West Ham United 1 – Stoke City 1

With Arnie, Shaqiri and Clumsy missing from the Stoke line-up even playing an out of form West Ham seemed like it was going to be a tough game. Hughes’s team selection however gave a glimmer of hope with Ramadan deputising for Arnie whilst Charlie Boy continued alongside Glenda and Super Jon taking his place on the right wing.

Yet after only a few minutes it was becoming abundantly clear that this West Ham team is a poor imitation of the Payet led side which performed so well last season. This West Ham team are not just out of form but simply poor, a fact which makes the point gained on Saturday feel more like two points lost.

Stoke, missing the magic and goal threat of Shaqiri and Arnie, dominated the opening forty-five minutes without troubling Adrian in the West Ham goal. In fact, Stoke’s only real clear cut chance fell to Bony, who’s glancing header hardly troubled the West Ham keeper and although both Ramadan and Super Jon teased their full backs a number of times the end ball was just not that good enough.

Despite all of Stoke’s dominance it was West Ham who had the best chance of the first half when Grant produced a reflex save to deny Angelo Ogbanna and with the two teams heading into the tunnel at half-time that here we go again Stoke paranoia began to surface once more.

And that paranoia felt justified when after sixty-five minutes a Payet cross was diverted into his own net by Glenda to give the home team a lead they thoroughly didn’t deserve. And with their noses in front West Ham began to grow in confidence as they chased a second goal which would surely have killed the game.

Hughes, seeing his team fall behind, gambled with the introduction of Two Meter Peter and Bojan for the disappointing Bony and Glenda and whilst he may not have the mobility of his younger days the added aerial presence of Stoke’s veteran forward man began to give Adrian the jitters. Every time the ball was launched into the West Ham penalty area the West Ham keeper seemed to have a rush of blood to the head as he left his line to try, unsuccessfully, to claim the ball.

It was one of these rushes of blood to the head which resulted in Stoke’s equalizer when Super Jon bravely chipped the ball past the on rushing Adrian for Bojan to tap into an empty net and although the West Ham keeper received a yellow card for taking out the Stoke winger I would be interested to see what would have happened if Bojan had missed and Stoke were subsequently awarded a penalty. Whilst Super Jon was not faced with a clear goal scoring chance the rugby tackle which he received would surely have resulted in a red card for Adrian if Stoke hadn’t of scored.

Stoke remain 12th going into the final international break of the year and with a couple of winnable games coming up should be looking to break into the top half before December’s nightmare fixture run commences but as always there are a few things which need to be taken into consideration:

  • Another good game from Ramadan but, at the moment, he is no Arnoe or Shaqiri. A good third choice winger he needs to be getting match day experience and should be on the bench when his senior colleagues are available again
  • Wilfried didn’t have his best game in a Stoke shirt and clearly missed Arnie and Shaqiri. Although Two Meter Peter created problems when he came on we desperately need a second striker as back up to the Ivorian
  • With both Charlie Boy and Bojan producing the goods Stoke are showing they have quality back up for their first team players but Clumsy and Allen, if fit, should retain their places after the break and Hughes needs to avoid the temptation to tinker with a winning formula to give his bench players game time.
  • With two winnable home games coming up, as well as a trip to a Watford team thumped by Liverpool, Stoke are on a run of fixtures which sees us play against the weaker teams in the division. But we can’t let complacency seep in and Hughes needs to ensure his team approach the upcoming matches with the positive attitude they have showed in recent weeks.

Stoke Giraffe of the Week           Erik Pieters

Stoke Lemon of the Week           Wilfried Bony

Match Ratings

Lee Grant – 7                         Excellent reflex save in the first half and unlucky for West ham’s goal.

Phil Bardsley – 7                   Typical old fashioned full back’s display complete with foul and abusive tirades aplenty. Needs to keep his mouth shut otherwise less lenient refs will take his name

Ryan Shawcross – 8             A true skippers performance and a huge sigh of relief emanated from the Stoke fans when he returned to the field after an injury scare.

Bruno Martin Indi – 6         Got outmuscled a couple of times and his passing seemed more flustered than usual.

Erik Pieters – 8                     From Lemon to Giraffe, anything that went down the West Ham right was dealt with easily by the Dutchman and provided a calming influence for Ramadan in front of him.

Glen Whelan – 7                   Did what he was asked to do well and was unlucky for the own goal.

Charlie Boy – 7                     Not so much a presence going forward as he was against Swansea but was a calming presence in the middle of the park.

