West Ham 1 Oxford United 0 Match Report
Parker`s injury time winner was a cruel blow for the 3000 or so Oxford supporters who must have thought they had seen their team battle a Premiership club into extra time. And, a lot of credit has to be given to the League Two outfit. They came determined to defend hard, win the ball and catch us on the break.
The game`s stats will tell you that West Ham dominated the possession, the corner count and goal attempts. However, it`s telling that the Man of the Match award went to our goalkeeper Marek Stech.
Grant understandably tinkered with the line-up which had lost against Bolton. With Man Utd looming at the weekend it seemed unnecessary to press Upson into action. He`s probably too busy trying to get the Adidas sign out of his forehead anyway. The newcomers were Stech in goal, Spector at left-back, Tomkins and Ben Haim as the centre-back pairing, Stanislas onto the left wing, and Sears up front.
I don`t get the big bucks to pick the side but my initial thoughts were - Why can`t a manager play Spector at right-back? If we want to rest Ilunga then let`s get the promising Daprela into the left-back spot. Playing Cole might have been a good way to kick start his goal tally, and as this is such a psychologically important game let`s bring on the youngsters when the hard work has been done.
The first half wasn`t an exciting affair. Piquionne could have got us off to a flyer in the first minute only for the Oxford keeper Clarke to make the first of a few good saves. Sadly that was the pattern for us. The chances we did have we didn`t take. Oxford got forward when they could and tested Stech a couple of times.
The second half was a little more open. Certainly once McCarthy and Cole were both on the pitch the attacking menace was more pronounced. Piquionne and Parker combined well to bring out a great save from Clarke ten minutes before doing the same in the 92nd minute to get the winner.
We controlled the game well. We showed we`re great at passing it around at the back and in midfield but still lack that cutting edge up front. Piquionne probably should have bagged a couple, saving Parker from having to bail us out again. I`m beginning to think our best hope is to persuade "two bennis" to release that svelte goal scorer he`s holding hostage inside.
We also didn`t concede which was vitally important. We still don`t know what our best back four is yet but a clean sheet is priceless. Stech did extremely well to deny Potter and Hall from distance, and Tomkins should take away some confidence from a solid performance without any mistakes.
Oxford played well and hopefully they`ll remember that after they get over conceding an injury time winner. If they can play with that kind of determination in the League they should do well this season.
In the end it all worked out. I`m sure a comfortable victory would have done more good but perhaps a last gasp winner can work just as well. One thing`s for sure it was a game we really needed to win.