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Watford 0 West Ham United 4 (16/08/2011) 17/08/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

Five thunks from a sobering evening at Vicarage Road

1- Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first, shall we?  Obvious… but necessary, relevant, important.  Of all the sentiments provoked by last night’s game, the most striking was the chill echo of the futility of Premier League fixtures. During any number of games in each of our seasons in the top flight since football was invented in 1992, we’d look plucky and promising and positive and not really terribly like scoring and then concede.  And then look plucky and positive and get our heads up and keep playing and not really look like scoring and maybe concede again, maybe not.  This is what a game between a newly relegated Premier League club and anyone else was supposed to look like.  In the same way that the grotesque barriers to entry provided by cushion-upon-cushion of TV money should mean that any oiks who find their way up come back down with their tails between their legs, a side like West Ham, a top flight side in terms of their squad and recent history, ought to be much too good for your average second tier side.  The insurance policy of being able to afford salaries that others can’t compete with ought to work for relegated Big Teams as well (and heaven help them if it doesn’t, come the end of the season).  West Ham were much better than us, in short, for reasons that weren’t entirely within Sean Dyche, Chris Iwelumo or anyone else’s control.   Although not conceding early against that midfield probably would have been an idea.

2- There are issues with our attack, quite clearly, and we’ll come to that.  But whilst we were always going to miss the 31 goals that headed towards Wales with Graham and Cowie, the 24 assists that they supplied last season (not to mention the 7 provided by the sorely missed McGinn) are as keenly felt.  For all that each of our midfielders can claim to have had a decent first half, for all that we buzzed around quite purposefully, it’s not as if Sordell and Iwelumo had a whole load of chances to miss.  Perhaps more tellingly, the same was true on Saturday in a game where, unlike last night, we dominated possession.  Yeates is putting good balls in from set pieces, Sordell has prized open a few openings for himself, but our football is yielding almost nothing from open play.  Suddenly creating chances, so painfully easy last season, looks the hardest thing in the world.

3- Chris Iwelumo.  If football were played exclusively with the chest, we’d have the best player in the world on our hands.  As it is… well it’s not really working just yet, is it?  Part of the problem is clearly down to fitness, and if you’re feeling a bit cynical here and doubting the validity of this explanation one need only reflect, as ig did during yesterday’s game, that a player who has built a reputation and a very successful career at this level through his aerial prowess doesn’t look like that when he’s fully fit.  So… there’s more to come from Big Chris, and as Sean Dyche indirectly acknowledged afterwards there’s little to be gained from not playing him if what he needs is games.  More than that, though… it’s not really clear how we want to play at the moment.  Most of us must still instinctively expect to see Danny Graham pulling away from a defender as we break, looking for the run.  Iwelumo’s not going to do that… but endless balls into the channels aren’t really going to be his thing either.  Nor is Marvin Sordell playing as if he’s alongside a target man… dropping deep, working incredibly hard, but not looking for knock downs.  Perhaps, admittedly, because he realises that they’re not coming at the moment.  Lots to sort out here then.  None of which excuses cheering the substitution of a new signing, however abject you rate his performance.  You’re not playing Football Manager now, you can’t just stick him on the transfer list and bring in someone else*.  We can’t afford for Iwelumo not to do well for us, and this level of stick at this early stage is ludicrous, pathetic, pitiable and, frankly, plain stupid.

4- If you’re looking for new and original things to be concerned about, I’ve a few.  Martin Taylor has never been as embarrassed at this level, not even when labouring through a lack of match sharpness in his first few months at the club.  One can only wonder whether the presence of two central defenders on the bench suggested an injury concern.  Not sure what I hope there, really.  Two… Marvin Sordell, dragging his leg uncomfortably, heavily behind him as he left the pitch at the back of the pack following a heavy challenge late on.  Don’t even think about it, Marvin.  Third.. second half.  Only two-down I think (only!).  And Scott Loach has gathered the ball and is looking for options, looking for a target.  And everyone’s got their backs to him, nobody wants it.  We’re not at that stage already, surely?

