Sunday, 18 January 2009

West Ham v Fulham (Gary Loughran)

The latest game in a series of improving performances. West Ham gave arguably their best, winning, performance of the season to easily dismiss a hardworking Fulham side 3 - 1.

Fulham came to Upton Park with 3 ex-Hammers in their starting 11. Fortunately for West Ham all of Konchesky, Zamora and Pantsil were woefully off the pace of the game. First Pantsil miscontrolled a hopeful punt into the box to allow Di Michele to nip in and expertly open the scoring. West Ham continued to dominate proceedings and were unlucky to concede an equaliser to a wonder strike from Koncheskey, his first for Fulham.

The second half went much the way of the first until Koncheskey dallied on the ball, which was stolen from him by a determined Cole. As Cole bore down on goal, in an obvious goal scoring opportunity (note to referees everywhere - this was much more than a 'promising attacking move') - he was unceremoniously upended by Koncheskey. The resultant penalty, the first West Ham have been awarded in the Premiership in a year, was cooly slotted home by Noble.

As Fulham tried to get back in the game they lost their shape and West Ham duly punished this when a great move ended with Di Michele sliding a delicate pass to the on rushing Cole to convert. A great, flowing West Ham move.

The whole team deserve acclaim for this performance, the defence was outstanding with Neil and Ilunga looking the perfect complement to the steady Green, Upson and Colins. In midfield Behrami had his best game in Claret and Blue, Collison, Parker and Noble were excellently energetic as they won and kept possession better than at any time this season. Up front Di Michele is still a liability. Despite his goal and some nice touch play his overall game is not solid enough for us at this level.

Which leaves Carlton Cole. Quite often I have lambasted Cole as poor, having no touch, being a weak header of the ball and for primarily not being able to score. However, after recent performances (and especially this one) I am coming around to the belief that Cole might well be a consistent threat for us for years to come. Today he was simply outstanding. He worked hard and unsettled the Fulham defence, he distributed the ball well, he tackled well. Most of all he was a genuine threat as demostrated with some great first touches leading to better goal bound strikes. I am delighted that he is proving so many wrong, most of all me.

If Cole and West Ham continue with such solid hardworking team performances then we should easily find ourselves in the top half of an extremely finely balanced league.

Gary Loughran

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