This Week in Hammer’s History

Quarter final cup success and League Cup disappointment in the week 20 – 26 March in Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryIt is straight into pulsating cup action for the week 20 to 26 March in Hammer’s History.

Looking for a third cup victory in as many years West Ham had reached the final of the Football League Cup in 1966.  The competition was still in its infancy with participation optional and at the time there was no Wembley final and no European prize for the victors – both were implemented for the following season.

The 1966 final was a two legged affair between West Ham and West Bromwich Albion and going into the second leg at The Hawthorns the Hammers held a slender 2-1 advantage.    To prove that slow starts and sloppy defending are not a recent phenomenon West Brom were 4-0 up within 34 minutes with goals from Astle, Brown, Clark and Williams.  Martin Peters, playing out of position at right back, managed to pull a goal back in the second half but it was not enough and the Hammers lost out 5-3 on aggregate.

Standen, Peters, Burnett, Bovington, Brown, Moore, Brabrook, Boyce, Byrne, Hurst, Sissons

Exactly one year earlier there was another second leg tie but this time in the European Cup Winner’s Cup 3rd round against Lausanne of Switzerland.  Leading 2-1 from the away leg the expectation was that progress to the semi-finals would be a formality against the un-fancied Swiss side.  However, any notion of a stroll in the Upton Park was kicked swiftly into touch when Lausanne opened the scoring after 37 minutes.  The setback sparked an immediate West Ham reaction and by the break an own goal and a Brian Dear effort had put the Hammers into the lead.  Lausanne scored again early in the second period, Martin Peters restored the advantage on the hour, but only for the Swiss to draw level once more with 10 minutes remaining.  With the aggregate score standing at 5-4 in the Hammer’s favour it was a tense finale but just before the final whistle Dear scored again to settle events at 4-3 on the night, 6-4 on aggregate.

Standen, Kirkup, Peters, Boyce, Brown, Moore, Sealey, Hurst, Byrne, Dear, Sissons

In 2006, it was 6th round FA Cup action away to Manchester City at Eastlands.  Having only won their 5th round replay a week earlier Alan Pardew had fielded a weakened team in the intervening Premier League clash with Portsmouth (which West Ham lost 4-2).  Back to the cup and City exerted early pressure but the West Ham defence managed to stand firm and after 41 minutes Dean Ashton scored an excellent goal when evading the challenge of Dunne and Distin to fire past David James in the City goal.  To further the Hammer’s cause referee Howard Webb sent off Chinaman Sun Jihai for swinging an arm at Matthew Etherington.  Ashton then scored his second as both teams played on, despite Christian Dailly going down injured, with Deano converting a Yossi Benayoun cross to double the lead.  City pulled a goal back with 5 minutes to play but it was the Hammers who progressed to the semi-finals.

Hislop, Dailly (Scaloni), Gabbidon, Collins, Konchesky, Benayoun, Mullins, Reo-Coker (Fletcher), Etherington, Ashton (Zamora), Harewood

Another memorable game was played between West Ham and Manchester City in 1970 this time at Maine Road.  The game, played on a pitch that was devoid of almost any grass, saw the West Ham debut of Jimmy Greaves following the exchange deal that took Peters in the other direction to north London.  It took Greaves just 10 minutes to maintain his record of scoring on his debut for every club that he played for; he later went on to add a second.  The match was also notable for a 40 yarder from Ronnie Boyce when he volleyed Joe Corrigan’s attempted clearance straight back into the net.  Geoff Hurst also scored twice in a 5-1 victory.

Grotier, Bonds, Lampard, Boyce, Stephenson, Moore, Holland, Eustace (Llewellyn), Hurst, Greaves, Howe

Finally, a day that most will not want to remember was a 4-1 defeat in a 2004 Division 1 defeat to Millwall at the New Den.  It was a feeble Hammers performance against their fierce rivals that saw a Dailly own goal, Stephen Bywater sent off, two missed Millwall penalties and the appearance of riot police. Ouch!