5- Reasons to be cheerful?  Some positive, committed stuff from both Dickinson and (particularly before the break) Forsyth down the left.  Lloyd Doyley still refuses to sell himself when facing an attacker… some might complain of backing off, frankly I’d rather have a defender who forces his opponent to make the decision rather than making for him.  His discipline got us out of a hole more than once last night.  Sordell has grown since last season.. stronger, more aggressive, and if our forward line isn’t working yet and if he isn’t always making the right decisions then at least he looks determined to take responsibility, to play a more senior role.  Christ, he’s only 20.  Mark Yeates puts in a vicious corner, not everyone is going to be as big and organised as West Ham at set plays.  And we won’t have to endure Kevin Nolan’s rather tiresome whingy Scouser thing again this season.  You’re on a big fat wedge you miserable bastard, at least look as if you’re enjoying yourself.

* Actually you probably can’t do that on Football Manager any more either – haven’t allowed myself to go there for a very long time.  Shudder.  I have a life now, you know.  Kids.  Begone…


1. Brad Flack - 17/08/2011

Perfectly summed up Matt.

I thought Sordell looked good but with no support, there was little he could do against a well organised Hammers defence.

Marvin worked well to create a wonderful chance, pulling defenders towards him so he could cross for Iwelumo to tap in. However big Chris decided he should also chase the scrum rather than be in the box to receive the pass and the chance went begging. Naive, incompetent or desperate to please?

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

If you’re talking about the instance late in the first half when Sordell did brilliantly down the left to get past three players before squaring… you’re being ridiculously harsh. Iwelumo was attacking the near post at the time… yes, moving towards Sordell, but doing what you want a striker to do. The ball was pulled back behind him. No blame on Sordell who’d done brilliantly, just unfortunate…. but no blame on Iwleumo on that occasion either.

2. Brad Flack - 17/08/2011

I disagree (naturally). I have nothing against Iwelumo and would never boo him and don’t actually think he’s as bad as other fans think he is.

However he’s not match fit and we desperately need someone better there, to support Sordell. Maybe we should start Troy behind MS and CI, although this would open up gaps elsewhere.

Someting needs to be done though and fast.

3. Alan Walsh - 17/08/2011

Ok so lets look at the reality of what happened last night. All four goals as I saw it came from the right or centre of defence. Very little passed Dickinson all night.

Lloyd is a lovely chap but week in and out he is costing us goals, either by giving the ball away with bad passes or not tackling when he should. In my humble opinion It is long overdue to drop him for a while and give Adam Thompson a run. The lad can pass and tackle and has pace. The only way he is going to get experience is to play him regularly.

As for big Chris well, if he is not fit then don’t play him as its not going to do his confidence any good at all if he is being booed by half witted fans. As much as I believe Troy is also not the answer at least he is relatively fit!

Lastly, lets use the width of our wing players to full effect instead of bunching them in with midfield please.

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

“The reality”? On the basis that your interpretation is fact and anything that contradicts it is “wrong”?



Alan Walsh - 17/08/2011

Yes reality….. Those are the facts from where the goals were scored. The rest was my own opinion which I am fully entitled to express.

Such priggish comments at the end become you!

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011


Mike Scofield - 17/08/2011

If goals came through the centre of the pitch, then why is Lloyd more culpable than Dickinson, or Marriappa or Taylor ?

Mark - 18/08/2011

The West Ham RIGHT back scored…that suggests our left sided players went awol to allow him the chance to run almost clean through from inside his own half almost unchallenged until he reached the penalty area!

I am impressed with Dickinson though so far and the other new players apart from Big Chris who as Dyche says isn’t fit.

4. Simon - 17/08/2011

A difficult evening on a number of counts really. It’s difficult to ignore the vast chasm in budget and squad but, even taking that into account, this wasn’t exactly what you might call ‘encouraging’.

I think my biggest concern is something that you mentioned, Matt, in that, for all our shots on goal and half chances, we seem to be creating almost more by accident than design. to me, everything just seems rather hurried and disjointed at the moment and it’s difficult to see exactly what can be done. A couple of thoughts, though:

1. We desperately need a forward running central midfielder in the side to feed off Iwelumo (if he’s going to play) and to allow the wingers greater width. Looking back on the game today, I get the impression that the wide players were tucking in, almost to fill the void created by having two deeper lying players through the middle (I can’t think of a single occasion in open play where either central midfielder was beyond his forwards or, for that matter, within 25 yards of them). Baubin appears to have been brought in for that purpose and there’s also a real possibility of a loan player filling the role (as they have done in each of the last two years) until McGinn is back at full fitness.

