West Ham’s Downes non-plussed by first-half defensive failings

Hammers’ defensive coach Wally Downes was left scratching his head after a woeful opening 45 minutes for the West Ham defence at West Brom on Saturday.

WEST HAM’S defensive coach Wally Downes must have been asking himself some serious questions at half time on Saturday.

The team had been awful and his defence the most awful of all, so what was the reason for such a dismal, embarrassing surrender?

The former Brentford manager stood in silence for a moment and considered the question, perhaps considered the wisdom of agreeing to an interview in the first place.

“It is difficult to say,” he muttered thoughtfully. “You could say that Manuel Da Costa, who came in, has not played with Winston Reid. There are lots of things that you can try to put your finger on. We will certainly have to look at the video before we can find some answers.

“In the second half we were more dangerous. We made them defend and in the first half, I don’t think we made them defend enough because when we applied the pressure they were found wanting.”

So, the old attack is the best form of defence ploy was the one that worked in the end, but surely whoever was in the starting line-up on Saturday, should have been better prepared for what was coming up?

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“I said to the fellas before the game that we are a better team than them and if you prepare yourself properly and believe you are going to win, then you will win,” said Downes.

“In the first half we didn’t do that, but there is no way we are three goals worse than West Brom. I don’t think we are three goals worse than most teams in this division, so after a few choice words at half time, we turned it around.

“We are not three goals worse than them,” he repeated. “If anything we are a three-goal better team than them, but we let ourselves down in the first half.”

That is something of an understatement, but Downes was delighted with the way things went after the break.

“You have to take your hat off to the players who came on and the players who came out in the second half,” he said. “It was an absolutely magnificent effort to drag themselves back from a performance that they would not have been proud of in the first half.

“They knew they had let themselves down and hadn’t played well enough in the first half and the way we have been playing recently – picking up points – that was a disservice to them.”

By the end, parity had been restored, but in all honesty there were still plenty of failings in West Ham’s defence. Reid looked raw and was horribly exposed time and again by Peter Odemwingie, Da Costa looked reckless at times and his positional ability left a lot to be desired.

West Ham have let in 48 league goals this season. Only Blackpool with 50 and West Brom with 51 have conceded more, but Downes believes that they can come good and get themselves out of this mess.

“If you look at the three strikers we had out there in the second half, Cole, Piquionne and Ba, there are goals there,” he said. “The more games Da Costa plays, when Tomkins gets fit, Upson as well.

“We are a mid-table side on current form and that is where we will finish up.

“We just have to keep that belief and commitment and as long as we have got those fans shouting for us, I’m sure we will be fine.”

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