West Ham United

West Ham And Newcastle Fail To Capitalize

West Ham and Newcastle United both had frustrating ends to their January schedule. Both had chances to put the game away in the first half. Both conceded goals in second half injury time, denying them the full three points of victory.

Everton 2 - West Ham 2

West Ham especially needed the points. Stuck at the bottom of the Premiership table, West Ham are in dire need of a three game win streak to save their season. They need momentum. But the fear is that their undefeated streak in late December and early January might have been all the momentum they are going to get this season.

West Ham did have a very promising start in their game against Everton. American midfielder Jonathan Spector scored the opening goal with a well controlled strike of a sweet rebound of the Everton keeper. He absolutely had to score that goal, and he came through, notching his first ever goal in the English Premiership (he scored two goals in League Cup action in November).

And that's how the game would go into halftime, with West Ham in control, up one-nil. Everton eventually won back control and equalized in the second half with a blast from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. But then the game became very memorable for the wrong reasons (at least for West Ham).

The Hammers regained the lead with an impressive strike from Frederic Piquionne. However, he was swiftly shown a red card for excessive celebration. In less than a minute, the Hammers went from estactic joy to feelings of dread and hopelessness. And so, in injury time, Everton attackers weaved around the tired West Ham defenders, with the final turn and shot performed by the afroed Moroccan-Belgian, Marouane Fellaini, who shot the ball into a low corner to secure the draw. Fellaini gave Newcastle bruises and headaches early in the season, and he broke the Hammers' hearts on Sunday.

Newcastle 1 - Tottenham Hotspur 1

What is it with Newcastle? Are they underachievers? Why must they learn one of the most fundamental lessons of football in two consecutive weeks? If you can keep your opposition scoreless through 80 minutes, then you have to bring in fresh legs and tell your lads to double their efforts for the final 15 minutes. You don't sit back. You are supposed to step up and finish the game strong.


The curly haired Argentine defender, Fabricio Coloccini, celebrated his 29th birthday by scoring his second precious goal of the season (and second in this league). He chested the ball down while in the box and just hammered it home at the 60 minute mark. Newcastle had this game in the bag.

But then a long, legal pass to Aaron Lennon stunned the Mags. Two defenders, Fabricio Coloccini and Danny Simpson failed to slide, poke, or otherwise deny Lennon his shot. There was nothing keeper Steve Harper could do as the ball rolled into the bottom left corner. It wasn't Harper's fault. His back four, who had been excellent all day, simply failed to tap or block the ball in their opponent's final attack. Perhaps if they had fought for the ball, rather than appeal for off sides, their team would have 32 points instead of 30.

I'm being harsh. But someone has to yell at these Lads. They are better than this. True, they could so easily be stuck at the bottom with West Ham. But they have shown that they can place themselves in the top half of the table (this draw actually lifted them to seventh place!). You would think that with a tight relegation battle occuring just beneath them, Newcastle would work hard to stay above the fray.

Andy Carroll was not available in this game. But they didn't need Andy Carroll in this game. They had plenty of chances to score the necessary second goal. All Shola Ameobi and Leon Best could do is miss, again and again. And even then, substitute strikers Peter Lovenkrands and Nile Ranger nearly put it away in the final 10 minutes.

I realize, as a Newcastle supporter, that I should feel fortunate that this team has depth, a good defense, five strikers, and amazingly, only eight or so more points to earn to guarantee another season in the greatest professional football league on the planet. Newcastle is still recovering from a giant blow to their prestige and finances. However, I also have that passionate Geordie optimism, that expects to win a game if the Mags are in the lead with 10 minutes remaining. Newcastle are in a title drought, of course. But surely they are a big enough team to prevent disasterous endings to games like the ones they've had these last two weeks? There's a Geordie fan in me who still sometimes treats this team like it is 1996, when it could beat anyone.

Paul over at Black & White & Read All Over is correct. It isn't a question of talent or drive. It is a lack of fitness compared to more stable squads that have not suffered the setback of relegation. That might also explain the more numerous injuries this season compared to last.

