Writer: Mike Field
Date:Saturday August 18 2012
Paul Lambert was pleased with our overall game today, but knows we have to improve further and convert our possession into more clear chances as the season progresses.
Speaking to the Official Site after the 1-0 loss, Lambert admitted we lacked a cutting edge.
'I thought we started the game really well and for 30 minutes we were excellent. But you can have all the ball you want but you've got to score. Some of the play, I was really happy with and some, like anything, you're not. But I can't fault the lads for effort. We tried, but there wasn't much in the game. If we can just get a finishing touch on that then we'll be ok.'
Very honest appraisal really, some are saying that Clark got the touch for the offside but the replays I've seen don't show that, so I'll leave that where it is until I see it closer - suffice to say I fail how Dean could make that call from his position when the linesman had a much better view of it. You don't see many overturned like that and that's ultimate what cost us a share of the spoils as West Ham's penalty shout was weaker than Weakly McWeak's strongest finger.
Outside of that we had more possession, we had the greater chances, but we didn't create the clear cut chances that Benty thrives off. He was also left too isolated and double marked for far too long in the game, and without getting into the blame game, we carried N'Zogbia for far too long. Once Weimann was on (and it shouldn't have been for Holman unless his ankle flared up), and we replaced Zoggy, we were far brighter and far more open in attack.
Midfield did well overall, and the defence was not the subject of the pummeling many expected West Ham to achieve.
The biggest single lesson is Bent can't do the lone role unless we give far more backup from midfield, and we need a big man in there or another to take attention away from him so he can find space. Weimann will be an asset this season, but you can't expect him to play every game as he still has a lot to learn himself.
Plenty of positives, especially the way the lads battled on until the end and didn't give up, but equally of importance were the negatives which were highlighted nicely, and in many ways should have confirmed what Lambert already thought.
Anyway back to the penalty.
'I wasn't sure at the time but I've seen it on the tape and it's come off one of our lads so the referee's called it right.'
Maybe, again for me I'll wait for the replay myself, but having seen the distance shot a few times I don't believe we got the first touch and played him on, but I've been wrong before, and I still doubt Dean could've confidently saw that to overrule it especially given his tendency to award so many weak freekicks to them - including the one that led to the goal.
But these things happen, you have to play to the whistle so even if I'm 100% right that it flicked off Clark's head following a touch from the Spammer, and even if it was never a foul by Vlaar (from memory) that led to the freekick, and even if Dean's line of sight wasn't clear meaning he shouldn't have overruled on gut, it was still our own fault for switching off.
Lambert doesn't blame the reactions of the team though in the incident, insisting that for the youngsters it's a lesson they have to learn from, and not repeat.
Maybe, maybe not. Playing to the whistle is something you learn at schoolboy level, but it's difficult to be overly critical because outside of that single incident the defence really cannot be faulted.
Even Baker's slip near the end, he rectified it - which when a mistake is made is all you can ask for in response.
I would like to see a different line up next time, we finished more strongly than we started - that should say a lot. Delph was fantastic defensively, but we need that balance between defensive work and attacking work in midfield, the introduction of Bannan made us far more flowing - and it's just a shame we couldn't have created that single clear chance we deserved following our dominance.
A few tweaks, a few more sensible additions and we'll be fine this season though. Difficult to be too disappointed as there was plenty to be happy about, and as Lambert said earlier, if you are going to lose, then lose with your head's high, working hard until the end, and never giving up and getting back into the game.
We did that, and banished many a memory from last season in the process in my humble. Now work on what we know we are weak on, and we shouldn't have many more days like this.
'I'm not one for the blame culture, if we lose, we lose together. If we win, then we win together.'
That shouldn't get in the way of Lambert making the changes we need.
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Date:Saturday August 18 2012
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