forward without overcommitting came off. Their right back had run at us and we laid off enough to get the ‘gee up’ from those assembled from L4. He got a shot in though and Howard was grateful it was low and straight at him.
Near the end, we had 5mins added, Galloway galloped away down our left and fed in a measured low cross that saw Lukaku come across his man to the near post and his stretch sent the ball just the wrong side of the post, some thought it was in it was that close. We then got a free kick in a dangerous position but all that did was reinforce our need for a change of kicker.
The half ended similar to the first with a WHU attack that saw them gain a free-kick in a dangerous position only for the Ref to blow time just as they were about to take. 1-1 and considering both teams' displays and a goal for each side that was worthy of winning a match, then I suppose you can say a draw was a fair result.
MotM: Deulofeu or Barry
A good display in patches from us. Galloway grew up a little more this afternoon as Moses was a fast, strong, rough opponent who knew how to gain a free-kick from a rookie. Fair play to Galloway: he stuck to his task and by the end was performing much better. The game also exposed our need for what I call a good ‘schemer’ who would know how to use the talent we have in other quarters. Barkley has talent but experience in such matters as directing the pace and ebb and flow of a game has not yet been gained. We must hope he develops so we must give him encouragement.
The games up until the end of December look to be ones we can gain points in, but a quick look at the fixture list and you see Palace, Leicester and Stoke, you soon realise it's not all plain sailing and top form and attitude will be a minimum requirement. Still let’s go for it. See you after the international break; I hope our participants do well and return in one piece.
UP THE BLUES