1. Let's Accentuate The Positive
The good things about this game: We scored!
The bad things about this game: Everything else.
2. West Ham Kryptonite
Kevin Davies and Roy Hodgson looking as uncomfortable as two humans can possibly be after Davies joins Blackburn for £7m. No really - £7m.
Rather like the police captain from Casablanca I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that Kevin Cyril Davies scored against us once more. This takes his tally to 7 in his last 7 games against us. I will continue to suggest that we buy him, simply so he can never be on the opposing side for the rest of his career. I estimate this would cost £2m (slightly up from my last suggestion of £12), or approximately 0.4 Boa Morte's.
Consider this - we all exist in a world where Kevin Davies would score 38 goals a season if he only played against West Ham.
3. The Statistics
If you're looking for crumbs of comfort from the game in which we allowed Bolton to complete the double over us, then this might be the only place you'll get some solace. Before you get there though, consider that in the post Allardycian era Wanderers had "doubled" only one team (relegated Reading) before we arrived, gift wrapped, shivering in the frozen North and displaying all the killer instinct of a bunny rabbit.
We actually had 62% of the ball per ESPN, and mustered 20 shots at goal, with 8 on target. By contrast the home side had just 11 attempts, with only 4 testing Robert Green. Tellingly, 7 of these shots were taken in the first 25 minutes, highlighting the two distinct phases of this match - the early part, where we defended like we had a nice sideline going with a Malaysian betting syndicate, and the remaining 70 minutes where we played quite well but with no cutting edge.
David di Michele and Carlton Cole had as many shots between them as the entire Bolton team, but they simply don't have the all encompassing power of Kevin Davies' elbows.
4. The Opposition
Exactly how sarcastic can I be about a team who beat us so regularly? Seriously, 5-2 over the course of the season. And 3 of the goals scored by Kevin Davies. Ay Carumba.
Credit where it's due, I respect the work ethic of a group that is so stunningly average in composition, and I certainly respect the ability of Matthew Taylor to score tremendous goals, and to do erm, well, absolutely nothing else.
But, I mean come on, here is a football team that plays ostensibly using their elbows and sharpened studs. Gary Megson referred to his sides second goal as "well worked" when, as far as I can tell the main pass was made by Johan Elmander with his back turned to the play, and more in hope than expectation. Either way, I don't rate their technical skills all that much, but they work hard and they battle for each other and it wouldn't hurt us to add a little of that to the mix.
5. The Referee
I must protest. The elbows of Kevin Davies are not a legitimate tackling aide in the game of Association Football. Steve Tanner appears to disagree with me.
6. A Noble Quest
At 2 down in the first half we had a great chance to get back into the match when Mark Noble was sent through on goal with nary a defender in sight.
As he appeared to hit a patch of quicksand, he decided to forget the notion of scoring and instead attempted a pass to Jack Collison, who was several yards offside at that point, and also marked by a defender. If it is possible to peer into the mind of another human and see exactly how much confidence they have, then I believe that Noble is running on empty. In the current system, with no wingers and no flair players, Noble is all important, and right now he seems to be labouring badly.
I swear it's the lack of high fives.
7. Welcome Back
Whilst all around him were playing like drains, Scott Parker took a firm hold on this game and nearly single handedly dragged us back into it. It was his goal, nicely created by Jonathan Spector after a granite like first touch from Carlton Cole, that signalled our revival, and he was absolutely clattered in the build up to David di Michele's late miss and probably should have had a penalty.
For a couple of years I've been wondering exactly why we paid £6.5m for Parker, and this game gave a nice glimpse as to what we may have been thinking. Perhaps he is fitter these days, perhaps he has a better understanding of what is required of him, perhaps he's had his legs sorted so that he no longer wheels around incessantly, but there is little doubt that he has been our best player for quite a while now.
8. A Brief Interlude
I won't attempt to describe David di Michele's goal attempts in too much depth, as I'm not sure that the English language has the requisite words.
Suffice to say that if you missed his first half exercise in squanderosity, then believe me when I say that it was less an attempt on goal and more a full scale challenge to the laws of physics.
I can't write a review of this game. 4,000 West Ham fans went North in pursuit of life, love and happiness and instead came back shell shocked as Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough!) outplayed us to pick up their first win over a Premiership team in 15 games.
One observation about both this game and the Bolton match that seems to be relevant is that once our initial approach wears off we don't appear to have a back up plan. Both games were similar in that we found ourselves 2-0 down before I'd even had a chance to slag off Stewart Downing, and yet a closer assessment tells us something quite interesting.
In both games the opposition scored a tremendous free kick, and then followed up by capitalising on some truly egregious defending to score a second. The first type of goal is a fact of life at this level, and at times you have to shrug your shoulders and get on with things.
The second goals, however, were an example of how teams such as these score - get the ball forward and put pressure on the opposition back four. The crucial part of this is that it doesn't require an awful lot to go right other than a long punt and a bit of pressure. Sure, against better teams it will fail more often than not, but then it's not really unfair to suggest that Bolton and Boro fail more often than not against better teams.
Contrasting with that is our new approach, whereby we are attempting quick, short passing from anywhere on the pitch. I'm not upset at this, by the way, but my point is that a lot more people have to do something right for it to work. Therefore, on collective off days, like the one at Boro, we can look utterly impotent.
None of this is to suggest that we don't score crappy goals ourselves, or that we are the second coming of the Magical Magyars, but without a Di Canio or a Joe Cole type, it does mean that we require a collective piece of inspiration rather than individual...