2. Without that forward running central midfielder, it’s a little difficult to see how Iwelumo is going to work. His previous successes have been borne of his ability to throw himself at closes whipped into the box and players getting in and around him to feed off his chested lay-offs. Without a forward running central midfielder, the chested lay-offs were largely to no-one (or to someone with no onward option) and Iwelumo’s own lack of mobility and genuine hold up play (as has been pointed out, he never was and never will be a forward in Graham’s style and Graham was exceptional in both departments) make it very difficult for the wingers to receive the ball in advanced wide positions without a link between central midfield and the forwards).

I’m sure there are solutions but Dyche has a rather unenviable task in trying to find them. As you say, Matt, some 30 odd goals and 25 assists walked out of the door over the summer.

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

completely agree re the need for an attacking midfielder. Against a 5-man West Ham midfield, Jenkins and Eustace may have been the best partnership whatever the attacking limitations, but we badly need Bobbins to come in and be effective.

5. JohnM - 17/08/2011

I acknowledge the superiority of West Ham’s squad and players, and probably, at this time last season, we may well also have lost (although we may have had a goal or two to look back upon). It is also not Iwelumo’s fault that he is having to replace Danny Graham—a task difficult for a million pound player, let alone an, admittedly, Championship journeyman lacking a good goalscoring record. Hopefully, there will be better to come.
What REALLY worries me is this: There are two types of teams that enter October in the relegation zone. First,The really bad teams that are Crap from the start. However, there are also teams that start the season playing reasonably well, but either cannot buy a goal, or concede ludicrously bad goals at regular intervals. As a result, the confidence is lost, and even the decent players look as if they would struggle in the Blue Square, and they finish entering October unable to string two passes together. Watford are looking dangerously close to this type. Action is required, urgently, if a season bouncing around in the bottom four or five is to be avoided. I have been quite confident of survival in the last two seasons—but what I have seen so far is disturbing. A ‘Mutch’ style figure in midfield would help, as would a forward with more to offer than we have at the moment.
I wonder if Sean Dyches contact with Premier league managers is as obviously well developed as was Malkies?

6. JohnF - 17/08/2011

Well summed up Matt. Not an enjoyable night, particularly following Saturday’s smash and grab by Derby. I said at the beginning of the season that I had concerns about where the goals are going to come from. The danger is that the longer we go without the strikers scoring the more likely it is that confidence will go. The central midfield issue is a difficult one as Eustace did not look at his best. However, movement from the front two and the wide midfielders will be important.

Last night a number of players tired badly and that is also an issue as I thought they also tired against Derby. Why two central defenders on the bench? Strange and concerning.

I think the first thing is a decision on tactics and how we are going to play (taking into account strengths). If CI is going to start we need to stop Mariappa (and Loach) punting aimless floating long balls that do nothing but give the ball back to the opposition.

Incidentally I thought that Lloyd played quite well defending and looking to pass the ball but Yeates seemed determined to not be in space to receive. That was when there was a chance to create width.

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

Lloyd was beaten for the first goal. But otherwise I thought he did well, too.

7. Nick - 17/08/2011

I thought the positives last night were Jenkins who had a good game, Sordell working a lone furrow up front and Dickinson who has impressed me in both games I’ve seen him this year.

I’ve been negetive about Mariappa in the past but this season he seems to have stepped up a gear again and did OK last night after playing very well on Saturday.

I dont agree that playing Chris Iwelumo up front whilst he is this unfit is doing anybody any favours. On this showing he isnt just short of match practise he is woefully short of fitness. unable to jump or hold up the play with the ball into feet.

Still onwards to Coventry, I’ll be there I think the lads need as much support as possible to get through this.

8. Esp - 17/08/2011

I loved the fact that a West Ham player (whingeing Nolan) only got one mention in your match report Matt but I’m not complaining. If I wanted a non partisan summary I would look elsewhere.

I felt Loach was at fault with his positioning for at least two of the goals last night but the defence in front of him admittedly didn’t help and they have precious few minutes of experience and camaradarie together although that will take time (and patience from the fans)

I’m also not convinced that Eustace and Jenkins work well together, too similar as we need one central attacking midfielder – despite my critique of our goalie a loanee striker wkuld be my top priority

If we leave the Bruce Rioch Arena oh on Saturday with just one point out of a possible twelve it becomes a must have rather than a nice to have imho

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

“Rioch Arena” – brilliant, and to be used henceforth

Eustace-Jenkins – agree, as discussed ad infinitum. But perhaps not so daft against West Ham’s midfield last night.

9. Jeremy Clarkeson - 17/08/2011

JC here

Sorry not convinced with Dickinson, except for left foot that booters, and milking the crowd IMHO of watching “on purpose” postional play both forwards and backwards he actually gives anything more to the team that we didnt have last year based on the two appearances Ive seen this year. Flatters to deceive!

