The lights decended once again over Upton Park as the Premier League strugglers Aston Villa rolled into town for this midweek battle of the Claret and Blues.
We drew 0-0 with them just before Xmas, and knowing our history of being a charitable team to anyone who needs points, to be honest I expected the same.
We put out our best standing team, with Tomkins at right back sporting a nice bandage and patch combination after 12 stitches at the weekend.
After 18 minutes not much was happening and 0-0 looking more and more likely. Then Ayew, for no reason and in front of the linesman, elbows Cresswell in the face , and collects a deserved Red card. Just silly, but hey ho. At this point we had had no shots at goal by anyone and one disputed penalty for Villa when Antonio was involved in a ball to hand situation.
So, WHU stepped up and worked the extra man ? No. We played along the back, and kept Payet on the wing, and we made no real effort to break them down or stretch them. We also didn’t close them down to force mistakes. I imagine Villa couldn’t believe their luck. We had one chance just before half time, when a shot from Tomkins, hit Valencia in the head, in front of goal with no keeper, and managed to put it over the bar. Half time comes and goes and once again, Slaven has read the riot act and we start a little brighter. However Villa were putting everyone behind the ball, and making it very hard. This allowed both Reid and Collins to get forward, freeing up space elsewhere, as they had to be marked.
Then Noble , who had been getting more involved puts in a fantastic cross ball , which was met by the Head of Antonio, who found the bottom corner from a fair distance for a header. One nil. West Ham push on, and go for some goal difference. No. We kept the ball and the game was just being played around in between Villas box and the half way line. You could construe this as one of two things. We were conserving energy for Saturday away at Southampton by playing intelligent keep ball, or actually we are too slow to be incisive. I wish the former and unfortunately believe the latter.
Then with 10 to go, Valencia gets on the end of our corner clearance and runs the whole length of the pitch with the ball, lays off to Kouyate who finishes with some style over the keeper to finish the game off. Immediately Valencia gets subbed for Moses, and for the first time he seemed to genuinely have the hump.
Happy days, another win. We are now 1 loss in 13, and this was a fourth win in 6 in the prem. 6th place is now ours for the time being and we are 5 points clear of our opponents this weekend. Like Leicester, we just need to keep ticking off the weeks.
As for this game, Payet seems to be a bit ineffective on the wing, or maybe was just having a quite game. And I think I have worked out Valencia. He always has the ball almost under his feet rather than at his feet. Meaning he is off balance most of the time and as he’s quite small means he gets knocked off easier. Even with his 60 yard unattended run for the second goal he nearly lost the ball twice. I also noticed that unless there is literally no option, no one passes to him, which is more concerning.
MOTM Mark Noble, all day long. He ran his arse off, set up the opener and once again showed quality that should get him in the England team, but hey he doesn’t play for a fashionable team.