League Two Cheltenham Town visited the Boleyn Ground for this second round clash in the Capital One Cup and as expected Sam Allardyce made wholesale changes to the team with a completely different starting 11 from the Newcastle United game.
However, unlike previous seasons the players to come in were all experienced members of the 1st team squad other than Leo Chambers in goal the new summer signing Adrian together with Razvan Rat making his début at left back. Matthew Taylor and Jack Collison made their first appearances of the season, while Alou Diarra made a rare start. Ricardo Vaz Te got a start upfront, while it was good to see George McCartney making a comeback from long term injury, he partnered James Tomkins at centre back, who was captain for the evening.
But the most exciting team news was Ravel Morrison finally making his full début!
Now the first half hour was pretty forgettable, other than Morrison getting booked for simulation, I was the other side of the ground so cannot really comment on this, however, there did not seem much protest from any of our players, so perhaps that tells a story. However, for the opening half hour we were playing with 10 men! Alou Diarra, I thought was a disgrace! He looked like he did not want to be on the pitch, going down injured on every possible occasion, until finally getting stretchered off, I was not impressed and from where I was watching Allardyce did not look particularly happy. I will be surprised if we see him in the shirt again and after last night, so be it!
Mohamed Diame came on for the hapless Diarra and it this point we livened up, with Morrison coming in to the game showing some nice touches and using/running with the ball well. We took the lead just before half time when Vaz Te powered in a stunning free kick. Vaz Te had been his normal frustrating self up to this point and it is clear that he is not a target man and cannot play up front on his own.
The team came out for the second half with Stewart Downing replacing Joe Cole, who had been busy enough, without creating much. Within a minute we were 2-0 up when Morrison showed his quality with a lovely little run and finish, great stuff! For the rest of the half he along with Downing and Diame were clearly the best players on the pitch. We were now well on top with Vaz Te and Downing going close with headers. However, in true West Ham style we made things uncomfortable when Adrian and Tomkins did not deal with a long ball which resulted in Adrian giving away a penalty which Matt Richard converted. Given Adrian may have been last man he was probably lucky not to see red.
We still looked like scoring again with Collison, Diame, Rat and Taylor all going close but it was not to be.
Job done and the obvious plus was the performance of Ravel Morrison, it looks like we have a player on our hands and I am sure his chance will come in the Premier League this season. Another interesting thing to note was Kevin Nolan (unused sub) was very vocal on the bench, I know he can split opinion with fans but there is little doubt that he is a great captain.
Adrian 5 He will be disappointed with the penalty, but he seemed fairly vocal and in the first half his kicking was good.
Chambers 7 Very encouraging debut got better as the game progressed.
Tomkins 6 His normal composed self, however will be disappointed with the penalty.
McCartney 6 Good to see him back, normal dependable self, however, he will now only ever be cover.
Rat 6 Took him a while to get going I thought, but looked good going forward in second half, however, was not tested defensively.
Diarra - Not going to bother rating him, he offered nothing!
Cole 6 Busy enough first half and looked one of our better players, did not come out for second half.
Morrison 8 Yep after a slow start he was excellent; good with both feet, can pass and run and has an eye for goal, exciting times.
Collison 5 I like the lad, but he offered little and I feel his days could be numbered. Is a crying shame that he never seems to have fully recovered from the bad knee injury.
Taylor 6 Was average, however, put a couple of good crosses in and could have scored. Again I feel his days are numbered.
Vaz Te 6 Such a frustrating player! Great goal but he struggled to lead the line effectively, in all fairness this is probably not his strong point! I like Vaz Te, but have a feeling he could soon be surplus to requirements.
Diame 7 He came on a made a massive difference to the game with his normal surging runs and bossing of the midfield.
Downing 7 A good cameo shift from Downing, put some good crosses in and beat his man on numerous occasion, encouraging signs.