Bywater, Dailly, Harley, Melville, Reo-Coker, Repka, Carrick, Etherington, Horlock (Deane), Harewood (McAnuff), Zamora

Notable Birthdays

20 March    Trevor Morley      56

West Ham 2 v 3 Leicester

We knew what might happen when we faced a team who hadn’t won an away game for almost a year!

West Ham LeicesterMy preview of the game on Saturday morning unfortunately prophesied what might happen in this game. We faced a Leicester side that hadn’t won an away Premier League game for almost a year. Why do we do this? They had managed just three draws away and ten defeats this season. But if you want to end a bad run of any kind, there is nothing better than facing West Ham. It happens time and time again.

If Forrest Gump’s mother had talked about our team rather than life, then she almost certainly would have said that watching West Ham is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. You certainly didn’t know what you were going to get in the first seven minutes of the game, when we were two down before we had barely started. And you certainly didn’t know that in the second half we would have Leicester under the cosh to such an extent, that we could have even pulled off a most unlikely victory. We had them on the ropes, but a mixture of poor finishing and some excellent saves from Schmeichel in goal, meant that once again we trudged away from the London Stadium disappointed with the outcome.

The fact that both Reid and Obiang, two of our better players this season, had to leave the field earlier than we would have liked, added injuries to insult, but even this didn’t stop us producing one of the most exciting 45 minutes that we have witnessed from our team this season. It’s a pity that it had to follow the first half, which apart from Lanzini’s excellent free kick, was one of the most woeful. Why can’t we turn it on for a whole game? Why do we start so slowly? Why did Randolph react so slowly to Mahrez’s long range cross cum shot? Where were our defenders when Leicester’s free kick in the seventh minute led to any easy header for Huth? Why did we concede yet another goal from a corner? How did Carroll miss such a straightforward defensive header?

Both Randolph and Adrian can produce excellent shot-stopping saves at times but neither is dominant in the six-yard box facing corners and crosses. Unfortunately there are middle ranking teams in the Premier League such as West Brom, Stoke and Leicester for example, who realise this and can cross the ball close to the goal allowing their big players (usually defenders) to attack the ball without being challenged by the keeper. Compare this to Schmeichel in the Leicester goal who came and caught, or sometimes punched clear, any cross that was within about ten yards from the goal. We have history in this area. In 1967 we paid a world record fee for a goalkeeper (Bobby Ferguson) who was an excellent shot-stopper but couldn’t deal with crosses. Our two keepers have either got to work very hard on this aspect of their game, or alternatively we need to buy a keeper with a better all-round game.

Ayew scored again, to his credit, but missed simple chances in each half of the game when he failed to find the target. Unless you can learn to shoot on target you will not score. I’m afraid that he still doesn’t convince me, especially for the fee paid for him, and personally I look forward to the return of Sakho.

It was great to see a specialised right back playing in the right back position (it makes sense doesn’t it?), and I felt Byram had an excellent game. He linked well coming forward with Snodgrass who I thought did OK, although reading many comments afterwards I am in the minority re our signing from Hull.

There were excellent cameos from Masuaku, who might well be giving Cresswell a run for his place in the team, and Fernandes who always impresses me with his skill, pace, passing and enthusiasm, although they both came on at a time when we were in the ascendancy, which always helps.

With just nine games left after the international break (oh how I hate these breaks in the season!), we still might need a win or two to be safe from relegation. Games away to Hull and Sunderland, and at home to Swansea, with all three fighting for their lives, might be trickier than they would appear on paper, and we still have to face top half teams such as Arsenal (away), Everton (home), Stoke (away), Tottenham (home) and Liverpool (home). How many teams in the top half of the table have we beaten this season so far? Let us hope that when we visit Turf Moor on the final day of the season we are not looking over our shoulders. Burnley have an excellent home record and that won’t be an easy game either. We’ve probably just about got enough points in the bag, haven’t we?

