Writer: Alex Humpage
Date:Monday September 15 2008
Saturday 13th September; 15:00
In an all-attack, no-defence advert for the beautiful game, Chris Brunt scored the decisive goal of a 5-goal thriller to give Mowbray his first taste of 3 Premiership points.
Gianfranco Zola was appointed as the new West Ham boss this week, but he watched from the stands as the Baggies deservedly edged a topsy-turvy match, where we were both in front and behind before managing to close out the victory.
Mowbray stuck with the 4-5-1 that has received a bit of criticism this season, but with Ishmael Miller not sufficiently recovered from a knock he picked up at Bolton, Roman Bednar started as the lone striker. The midfield was tweaked too - Kim was unfortunate to miss out given his virtuoso displays so far, but due to his extensive international travel Chris Brunt was given a start in a flat midfield five featuring Valero and the three regulars of Koren, Jonno & Morrison.
Morrison made an immediate impact, sending the Albion faithful into rapture when he edged in front of a static Hammers back-line to nod Valero`s pinpoint cross past Robert Green after only three minutes. Albion continued to dominate and Koren should have finished a one-on-one that came about through a silky piece of Baggies build-up play. The Hammers` problems worsened after 20 minutes when influential striker Ashton had to make way with yet another injury, this time a cut to his ear - the man who replaced him, recent free-transfer David Di Michele, had an instant effect on the score line. No sooner had he set-up Mark Noble for a tap-in than Lucas Niell rifled one in, and Albion, who had the chance to score several whilst in front suddenly found themselves behind. Parity was restored moments later however, as Leon Barnett was tripped in the box by Green for a suspect penalty - there were no doubts as Bednar took it though, doubling his goal tally by smashing it straight down the middle after Green had thrown himself to the right.
Both defences were all over the place in the first 45, understandably for the home side who had to recall the under-pressure Hoefkens and new-boy Olssen in place of the injured Zuiverloon and Meite respectively. Olssen looked a promising purchase, with lovely distribution down the middle and not slow in going into the tackle - Hoefkens meanwhile continues to look out of depth at this level.
The second half was a much tighter affair, though more comedy defending presented chances to both teams. Bednar was ever a nuisance and had two half-chances, at the other end Carson showed the sort of quality that earned him a match in Croatia and parried, punched and swatted several goalbound efforts away from his net. Mowbray made some progressive substitutions on 64 minutes, sticking Luke Moore up front to partner Bednar and bringing on Kim for Morrison.
The substitutions paid dividends, when Albion produced a piece of counter-attacking football of real class, Olssen starting the move from the back, with the impressive Robinson playing in a low, elusive cross that Chris Brunt stuck away on his left wand with some aplomb (83). The match was far from over though, and Carson had to be on top of his game again when he kept out a close-range effort from Scott Parker, who had a very assured game in the West Ham midfield. The Baggies hung on to burst the bubbles and with Cech as a late sub for Bednar, closed out a match they just about deserved to climb up to the heady heights of 14th in the table.
The new centre-back, towering 'Big Jon` Olssen, impressed on his debut, not least because he didn`t know some of the other lads in the team prior to kick-off. Hoefkens cannot be faulted for effort but as with the game at Highbury was targeted to some effect, whilst Robinson on the other flank continues to shine in his third pop at the prem - his height is a weakness against crosses though, and he was at fault for the Hammers equaliser. Up front, Bednar played the lone ranger role much better than Miller has done so far, always looking to bring others into play, holding the ball up well and thoroughly deserving his goal. The midfield was a joy to watch, all of the five contributing to some scintillating counter-attacking play, and beautifully espousing Tony Mowbray`s football philosophy. All in all a welcome three points before next weekend`s match against our oldest of rivals.
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Date:Monday September 15 2008
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