Joe Allen – 7                          After his recent goal scoring form can be excused for sometimes shooting on sight but needs to look up every now and again rather than just putting his foot through the ball

Super Jon – 8                        A match which suited his more combative approach to wide play and was brave to set up Bojan’s equaliser

Ramadan – 7                         Not quite as impressive as against Swansea but looked menacing and worked hard tracking back

Wilfried – 5                            Missed having players close to him and meandered out of the game.

Substitutes

Bojan – 7                                In the right place at the right time to give Stoke the equaliser they deserved

Two Meter Peter – 7            His presence alone seemed to send Adrian into meltdown

Mame Diouf – 6                   Didn’t really have enough time to make an impression

Manager

Mark Hughes – 8                 Another solid team selection and his substitutions worked

Referee

Andre Mariner – 8                Unobtrusive and let the game flow, the only negative if I was a referees’ adjudicator would be not talking to Bardlsey about his continued foul and abusive language

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Stoke City’s Visit To The London Stadium

On Saturday Stoke travel to the London Stadium, the new home of West Ham United, where there have been numerous instances of crowd trouble this season including the much publicised trouble between Chelsea and West Ham fans last week. Growing up in the Boothen End I am not unfamiliar with the mentality of a certain minority of Stoke fans and these two facts put together leave me with a sense of apprehension leading up to the match.

I know that for the majority of fans who will turn up for Saturday’s match football will be the sole consideration and I hope that my misgivings end up being nothing more than that but with the move from Upton Park, West Ham have an increased capacity to fill and I wonder if this is the reason why this season there seems to be more trouble at their home games. Football hooliganism, whilst less prevalent than in the last century has, and I am afraid will always be, around. For some football is merely an excuse to have a fight on a Saturday night and whilst not as widely popularised as some other clubs Stoke City has always had a healthy collection of dickheads wanting a rumble.

To combat any prospective trouble going forward West Ham have put together a five-point security plan and whilst most, if not all, belongs in the common sense category there are two interrelated items which I hope they stick to. One is for the stewards to have handheld cameras to film disturbances and if they do then I hope that West Ham stick to their zero tolerance banning policy. Furthermore, if a fan is banned from West Ham they should be banned from every sport arena in the United Kingdom, for life.

Some may say this may be a little heavy handed but as I have already stated there are always going to be “fans” who only really want to fight. I doubt if they are banned from attending their Saturday afternoon rallying points in ever increasing numbers that it will stop them fighting but it will, hopefully, keep them away from the game they are trying to pollute. If they then still insist on keeping kicking the shit out of each other let them, I have no problems with groups of idiotic morons converging to try and cripple each other, as long as they do it away from me and my family.

Finally, there have been calls for West Ham to be docked points if they are unable to sort out the problem of violence at the London Stadium. Whilst this may be an incentive for the club to act it is not the solution as it would be unfair to punish the majority of West Ham fans for the actions of a braindead minority. If the club are true to their word in trying to tackle this new outbreak of ground based violence we should be applauding and trying to help them not criticising them because their problems may one day be our own.

September’s Giraffes & Lemons

Two months into the season and the league table is beginning to look ominous for those supporters who do not follow one of the big clubs, with the usual suspects congregating in our around the Champions League spots.

Thankfully I am pleased to inform you that the Team Lemon award for September does not go to Stoke City, or even to Sunderland, but to West Ham who, Payet apart, are looking like genuine relegation candidates. The Team Giraffe award for September again doesn’t go to the team sitting on top of the pile but instead to Tottenham Hotspur who have looked, along with Liverpool, the team most likely to stop Pep’s Manchester revolution. Below is my updated predictions for the end of the season:

So here it is, (last month’s position is in brackets):  

  1. Manchester City (1st)
  2. Chelsea (2nd)
  3. Tottenham Hotspur (5th)
  4. Arsenal (4th)
  5. Manchester United (5th)
  6. Liverpool (6th)
  7. Everton (7th)
  8. Southampton (8th)
  9. Leicester City (9th)
  10. Watford (14th)
  11. Crystal Palace (16th)
  12. West Bromwich Albion (11th)
  13. West Ham United (10th)
  14. Stoke City (12th)
  15. Middlesbrough (11th)
  16. Bournemouth (17th)
  17. Swansea (15th)
  18. Burnley (18th)
  19. Hull City (20th)
  20. Sunderland (19th)

From an individual point of view there can only be one winner of the Lemon of the Month and that has to be Big Sam. For someone who has just been given his dream job to be caught out grasping for more money may be bringing the game into disrepute but a baser level it is just plain stupid. At the other end of the football spectrum there have been a few standout performers in September, most notably De Bruyne and Capoue but my Giraffe of the month goes to a Son of Tottenham Hotspur for the way he has taken the pressure of Harry Kane.