For a London Derby this was more drib-drab than ding-dong. Pretty football in places, but otherwise no real intensity or tempo to the game. It was 'Safe from relegation' v 'Happy with a point'. Was actually bored an hour into it. Still, deserved to win on the basis of having more shots on goal. Apart from a tame second-half Di Michele shot (more composure and he would have scored), and couple of efforts in the first half...there wasn't much in the way of a threat from Zola's men.
And up until the Pav for Bent substitution we didn't really carve out much ourselves. No Palacios, and if there was ever a better advert that Spurs need to fork out for a young understudy with the same type of DM qualities, then this was it. Jenas appeared to be exposed, with no Wilson by the side of him. Almost like a young lad at the fairground having lost his father in the crowd. He seemed uncertain where and what to do without assured protection and confidence. No rollercoaster ride for Jermaine today.
What also lacked in abundance was dictation of tempo. Huddlestone started the game in the middle of the park. I should have guessed he'd be preferred to Zokora after Harry's comments to the press, complimenting Hudds 'quarterback' qualities. This was an opportunity for Tom to shine. Or if you're more cynical, the perfect 'shop window/increase value' showcase with the summer edging that little bit closer.
It was no Superbowl performance. But it wasn’t a bad effort. Tom's superb passing was evident as always along with his sweet strike of the ball. And he got forward more in the second half after Zokora replaced Jenas. Zoko's work rate allowed Huddlestone to roam a little more. Not sure if this was a tactical decision or one forced by injury to JJ, but either way - it worked a treat.
Hudd wasn't that shabby himself with defensive duties either and although it was no masterclass he showed enough to warrant a start alongside Palacios. He'll never cover more ground than Jenas does, but with Wilson protecting him he might find himself with far more time to ping balls and disguise passes to his heart’s content. We’ll have to wait and see if he gets the opportunity.
Bent, having performed admirable in recent games was back to his comfort zone, touching the ball once every twenty minutes. He came close with a header, but did little else. But that’s his game. Don’t get involved, but have a chance or two and sometimes score.
Lennon was also ineffective. Loads of running but no final ball and should have scored late on. It’s difficult to assess this. Has he been found out again? Much like two seasons back when he was tightly marked out of games? Or has his form simply dipped a little? Which happens, which is why I refuse to go all knee-jerky and suggest his England performance has gone to his head or that he’s been ‘found out’. He got himself into decent positions yesterday, maybe didn’t turn and run into space for Corluka to play him in as often as previous games but on an afternoon when the skies were grey and dark – so were one or two performances down on the pitch.
Keane spent most of the match deeper than Linda Lovelace. He was poor. And there was no moneyshot forthcoming.
The two obvious positive stand-outs were Gomes and Modric. No surprise with the latter - he oozes class. By no means a vintage performance, and took a while to settle in what was an untidy game early on. Created, always involved and hardly wasteful. Also set the goal up for Roman. Gomes was assured and confident. And didn’t falter when coming for crosses.
Prior to the introduction of Pav, I had this unnerving feeling that we would not score. ‘Just one of those afternoons’. And the longer the game goes on the more ominous it begins to feel. Then on came our Russian forward and the difference in class between him and Bent was evident almost immediately. Thanks to Guss for his kind midweek words.
Just a little touch of class was needed and it come with a wonderful finish. He actually looked good holding up the ball and linked well with the midfield. He got involved. Which is what you want from your forwards to do. It was a committed performance and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t start next weekend against Newcastle.
Even though the game was drib-drab in parts and lacked the usual blood and thunder of games of this ilk, I can’t complain about Harry’s tactics and selection or the performance as a whole. We were not bang on it by any stretch of the imagination, but you never felt West Ham (apart from one or two moments) ever had the capacity to brush us aside. Pretty passing, but also clumsy at times. Was impressed with Collins at the back and Noble in midfield. They were however, very much missing the touch of Carlton Cole up front (who would believe that sentence would ever make an appearance in a match analysis?).
Zola and Clarke should be applauded for the job they’ve done at Upton Park. Considering the players sold, they’ve not done too bad with the players they’ve been left with. As for Europe, Man City probably have the best chance to finish 7th based on the fixture list. We have to win our remaining home games, as the away days left are just a tad daunting. How would West Ham cope with the Prem and Europe if they managed to sneak it depends on how much money they have to spend on players in the summer. It could be too much for them. As for us, I wouldn’t say no to Europe, but then will probably change my mind again tomorrow. Would like the Prem to be a priority next season. Would be nice to spend it in 6-5th place from the start rather than struggle with another mess like this one.
Before the game kicked-off I told the chap next to me that I expected us to win. He agreed. When you have multi-million pound players in your starting line-up against a side that has to field a loanee and a Bosman with an academy player coming off the bench, you have to fancy your chances.
The day was complete when Redknapp reminded everyone about Two Points, Eight Games© in the post-match interview. Delighted. Our home record has been rather outstanding. Sure we haven't quite hit the giddy heights of last seasons ridiculous goal frenzy, but we are not conceding many at the Lane. Fortress WHL? We can only hope.
Something else that should not go without a mention was the penalty shout in the first half from the home support when it looked like a Claret and Blue defender handled in the area. Cries of handball rang out around the Lane and the West Ham fans lapped it up, shouting ‘Handball!’ every time a player touched the ball (something that began at Man City). It's the type of cheek you can’t help but smile at, even if it’s coming from the Green St lot. If it wasn’t enough that we went 1-0 up, the footballing Gods decided to stick a cherry on top and late on when there was a similar incident in the Spurs area and West Ham fans screamed ‘Handball!’ in desperation – a cue for us to spend the remainder of the game dishing it back at every given opportunity. There were still shouts after the game, in the streets outside and on the train’s home.