It's never too late - West Ham report
After last weeks great win it was even more important we got something out of today’s game so we didn’t waste that result. Two wins on the bounce makes such a massive difference and takes you so much further away from those around you. West Ham was as good a team as we could have got really; nothing to play for, loads of injuries and have had a good few beatings recently. With Jones returning we could put out virtually a full strength side and I was pretty confident about a win.
Despite Jones coming back, Edwards dropped to the bench (presumably a precaution against his injury) and Chopra started, albeit on the right hand side again. West Ham have a fairly average side; full of seasoned pros like Parker, Ljungberg, Mullins etc. but nobody to really hurt you. Ashton is probably that one player but he’s had a poor-ish season and doesn’t score enough goals.
We got about them early on and the game had a good flow but we created nothing really. The first chance came to West Ham out of nothing. Ashton was on the edge of the box and curled a shot, with the outside of his foot, away from Gordon. It looked from behind the goal as if it was going well over but it had a sudden dip and hit the crossbar. It was a great effort. From then on they stepped up the tempo a bit. Our midfield was sloppy and off the pace, particularly Richardson and the ball given away too many times. West Ham punished us for poor defending by getting the first goal. A cross into the box was half cleared to Cole who played it to Ljungberg outside the box, our defenders were all over and he dribbled into the box unchallenged and by the time Nosworthy woke up and went to press the ball, he’d got his shot away which flew past Gordon into the net.
Sunderland responded pretty well and forced a few corners, one of which Collins should have scored from with a header. Getting the ball to Reid was the key, he’s the man who has the ability and vision to play players in - some times they come off sometimes they don’t. He was the architect for our equalizer though, he fizzed a reverse pass out to Richardson on the left who came in-field a bit, got to the by-line and squared a ball to the unmarked Jones who scored from about 3 yards out. There was no-one near him so I initially thought he may be off-side but it was given and we were gratefully level.
We had a few further half chances from Reid and Chopra but Carlton Cole had the best effort near half time as he curled a shot from outside the box which Gordon dove full length to and just tipped over the bar. It was a fine save but if he’d been beaten from there it would have been a poor goal to concede.
The second half was just one way traffic as the side who really needed to win this game suddenly started playing like it. We forced numerous corners with countless close shaves. Collins had a header cleared off the line by the man on the post, Edwards’ (who had come on with Leadbitter in a re-shuffle) had a cross miss Whitehead by inches and Murphy had a shot deflected behind.
The very best chance though came five minutes from the end when Jones’ cross found Murphy unmarked 6 yards out and he blasted the ball over when it was easier to score. It wasn’t quite an open goal but not far off it. I feared that was our chance gone but we kept plugging away, all the while we were slightly vulnerable to a counter attack with pushing so many men forward. Nosworthy had a couple of dodgy moments but redeemed himself well and we were able to keep fairly constant pressure on. By this time there had been a few injuries for West Ham. Their half-time sub, Pantsil, had to go off and when Ljungberg pulled a hamstring he had to be stretchered off and they were down to 10 men for the last 5 minutes. All of this contributed to 5 minutes injury time and with our record for late goals you just never know….
Roared on by great support, the players kept going and we resorted to long balls with everyone in the box but none were falling. Time ticked on and the 5 minutes were virtually up when we got one last free kick. The ball was played out to Edwards on the right who chipped in a diagonal ball into the crowded box, Jones went up for a header and the ball deflected out to an unmarked Reid who volleyed the ball into the bottom corner of the net to seal a dramatic and fantastic win. Everyone went mental of course, not only because it was the winner but this was a massive goal in us staying up. We’ve done this a lot the last year and a half but this was as good and as dramatic as any of them.
There was virtually no time to kick off and the 3 points secured. With defeats for Bolton and Fulham too it was a pretty good day and saw us go 7 points ahead of third bottom. Daylight at last and with winnable games coming up this needn’t be the fraught end to the season that it once promised. It was fitting for Reid to score the winner. Not everything he tried came off but he was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch today and is one of the most talented players I’ve seen play for Sunderland. He needs to keep it up but if he does we could have a special player on our hands.