Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Everton 1 - 1 West Ham (And Other Ramblings)

1. To Be Fair To The Lads

I don't know whether any of you had the dubious pleasure of watching this game via the wonderful medium of Setanta Sports, but it went a little something like this:

"Hi everyone, welcome to EVERTON! They're going for 4th place you know, in direct competition with LIVERPOOL! And they're both from the same city - LIVERPOOL! And next week they're playing each other - God, I wish we were showing that game. Oh well, at least we've got EVERTON this week and they've got YAKUBU and he's great. Boy, he reminds me of a guy I used to go to school with. Anyway, they're playing.....erm, Christ who are they playing Steve? Do we really have to mention them? Oh alright, they're playing........LIVERPOOL! Oh no hang on, that's next week. I really do wish we were showing that game. Oh well. I think they're playing another team who look like they're wearing white."

And after the game:

"EVERTON should have won that, eh! That 2nd Yakubu goal was onside. Someone write to their MP man, that shouldn't be allowed. Yeah, I guess that West Ham hit the woodwork twice, but I don't really like London. That congestion charge thing is not something I agree with at all. I don't think EVERTON are going to get in the Champions League now.....oh the humanity, the horror, the horror......." (muffled sobs)

2. The Portugese Man Of Peace

I like to try and plan my articles and have them follow a certain path. This helps greatly with allowing me to simply recycle old tat and pass it off as new, and in theory should help me cut down the time it takes to write these. Of course as we are in the week after Easter I'm being slowed down considerably by the need to stop every three minutes for an Egg. But I digress.

The reason why I am breaking with tradition is for one very special man. Step forward Luis Boa Morte, who tonight put in quite possibly the worst display I have ever seen in a West Ham shirt, outside of Charlie Hunnam in Green Street. To that end I am going to challenge you, dear reader, to thoroughly analyse Boa Morte the next time that he plays for us.

During that time I would like you to see if, at any time, Boa Morte has the ball under control. This may seem hyperbolic, but during this game I lost count of the times that he almost had the ball under control before giving it away, at least up until the point my retina's exploded in sheer frustration. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Luis Boa Morte did literally nothing of any value in this game apart from departing to allow Freddie Sears to come on.

I can no longer exist in a world where Boa Morte consistently plays for West Ham. Like the prospect of Robbie Williams releasing any more albums, or Josh Hartnett being in any more film adaptations of James Ellroy novels - it's just plain wrong.

Alan, please stop it. It's hurting my spleen.

3. The Statistics

Perhaps unsurprisingly the numbers for this game all suggest a very even affair. Possession was shared at 50%, along with 4 corners apiece, 3 offsides each and ten fouls from each team.

Everton shaded the shots on goal count by 7 to 4, although even that feels a little high and discounts our two efforts that rattled the woodwork.

Encouragingly Dean Ashton had 6 attempts all on his own, although less encouragingly managed to get just two on target. One of those efforts was a first half strike from barely 6 yards that he somehow put wide with the Everton back four all crowding round Phil Neville to help him with a particularly tricky Times cryptic crossword.

In short, this was the archetypal game of two halves. We were poor in the first period, although we did have some decent chances of our own, before coming out in the second half and deservedly getting our equaliser with 20 minutes to go. That we didn't go on to win says more about our ability to kill a game than it does about Everton's stoical defending.

4. The Opposition

In the week before Christmas when Everton effectively ended our season with a double over us at Upton Park, I felt then that whilst functional, they were one of the more impressive teams I had seen. Sadly for them, the long season has taken it's toll and the team we faced here were a pale shadow of the load of Masai warriors we saw previously.

With Andy Johnson absent through injury - thus proving that one can get injured pretending to be injured - and with Tim Cahill withdrawn 11 minutes into the game, and 12 minutes after being added to my Fantasy League team, they were fairly devoid of attacking ideas.

Their goal was textbook route one, with Howard clearing long for Anichebe to flick on to Yakubu who in turn bullied James Tompkins out of the way and walloped home. He was helped slightly by Tompkins misplacing his cerebrum and foolishly getting caught on the wrong side, but in fairness to the youngster that is a geometrically impressive feat given that Yakubu is perfectly cylindrical and therefore only actually has one side anyway.

Thereafter saw much weeping and gnashing of teeth after Yakubu had his second goal incorrectly disallowed, at which point the wind seemed to disappear completely from the Everton sails, and it certainly felt that our equaliser was a long time coming.

Apropos of nothing at all but the fact that Phil Neville has played over 60 times for England just highlights everything that is wrong with this country.

5. The Referee

Mark Halsey was roundly castigated by the media for failing to allow the Yakubu goal. This is largely because most people in the English media have no knowledge of football.

The referee didn't make the decision - his assistant did. Certainly he probably saw that the ball came off Anichebe and not Parker, meaning therefore if the assistant had his flag up he was perfectly correct to disallow the goal. The fact that his assistant had also misplaced his cerebrum didn't help but so far as Halsey goes, he was fairly blameless.

He also didn't award a foul against Dean Ashton at every single opportunity, as demanded by the somewhat riled Goodison crowd. I have no idea if they were offended by Deano's fetching blonde highlights, or simply his rugged good looks, but either way they were not happy.

6. The Time Is Now

Given the fact that our season has reached a catatonic plateau, the saving grace remains the appearances of youngsters Freddie Sears and James Tompkins. The latter made his debut here, and despite a few rocky moments emerged relatively unscathed. He almost had a dream start when he headed a corner against the bar after just 4 minutes. Of course, scoring from a set piece against Everton would be like trampling an elephant to death, so it was not surprising to see it stay out.

Elsewhere, he showed a pleasing composure in possession and displayed an outstanding Premier League mullet. He'll fit right in.

Sears was belatedly introduced after Curbishley lost patience with Boa Morte standing around looking perplexed by the complexities of Southland Tales, and introduced Freddie Sears on the not unreasonable assumption that a sentient being would be more useful. Almost immediately we began to show more purpose, culminating in a thumping goal from Ashton and a series of squandered opportunities that would have made the candidates on The Apprentice blush.

As the game got even more stretched we had the repeated sight of Sears running unimpeded through on goal, culminating in an agonising shot against the post with just seconds remaining. Sadly, he also decided to pay his respects to Andy Johnson with a convincing homage late in the day involving Phil Neville and a theatrical dive in the box.

Freddie, just a note. Scoring late goals - good. Diving - bad.

7. This Just In

Prolonged exposure to Freddie Sears can make Phil Jagielka sit on the floor and cry. Like a baby.

8. It Goes Ashton And On And On

Dean Ashton's equaliser deserves a paragraph all of it's own, not least because it involved an excellent piece of play by Lucas Neill to get things started. It was his deep cross that invited Ashton to soar above the truly awful Jagielka to thump home our leveller.

Given that previously this year he has been displaying all the aerial prowess of an ostrich it was certainly a pleasant surprise to see him so dominant.

His first half miss was probably a sign that he hasn't quite fully recovered his finishing touch, or an indication that he has morphed into Emile Heskey, but either way he is clearly not the player he was two years ago, but he is a hell of a lot further along than he was two months ago. And that is a cause for some celebration amidst the boredom.

9. Hey, I Forgot

In my rush to get through this weeks article, I appear to have forgotten to give you an update on Luis Boa Morte's footwear for this game. Having had a week off Luis took the daring, if ultimately misguided, decision to play this game wearing a complete scuba diving outfit. This included goggles, flippers and a full tank of oxygen.

Needless to say he was still quicker than Yakubu, but for some reason, substantially less effective.

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