5 Observations as Hammers are OutFoxed!

A horror opening sequence, a spirited response and glaring misses as West Ham lose 3 on the bounce.

5 Things WHUHammer House of Horror

Once again West Ham were accommodating hosts to a team looking to end of dismal sequence of results.  Leicester got their first away league win of the season and maintained their record of not losing points from a winning position; West Ham maintained their average 2 goals per home game against the Foxes.  The second half performance was possibly one of the best 45 minutes of the campaign.  Such a shame, then, that the first half was down there with one of the worst.  Has there been a consistent positive showing over a full 90 minutes this season; home or away?  The opening 10 minute period was abysmal.  Cresswell’s reluctance to stay close to Mahrez was negligent but Randolph’s attempt to save was awful.  Time to rotate the gloves again, I think, and give Adrian another run.  The defending for the second goal was collectively appalling; a total lack of organisation allowing Huth and a couple of his colleagues all the space they could ever want at the far post.

Is There Even a Plan A?

Many fans got the starting eleven that they wanted with Byram in at right back, Ayew in for Feghouli and Kouyate partnering Obiang in central midfield.  Unfortunately while introductions were still being made we were two goals down and Reid was lost to injury.  The relative roles of Lanzini, Antonio, Ayew (and later Snodgrass) was never really obvious to me.  Maybe Bilic has a vision somewhere in his head of a fluid retro ‘totaalvoetbal’ approach but the players either don’t understand it or are unable to execute it.  Antonio occasionally gave the impression of being the left sided midfield player but only for brief spells, otherwise it was a no-wide-man-zone.  Leicester had a shape and game plan which they stuck to throughout whereas West Ham’s organisation was close to anarchy, particularly in the first half.  Sometimes I wonder whether the team talk goes beyond fist bumping.  The thinness of our squad was also apparent by a comparison of the two benches.  Leicester had Slimani, Musa and Gray to call on as attacking options, West Ham had Snodgrass.

More Injuries

West Ham ended the day with injuries to Reid and Obiang both of which looked bad by anyone’s standards but judging by West Ham experience look like at least 6 weeks out .  Antonio also picked up an injury that will keep him out of the England squad and the opportunity of a first cap.  Reid and Obiang have been two of our best performers this season but neither had great games yesterday before going off.  Like most I expected Ginge to be the like-for-like replacement for Reid but moving Kouyate back was probably the right decision in the circumstances with Vardy’s pace to cope with.    No arguments either with Fernandes on for Obiang.  Although he is not a holding midfielder Fernandes give the impression of an accomplished and intelligent player always looking to do something meaningful with the ball rather than simply playing it to the nearest teammate.  His introduction did coincide with Leicester tiring but nonetheless was still an encouraging performance.

Holding on to The Jewel

Having gone two goals down we didn’t really threaten until Lanzini conjured up a little free-kick magic in the 20th minute.  For a while it looked like a lifeline that we could turn to our advantage but hope was dashed by the third Leicester goal.  Carroll, normally one of our most reliable defenders at corners, completely missing the ball with is head and Vardy scoring a poachers goal in the ensuing scramble; something our own strikers were unable to emulate later in the game.  Lanzini has emerged from the shadows to become a quality creative force in midfield; always positive, looking to go in the right direction and posing problems for opposition defences.  Very quickly he has risen to the status of far too good for a team in lower-mid table and it would be no surprise if someone came in to steal The Jewel in the summer.

How did they do?

