Monday, August 17, 2009

Top Mark

Wolverhampton Wanderers v West Ham United, Saturday August 15 2009, 3pm.

If we recall correctly this is the very first time we've watched our beloved West Ham United play the first game of the season in the flesh. Amidst rumours of rogue homefan hooligans looking to 're-introduce' themselves to the Premiership, we met up with Dave R, Basingstoke Paul, Brighton Ben and Jerry at The Royal Oak, a friendly hostelry about a mile from the station, the other side of the ringroad, to sup Guinness and soak up the sun in the convivial surroundings of the spacious beer garden.

A brisk stroll to the stadium saw us just about get inside the ground for kick-off, with the home support providing huge roars of support every time the newly-promoted Wolves came anywhere near the Hammers' penalty area. A fairly open, even game then took a dramatic twist when Irons midfield tyro Mark Noble was given all the time in the world by a ponderous home defence to pick a vicious, swerving, long-range shot past the despairing arms of Wayne Hennessy into the net to open the scoring.

The early deafening volume of the home support was instantaneously muted by this setback, a seeming mood of resignation enveloping the ground as the Hammers were unlucky not to press home further the advantage before Half-Time. There was a renewed sense of purpose when the Second Half started, however, but England goalkeeper Robert Green provided a stunning salvo of saves to puncture the enthusiasm before it even started.

The game continued, feeling as comfortable for the boisterous away fans as a 1-0 advantage ever can be, Collison missed a near-open goal to raise anxiety levels a little but what tension existed evaporated when central defender Matthew Upson appeared to rise effortlessly over the Wolves defence to nod a second goal halfway through the second period. The home side continued to press but with dissipating conviction, while the pace of Hammers sub Junior Stanislas unsettled the black-and-gold rearguard during the closing stages of the match.

In summary, so far so good for West Ham, with Zola and Clarke continuing to wring out every ounce of team spirit and cohesion from limited resources and a backdrop of continuing financial unease. Wolves will be disappointed at how quickly their belief and purpose slipped away after a promising opening, and will need to be sharper in both penalty areas to accumulate the points they need to secure Premiership survival.

Parallax Premiership Ratings: GREEN 8; Faubert 7, Collins 6, Upson 7, Ilunga 6 (Spector 4); Collison 6, Parker 6, Noble 8; Dyer 6 (Stanislas 7); Jiminez 7, Cole 6. Frank Nouble came on late for Cole, with little chance to register a mark.

Parallax Premiership Predictions


2. Chelsea
3. Arsenal
4. Liverpool

5. Everton
6. Manchester City
7. Tottenham Hotspur
8. Aston Villa
9. Blackburn Rovers
10. West Ham United
11. Sunderland
12. Wigan Athletic
13. Fulham
14. Stoke City
15. Bolton Wanderers
16. Wolverhampton Wanderers
17. Birmingham City

18. Portsmouth
19. Hull City
20. Burnley

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