What would Christmas be without disappointment. Rubbish presents, having to go back to work, awful weather, ages till payday and it would appear that this year we have the thrill of a relegation dog fight taking shape too. But let’s focus on the football. It was a St Stephens Day full of action in the Premier League, so lets have a goosey at what happened.
Tradition dictates that we start at the Cottage, and although missing 10 first team players through injury and suspension, not winning away since we did (the opening day of last season), having ‘Mr Relegation Zone’ Avram in Charge and resembling a pub team they managed to turn us over. On his 150th appearance in a Fulham shirt Hughes nodded home the opener while having all the space in the world in the penalty area. This seemed to spur the boys on to spray a few nice passing moves around. Not wanting to lay the blame on anybodies door, but I did hear somebody say that there was no way we could go on to lose the game. But we did. Carlton Cole can’t get enough of scoring against us. He scored twice last season at the Cottage (once for us) and hit another brace this year. And with Piquionne left unmarked he scored between Coles goals.
Much puzzled faces and scratching of heads in the crowd when Dempsey was replaced with Eddie ‘goal machine’ Johnson. Perhaps it was Sparkys wishful thinking that with Johnson & Johnson up front there’d be no more tears. But that plan never came through. In my opinion Salcido again seemed lacking as did Etuhu, who for somebody so big seems to lack any kind of presence on the field.
Hughes mumbled after the game:
“In the end, it was really, really frustrating and disappointing for us because obviously it was a key game for us and one we felt we could’ve got maximum points out of.
“Certainly, given the way we started, that looked on the cards. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.”
Grant reckons the future for the East London club is bright though. If there’s one thing West Ham fans never tire of boring you with is the misconception that they’re all about bringing yoof players through the ranks. Of course they often fail to tell you that most of them are stolen from other clubs, or aren’y actually good enough for the Premier :eague, but never let that stop them. Turns out Grant is getting in on the act too.
“We played with three players under 21 and even one came on as a sub for the last three minutes.
“We are very pleased that we won but we also continued with our vision. We want to continue the direction of the club with young players,”
Sears was called back from a largely uninspiring loan period at Scunthorpe and put straight into first team action, after playing some 60 odd games with just a single goal to his name. Also featuring was Frank Nouble who managed three games for WBA on loan last year.
With all the pressure, if you believe the press (and why shouldn’t we?), now easing Sparky must be starting to feel the pressure. And assuming the insipid post match interviews and odd tactical choices aren’t some carefully orchestrated ploy to get him bought out of his contract early. But I’m sure that’s just me being negative and downbeat.
With the transfer window all greased up and ready to swing open expect a pile of players to be linked with a move to Motspur Park. John Carew (again) being the flavour of today, but Keane also being strongly linked. Though with wages around £60,00 a week you’d think that may be a bit too rich for our blood. Another rplayer I never rated was Riise, and according to reports he’s getting bored of warming the bench and could be looking to move on.
Another St Stephens Day bottom of the table clash was fought out between Wolves and Wigan. Two goals in the first twenty minutes for the Latics gave them a good footing, and despite a late goal from Fletcher for Wolves the visitors held on to take the victory and move three points clear of us in the table. Mick seems quietly confident for his team though, he said:
“There is only one way for us to go at this moment in time with the games we have got remaining and that is up, “I know ultimately there are two ways we can go, but at the moment there is only one.”
Stoke made it a hat trick of consecutive wins over Blackburn by beating them two nil at Ewood Park.Huth and Wilson were on target to give Stoke their first win in the boxing day fixtures in the Premier League.
Bolton show no sign of slowing down just yet. A convincing 2-0 home win over the Baggies leaves them sitting nicely in 6th place in the table. West Broms Peter Odemwingie missing three good chances which could have turned the game. Trotters boss Coyle knew that the game hadn’t been as one sided as the scoreline may have suggested:
“The important thing was the three points. I don’t think we ever got to our maximum in the game. West Brom were terrific, they had some great chances to score but they didn’t take them.”
Berbatov scored a brace at Old Trafford to win the points for Man Yoo without breaking sweat. SAF has now challenged the Bulgarian to reach the 25 goal mark this season. The three points keeps them top of the tree, two points above neighbours City who themselves beat Newcastle up at the other St James Park 3-1. An early goal each from Barry and Tevez poked the blues noses in front before Carroll scored yet another headed goal from a cross from Barton. The comeback was short lived though as with nine minutes to go Tevez scored his 12th of the season to put the game to bed.
The late game saw Spuds skip up the M1 to visit Villa. Despite Defoe being given his marching orders for use of his elbow Spuds raced to a two goal lead through Van Der Vaart who was buzzing. A late Albrighton goal gave the home side hope but little else. By my crude reckoning it means Defoe misses Wednesdays game, and will be back and ready to go when we travel to Three Point Lane next weekend, with ‘Arry predicting it’ll be a “great” year for the Spuds.
This evening that lot down the road travel to norf London to face Arsenal on Sky with the chance to close the gap on the Manchester dominated top two.
The home defeat to the Hammers leaves us in 18th place in the table with a trip tomorrow afternoon to the glamour capital of the Potteries, Stoke on Trent!!