Big Sam returned yesterday and didn’t it show, with one of the worst games I’ve seen this season. The only plus point was we won by scoring the only goal of the game but I don’t think anyone left there thinking they had had a good time, home or away fans.
Referees, the hardest position on a professional football pitch, bar none. These guys are now as professional as the players and get paid nowhere near the money. They have 30 cameras watching their every move, and are criticised for the smallest thing, that they would never see in real time. But they have a responsibility to be a as fair to both teams as they can. They also have their recently promoted “assistants”. The clue is in the title, they are there to assist, not just react to offsides and throw in’s.
Step up Andre Marriner. Apparently, one of the best refs in the league, had a shocker yesterday. I have never been to a game where the ref makes the wrong call on 3 corners, all against one side (hello assistants !). He disallowed a goal for an alleged foul by Guy Demel. He gave all manner of odd decisions in the favour of Sunderland. This played into his hands, as the WHU players started to get frustrated with these decisions and started to worry more about kicking and moaning than playing.
However there was a football game going on in amongst this ineptitude. Without the suspended Kevin Nolan, Diame came in, and showed his superiority by running nearly all the first half. Jussi was feeling the pressure and started having a pop at the fans after a poor clearance. Sunderland fought a valiant rear guard but had no teeth going forward, as Tomkins and Collins were comfortably on top. But, the disallowed goal aside, WHU made no serious attempts on goal. Jussi made a fantastic save just on half time, to stop the Black Cats going in ahead.
The second half was more of the same with Sunderland probably having the edge. They brought Jussi into action more than once, and he was equal to everything they had. Diame was very quiet, and Joe Cole was subbed off for Collision due to his half hearted attempts at being involved. He really needs to decide if his heart is in playing for this club, or if he happy picking up the wages. Another disappointment was this year wonderkid, Ravel Morrison. A couple of times he had a run at them and frankly terrified them, then would go back into his shell for 10 minutes. He needs to be more consistent. Plaudits of the day go to both centre backs who dominated all day. Especially Tompkins, who has played his way back into Sam’s starting line up. His frustrations in our play were also plain to see, as he went on a couple of 60 yards runs with the ball to try and inspire the midfield.
So 0-0 and another point to keep us just out of the bottom 3. We just need to hold on to that status until we can spend in Jan. I will be missing the next 2 home games, so hopefully we get some points (!). I missed the Fulham game and that was a great 3-0 win, so anything is possible.
MOTM, shouts to Collins, Tompkins and 1/2 of Diame. And welcome back to George McCartney who put in a sterling performance at the back. But once again Jussi held firm to keep us in the game.
I said at the start of the season that we needed 10 points before the visit of Arsenal, and we started off the day being in line with that, and with a chance of going 3rd in the prem, as anyone who is any good was playing on the Sunday.
With that in mind i set off towards London with a confident feeling of another 1-0 win ,a la Villa. The journey to UP was a little disjointed as i got to the Pub in Forest Gate to be told i had missed the lads by 5 minutes, and they were on their way. Now i know they are old boys, but they do know their mobiles are not just for answering !
Anyway, a quick trip on the 58 later, and I arrive at the Theater of Mediocrity in time for a beer (which they had got me, despite having no idea where i was !) and kick off. The game started as these seem to , with a bit of feeling out from both sides. WHU seemed to be on top, but not too keen on pushing forwards. WHU seemed to be happy playing across the back without advancing and this is one thing that gets my goat. If you want to move it around down the pitch fine, but when it gets back to the anchor (in this case, Collins), then make sure that we are further up the pitch than when that phase starts. Anything else is a waste of time. Anyway, Collins seemed to be a little uncomfortable with this. So uncomfortable infact, he tried a hollywood ball out to Taylor, miss hit it, and gave is straight to Larrson, who then put in a beauty for Fletcher to get onto, nuts Collins and put the Black Cats one up. Arrrrgggg. This is the second time this season Collins has given away goals for no reason, and still he starts in front of Tompkins.
This put WHU on the back foot for some time, but with about 10 to go in the half we started to put the chances in with Vaz Te missing a sitter on the back post, while in the air. CC put a header just over, and the “athletic” Kevin Nolan forced a great save from Mignolet in the Mackem’s goal, with an overhead volley.
WHU go in at the break with a goal deficit, but seem to be capable, if they push on a bit. But there are too many loose balls from RVT and Noble needs to play further up the pitch.
The second half was a different story with WHU having all the game, but no clinical play near the Sunderland penalty box. CC was very quiet, and the crowd are getting on his back again. I have defended this guy to the end, but they now have a point, he is getting support from Nolan and RVT, but is not making the moves that a premier league striker needs too. Along with the fact that Bramble and O’Shea were playing well, meant he had to up his game.
The lack of incisive play was apparent to BFS as well, so he brought on Jarvis and Benayuon just before the 60 minute mark. This changed things massively. Jarvis forced Gardner into an early yellow, which gave him free reign for the rest of the game, and without the stats to hand, I would say he put in more crosses in 30 minutes than the rest of the team in the whole of the game.
With 90 gone and our pressure unrelenting it looked like just a bad day at the office, right up until another Jarvis cross led to some toing and froing, and ended up with Kevin Nolan getting on the end of a loose ball to equalize. Chicken dances all round, and a deserved point for the Hammers.
Martin O’Neill suggested his team should of won 3-0. I have no idea what game he is watching. Without his centre backs he would of got an hiding. No Idea what Sam said, but i imagine it was along the lines of hard fought, no easy games,etc, etc.
So what do we do now? Sam needs to start Jarvis. Why pay 11 mil for a player of that quality and put him on the bench. Hopefully we dont have another Baldock on our books. We are not Man City and every pound has to count.
RVT. I have suggested elsewhere, that this lad is not Premier League quality, and yesterday was more proof. He looks OK when he has space, but with quicker players closing him down, he was terrible. He doesn’t have the quick thinking a player of his undoubtable talent should have. Maybe a Jan exit back to the championship for a few mil will help everyone. Talking of slow thinkers, Mark Noble. He may be Hammer of the year, he may be a local boy, but he is not irreplaceable. He takes too long on the ball, and seems to always go sidewards and backwards. Now with Diame in the team, he should play deeper, but he’s almost a 5th defender. And his obsession with taking every free kick and corner is starting to grate, especially with Nolan, Taylor and Jarvis on the pitch ! Apparently he’s getting a new 5 year contract on Monday, but if someone comes in with silly money we should move him on.
CC needs to buck up. Obviously the Carroll situation has pissed him off, but come on Carlton, move about a bit. You were an international 2 years ago, where’s it all gone ?
SAM: Jarvis must start, no negotiation, he was the best crosser of a ball last season in the prem. Why bench him now? Also Collins need to be given a kick up the arse. Play Tomks in mid week, and if he does the business, then let him start against QPR next Monday.
So for MOTM, Reid and Diame were again solid and played really well, but for his support play, his attempts at goal and keeping our unbeaten home record this season, it has to be the newer, fitter, Kevin Nolan.