Ayew scored his 4th goal in seven games when he nodded home West Ham’s second yesterday but his performance will be best remembered for the shocking miss late on from Antonio’s pass.  With the whole goal at his mercy and the keeper stranded he inexplicably went for power and blasted over the top.  I would have to think very hard to remember an easier chance being squandered; Carroll came close in added time but you have to give Schmeichel much of the credit to  for that one.  Despite the goals I am still to be convinced as to what Ayew brings to the team with his all round game.  He is another with the inclination to play one touch lay-offs/ passes much of the time rather than getting involved in build up play.  While Ayew, glaring miss apart, did OK, Snodgrass was a big disappointment.  Played on the right because he doesn’t have the pace to go round the full-back, he continually abdicated responsibility to Byram to get a cross in.  Byram himself had a decent game and must surely have warranted a run at right back to prove himself.  Fernandes should also be given more opportunity than the usual 5 minutes at the end to show what he can do.  There was also an encouraging cameo from Masuaku which could allow the under-performing Cresswell to pack his suitcase and join Noble at the seaside for a few weeks.

Ratings: Randolph (4), Byram (7), Reid (5), Fonte (5), Cresswell (5), Kouyate (5), Obiang (5), Ayew (6), Lanzini (8), Antonio (7), Carroll(6) Subs: Snodgrass (4), Fernandes (6), Masuaku (6)

Matchday: West Ham ‘entertain’ Leicester

Lethargic Hammers attempt to prevent resurgent Foxes claiming their first away league win.

West Ham v LeicesterIt all seems rather shambolic at West Ham at the moment as the season continues on the course of a mostly uninteresting roller-coaster ride.  The anticipation of a shiny new stadium was swiftly overshadowed by poor performances on the pitch; a few lucky wins allowed a fortuitous ungainly clamber into mid-table; the saga of the sulking Frenchman dominated the back pages; a post Payet bounce hinted at a mini resurgence before a return to indifference has left the team with just one win from the last six matches.

Last week’s shoddy performance left the Chairman calling for improvements, the fans calling for changes, the manager burying his head in the sand and the captain accusing the fans of knowing nothing about football.  Now the captain has convinced the manager that he should have a holiday to recover his mojo even though he has just returned from energising warm weather training in Dubai and it is an international break next week.  It has become almost as unpredictable and depressing as the other Eastenders.

I said after they changed manager what I thought about it and still I don’t understand it.  But if you talk about results and performances they got what they wanted.  No one can say it was the wrong decision, the three results have been brilliant and the team looks different.

– Slaven Bilic

Today’s opponents are last season’s surprise champions who were having a shocking season (outside of their Champion’s League campaign) until a change of manager brought a change in fortune and two successive league wins.  They are now in the unusual situation of having a Champion’s League quarter final and a relegation battle to look forward to.   Maybe the same tactics that surprised the Premier League last term are doing the same in Europe this year.  If there is one English team that has not learnt how to combat those tactics who could it be?

Head to Head

Leicester have only won 11 of 61 away matches at West Ham.  It is a fixture where the Hammers have averaged over 2 goals per game.  History suggests a comfortable home win.

Leicester have not won an away league game all season and in none of those encounters have they scored the opening goal.  However, they have yet to drop a point from a winning position in any league match so far this season.  Form suggests a routine home win unless we concede first.

Team News

Mark Noble’s convenient dead leg injury means he is not available for selection.  Physio Room indicates slight doubts for Michail Antonio and Robert Snodgrass but no mention of Andy Carroll who looked so unfit at Bournemouth.  Otherwise it is a fully available squad with the exception of Diafra Sakho and that handful of forgotten players reported as missing in action.

It will be a brilliant occasion for our supporters and for everyone at the club but, before the players can begin to think about these games, we have Premier League matches to come that are of huge significance to our season. They will be our sole focus.

– Craig Shakespeare

It is a pointless task attempting to second guess what team selection the manager will come up with.  One would like to think that Noble’s absence will result in Cheikhou Kouyate moving to central midfield and Sam Byram starting at right back.  Jose Fonte against Vardy makes me nervous both from the perspective of pace and reckless penalty area challenges.  Andre Ayew (or anybody come to that) in for Sofiane Feghouli would appear to make sense but the final line-up may rest on the fitness of Carroll.  Expect Antonio to play in at least two different positions today including the problem wide left midfield role.