Okay, on to the quality Newcastle United Blogs.

Black & White & Read All Over (same post by Paul): "The fact that we were even in a position to rue the points dropped is credit to the team, who struggled to get hold of the ball thanks to Spurs' slicker passing, but who looked the more threatening in front of goal, with Leon Best, Peter Lovenkrands and Nile Ranger all guilty at points of failing to score when gilt-edged opportunities came their way."

View From The Shite Seats: "Somfor the Geordies it’s four points dropped from winning positions in a week, but it is also another good point against a high flying side and another closer to safety."

Blog on the Tyne (Lee Ryder): "Newcastle's service has been so poor out wide this season they have had to re-invent Joey Barton as a right winger."

West Ham FC: Walking In A Winter Wonderland

There might be only one historic upset in pretty, snowy conditions this season in all of English Football. If that turns out to be the case, then Tuesday, November 30th, was it.

The setting was Upton Park, not too far east of the Tower Bridge on the Thames. The fixture was a Carling Cup fifth round match between West Ham United and Manchester United. The weather was light snow and 25 degrees Fahrenheit. And it was a memorable, fun, and even dreamy 4-0 rout of Manchester United by some unlikely West Ham heroes.

In a season that has West Ham stuck at the bottom of the Premier League table, this performance will be remembered for many years, and could mark a key turning point in the team's quest for 35 points to save themselves from relegation. Extra emphasis on the word "could," because right now, West Ham has just 12 points as they near the halfway point of the season. Simply put, they need a solid win streak to save themselves, and seldom have we ever seen a team rescue itself from 20th place after Boxing Day, which is just 3 matches away.

This victory is not being portrayed by the sports media as an upset of epic proportions, as it was a League Cup game. This wasn't the FA Cup. This wasn't for the Premiership title. But Wes Ham's fans will remember it for years. For them, in that snowy evening, it was unforgettable. They were the least likely of teams to end Manchester United's undefeated run of 29 matches in all competitions.

And even we Americans have a new star to keep an eye on: Illinois native, Jonathan Spector. Here's a guy who has played for English clubs the last 7 years, mainly as a reservist defender, scoring only one league goal during that time. His manager moved him to center midfield for this game and what did he do? He scored the first two goals [video from our Russian pirate friends]. He almost scored three goals, but his first strike was disallowed on a late offsides call.

Not to get too excited, but I'm sure Bob Bradley and the rest of the US national team staff are watching. Spector was selected as a reservist for the 2010 World Cup, but performances like this could have him start tournament games in Brazil, when he will be 28 years old and in his prime. We could have our first storyline for the USA's 2014 World Cup campaign. So remember that name...Jonathan Spector.

The Hammers were the last team anyone expected to beat Sir Alex Ferguson's side, and yet it was historically appropriate, as great things have happened before in West Ham's midweek cup matches. A string of wins led them to claim the FA Cup in 1980 (they were in Division 2 at the time, so they were the last team outside the top flight to win the tournament). Tuesday's victory marked the first time the Hammers advanced to a League Cup semifinal since 1989. And this was West Ham's biggest winning margin against Man U in anyone's lifetime. On December 31 1971, they defeated Man U 3-0. So this was quite special indeed.

Sir Alex and his Red Devils didn't dwell on this defeat for a moment. So they won't be winning the Carling Cup in February. But their dismal defensive performance is a reminder to everyone that even the best teams can enter a pitch and become almost stoic and motionless. And any side -especially a desperate home side in front of equally desperate fans- can take complete advantage of a superior team that refuses to dominate. The first and final goal in particular saw the Hammers driving the ball through the box while United players practically stood and watched. Sir Alex had to be embarrassed and furious, but he did a fine job hiding his emotions.The first two goals were scored by Specor. The final two goals were scored by another unlikely hero, striker Carlton Cole, who is likely to be sold during the January transfer window.

Four goals. Surprise heroes. Pretty snow. An historic victory. It really was a thing of beauty, no matter how trivial United supporters or the press saw it.