Hammers boss spins more impressively than the coalition government
West Ham manager Avram Grant is convinced that all will be well at Upton Park despite a nightmare week that saw them remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League.
West Ham United 0 Blackpool 0
IT COULD almost be the Prime Minister speaking when Avram Grant opens his mouth. We are going through troubled times, things are tough, but if we carry on doing what we are doing, recovery will come in the end.
Like David Cameron, Grant has even had a dig at the legacy he inherited by the previous incumbent, but just like the government coalition, it is hard to believe what he is saying, and impossible to predict if he is going to be right.
“I think we had enough chances to win three games, and on penalties enough to win two,” said Grant with the authority of a top spin doctor. “We did everything right, we cannot say about the players any bad word.”
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Really? This was a match at home to Blackpool, not Manchester United or Chelsea. A Blackpool side built on a shoestring in their first top flight season since 1971. But it was the Seasiders who looked most likely to win this match and if anyone deserved to take the three points – they did.
West Ham created chances, but Blackpool created the better ones and that is surely a damning indictment of this Hammers side and the manager who does not seem to be able to motivate them.
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The Hammers were hampered by Kieron Dyer limping off after just 18 minutes, but by then there were already alarm bells ringing as Freddie Piquionne seemed off the pace and strike partner Victor Obinna wasteful.
“Injuries are part of the game, but one thing I am upset about is that every player that is in good shape seems to get injured,” moaned Grant.
“It started with Hitzlsperger, Mark Noble, Valon Behrami, who was great at Birmingham and now Kieron Dyer who played very well in the last game.”
Maybe, but West Ham should still have had enough quality to see off Blackpool, even with the fine start they have made to the season.
Luis Boa Morte almost headed in Herita Ilunga’s fourth-minute cross, while Noble poked wide, Piquionne shot straight at Matthew Gilks and Obinna had a shot deflected wide all in the opening 25 minutes, but Grant was left fuming about an incident soon after.
Pablo Barrera, on for Dyer, knocked the ball down for Obinna and his shot was stopped by the outstretched arm of Craig Cathcart. It wasn’t deliberate, but if you go around like a cricket umpire calling a no-ball, you have to expect the worst.
The referee waved away the appeals and the manager couldn’t believe either that, or another appeal turned down after a supposed foul on Barrera.
“I’m waiting for the day when I don’t have to speak about the decisions of referees,” said the boss.
“What has happened this season is a disgrace, I don’t know what it is, but every game there are decisions against us.
“There were two clear penalties, one with the hand where he saved it better than the keeper and then a foul on Pablo.”
He may have had a case, but then so did Blackpool in the second half when first Scott Parker seemed to mimic the handiwork of Cathcart and then Marlon Harewood scored a goal, wrongly ruled out for offside.
The Seasiders had already carved out plenty of chances before that. Elliott Grandin shot straight at Rob Green, while the goalkeeper was left clutching at air as David Vaughan went on a long run before firing inches wide.
Danny Gabbidon looked lost trying to cope with the movement of DJ Campbell, while Matthew Upson also failed to inspire as Blackpool seemed to cut open the defence almost at will with their simple brand of football.
Things looked on the up three minutes into the second half when the excellent Parker released Boa Morte, but his shot wide was every bit as disappointing as it was expected from a player who has scored two goals in close to four years at Upton Park.
But Blackpool held sway for the next 25 minutes as Campbell headed just over and Charlie Adam tried an audacious chip from halfway which caught Green unawares, but fortunately fell on to the roof of the net.
With 20 minutes left, Parker tried to inspire once more, but again was let down by his team-mates. He brilliantly waltzed through the Blackpool defence before pulling it back to Barrera, only for the Mexican’s weak shot to be easily blocked.
Noble forced a good save from substitute keeper Richard Kingson, while Carlton Cole, who came on to boos from the crowd almost as loud as the ones that said farewell to Boa Morte when he replaced him, bundled Barrera’s cross against the post.
Pressure from West Ham as the game came to an end? Not a bit of it. Like West Brom on Wednesday, it was Blackpool who looked the more likely, spurred on by the presence of Harewood, who received a great ovation from the Hammers fans.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher missed a sitter at the far post, Harewood did the same at the near post, while Cathcart’s shot after Green’s flap at a corner, thundered into the body of the keeper.
To sum up the day, in injury time, West Ham broke forward and Barrera received the ball on the right edge of the box as two strikers waited in the middle. Once again the winger made the wrong decision as he cut in and shot woefully over the bar.
“I think maybe the players have lost a bit of confidence because we are at the bottom of the league. At the end of the day they played good and they created a lot of chances,” insisted Grant.
“I don’t know what to say after a game like that, because I cannot say this is not good or that is not good. Everything was right, the players gave everything. I cannot complain that one player didn’t fight.”
Even the government’s spin doctors would have blushed at that one. The only thing you can say after a game like that is – not good enough.
That is why this team is bottom of the table and unless something changes and quickly, a new election may be on the horizon.
West Ham: Green, Jacobsen, Ilunga, Gabbidon, Upson, Parker, Noble, Boa Morte (Cole 70), Dyer (Barrera 18), Obinna, Piquionne (McCarthy 82). Unused: Stech, Tomkins, Kovac, Spector.
Referee: Keith Friend 6.