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

Don’t agree.

10. Johnny Boy - 17/08/2011

A thought. Craig Forsyth looks quite handy when involved which currently he is not enough. He appears to have a good head and control. Put him down the middle with Marvin which then creates a place for a right sided attacking midfielder. CI then becomes an attacking sub to be brought on when we need to hold the ball up or batter a few tied defences. Then again, what do I know.

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

Not a bad shout, but a big responsibility for a young and inexperienced player. See where you’re coming from tho.

11. cris b - 17/08/2011

one thing i noticed is that sordell seems to get visibly more frustrated than dg used to. Whereas danny would seemingly chase down lost causes and wayward passes all day, i could almost feel marv getting more upset. Not a criticism i just think we need someone else do to that job. Expecting marv to do that won’t get the best out of him.

12. rousman 2 - 17/08/2011

I am old enough to remember two player’s Ross Jenkin’s & George Riley who were both in there early day’s the subject of the boo boys at the Vic they won most over in time. On the night they were just a lot better than us but that is luck of the draw when you play certain team’s had the game been played after the window had closed & on a cold night in November, also when our carpet of a pitch as it is now had been used by the egg chaser’s then who know’s. We are only three game’s in & I agree there is work to be done but let’s see what happen’s when we Coventry, Barnsley; Doncaster etc etc. This Division as is the one above about the have’s & have not’s like it or not.

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

The timing of the game is significant and unfortunate in several ways, I think. Later in the season, with a few wins under our belt even if we were struggling a game like last night could have been more easily shrugged off.

To be honest though, I can’t see Big Sam managing a side that’s bothered by a cold night in november.

13. Grino - 17/08/2011

3 games in and Doyley and Iwelumo should be dropped? Good grief! And that Loach is useless too. And already we need a loan of a top quality premiership player.

Forget the result against Billy Mitchells team and think of how unfortunate we are not to have started that game with 6 points.

Two very new forward signings have played just a handful of games with the team and we are expecting them to be already integrated.

In Sean we trust

14. Paul Caruso - 17/08/2011

As with every season we’ll win some, we’ll lose some, there will be two or three teams such as last evenings opponents ripe for the league between Division One and Two on platform 9 and 3/4’s, there will be three horror shows over-ripe for demotion, hello Doncaster. The rest will be a smorgasboard of mediocrity masquerading as consolidation nicking the ghost goal here, the shin-deflection there. We will have much the same season as last without Danny’s goals and rest at around 19th-20th. Water finds it’s level. In the words of Bill Withers ‘sometimes to get to wonderful you have to go through alright, but have a good look around at alright because sometimes that’s as good as it gets’. Lovely stuff from Bill who is thankfully still with-us.

Anyhoo is Wakefield the biggest city without a professional club?

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

I’m tempted to provide an answer involving Milton Keynes. But won’t.

Tim Turner - 18/08/2011

According to this list, it is indeed Wakefield:


Matt Rowson - 18/08/2011

Hardly a comprehensive list, not even of towns with City status (Chelmsford? Colchester?). The “City of Wakefield” (according to Wikipedia) is really a borough, and includes towns like Pontefract, Castleford, Normanton…. not a City by any meaningful definition. Wakefield itself has a population of less than 75000, and is thus smaller than Warrington (200k ish) for example. And Milton Keynes (ah dagnanit…)

15. MartinG - 17/08/2011

Iwelumo should be dropped until he’s fit. We are playing with 10 men at the moment. Otherwise we are playing some good stuff but punchless, and my big concern before the season started was we had quite a stiff start, if we didn’t do well heads would drop.That’s what seems to be happening. Saturday will be interesting.

Matt Rowson - 17/08/2011

He won’t get fit without games. We haven’t enough options up front to drop him. More valuable would be a midfield pairing that saw someone pushing into the box to pick up his knockdowns and play around him

16. MartinG - 17/08/2011

Why not give Deeney a run and find out if he’ll ever make it at this level? From what I’ve seen I don’t think Iwelumo is even fit as opposed to match fit. So i’d swap them round.

17. Mark - 18/08/2011

Paul: No, I think Salford’s the biggest city without a league club (at least that’s what a former boss of mine told me).

