It wasn’t pretty; it wasn’t great for the heart, but what a phenomenal three points. Kevin Nolan’s first half strike against his former employer’s gave the Hammers their first win in Tyneside since 1998.
Nolan’s strike in the 38th minute proved to be the only goal of the game as the East end club propelled into the top 6, but just what have we learnt from today’s win?
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5. The importance of Nolan- It is uncanny how often captain Kev finds himself in dangerous areas. Joey O’ Brien’s shot that was drifting wide before Nolan adjusted perfectly to divert the ball into the back of the net. Nolan pops up in these areas, areas that centre forwards would be in, but the midfielder is the Hammers top goal scorer because his gambling striking instincts. But it’s not just his goals that are important, it’s his sheer presence. Defenders know he is there or thereabouts, and extra man to mark thus creating space for others. The importance of Nolan was doubted last year with fans calling him “lazy”, there will be very little of the West Ham persuasion saying that now.
4. West Ham are winning ugly- In my match preview ahead of the City game, I said City may be playing poorly but they are winning ugly. That is exactly what this West Ham side can do. In Andy Carroll we have a player who can hold up the ball and waste time by drawing fouls. In Mohamed Diame we have a player who can make lung busting runs forward meaning we can break at pace. Defensively we look solid, players putting their body on the line for the team, I lost count today with the amount of last ditch blocks and tackles. The performance today typifies Sam Allardyce battling, hardworking, heroic.
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3. Big Sam and his coaches are making us solid in defence- Touching back on my previous point, defensively this season we have looked solid, we have kept clean sheets against two of the best attacking teams in the country, Manchester City and Newcastle United. Flying blocks, pressing and last ditch tackles are not things you would associate with West Ham in years gone by. But under Big Sam and Nolan the Hammers players look as committed as ever. And it’s great to see. Today in particular Joey O’Brien (who is quickly become a bit of an unsung hero as he can play right the way across the back four), James Tomkins and Winston Reid all produced superb performances.
2. The Importance of versatility- With the current injury jinx that has hit our team, with half of our starting back four out. The importance of players like Gary O’Neil, Joey O’Brien are becoming pivotal as they can come on and make a difference shore things up and seal a win. O’Brien in particular has played at right back, centre back and left back this season, all he has to do now is player in goal and he has played in every defensive position possible. Today when players like Matt Jarvis and Yossi Benayoun were struggling, Big Sam turned round to see Gary O’Neil and Modibo Maiga sitting on the bench ready to perform, Big Sam has created a squad that can be more than competitive in this league.
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1. The Big Sam effect- I can almost guarantee that at 1-0 under severe pressure that the West Ham side 2 or 3 years ago would have capitulated and lost. But under Big Sam the squad has a much steelier determined look about it. The Hammers got destroyed by Newcastle 5-0 last time we were down there this time a clean sheet and a Kevin Nolan goal made all the difference. Big Sam has got that confidence back that will to play for the Hammers back. Big Sam is winning the faithful over and he is bringing the smiles back to us proud Irons. Keep up the good work big man.
Oh and isn’t it nice to be the 2nd best team in London. Come on You Irons!
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