Monday, August 22, 2005

Coker Roll

Newcastle 0 West Ham 0, Saturday August 20, 2005.

Things didn't get off to the best start when we arrived in toon after a 3-and-a-half-hour journey to find the pub (The Cornerhouse) where we'd booked our B and B had been gutted by fire the night before and was closed to the public while the police investigated. Cue a mad dash round the hotels and motels of Gateshead so we could get ourselves fixed up in time to have a few pints of real ale in The Bridge before the game.

The Hammers are generally poor travellers and our recent record at St James' Park didn't give much cause for optimism. With prima donna boss Graeme Souness already under pressure after just one game, it was imperative for Newcastle United to put in a good performance in their first home game of the season in front of a crowd expectant of better things than last term's 14th place. Fuelled by the belief that only a dodgy early sending-off of Jermaine Jenas robbed them of at least a point against Arsenal, the assembled Toon Army fans expected (nay, demanded) a comfortable win over newly-promoted West Ham.

Things didn't start off that way, though, with West Ham looking well organised defensively, resolute in the tackle and comfortable on the ball. Newcastle steadily increased their possession of the ball as the half progressed and probably edged it on chances by half-time but it remained a game that could easily have gone either way. Half-time team talks appeared not to have disrupted the balance, and aside from losing Sheringham to a knock, West Ham continued to look comfortable and increasingly dangerous on the break, with Nigel Reo-Coker and Yossi Benayoun prominent.

Ten minutes into the second period, however, Toon's Jermaine Jenas broke clear with the ball, only to be brought down by a challenge from Paul Konchesky who, despite winning the ball, was adjudged to have tackled from behind and was summarily (and, indeed, harshly) dismissed by referee Dermot Gallacher. A quiet home crowd was stirred into further expectation at this point, but this just seemed to add pressure to a very ordinary-looking and uninspired Newcastle team and after about ten minutes of increased possession in the visitors' half, the intensity soon dissipated and a tenacious and hard-working West Ham side deservedly shared the points.

West Ham can take a lot of positives from the game alongside the valuable away point. The team looked comfortable at this level, playing with organisation, belief, tenacity and no shortage of ability on the ball. The Hammers won about 80% of loose ball, particularly in midfield where Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker dominated the home side in what is reputedly their strongest area on the pitch.

Newcastle fans were, in contrast, in a foul mood, fighting amongst themselves outside and many voiced their disgust about the woeful contribution of Jermaine Jenas. JJ has been touted in some quarters as the ideal replacement for Patrick Vieira at Arsenal, but on today's showing it was the Hammers' rising midfield star Nigel Reo-Coker who, with his strength, pace and rampaging runs through the centre of the pitch, was most reminiscent of Paddy in his pomp. But let's just keep that a secret between ourselves, shall we?

Difficult to read too much into one game this early on in the season, but the Hammers showed enough to suggest they can keep themselves out of the dropzone as long as they can maintain the levels of workrate, tenacity and self-belief on display at the weekend. Newcastle, too, have just enough quality in their squad to avoid the relegation dogfight, but they'll need to improve greatly on Saturday's dismal display to get the Top Ten finish their fans demand.


Blogger Ben said...

You could have had the decency to hide your obvious glee at the result ;)

Nah, well played to the Hammers, shame we were crap.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Any point away from home, in any division and at any level, is always greeted with unashamed glee by a Hammers fan, Ben, so don't take it personally!

As for Newcastle, you desperately need someone to replace the creativity that has steadily drained from your team with the loss of Solano, Bellamy and Robert. And you've still got one more point than the Mackems.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Thing is, though, that if we end the season with one more point than the Mackems, then we'll have one point in total and have been relegated along with them by Christmas...

12:34 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home