Digger’ Davies and the daylight robbery
Bolton Wanderers 2 West Ham Utd 1 DON T MISS this month s edition of Crimewatch – this game will undoubtedly be on it! – writes DAVE EVANS The theft of three points from West Ham United was certainly assisted by a number of assaults by a host of Bolton p
Bolton Wanderers 2 West Ham Utd 1
DON'T MISS this month's edition of Crimewatch - this game will undoubtedly be on it! - writes DAVE EVANS
The theft of three points from West Ham United was certainly assisted by a number of assaults by a host of Bolton players headed by ringleader Kevin Davies - it really was daylight robbery!
West Ham certainly played a part in their own demise. They conceded two goals in as many minutes early in the match and then contrived to miss a hatful of chances as they dominated almost the entire game.
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"The only complaint I have is the fact that we didn't take the chances we created," said manager Gianfranco Zola after the match. "It's a pity because the performance was one of a team who deserved something more."
He was half right. Certainly the Hammers deserved something more from this game, but Zola had plenty of other things to complain about, not least the over physical display of the home side and the lack of protection offered by referee Steve Tanner.
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Davies and Matty Upson tussled all afternoon with the Bolton striker prodding, poking, nudging, tripping and generally disrupting the England defender all afternoon. For that, Upson was constantly penalised for what could surely have only been falling over and then rightly booked for a retaliatory late tackle, while Davies escaped scot free like a banker ready for his yearly bonus.
"In the first half there was a challenge where Upson was booked and I think that was right because it was a bad challenge," said Zola.
"But then there was a challenge from Davies and he should have been booked as well. But I don't want to put pressure on the referee as they have to do their work."
Carlton Cole, surprisingly included after recovering from his sprained ankle, had a chance as early as the eighth minute after a fine move between David Di Michele and the excellent Herita Ilunga, but saw his shot deflected wide, and within four minutes the Hammers found themselves two behind.
First Jack Collison felled Mark Davies just outside the box and Matt Taylor, who had scored with a long-distance shot at Upton Park earlier in the season, lifted his free kick over the wall, over Rob Green's head and into the net.
Bolton boss Gary Megson boasted you wouldn't see a better free kick anywhere, but had Green not been way off his line and too far over one side, the England goalkeeper would surely have been equal to the task.
A minute later, Johan Elmander played a hopeful ball into the West Ham penalty area and Kevin Davies shot between Jonathan Spector and Upson to sweep the ball into the far corner.
There was more bad news when James Collins was stretchered off with a hamstring injury on 17 minutes and many thought that a repeat of the four-goal thrashings that the Hammers have suffered on this ground twice in the last three matches could be on the cards again.
But instead, West Ham took the game by the scruff of the neck and by half time they should have been level.
Di Michele shot tamely at Jussi Jaaskelainen after Upson had nodded down a Mark Noble corner, while on 36 minutes Cole put Noble clean through with a superb pass.
However, the midfielder looked slow and hesitant as he made his way into the penalty area and instead of picking his spot, he tried a pass and the chance was frustratingly gone.
Noble put Di Michele through three minutes later as Bolton's high defensive line was once again shown to be laughably inadequate, but this time the Italian shot woefully wide.
The West Ham pressure continued after the break. Noble's corner was headed on by James Tomkins to Cole, whose effort was nodded off the line by Taylor.
After Taylor had forced a decent save from Green, West Ham moved back on to the attack and were finally rewarded on 66 minutes. Scott Parker made a storming run forward and when Cole found Spector on the right, the American's low cross picked out the onrushing Parker, who swept it into the net.
It was the midfielder's first goal in over a year and crowned another superb performance.
"He was excellent. He was all over the place," said Zola.
"He's got desire, passion and the game, he has everything to be a successful player for us. Today he was excellent, but he's been like that for a while now."
West Ham had time to get at least a point from this game and they looked to have managed it on 76 minutes. The ball was played in from the left to Parker, who had muscled his way back into the box. He chested down to Di Michele, who expertly rounded the keeper and shot goalwards only for Gary Cahill to block it on the line.
Had the Italian shot when he first got the ball he would probably have scored, had he lifted the ball having rounded the keeper he would probably have scored but he did neither and with that miss went the Hammers best chance.
Spector picked out Cole with a deep cross that saw the defenders scrambling to clear, while a minute later Savio's excellent cross was again met by Cole only for his header to be eventually grabbed by Jaaskelainen, to the relief of the Bolton fans.
"The second half was better," said the manager. "Considering we were 2-0 down at a team like Bolton it was a good response as they didn't lose their bearings and kept playing.
"In the end it was just unlucky that we didn't get the result."
When Craig Bellamy left in January you had to wonder just how much West Ham would miss him. That question was surely answered on Saturday at the Reebok.
On a weekend when Bellamy was grabbing a goal against Liverpool, West Ham missed a hatful of chances that surely the little Welsh striker would have taken.
"Missing chances is not a concern," insisted Zola. "It would be a concern if we weren't creating. I'm sure my strikers will be scoring again soon so I'm not concerned."
Zola has more confidence in an attack that has scored just two goals in their last four games, than many of the fans.
It doesn't matter how well you play, if you can't put the ball in the net then you are going to lose games, just as they did so unfairly on Saturday.
West Ham: Green, Spector (Sears 86), Ilunga, Collins (Tomkins 17), Upson, Behrami, Noble, Parker, Collison (Savio 63), Di Michele, Cole. Unused subs: Lastuvka, Lopez, Kovac, Tristan.
Attendance: 21,245. Referee: Steve Tanner.