Written by Neil Dawson
Games between West Ham and Bournemouth are normally entertaining and due to both sides love of attacking are also normally goal-laden. Today was no different with an incident-filled four-goal thriller of an emotional rollercoaster….and honours even.
Once again VAR was at the centre of the game giving and denying Bournemouth a goal and not giving a penalty… I still hate it….. even Eddie said afterwards he doesn’t celebrate anymore in case he is wrong – although he remains in support of the principles.
Both teams named unchanged sides today, not surprising that given a) the runs they are on and b) it’s doubtful many of the 22 that played mid-week did much to trouble their managers’ selection process. It was the Hammers that made the better start though, moving the ball well and dominating possession. Bournemouth defended well, both full-backs setting the tone for decent days with some resolute tackling and fine playing out.
Bournemouth’s early forays were very dependent on Josh King’s movement and he is also starting to link well with Rico the two showing good partnership signs on the wing. It was West Ham who took the lead though when Heller was allowed to control a deep cross too easily and lay back for YARMOLENKO who turned Ake far too simply to curl a wicked shot into the top corner.
The goal spurred Bournemouth on and they enjoyed a strong middle period of the half with Billing and Lerma imperious in the centre and Stacey very spritely on the right (elements of a young Franno). They equalised seven minutes after the opener. A short corner allowed Rico to cross and the ball broke off Ake to KING who rifled home but it took a long time for VAR to chalk off the linesman’s flag. Bournemouth were buzzing and Solanke headed narrowly over from Rico’s corner. Fabianski departed to be replaced by Roberto in the Iron’s goal, the new Spanish keeper providing the home fans with some great entertainment with his errant kicking.
The half-finished with some considerable West Ham pressure and a flurry of corners and one tremendous reflex save from Ramsdale to deny Anderson’s bicycle kick.
HT Bournemouth 1 West Ham 1
The second half exploded into action with a goal in the second minute. Solanke, who grew throughout this game put together a silky run from the wing and fed King who laid off for WILSON to fire his obligatory goal v West Ham low into the bottom corner from just inside the area. Bournemouth then went on a run that should have yielded a third goal – an absolute purple patch of vintage Bournemouth football and one that they will be rueing tonight didn’t get them the win they craved.
First a great move saw King leave the ball for Billing to thunder inches wide across goal, next up was Wilson latching on to a sublime cross-field pass by Stacey to cut inside and hit a shot with such venom that it hit Roberto’s arm without the keeper knowing much about it….. (‘a foot either side’ said every man, woman and child in the ground). Next up was Ake firing in from another dangerous Rico corner but the linesman spotting Solanke in an offside position in front of the keeper. The final drama of the third act saw a sumptuous move between Stacey, Lerma, Harry Wilson and Solanke release Callum one on one in the box ten yards out….. but his shot lacked all the power it needed (if only he had copied his shot before) and Roberto was allowed to make a save he should never have been near.
There is always a sense when a purple patch doesn’t yield that a team starts to think ‘is this our day’. West Ham then took over with Bournemouth tiring and dropping deeper and deeper. We feared another Sheffield United and wondered if Eddie would make any subs with Harry and Billing, in particular, blowing out of their bums. The goal when it came will frustrate Eddie….. the tired Harry didn’t go with Cresswell and it meant when Anderson’s far post header back reached the left-back he had all the time in the world to smash it past Ramsdale – amateur defending once again undoing a great attacking display.
There was one moment of controversy left, King breaking into the box and clearly having his shirt tugged all the way – he went down, VAR review and that tactic of not over-ruling the ref that has worked both for us and against us this season kicked in once again meaning the debate around this farcical system will once again stop people speaking about a great game of football. The game finished with the two mildest mannered men in football having a bit of handbags on the touchline… there will never be a Sky fight night special…Eddie trigger hands Howe v’s Manuel the Punch Pellegrini……..
Ft Bournemouth 2 West Ham 2
Ramsdale 7 – Good handling and a couple of fantastic saves.
Stacey 7 – Really encouraging game as he grows into his role – strong attacking.
Ake 6 – Turned too easily for the goal else normal strong display
Cook 7 – Usual dog of war ‘bring it on’ performance
Rico 7 – Some excellent interplay and a cultured left foot, defensively solid.
Wilson 4 – You get goals but very little else on this season’s evidence. Lazy for the equaliser.
Billing 7 – Strong and athletic and clever feet for a big man
Lerma 8 – The calmest, the strongest and most skilful player on the pitch. Dominant.
King 7 – Full of running and tricks and a great goal.
Solanke 7 – Strongest showing yet, good link play, intelligent running.
Wilson 7 – On form at the moment, great goal so massive surprise he missed that chance.
MOM – Big Jeff for me – outstanding. Best games for the club for Rico, Stacey and Dom too.
The absolute right result for the neutral. Two enterprising attacking teams, playing good football with even possession and chances. We are not neutral though so the reflection tonight will be on that purple patch, the two VAR decisions against and why Callum put his laces through everything apart from the one thing that needed it. It was that inability to score when on top that did for us once again allied with the fact we can’t seem to stop soft goals straight afterwards.
I think this was actually the best performance of the last three games, despite it yielding the least points. It was against a better team for a start and also the players, that let’s face it won’t be playing when everyone is fit, put in their best games of the season so the exposure has done them good. Our centre of midfield duo are as athletic as we have seen and Lerma is just a joy to watch in terms of calmness. The exception to this and the only real worry from the afternoon is Harry Wilson who, goals aside, doesn’t look to me like he is capable at this level and hasn’t improved like Stacey, Rico and Solanke have. I’m glad our normal Liverpool bound money train got derailed at Crewe on what I’ve seen so far.
I still think we are one formation change away from our best team – however churlish this may seem after 7 out of 9 points. I think we need an extra man in midfield and leave King, Callum and one other wide man free to attack. King and Harry offered very little protection to their full-backs today and a better side would have capitalised with even more than the two West Ham grabbed. Both goals came from a two on one overload in the full-back spot as did many other chances. That said – you can’t knock the results the current formation has got and it will be given many more chances to continue I’m sure. It would be great to see what effect on his form it would have if Solanke could get any sort of goal and with Fraser, Brooks and Danjuma to come back up front it’s a mouth-watering prospect (and there’s still Ibe after that – just for you Druss).
So.…..an entertaining afternoon………a fair result……… but a lot of ‘what ifs’ on the minds of a few players and the referee control panel in Stockport as they drop off to sleep tonight.
One massive positive for me is that we have talked about the challenge of replacing the old guard in the past, but seeing the likes of Ramsdale, Stacey, Billing, Solanke (Rico was much better but jury still out for me) all getting game time and not looking out of place makes me wonder how much we can achieve in the next cycle of AFCB history. Still, work to be done for sure but we could be much worse off!
Danjuma looks an interesting player based on his cameo as well, very comfortable with the ball at his feet and willing to go at people, looking forward to seeing more. – Join the conversation, click here.