I think one thing to note in amongst all of this is that, if you look at the other results in the Championship over the last week or two, they are reliably all over the place. Just looking at last night’s scores, there will be a lot of Leicester City, Blackpool and Millwall fans who are pretty grumpy about their results.

This isn’t to say that getting a more forward thinking CM and a more mobile, poacher-style striker aren’t important, but it’s worth bearing in mind how inconsistent other teams are being too.

Love the blog, Matt – another 5 quality thunks!

18. Jimbohornet - 18/08/2011

I had worrying visions of Devon White on Tuesday. Marv needs mobile support so I would start with Deeney or Forsyth up top and ease Big Chris in from the bench. Hopefully Buaben is the forward running midfielder we need when he too is deemed fit enough to at least make the bench. Will fel a lot better if we can beat Cov and catch Brum cold on the Sunday. Keep the faith !

19. Bob - 18/08/2011

every other season we get spanked by a london side at home – hopefully thats got that out of the way for this year.

I cannot stand west hams self apponited academny of footie tripe which made tuesday night all the more unpalatable. however, that was the best i have seen them play against us in the last few years by a country mile and so i am happy to move on and hope we stuff our real rivals for the comfy sofa of mid-table mediocrity – coventry, on saturday.

they were premserhsip, we were not.

and lets give up on the grahm vs. big chris moan. £75K vs. £3.5M. that’s what we paid and that’s what we got. good luck to him, but get him fit first and then i hope he manages 7-8 goals before xmas. someone tell me what the alternative is?

dicko – love him.
doyley – played solid after the error.
forsyth – slow burner but glimpses of being a better player than don and look forward to him, mcginn, eustace (or jenkins) and yeates across the middle.

20. JohnM - 19/08/2011

Trying to be a little more positive! On what I’ve seen so far, we are one player short of a good midfield, if we include McGinn—and without seeing Buaben play. Possibly.similar to last season, a good loan would sort this out—we can’t afford to wait until McGinn is fit.
Iwelumo, when fit, will be a player at the level of what we have paid for—a Championship journeyman who offers a good alternative from the bench. This is the one position where a signing is desperatly needed, and, I suspect, is being worked upon behind the scenes.
Finally, Mirfin, Buaben, Iwelumo. I always remember a remark made by Graham Taylor early in his career at Watford: “Only sign a player if you are sure he is better than what you already have. Never sign a player to just be part of a squad.”

Matt Rowson - 19/08/2011

re your last comment…. Buaben may well be better than what we already have. Iwelumo too; he’s not impressed yet, but there are several mitigating reasons why not. He certainly wasn’t signed to be an option from the bench.

Mirfin…. well, OK. But one could argue that he is “better than we’ve got” in that he’s better than our previous cover at CB. Following GT’s statement slavishly, we would never be able to sign any cover for MT/AM, only a player superior to one of them. If we can’t afford a player of that calibre, do we just wing it with scant cover?

JohnM - 19/08/2011

Mirfin? I see a sort of perverse logic in what you say! We can’t afford a better player, so bring one in that’s not so good as a standby. O.K as far as it goes, but the lad will always be onto a loser—Unless he proves to be as good as the current first choices he will find much of the crowd on his back—which will not help his confidence. If he is as good, then, looking at the current goals conceded, why is he not being considered for an ‘outing?’ Well, we’ll see.

Agreed, Buaben, of course, might be just the midfielder we are looking for. Hopefully he is.

Iwelumo? His career record is not exactly overwhelming, and I have seen comments from other club supporters that are underwhelming. But, yes, give the lad a chance.

I know money at present is a problem, of course. But G.T. didn’t do too badly with that philosophy, did he!

One last comment—Dyche has described one or two signings as being ‘real men’. In my youth, such a description applied to someone who could drink a yard of ale and fart the National Anthem at the same time. I hope that’s not S.D.’s reason for signing them. Mind you, it also reflects very badly on my youth.

21. Harefield Hornet - 19/08/2011

That nice Mr Bassini has now given SD a bit more pocket money to spend on a striker according to the WO. Lets just pray it’s spent wisely!

22. Hornetboy84 - 19/08/2011

Oh dear. Everyone is clearly worried. I’ve been isolated as away until brum but it’s clear we need to dig deep and knock out 3 points vs Coventry. If we can score early their fans will be all over them . Then 4 from 4 would be the preseason pints total I thought when the fixtures were announced . I had only 3 vs derby and 1 vs Coventry … So need this then set up for a season defining game vs Birmingham …. Which will be my first of season so hopefully a barnstorming win hb84

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