Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mark's The Spot King

Birmingham City 0 West Ham United 1, St. Andrews, Birmingham, Saturday August 18 2007 3pm.

It's your correspondent's first game of the season, and first ever visit to St.Andrews this afternoon to see the recently-humbled Hammers entertained by Steve Bruce's newly-promoted Birmingham City. Skipper Lucas Neill is still absent through injury but the game sees the club debut of recent signing and current England international Keiron Dyer in place of the crocked Freddie Ljungberg while Hayden Mullins and Matty Etherington take their places in the starting line-up replacing Lee Bowyer and Luis Boa Morte respectively. The player getting the most attention from the home fans however is Matthew Upson who moved from Blues to the Claret and Blues in controversial circumstances in January, and gets booed with every exquisite touch during the afternoon.

Birmingham fans would do well to concentrate on their own side's shortcomings, as there's precious little quality or invention to their play and they rarely threaten during a blah first half. More worrying for Hammers fans is that the expensively-assembled visitors don't look that much better, with full-backs Spector and McCartney looking ill-at-ease and new signing Dyer only fitfully involved. A smart save from West Ham's keeper Robert Green just before half-time whets the whistle for what must be a better second half.

Half-time news that the Tottscum are already 3-0 up in their game doesn't exactly help the interval tea go down (£1.40, football fiscal fact fans) but there's a bit of belief evident in the Hammers' play right from the off in the second half, with the pace and guile of Matty Etherington and self-styled bad boy Craig Bellamy causing the home side increasing anxiety. Young midfielder Mark Noble's never far from the action, and indeed he steps up to take the penalty when the Blues keeper rather naively upends Bellamy in the penalty area. The lad does good and coolly slots the penalty away to the huge relief of the boisterous visiting support. Further pressure yields no further goals, with Dyer guilty of dithering in a promising one-on-one situation with the Blues keeper. To be fair to Birmingham, they don't give up (unlike some of their fans, who start streaming out a full ten minutes before the end) but only really threaten during the set-pieces, so the Hammers manage to see out the rest of the game reasonably comfortably to notch the first three points of the season and ease the pressure on gaffer Alan Curbishley.

In summary, Blues fans must be pretty worried and face a long season ahead without some quality reinforcements to their squad. While there's no shortage of quality in the Hammers side, it's still to be seen whether Curbs can provide the motivation to get them to gel into a consistently effective unit. Certainly saw nothing to change Parallax View's pre-season predictions for both sides (West Ham 12th, Birmingham 17th).

West Ham Player Ratings: Green 7, Spector 6, Upson 7, Ferdinand 7, McCartney 5, ETHERINGTON 8, Mullins 6, Noble 7, Dyer 6, Bellamy 7, Zamora 6.



Blogger Dead Kenny said...

For the sake of balance, here's a Blues fan's perspective.

7:21 AM  

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