Boleyn brief: West Ham United 2 Leeds United 2
The Seventy Two is finally settling into a rhythm now that the season is in full swing. One of the regular features you can expect is an update on the feelings of West Ham United fans as Sam Allardyce’s side get to grips with the Championship following the club’s relegation from the Premier League. Stuart Fuller is our man at Upton Park.
Two weeks ago I said “Keep calm and carry on” after the last minute defeat to Cardiff City. And sure enough, two good wins on the road, with five scored and none conceded, brought the confidence flowing back through the gates at Upton Park for the game with Leeds United. But just how much of a yardstick were wins against Doncaster Rovers and Watford? We were to see as the 90 minutes unfolded.
I hate saying “I told you so” but I told you so. Some weeks ago on this very website, I mentioned Allardyce would struggle to accommodate the “Holy Trinity” of Parker, Noble and Nolan and again there was proof of that. A 4-5-1 formation with a lumbering Carlton Cole, and the three midfielders unsure who should go forward and who should hold meant most of the time Winston Reid’s pointless long balls simply sailed over everyone’s heads into no man’s land. West Ham played brightly in spots but it was Leeds who can be slightly disappointed at two points lost rather than a point gained.
Both the Hammers goals showed signs of fortune – firstly Cole’s flick didn’t seem to be intended as a goalbound effort and took most of the Leeds defence by surprise as it went over the line, and you will not see many better strikes than for the second goal, albeit in the wrong net. There were some patches of play that were high in quality. The build up to the equaliser would have graced the Camp Nou. Julien Faubert, having just come on a substitute, revelled in a more forward role and charged down the flank before sending in an unstoppable cross which was turned into the Leeds net. The Hammers also had a purple patch, laying siege to the Leeds goal for a ten minute period in the second half with Andy Lonergan making a couple of great close-range saves.
But Leeds will feel they could have won all three points. Adam Clayton and Jonny Howson in central midfield were impressive, as too was Max Gradel when he decided to stay on his feet instead of falling over under the slightest touch. Gradel will also look back on his poor penalty in the first half which he put wide as a chance to be the hero rather than the villain.
The Leeds fans never gave up getting behind their side, and if they take that level of support everywhere this season it will really spur on the team. It was surely a factor in the last minute equaliser as Howson’s shot hit the bar and Clayton was on hand to smash the ball home.
Again, lots to think about for Sam Allardyce. Sorting out the midfield three is a priority, as well as getting a second option up front. With new signing Carew getting twenty minutes at the end, it seems that Allardyce’s preferred option is still route one, but with the kind of delivery we saw to the big Norwegian and Carlton Cole beforehand it will never be an effective strategy against well organised defences.
Still, the season is young. No need to panic just yet… again.