To say that Leeds United are West Ham’s bogey team is a bit of an understatement. Two wins in our last twenty seven meetings underline that fact. I’ve seen eight of these games, and all eight have ended in defeat, including a 5-1 defeat back in 1999 when West Ham finished with 8 men on the pitch. But today was all about hope. That was until we had sat through 8 MINUTES of adverts being read out over the PA system.
“Season tickets now 8% cheaper”…well so they should be – this was the 2nd out of 23 home games – i.e we had had 8% of our games. Great marketing ploy there. Or could you be tempted by a £99 (plus VAT) ticket for the Portsmouth game where you also got ONE glass of Champagne (West Ham’s one vintage by the way – we still have a bottle from 2004), and a seafood buffet (all the Skips you can eat) as well as a ticket of course.
Anyway we were here to watch the game, not be sold to. A bit of Sunday lunchtime enjoyment. Kids 150 miles away, it was just CMF and myself, just like the old days. And then the team was read out. 4-5-1…bloody 4-5-1. We were at home for Brooking’s sake. Over a month ago I pointed out that playing a midfield trio of Nolan/Noble and Parker simply doesn’t work unless you have mobile wide men. And West Ham don’t.
Two weeks is a long time in football and those fans who saw the significant possession turn into a last minute defeat to Cardiff City will have mostly put that to the back of their mind after wins on the road to Doncaster Rovers and Watford. But they have not papered over the cracks. Tactically, the performance two weeks ago was naive. Today it was simply incomprehensible.
West Ham United 2 Leeds United 2 – Upton Park – Sunday 21st August 2011
For the second home game in a row West Ham gave away precious points in the last minute of the game. In hindsight it was actually the Hammers who could say this was a point gained, rather than two lost based on the performance.
Allardyce decided on his usual 4-5-1 formation, which did nothing to inspire the home fans, especially when three long hoofs up front from Winston Reid in the first two minutes simply sailed over the head of Carlton Cole and into touch. The midfield three of Nolan, Noble and Parker still haven’t worked out who should sit, who should mop up and who should go forward, and as the game progressed it simply led to Leeds being given all the time in the world to bring the ball forward.
But on six minutes all of our spirits were lifted. West Ham had already gone close, forcing Lonergan into a great save from Cole. However, from the resulting Matty Taylor corner Cole lost his marker and sort of looped his back header into the net.
Leeds came straight back at West Ham, bringing the Hammers-target Max Gradel into the game. He set up Snodgrass in the 25th minute hit the bar and then a minute later after a blistering run he won a corner from which the ball hit Taylor on the arm and the Ref said “penalty”. Gradel stepped up and put the penalty wide of Robert Green’s post. Shame.
As the half wore on, the long, over hit from Reid increased, and after Cole was denied a spot kick in front of the Leeds fans, they started singing “Your just a shit Emile Heskey” to our Number 9, ironic considering he had scored the only goal of the game. Football fans eh.
Half time at Upton Park is crying out for some entertainment. A long time ago, Sullivan and Gold promised us top class entertainment. Today we had a re-run of the ad break. Oh how I wish for a return of the Hammerettes.
Allardyce obviously said something to the team at half time because the midfield five just looked confused in the opening period of the second half. Leeds back four simply had all of the time in the world as no Hammers player was prepared to push forward. Off came Collison and on came Faubert. And within a minute Leeds had equalised. Andy Keogh played in Snodgrass and his low cross wasn’t dealt with by the West Ham defence, and McCormack turned the ball in.
But Faubert soon gave the lead back to West Ham. Showing signs of that attacking prowess which was a reason why the club bought him, he powered down the right, hit in an unstoppable cross and Kisnorbo smashed the ball into his own net.
West Ham a few more chances, two falling to Reid within a few minutes but he showed as much skill in front of goal as he did in playing the ball out of defence. The one positive from the final period for the home side was the appearance of John Carew who showed the kind of hold up play that Carlton Cole has long since missed. As Fabio Capello left with undoubtably more opinions on where Man of the Match Scott Parker should be playing next, Leeds launched one last attack.
The fourth official held up the board showing three minutes to go. And just as it was two weeks ago, West Ham’s attentions were distracted by the thought of the dressing room. One final corner, Howson’s shot hits the underside of the bar and there is Adam Clayton right on The Edge (do you see what I did there?) to score the equaliser.
There was still time for a few handbags in the West Ham penalty area at the end, but when the final whistle blew it was the 3,000 Leeds fans who were in the party mood. 4-5-1…bloody 4-5-1.
More pictures from the game can be found here.