West Ham United 2 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Only today I read that before the game v Palace in 2002, Megson invited several very senior Albion fans into the dressing room and each one of them expressed what promotion would mean to them. I also understand that several players were in tears.
It's a funny old game. Not sure if we deserved to lose tonite. But I do know this. If we had 11 players with the desire of James McClean, we would be in the top 6. James, thank you son for the fire, fight, determination and aggression. Anyone out there remember aggression?
The sad thing is that West Ham were so bad. But so were Stoke and Everton.
An absolutely crushing defeat. It's really difficult to see a way back from here. We've lost too many games to teams around us and it is starting to look like we need a miracle. We could sign 2 world class forwards and this league is so tough and tight that I'm not sure we'd be able to win enough games to stay up.
I thought it was very harsh on us having to play twice in 48 hours with West Ham not playing for so much longer - I love the Xmas fixtures but there should really be parity, especially in games as big as this with the money at stake. I was reasonably happy with what seemed to be the starting 11 but Phillips was pulled late on with Pardew opting for Livermore to replace him. I thought it was a poor call - I'd rather have given Burke a go wide right or if he isn't trusted enough for a whole game stick Brunty out there for 50 odd minutes and then give him a go.
We started OK and looked in control for large spells without really being creative but the game was quite open. Foster made a couple of good saves and McClean, doing the one thing he is good at, carried the ball a long way up the pitch and took a punt as West Ham backed off to put us one nil up. For a while we looked better after the goal but West Ham have some expensive forwards and we were again reliant upon Foster to keep us in it.
Second half I thought we came out quite slowly without looking like being in too much trouble but out of nowhere we allowed a simple West Ham cross from deep and Carroll peeled away between Evans and Gibbs to do what he does. As good as Evans and Gibbs are - this is an area of weakness for both of them. I thought we rallied a little bit but the game got a bit end-to-end and Pardew made his first change with what I felt to be a wasted sub - HRK on for Livermore but playing wide right.
Soon afterwards Burke came on for HRK and played in a central free role and within 5 minutes had been played through over the top by Rondon but couldn't get the ball out of his feet and a glorious chance to go 2-1 up went begging.
After that it was all quite bitty and I'm afraid the same problems were there - too many players didn't have the quality for that final pass. Far too many times we worked the ball wide but instead of players crossing with the wrong foot or winning a corner we lost the ball or came backwards all the way up the pitch. When we did get corners or set plays they simply were not good enough.
The longer the game went on the more obvious I thought it would be to switch HRK to the centre and put Burke out wide because we weren't creating anything and too many times our attacks were breaking down. The one time Burke finally got wide right was in the last minute - he picked up the ball, beat his fullback and put a great cross in. Unfortunately for us it seemed like our whole midfield and Gibbs were caught in no mans land - neither further enough forwards to get on the end of the cross but totally taken out of the game as the ball went over them and up the pitch before Carroll buried it at the back post with pretty much the last kick of the game.
Cruel, devastating and possibly a killer blow.
In the end I think we have to face the harsh reality that if we could get Chadli, Morrison, Brunt, Phillips and Rondon on the pitch together for most of a season we have a decent side but we're carrying too many of our backup players who look like Championship players more with every game. Jrod's touch was terrible tonight - he's a nearly man. HRK did the odd good thing but was dreadful on the whole. Burke doesn't look ready and certainly needs games we can't afford to give him. Livermore is as honest as the day is long and did OK tonight but he doesn't see anything creatively and has no attacking instinct. McClean has a go and got a goal tonight but he can be a liability and is a stand-in at best; when he's you most creative player on the pitch you have a big problem.
There is absolutely nothing in this league between about 8 or 9 teams other than momentum and having your best players available but it just feels like we can't get either going and Pulis, backed reasonably but not generously by the board has left us with a real attacking deficit.
Being kind to Pardew, I think he'd probably pick our best team if it was available but he doesn't really know what to do when Phillips is out. Honestly I'd rather see Burke or Leko out there on the right than have to suffer Jrod running about but being kept at arms length like Scrappy Doo, HRK turning in circles than going backwards or Livermore confusing everyone including himself before going down a blind alley. None of them have been good enough to 'fill in' and it's highly questionable whether any of them are good enough in their natural positions.
I do feel a bit for the players. They did give it everything. I don't think they ever duck a challenge or stop running. The last line of hope - we only need 2 more wins than the teams immediately below and above us. I can't see it but it's still possible we can take this to the wire and get out of it. If nothing else, I'd still rather watch us playing like this and losing games having a go than surrendering them from the first minute like we were under Pulis.
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