Leicester never have any injuries and so are likely to be at full strength.

The Man in the Middle

Today’s referee is occasional Premier League whistleblower Roger East from Wiltshire.  His most recent associations with West Ham were in the two cup replays against Liverpool and Manchester United last season.  In a total of 26 matches (all competitions) this season he has awarded 105 Yellow and 3 Red cards.

I Wouldn’t Bet On It 35

A return to winning ways? But will we concede a penalty?

Fancy A Bet

Our recent results have mirrored those of our team. The loss at Bournemouth took our balance down to 80 points. But we won’t give up until the money runs out! We’ll continue with our fun bets this weekend for the game against Leicester. Last week I wrote in this column that we had one of those situations where West Ham have famously assisted the opposition in the past to end a bad run. Bournemouth hadn’t actually won a league game in 2017 in eight attempts before they played us!

This time the statistic I will bring up is that in 13 away league games this season, Leicester have failed to win a single game. Food for thought, but I will dismiss the thought instantly and look forward to a home win on Saturday.

Another statistic involving Leicester is that last season they were awarded 13 penalties, way in excess of any other club. This season so far they’ve had five. That makes 18 in a little over a season and a half. We’ve been awarded 8 in the same period. And what is more we have conceded 16 in that time, which I believe is more than any other team in the top flight. So it points towards Leicester being awarded a penalty. I think I’ll go for a fun bet on that to happen and the penalty to be missed at 20/1.

This week’s bets:

10 points on West Ham to win @13/10 (23)
12 points on West Ham to win and both teams to score @7/2 (54)
1 point on Leicester to miss a penalty @20/1 (21)
1 point on Antonio to score the first goal and West Ham to win 2-1 @33-1 (34)
And for fun, 1 point on Antonio to score the first goal and West Ham to win 4-2 @350-1 (351)

After staking 25 points our balance is now down to 55 points. The potential returns on winning bets are shown in brackets. What are the chances?

West Ham v Leicester Preview

The chance for West Ham to beat a side who have reached the last eight in the European Champions League, but despite this have failed to win any of their 13 away from home Premier League games this season. Although we know what might happen when we face a team who haven’t won an away game for almost a year!

Leicester West Ham

We entertain last season’s Premier League winners, Leicester City, this weekend, although their league form this season has been, to say the least, unimpressive. To date they have played 27 league games, winning just 7, drawing 6, and losing 14. Ironically, before we played Bournemouth last weekend the Cherries’ league record was played 27, won 7, drawn 6, and lost 14. And we know what happened there, so let us hope we don’t get a repeat.

Until they sacked last season’s Manager of The Year, Claudio Ranieri, a couple of games ago, they had won just five and were really involved in the relegation battle at the foot of the table. However, two consecutive 3-1 home wins over Liverpool and Hull City have eased the pressure somewhat, and they seem to be looking upwards, although they are not safe yet. Some would say that we are not safe either, although it won’t take too many more points for this to be achieved.

The real worry though is their away form. In thirteen away league games they have picked up just three points from three draws at Tottenham, Stoke, and Middlesbrough, and lost the other ten. Anyone who has supported West Ham for any length of time will appreciate the danger I can see here. We do have a penchant for assisting sides to end poor runs of results, and it would be a shame if we enabled Leicester to double their away from home points tally in just one game.

Apart from losing to some of the bigger teams, they have also lost away at Hull, Watford, Sunderland, Bournemouth, Burnley and Swansea, so on their league form this season they are certainly not a team we should fear. But at the same time, our recent form has been nothing to write home about either.

