West Ham’s Cole: ‘We played right into Stoke’s hands’

Hammers striker Carlton Cole was disappointed with the way the team played at the Britannia Stadium

Carlton Cole doesn’t relish playing against Stoke City.

In four games against the physical Potters, he has failed to hit the target once and considering he already has 11 goals to his name this campaign, that can’t just be a coincidence.

A lot of it is to do with the strength and power of Stoke defenders Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross. They bullied the big man once again on Sunday in the FA Cup quarter-final clash, leaving him bruised and demoralised from the experience.

But Cole is convinced that he was not helped by the service he got during the game.

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“For myself, I would have liked to have had a bit more of a go at goal, but they were all long balls,” said the 27-year-old England international.

“I didn’t get the sort of balls I needed and their two defenders were tough to play against.”

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With West Ham’s three strikers spread across the width of the field and the midfield finding it difficult to gain enough possession to get forward, Cole was left isolated a lot of the time, especially with the sort of passes he was receiving.

“I think we actually played into their hands,” he admitted. “I had to deal with a lot of long balls in the air and playing against those two defenders is really hard, because if I dealt with one, then the other one was there to deal with too.”

It is certainly a flaw in manager Avram Grant’s tactics, especially away from home when they can’t control the game in the same way, but Cole felt that the team didn’t do themselves justice on Sunday.

“I think when we were down at our gaff, we controlled them a little bit more, because we could play our game and not play into their hands,” he explained.

“To be fair, we knew what we were going to be getting up here. We had already provoked them back at our place. They have been living on their home performances all season and that is why they are around the 10th spot in the league.

“I think the whole game was a bit of an anti-climax for us. I don’t really think that we went out there and gave our best performance, but then again I felt the conditions didn’t suit us.

“They left the pitch dry. We are a footballing side and the pitch was not great for playing our sort of game.

“We played into their hands I think and that isn’t what we were trying to do. We tried to play our game, but it didn’t come off.”

It certainly didn’t, especially for the club’s leading goalscorer, who could only really muster one shot in the second half that forced goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to push the ball wide for a corner.

“We certainly were on top at times in the game,” insisted Cole.

“We’ve hit the crossbar as well, obviously ‘Greeny’s’ made a brilliant save from the penalty and so we are all just disappointed really.”

With the end of the cup hopes this season, West Ham can now concentrate on Premier League survival and Cole believes that the team will be ready to go at White Hart Lane on Saturday lunchtime.

“It’s a massive game next Saturday and I think all the lads are going to be really up for this one,” said Cole.

“Now we can just concentrate on the league and just get our nut down to try and get as far up the table as possible.”

At least Cole and West Ham won’t have to face Stoke again this season!

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