Stoke City v West Ham United
Saturday October 17th. 2009
Mystical Descent’s Matchday Review
First off, the ratings:
Sorensen – 6 – At fault for the goal, but made up for it with some safe hands.
Huth – 8 – Strong, reliable, powerful in the air, firm in the tackle.
Shawcross – 10 – MotM, I don’t know what more he could have done today, absolutely superb.
Faye – 6 – Not his best Stoke performance.
Collins – 7 – First competent game he’s had for Stoke.
Delap – 7 – Excellent job defensively and not his worst game on the ball either, but doesn’t offer as much on the right as Lawrence.
Diao – 8 – Where’ve we had this bloke from?
Whitehead – 7 – Perfectly reasonable game.
Etherington – 7.5 – Gave away possession a lot, but much better today, much more effective.
Beattie – 8 – Won a lot in the air but I never felt like he was pulling his weight. Can’t argue with 2 goals though.
Fuller – 9 – Superb performance, tore their defence to shreds.
Lawrence – 7 – Should have started.
Whelan – 6
Kitson – 6
Referee: 4 – The penalty was about the only thing he got right.
What a superficial beast the Premier League is. How long have we been told how wonderful West Ham are and how silky their football is? I’ll tell you what I saw out there – a shallow team that flattered to deceive. Lots of tippy-tappy football and a modicum of attacking flair, but absolutely no substance. We work on an intricate defensive system of covering, marking and responsibility. West Ham go out, tippy-tappy it, lose the ball, give the opposition lots of time to do what they want and fail to do any tracking back. Asides from Carlton Cole, who was excellent and who I would fully advocate making the England team ahead of Heskey and maybe even Davies, their team were very, very poor. What makes it all the worse is that they’re on the receiving end of eternal praise from all corners of the media and it really does sum up the superficial nature of the league today. They were typified by that number 32, Diamanti. A very, very mediocre player who looks reasonably comfortable on the ball but has no defensive ability and so resorts to cheating. Shawcross was booked for nothing. He was even a yard past Diamanti when Diamanti clutched his shin and audibly screamed like a little girl. How sad it was that the referee, instead of kicking him in the face and sending him off, indulged his precious little antics. What’s even worse, nobody will bat the slightest eyelid at it and soon enough he’ll be praised for his lovely tippy tappy again. It’s a sad, sad indicator of the modern values in football.
As for the game, I thought we were worth the win. Bizarrely, West Ham backed off us and gave us plenty of time on the ball and we started very well. Whitehead and Diao were putting in good challenges and ensuring that we kept possession, while Delap was actually managing to make a bit of a nuisance of himself on the right. A fantastic little move down the left between Collins, Fuller and Etherington led to the penalty and from where I was it looked like the right decision. A fine move and a perfect penalty from Beattie. Somebody tell the gutless Gerrard and Lampard that instead of tapping the ball straight into the goalkeeper’s hands in penalty shoot outs, all they need to do is smack it hard and high into the goal. Perfect technique that a lot of players could learn from.
After the goal, things got a little flat. I still felt that we were the better team but we sat back a little bit and weren’t creating anything. Delap was having constant chats with the physio about something and the bench were clearly concerned, but I thought we were still quite comfortable and West Ham looked a shambles. Then they won a corner, which I found strange as I thought that firstly it came off one of their players and secondly it went for a throw-in. Sorensen came for it and didn’t get it and somebody lost their man, who headed home comfortably. It was disappointing and we didn’t really get going again in the half.
Happily, when we came back out we were back in control of the game and I felt we dominated the midfield. However, Diao was on a booking and Beattie was looking increasingly tired. Were I the manager, it would have been Lawrence and Kitson on. Even so, we had our moments and we put together one good move in particular. We brought Lawrence on for the injured Delap, although as I’ve already said I’d have brought him on for Diao and moved Delap back inside, and his impact was as instant as ever. It invigorated us and almost instantly Diao (the subject of much criticism around me) played a good ball to Fuller who did his man for pace and trickery before getting his shot in. England’s number one then pulled off a real clanger and dumped the ball right in front of Beattie, who’d run an absolute mile to only just beat the defender to the ball. After that it was all Stoke and again pretty comfortable, we could and perhaps should have scored more as Fuller broke their lines again and again. Plenty of comedy as well, as we wheeled out more and more players with a long throw. Diao, Beattie and then Huth, fantastic stuff.
Now a mention for Whitehead and Diao. I thought they both had good games today. They kept the ball pretty well and won their fair share of balls as well. Whitehead has suffered an awful lot from being targeted by the Whelan mafia for providing a threat to Glenn Whelan, but I made a special point of watching him today and he put in a perfectly acceptable shift. They were particularly good at the start of the game, when they kept possession well and were consistently finding the wide players. Maybe it was because West Ham gave us much more space than every other team, but I didn’t have any real problem with them.
I’ve got to have one little moan though and it’s not one that I like having to make. I’m not a fan of criticising my fellow fans and I’m likely to get hammered for this, but we were very poor today and I don’t know what excuse everyone has? We got straight out of the blocks, took the lead and were looking very good, we just needed some extra backing from the fans to carry on the momentum. Instead, everyone just shut up, it was silent for most of the first half. Why? Apparently it’s a two way thing and the team did their bit. Do we now not make an atmosphere if its cold? If the manager doesn’t pick the team that we want to play? If the manager leaves out Tuncay or Whelan? I’m sorry, but after all the people who responded to Pulis’ rallying letter saying ‘the fans will respond if you give us something to shout about’ it was a real blot on the day. Perhaps worst of all was when we put together a decent second half move involving most of our players, including Whitehead, Diao and Delap. I can’t remember what happened but there was half a chance and the ball went out for a goal-kick, but instead of urging the team on further or offering encouragement, the fans just chanted for Whelan. Glenn bloody Whelan. Not Kitson. Not Tuncay. Not Lawrence, who came on and changed the game. Glenn bloody Whelan. Absolutely ridiculous. I seriously hope we pull our collective finger out of our collective arse for the next home game and make the ground properly intimidating.
I don’t want to end on a negative note though after what was a good performance and a well deserved win. We shouldn’t finish below West Ham next season at the very least.
A good win, very proud of the team and here’s to a week of shutting the fuck up about Tuncay!