Andy Munro on Boxing Day at St Andrews.
I had a touch of the early Bruges v Blues feelings when West Ham raced into an early lead and an embarrassing scoreline looked distinctly on the cards. Much as I dislike Carlton Cole, for his previous connections and mediocre England performances, he is a real asset as a target man and, at Championship level, a good goalscorer. Certainly he caught Pablo having a siesta and respect to Sam Allardyce (a rare statement it has to said) for playing two forwards away from home – including Piquionne, who has been Blues. nemesis in the past.
In fairness, the crowd responded to this early setback with some great support and were in fine voice with “Shall We Win a Cup for You?” and “3-1 and You Mucked It Up” (or something remarkably similar) particular favourites. However, although the impressive Murphy was desperately unlucky with a well struck free-kick, West Ham generally looked the more dangerous with Nolan particularly impressive behind the front two forwards. Thankfully he didn’t score so we were all spared his version of the funky chicken!
It was also noticeable that West Ham’s midfield and defence were more than robust in their challenges and Robert Green’s long punt upfield was used more than frequently. It wasn’t exactly Stoke City but Ron Greenwood must have been turning in his grave; more like a Comprehensive of Football than an Academy.
Mind you, in the dying seconds Cole again outsmarted Ibanez to fire in a shot which looked a nailed on second goal until Myhill pulled off a save of Banks-like proportions. A second goal would undoubtedly have made any sort of recovery a veritable mountain to climb.
However, in the second period we started to make some real inroads and wear the Hammers down. Chrissy Burke was a real handful whilst the immense N’Dawe made the massive Papa Diop look more a sideboard than his ‘Wardrobe’ nickname. Up front Wood was subbed – a bit unluckily in my view – and surprisingly Marlon King (who didn’t have the best of games) was left on to partner Ziggy. In fairness, the oft-criticised lanky one created a new set of problems particularly at the far post. The introduction of young Redmond also further stoked up the crowd although for once I agree with the Evening Mail’s description of his performance as ‘muted’.
Perhaps it was fitting that it was the magnificent Smurf who was on the spot with a headed equaliser following good work by Caldwell. In fact ,we could have scooped all three points following a far post header from Ziggy which was almost turned in by Marlon K but who was denied by the impressive Green. Overall perhaps a draw was a fair result but on the corner and shot count we deserved the win. Let’s hope things are now starting to look up and that we don’t lose a load of players in the transfer window at Primark prices.