West Ham United 0 Blackpool 0
By Chris Morley
Sunday 14 Nov 2010 00:25:00
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Tabloid speculation this weekend would have you believe that Avram Grant had just one game to save his position as Hammers manager. It remains to be seen whether you might spot him in the ever-increasing line outside your local job centre in the near future, but it is safe to say this game will not live long in the memory. A tactical reshuffle from the midweek draw with West Bromwich Albion saw Mark Noble return to the side after surgery to remove his appendix, Victor Obinna joining him while Carlton Cole and Pablo Barrerra found themselves consigned to the substitutes bench.

 Following a pitched march by the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment and a minute's silence ahead of Rememberance Sunday, proceedings got under way- Lars Jacobsen launching the ball up to Frederic Piquionne but Craig Cathcart was on hand to clear for a throw. From this came West Ham's first real attacking overture, Obinna finding Scott Parker, whose cross was cut out by Cathcart- Piquionne and Dyer combining well from the resulting throw in and Stephen Crainey forced to concede yet another throw.

 Clearly these players were up for a fight to save their beleaguered boss's job, a quick break between Obinna and Ilunga enabling Luis Boa Morte to snatch an attempt at goal but his header flew across goal. The ball then broke to Dyer, who turned provider for Noble, the effort blocked. Charlie Adam was the first man in tangerine to pose any real threat but he was closed down quickly before a possible penalty claim within minutes. Noble tussling with the Scot but Adam stayed on his feet, crossing for DJ Campbell who flicked wide. A wayward clearance then almost allowed Noble an easy shot on goal after it found its way to Obinna, who teed him up, but he shot wide from five yards. Matthew Upson had to be quick to curtail a Blackpool breakaway, Parker snapping up the by now loose ball and finding Dyer who in turn fed Piquionne, the Frenchman's effort was blocked and Obinna was quick to follow up. The Nigerian was able to spot Jacobsen, whose cross was charged down and Obinna won a corner following a decent move. Gabbidon headed wide from the set piece before Ilunga was able to make a good run and float in a cross, which sadly nobody was able to get a final touch on.

 Activity on the bench heralded an early change as Dyer was hauled off for Barrera with around twenty minutes played- Eliot Grandin shooting staight at Robert Green from twenty yards out as away gaffer Ian Holloway urged men forward. Barrera was perhaps unfortunate not to win a penalty after outpacing one opponent and then being hauled down by a second, referee Kevin Friend proving his surname bitterly ironic by awarding a goal kick. Boa Morte was then similarly luckless after Matt Gilks in the away goal beat him to Upson's through ball after a good run, Noble lofting a good ball over the top for Piquionne within moments but the linesman's flag stopped him capitalising. Attack was clearly not far from the minds of the Irons, Noble, Barrera, Parker and Boa Morte involved in a forward foray which ended with Obinna's final shot deflecting wide, Piquionne finding likewise from a corner. A mistake by Obinna then allowed Blackpool to break quickly, David Vaughan firing wide.

 At the other end of the field Obinna saw his similarly spectacular shot appearing to rocket towards the top corner of the net before Cathcart's arm acted as a somewhat unwelcome barrier, the referee giving only a corner despite the defender's attempt at outdoor basketball. A communication breakdown ( to quote Led Zeppelin) then caused minor panic before Grandin was forced wide on his run. Gabbidon was there to clear the claret & blue lines and perhaps drain the claret of embarrassment from the faces of his team mates, Crainey getting to the loose ball and half volleying miles wide before Adam's similar gaffe from 25 yards out.

 An Obinna corner was hacked clear as play moved to the other end of the field, the on loan man from Milan combining with Ilunga and Piquionne in a prelude to the set piece. Ian Evatt was next to try his luck as the Seasiders grew in confidence, but his first time shot was walloped high, wide and far from handsomely over the bar. But the danger was there for all to see, Grant on the home bench perhaps nervously awaiting the news that his P45 would be there to greet him in the dressing room as half time approached.

 Piquionne then found himself having to play defender twice in the space of a few minutes to deal with the oncoming storm, five minutes left of the first half and an open contest began to reveal itself as both sides quickly fashioned a series of chances, but at the whistle it was honours even.

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The interval saw Gilks replaced by Richard Kingson after injuring his knee in the process of completing a clearance, and the Ghana international's first act was to watch as Boa Morte's shot trickled just wide of a post. Barrera was flagged offside after Noble had pinged the ball his way, as United looked to impose themselves quickly, perhaps mindful of the tangerine wave which swamped them as the first period drew on. Obinna was next to have a go but his effort whistled wide following a battle between Piquionne and Neal Eardley, won by the man in claret.

 Boa Morte's attempted cross was cleared, Barrera again finding himself offside on the hour mark and Noble forcing a corner from Crainey as a panicked away side seemed to be easing off a little. A free kick following a foul on Matt Phillips provided them with the chance to remind Green between the posts that he would still have work to do, but Piquionne again came to the rescue as an emergency defender- the ball breaking to Marlon Harewood, on as a substitute for the visitors, but he was quickly judged offside and play continued with Parker finding Barrera and the Mexican having his effort blocked, a follow up was thumped wildly goalwards but not troubling Kingson.

 Cole was then introduced for Boa Morte with around twenty minutes to go, and he was quickly on the end of a Barrera cross with a spinning effort which met the post before being cleared. Gary Taylor-Fletcher was clearly intent on repeating these heroics for the opposition, but he wound an effort wide from ten yards. Luke Varney's cross was then easily claimed by the keeper before an Adam free kick hit the defensive wall, Ilunga conceding after a foul on Phillips- Evatt subsequently booting clear a Barrera cross and Noble's curled effort from the resulting throw forced Kingson into a good save to tip the ball round the post.

 Vaughan won his side a similar set piece after Noble's intervention deflected his cross, the move ending with Varney's poor free kick. Harewood was guilty of a horrendous miss with around five minutes to go after Varney had found Crainey. Harewood needed only the simplest of touches to beat the helpless Green but blasted wide. The keeper then nearly made another one of his trademark howlers from a corner, diverting the ball onto the right foot of Cathcart- the defender volleying goalwards and Green proving more acrobat than accidental clown on this occasion.

 Obinna had a cross cut out at the other end before the Tangerines were able to break again, Taylor-Fletcher not able to test Green though. A free kick arrived after Crainey tussled with Barrera, late substitute Benni McCarthy unable to get a touch on Cole's flick on from Green's long kick. The last act of this particular battle saw Barrera cut inside and wallop a shot wide, Kingson thumping the ball forward and the whistle blowing with the deadlock still unbroken. What is to follow? Keep your eyes and ears peeled for soundbites from rentaquote co-chairmen Davids Gold and Sullivan. But let us hope they engage their brains before opening their mouths, however.


West Ham United-  Green (gk), Jacobsen, Gabbidon, Upson, Ilunga, Noble, Parker, Boa Morte (Cole 71), Dyer (Barrera 18), Obinna, Piquionne (McCarthy 82)Subs not used- Stech (gk), Kovac, Spector, Tomkins

Blackpool-  Gilks (gk) ( Kingson 45), Eardley, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey, Vaughan, Taylor-Fletcher, Grandin (Phillips 59), Adam, Varney, Campbell (Harewood 67)

Subs not used- Carney, Edwards, Euell, Sylvestre


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