Bore draw suggests Europe is a no-goer
West Ham Utd 0 West Bromwich Albion 0 IF EVER there was a stark warning that West Ham s squad is not equipped to play European football, then this toothless, uninspired, error-strewn performance against bottom of the table West Brom was it, writes DAVE EV
West Ham Utd 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
IF EVER there was a stark warning that West Ham's squad is not equipped to play European football, then this toothless, uninspired, error-strewn performance against bottom of the table West Brom was it, writes DAVE EVANS.
With Carlton Cole suspended and Valon Behrami and Jack Collison out injured, West Ham simply did not have the back-up men to threaten the Baggies. Scott Carson in the West Brom goal would certainly not have had an easier night than this one.
There was no threat up front, despite the sterling running of Freddie Sears, there was no link between the midfield and the forward line, something Behrami has engineered all season, and there was hardly a penetrating run from the middle of the park all night.
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In truth, it was simply awful and perhaps the worst performance of the season, so to grab a point and reach the magical 40-point mark illustrates just what a chance the visitors missed.
"Our lack of strength in depth certainly doesn't help and I knew exactly that would be a problem for my team," said West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola after the match.
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"We tried to play differently and we certainly weren't the same team that we have been at other times, but West Brom played a very good match. They may be the team that is last in the table, but they play good football."
There was a strange atmosphere in the ground from the start of this live televised clash, and after half an hour, most of the tiny Setanta audience watching must surely have switched over to Coronation Street.
So many passes went astray in the first half from West Ham, you would have thought they were kicking a hand grenade around rather than a football.
Scott Parker struggled more than most in the first half, while Savio, making his first start for the Hammers, had a night to forget, as he constantly ran into blind alleys and lost possession.
Mark Noble, who so often seems to be playing without energy on the field, did set up David Di Michele on 16 minutes, only for the Italian to take it too far and be thwarted by Carson, but it was West Brom who were carving out the better chances.
Jonathan Greening found Marc-Antoine Fortune in the box only for the striker to hit the side-netting, while Paul Robinson had a shout for a penalty rightly turned down after he claimed Lucas Neill had been pulling his shirt at a corner.
James Morrison then stormed past both Savio and Parker on the right before racing into the area, side-stepping another challenge to get into the box and then see his low shot superbly saved by Robert Green in the West Ham goal.
By then, the Hammers had already lost influential centre half Matty Upson with a calf injury. Lucas Neill was drafted into the centre as Jonathan Spector filled his right back berth, but neither really impressed and it was left to youngster James Tomkins to come through with a superbly dominant performance at the back.
As the half wore on, West Ham did show some semblance of life. Savio spread the play out to Noble on the right hand side of the box and when he pulled it back for Sears, the striker saw his shot blocked.
Di Michele lobbed over the top, while Neill saw a header from Noble's corner headed straight back to him, before his follow-up shot was blocked.
All that action makes it sounds like this was a decent game - it wasn't, but surely it couldn't get any worse after the break - it did!
Di Michele ballooned a shot well over the bar and for the rest of the half seemed to lose it every time he got it, while Savio cut in from the left and fired another effort into orbit as West Ham struggled to make an impression up front.
The loss of Cole, so harshly sent off at Wigan, was palpable, and Zola revealed that the possible introduction of Diego Tristan to give a little more presence up front was not really an option.
"How many times have we said how important Carlton Cole is for the team?" asked the manager.
"That's been proved today and I have to find solutions to make it work when we haven't got him.
"Diego Tristan has had a muscle problem. He's only trained once - it's as simple as that and I had a feeling Freddie Sears deserved to have his chance."
He did, but when you receive the ball with your back to goal and you are surrounded by three, four or even five bright yellow shirts, it is difficult for the diminutive and fragile Sears to make any sort of impression. He made some darting runs on the flanks, but when he looked up to see who to cross it to; there was not a soul in the box.
West Brom came closest on 51 minutes when Chris Brunt's cross from the left was met by the head of Shelton Martis, only for his effort to rattle the underside of the crossbar and run to safety.
At the same time as that was happening, defender Jonas Olsson was connecting his arm to Green's face and the goalkeeper was treated for a couple of minutes before he was able to continue.
Neither manager saw the incident and neither manager would have seen a lot of incidents after that as the game rapidly spiralled into a dour, dismal encounter.
Greening lobbed over the bar when well placed, while Di Michele headed debut boy Junior Stanislas' pinpoint cross tamely wide of goal and that was about as good as the entertainment got.
When the crowd were left to amuse themselves by mockingly greeting the arrival of Luis Boa Morte with rapturous cheers and applause, then you know that the fare on offer is not up to scratch!
"It was a good point for us considering the problems that we had and that it was a good performance by West Brom," said Zola.
"We obviously have a few injury problems - there are big players missing for us - but we are still going to have a go and try for Europe. It is going to be harder than before, but we will still try."
In fairness, West Ham had perhaps only five players at the most on the field for this game that could be considered as first choice selections. However, the failure of fringe players to step up to the plate and the complete lack of penetration simply because of the loss of one striker is a major concern and one Zola will need to address over the summer.
European place? You're having a laugh!
West Ham: Green, Neill, Ilunga, Tomkins, Upson (Spector 29), Noble (Boa Morte 82), Kovac, Parker, Savio (Stanislas 68), Di Michele, Sears. Unused subs: Lastuvka, Lopez, Tristan, Payne.
Attendance: 30,842. Referee: Mark Halsey.