Their salvation this season has been an incredible run in the European Champions League, where they have reached the last eight of the competition, and are the only remaining English side remaining, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City all eliminated. You couldn’t have got odds of 5000-1 on this, but I am sure that the odds were fairly lengthy on them reaching the quarter-finals and also outlasting the other English entrants.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the mini-league that was taking place between the clubs placed between 9th and 14th in the Premier League. At the time they were Stoke, Burnley, West Ham, Southampton, Watford and Bournemouth in that order. I am happy to report that a few games later the mini-league continues with the same six clubs involved, albeit in a slightly different order. Previously Stoke were 9th with 29 points, we were 11th with 28, and Bournemouth were 14th with 26. So just 3 points separated the six clubs at the time.

Now, Stoke, ourselves and Bournemouth occupy identical positions as before although the gap from first to last is now six points, and Southampton have taken Burnley’s place in tenth. I write this to illustrate the lack of change in Premier League positions as the season progresses. This season we have three distinct leagues within the league, the top 8 (although Everton and West Brom in 7th and 8th have no chance of getting into the top 6), our six team mini-league, and then the bottom six who are all fighting the drop. Although there are minor changes in the order within each of these three leagues, it seems that they are quite distinct, and teams are having difficulty in progressing from their own sub-division.

What I would like to see is for us to go on a long winning run and start to challenge for 7th or 8th, but it is not going to happen. Where will we finish? I reckon 9th (or top of our mini-league) is about the best we can hope for, and anywhere down to 14th is probably the least, although a really disastrous run could possibly see us even lower.

I have many fond memories of watching games against Leicester over the last (almost) sixty years. Probably the best goal I have ever seen was scored by Martin Peters in a 4-0 win over them in 1968. And another great memory is coming from two goals down on Boxing Day morning in 1967, to win the game 4-2 with a hat-trick from Brian Dear, and a goal from a teenage Trevor Brooking. Four days after Boxing Day we went to Leicester for the return fixture and again beat them 4-2 with two more from Dear and another from Brooking.

A little research reveals that Leicester are the team that we have beaten more often than any other team in my lifetime, a total of 37 times. However the last five times we have faced them in league and cup over the past couple of years we have lost four and drawn one. The draw (2-2) at Leicester last April was a travesty in my opinion, and yet another example of referee Moss awarding a penalty to our opponents in the 95th minute to give them a chance to draw the game. Yes, he has history in this respect. He also awarded a penalty to Tottenham at White Hart Lane in the 95th minute the season before which enabled them to draw 2-2 with us.

This time we have Roger East who I don’t believe we’ve had this season so far. I have a recollection of him officiating a Leicester game earlier this season and awarding them a penalty. But don’t be too surprised. They seem to get a lot of them.

What will happen this weekend? With no justification based upon recent form whatsoever, I confidently expect us to win, and score twice as many goals as them. So, 2-1 then, or perhaps 4-2 to repeat Boxing Day 1967.

The Lawro Challenge – Week 29

Our Lawro Challenge rumbles on as the BBC pundit extends his overall lead.

Lawro Crystal BallIn Week 28, Rich scored 6 points, Geoff 8 points, and Lawro 8 points.

Against all expectation Lawro has extended his lead at the top of the leaderboard yet again and now there is clear daylight between him and the nearest challenger. Can he be caught by the end of the season?

In this challenge we award one point for a correct result, and a further two points (making three in total) if the score prediction is spot on.

We now proceed to week 29.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 27 weeks

212

168

222

Score in week 28

6

8

8

Total after 28 weeks

218

176

230

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 29

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Saturday

 

 

 

WBA v Arsenal

1-2

0-2

1-1

Palace v Watford

1-0

1-1

2-0

Everton v Hull

2-1

0-0

2-0

Stoke v Chelsea

0-2

1-2

0-2

Sunderland v Burnley

1-1

1-0

1-2

West Ham v Leicester

2-1

2-2

0-2

Bournemouth v Swansea

2-2

2-1

2-1

Sunday

 

 

 

Middlesbrough v Man Utd

0-2

1-1

1-1

Tottenham v Southampton

2-1

1-2

2-0

Man City v Liverpool

2-2

2-1

1-1