West Ham’s journey into Europe continues unabated as the Hammers faced Birkirkara FC of Malta last Thursday. I was late in getting my ticket application, so for the first time in my life I was sat in the East Stand, the famous “Chicken Run”.
This meant watching football side on, as I was near the half way line, and once I got used to it, I actually enjoyed it. You do miss some of the in box action, but you do get a good idea of the ebb and flow.
This weeks opponents were a big step up from our last round match up, and seemed to be organised and have a modicum of talent. The game itself reminded me of a 3rd round FA cup tie. The plucky lower ranked club were all over the pitch closing down WHU, and kept all their men behind the ball.
That said, a stronger WHU team than played in the previous round could not breach the defences. We even had Maiga on the pitch. Like Zarate (who also played) I thought he was gone, but there he was, in the claret and blue. He had a good first half, eliciting a world class save from their keeper, and hitting the post. The were some long shots from Noble and Amalfitano, and that was that for the first 45 minutes. FCB has no shots on target at all, and were limited to 2 or 3 half hearted attacks.
The second half was more of the same, but it was becoming apparent where the issues were. Maiga was subbed for Lee, but we still were not getting the ball forward. The reason being Kevin Nolan was shocking. He was slower than usual, took an age to turn around, and even seem to struggle with passing the ball into peoples path. Everything was straight at them, making them stop and in turn getting closed down.
Consequently we had to wait until time added on, until Tomkins got this second European goal of the season, after the keeper failed to deal with a corner.
Overall a professional performance from the Hammers and I expect next week’s away leg to be an easier proposition, as the adrenaline will have left our opponents, and the need to open up if they are to stand any chance. The next round, we could be up against Inverness which for personal reasons will be interesting.