I called the Saints match a game that neither team would be happy losing and, after a tense 90 minutes, a 1-1 draw was probably enough to send both sets of fans home happy.
It could – and should– have been so different though. West Ham started terrifically and Vaz Te was unlucky not to put us ahead inside the first five minutes. We dominated the opening exchanges and were all but playing Saints off the park. The pressure paid off when we won a penalty and Mark Noble showed nuts of steel again to tuck it away.
I had avoided watching highlights of Matt Taylor’s sending off, convinced that he was fully deserving of the red. On second viewing, its clear that Billy Sharp went down like a jenga tower. The annoying thing is that Taylor should’ve known better and not given Sharp the chance to fall down.
That we held on again and got a decent point with ten men should be commended. It’s a long way since the days of Zola and Grant, when our team would roll over and die in the face of uncertainty. We dealt comfortably with Saints’ attacks and forced them to repeatedly try the long ball tactic that we are so often blamed of playing!
West Ham have been a bit inconsistent this season, but if we can put together a similar performance with 11 men against Blackpool then I think we can take the three points. Let’s start with a strong team and play some of our forwards that will both work hard and put the chances away. I’d love to see Baldock or Maynard start in a proper striker’s role – but will it happen? Probably not. I fondly remember the ease with which Baldock scored so against Blackpool at the Boleyn earlier this season. I hope Sam gives him or Maynard enough time to do the same tonight. I jus think if they’re given game time then they’re capable of goals…
I hope we see Vaz Te in an advanced midfield position again as he has been very impressive so far. I could see him getting a goal if he starts, and he seems comfortable in a creative role too. Other than that, I’d hope for a midfield of Noble and Lansbury and a central role for JC, which could mark the beginning stages of his resurrection as a young player to get really excited about. That’s Jack Collison, not the other JC…
Now those four players would provide a midfield worth getting excited about! Let’s hope we see a gluttony of goals that will continue over the next 40 days and 40 nights.
Blackpool are vastly improved since the last time we met them so I’m expecting a tough match. Maybe I’ve grown over-confident but I think we could take all three from this one; putting us back where we belong, at the top of this division.
Enjoy your pancakes and Come On You Irons!