Whilst it is not quite the end of the season for us yet, with West Ham’s relegation being confirmed yesterday, it would be wasteful not to reflect back on the Hammers demise.
After all in their league games against us this year, their performances summed up their whole season which just has not been good enough for Bobby Moore’s old team.
Count your minds back to our 3-0 win over the Hammers back in August, where we comfortably won our second league win of the season. It was a good performance by us and it was a great way for the boys to bounce back from their scratchy performance at Fulham where despite being ahead twice we failed to win drawing 2-2 after Brede Hangeland powered in a late header.
Of course without wanting to disrespect Fulham – whose performance on the day derserved at least a point – we had a great chance to seal the game but Nani dissapointingly missed a penalty that would have made it 3-1 minutes before Hangeland scored.
We started the game pretty well with Nani forcing Rob Green to tip a powerful strike onto the bar. Nani was definitely trying to make up for his penalty miss the weekend before. Finally after several close shaves, we took the lead with Wayne Rooney holding his nerve with a penalty after ex-Red Jonathan Spector had fouled Ryan Giggs.
After half time, we came out quickly and finished the game off. A great ball from Nani found Dimitar Berbatov at the back post to put us ahead. Berba doing the business, acrobatic ally volleying home to score his 3rd goal of the season – in what of course was going to be his best season at Old Trafford.
Not long after Nani got his goal, which was fitting given his performance. His strike was a thing of real beauty, cutting inside his marker after a flowing move before burying the ball past poor Robert Green. With 15 minutes left, Sir Alex Ferguson made changes handing Chris Smalling a home league debut in place of Jonny Evans as we comfortably saw the game out
Whilst Avram Grant’s side would not have expected to get anything from the game, his team showed some worrying signs in the defeat at Old Trafford that would sum up their season. Whilst Scott Parker worked hard in midfield, West Ham just did not have enough quality where it mattered most and after a good showing in the first half Carlton Cole slipped back into Nemanja Vidic’s pocket after that.
Fast-forward to April to our reverse fixture at Upton Park which we spectaculry won 4-2, with a comeback victory that’s become a Manchester United trademark so to speak. In what was an early kick-off, West Ham started the game brighter and were 2-0 up thanks to two Mark Noble penalties which Tomasz Kuszczak could not nothing about.
Taking a 2-0 lead into half time, Hammers fans could not have been happier as with their team struggling at the bottom of the table, this was just the kind of result that they had been dreaming of. Sadly their dream turned into a nightmare as we spectacularly turned the game on his head by scoring four times in a 19 minute spell.
Yes we were somewhat lucky in the first half that Vidic was still on the pitch after he escaped red-cards for fouls on Cole and Demba Ba, but in this game there’s the old saying that you make your luck. That’s exactly what we did and we certainly took advantage of it.
To be fair it was a game that West Ham should never have lost, but the way in which the team battled back was something spectacular with Rooney stealing the show grabbing a 14-minute hatrick. A brilliant freekick made it 2-1, before a brilliant turn and shot gave us the equaliser. There was a sense of predictability after that and before our fans could even think that we’d be ahead soon, we were.
Somewhat harsly perhaps Matt Upson was adjudged to have handled a Fabio cross and Rooney did the business lashing the penalty home much to the delight of his teammates. With us now ahead for the first time in the game, Grant’s side just couldn’t live with us and minutes later Javier Hernandez clinched the game stabbing in a Giggs cross-shot.
Whilst it had been a great win for us and a game that sumed up our season in that despite being againgst the odds we got the job done, it was a demoralising result for the Londoners. Grant’s side would go onto lose five games out of their next six with yesterday’s defeat at our neighbours Wigan finally confirming their relegation after a 6 years in the Premiership.
That thrilling game at Upton Park was just one of many games in which Grant’s side surrendered a lead and one in which the team just couldn’t live with the opposition when the going got tough. Yes Parker was missing that day but the rest of their squad have not been good enough. Unlike the last time West Ham were relegated in 2003, this time there can be no excuses from their fans.
It’s staggering to think that in between the league games between the sides, we lost 4-0 to the Hammers at Upton Park in the Carling Cup. Looking back at the game then, it was probably the highlight of West Ham’s season which sadly for them was to turn very sour indeed.
With the Hammers moving into the Olympic Stadium in 2012, their relegation yesterday confirmed that our visit to Upton Park last month will be our last league visit to the old ground.
Despite us having some bad-times at Upton Park in 1992 when we lost 2-0 whilst going for the old Division 1 title and in 1995 when Ludek Miklosko somehow stopped us winning the league from Blackburn Rovers, it’s a ground that we’ve come to know quite well down the years.
It shall be intresting to see what happens to West Ham next year as it could be a while before we visit them again. With a squad that’s likley to see major-changes over the coming months, despite moving into a new stadium they could have dark days ahead.
Adam Dennehey – @ADennehey87