Hammers Away For Second Half

Last updated : 01 May 2002 By Mike Reich
It was a real Jekyll and Hyde performance from the team on Saturday - the first half was excellent, with the only downside being the number of good chances wasted. The efforts on goal were not saved so much as they were missed - with Lomas and Kanoute both putting excellent chances wide.

The first half was a great way to follow up the Arsenal game - Newcastle have nothing to play for inasmuch as they will finish 4th almost no matter what happens elsewehere, whilst the Hammers started the match in 8th place, thanks to Liverpool failing to beat TottScum at Shite Hart Lane. A draw would have reinstated West Ham in seventh.

St James' Park is a huge ground - the main stand makes the new Hammers Dr Martens' stand look like the Chicken Run - it is absolutely huge. The away fans are placed up in the Gods in the corner at the end in which David James started in goal.

The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Defoe returning to the side due to Schemmel's absence with a broken ankle, and Labant replaces Winterburn. Personally I think that Nige is by far the better player, but Glenn is probably trying to give Labant a taste of Premiership football prior to next season.

The game started off much like the Arsenal game - they had the more posession in the opening minutes, but it didn't take long for the Hammers to start imposing themselves on the game. Jermain Defoe had a good chance up front on about 7 minutes, and it was claret and blue from then on.

Kanoute and Defoe were playing absolutely brilliantly together up front - people accuse Kanoute of being lazy, but on Saturday he played very well - although he should have put away several great chances that he has been gifted. Joey Cole and Steve Lomas have been doing exceptionally well, with Joey being involved in pretty much everything.

The back has, in general, been solid, with Tomas Repka having an outstanding games so far. Ian Pearce is playing at right back, and if he continues to play like this, then Glenn is going to have a real selection headache come next season when Schemmel returns to full fitness.

Jermain Defoe put the Hammers ahead on about 25 minutes, striking brilliantly to put the ball past Shay Given, after James launched his goal kick upfield and Kanoute headed on for the diminuitive striker to strike the ball into the back of the net.

Their crucial goal came just before half time and was an especially poor goal to concede. Shearer looked to be offside, when the pass was made, but instead of playing to the whistle, they played to their instincts, and Shearer doesn't tend to miss one-on-ones.

The game was becoming more and more similar to the Arsenal game - the teams went in all square at half time, when the Hammers should have been in front - and the opposition came out and put a couple past us in the second half - because we forgot to show up.

It was after only a few minutes that Newcastle went ahead in bizarre circumstances - James headed the ball out of his area - instead of catching it, and the ball fell to Robert. The former Hammers target shot at goal, and James parried his shot, before Lua Lua finally put it in the back of the net.

Robert got one for himself minutes later when his attempted lob rebounded into his path for him to place into the empty net.

All in all - a great first half performance from which a lot of positives can be taken. But a failure to put some excellent chances away led to yet another away defeat for the Hammers.