1. Department Of The Obvious
I don't know about you, but I think our title challenge is over.
2. A Rant
On one hand it is incredibly churlish to get upset at losing to Newcastle. We never win there, in fact not that many people ever win there, and we've all still got our health.
But, Sweet Jesus, but, how did we not do better than this? Let's just take a look at the opposition: their best goalkeeper (Given) is inexplicably on the bench, their best defender is non-existent, their best midfielder (Barton) is injured and their best striker (Owen) has hamstrings made of chinese noodles. These aren't exactly the most fearsome foes around.
Now I'm not suggesting for a minute that we deserved to win this game, but I am saying that performances like this are exactly why West Ham will not be breaking into the upper echelons of English football any time soon. Here was a team ripe for the taking and we simply didn't have the ability to put them away.
Maybe it's the players, maybe it's the manager, maybe it's the juxtaposition of Mars and Venus but I'd have to guess that it is something more intangible than that.
Whatever it is, at some point, if we are to progress as a club then not losing games like this would be a fine place to start.
3. The Statistics
On the face of it, losing this game 3-1 would seem to be an impossibility. Newcastle managed 4 shots on target and scored with three of them. This is either good finishing or appalling defending, and considering that each goal was scored from within our 6 yard box I'd have to argue that it was the latter.
On the attacking front we mustered 15 shots to the home sides 12, of which 8 were on goal. For an away side that's actually a pretty decent showing, but yet another frustrating example of how our own shortcomings contributed to the defeat.
Despite all of that we only had the ball for 43% of the time, and truthfully didn't look all that flash while we did. Hey, it happens, we go away from home and don't play all that well. I can deal with that, but seriously - allowing Charles N'Zogbia to score? That's just silly. Stop it.
4. The Opposition
Say what you like about the Geordies but they know how to punish abysmal defending. Incredibly we actually fashioned a chance of sorts for Lee Bowyer in the 90 seconds before we conceded, but sadly, Lucas Neill decided that 1 minute into the game was the perfect time for him to embark on a pitch long mazy dribble past the entire Newcastle team. Tragically, if unsurprisingly, he got about 5 feet, was dispossessed, and from the resulting cross Mark Viduka nipped in front of Ferdinand for the opener.
Quite what that sa -
Hang on, back up a minute "Mark Viduka nipped in front of Ferdinand"? I'm afraid that Mark Viduka does not "nip" anywhere. Yes, he may well waddle or trundle or maybe even coagulate, but he sure as hell doesn't nip anywhere.
Being outmanoeuvred by him is proof that you pretty much have less mobility than an inanimate object. Nice going Anton.
(*) This interruption was brought to you by The Grammar Police
4. The Opposition (cont)
So anyway. They don't look any different than before. Michael Owen puts a nice full stop on things but he's not much help if he's dead.
Alan Smith is a curious mix of carbon dioxide, water, anger and Ryvita's.
5. The Referee
I have yet to see a game refereed by Mike Riley that didn't leave me puzzled. I have no idea what Riley sees when he's out there but it sure as hell isn't the same as me. In general there weren't very many controversial moments in this one but he did annoy me by allowing Nicky Butt to maul Mark Noble and then awarding the free kick to Newcastle.
Note to Mike Riley: Shoving people in the face is not allowed. Even for ex-Manchester United players.
And while we're on that topic, I would have liked to have seen Alan Smith booked for his late attempted 35 yard strike on goal. I mean, I'm all for guys trying to better themselves but come on - you're Alan Smith! Some self awareness, please.
6. Important Note
Does anyone know if Newcastle always come out for the second half to "Just When You're Thinkin' Things Over" by The Charlatans?
They have excellent taste if they do is all I'm saying.
7. Cole Patrol
Carlton Cole took it in the neck again. I can't deny that I'm finding all of this a little surprising. Sure, Cole is rather more lumbering donkey than thoroughbred and his Chelsea history doesn't help him a great deal (the Aston Villa bit offends me more, but I'm mercurial), but he is our player none the less.
More than that even, he has now directly assisted for 4 goals this year. Given that we have only scored 9 league goals, I'm thinking that this would make him a relatively vital part of the team at present.
I'm on record (Do you like that? Yes, there's a record, and by Jove I'm on it) as saying that booing isn't really my cup of tea but I accept that others feel differently. I'm just not sold on this particular hate figure.
OK, yes, there are gaping holes in his skill set, but he's our 5th choice striker - how much do you really expect from the guy?
It's either him or Luis Boa Morte. Ahem.
8. Great Strike
Kudos to Dean Ashton for a marvellously well taken goal. Can I whisper that it was a nice flick on by Carlton Cole? No.
9. Not So Great Strike
Just how well did Viduka strike his second goal? After three television replays it was still unclear as to which foot Viduka had used to score. Indeed this might very well be the first recorded instance of a man scoring whilst kneeling down to pray.
10. What's Upson?
Here's a little conversation I had with myself on Sunday:
HeadHammerShark: "Alright Shark, you're looking well, been working out?"
HeadHammerShark: "Excellent, what do you think of Matthew Upson then?"
HeadHammerShark: "Well, I like the general concept of Matthew Upson, but I struggle somewhat with the actual product"
HeadHammerShark: "Really? How so?"
HeadHammerShark: "He's big and strong, has nice hair and an impressive beard. What's not to like on the surface of things? But then you dig deeper and you realise that there is no pace, poor distribution and I just begin to wonder what he has that James Collins doesn't"
HeadHammerShark: "God, you're a clever bloke, I'd never thought of it like that"
HeadHammerShark: "And modest"
HeadHammerShark: "Yeah, OK, and modest"
HeadHammerShark: "And handsome"
Mrs Shark: (suspiciously) "Who are you talking to?"
I do have to ask the question - why was Ferdinand (small, pace of a cougar) marking Viduka (burly, pace of Ry Cooder)? And conversely why was Owen (small, pace of a cougar) being marked by Upson (burly, pace of a dead Ry Cooder)?
This combination could not be classified as a success after all.
Some of you may have noticed that just before the preview for this game went out, the site received it's 10,000th hit. Leaving out visits from my family and friends, this means that there are at least 12 other loyal readers out there somewhere.
Using the scarily intrusive power of the Internet I have been able to determine that the said visitor logged on using Comcast Cable and lives somewhere in middle America. They didn't arrive via a Google search so they might actually have the site bookmarked. Whoever you are, I salute and thank you. If you'd like to introduce yourself please leave a comment telling us your name, how long you've been with the firm and perhaps one amusing thing that the rest of us wouldn't know about you.
Most websites would offer a monetary reward, but I have none. If you would like me to mock a Premier League player for you, that could be arranged, however.
(Clue: Michael Dawson always goes down well on that front.............)