It was another goalless draw for the Hammers, but we managed to end a run of three straight home defeats in the Premier League, which gives us a platform to begin pushing on and improving the only thing that’s preventing us from climbing the table.
But, our goal ‘drought’ continued, with Allardyce having to field a starting XI without a recognised striker for the fourth successive league game.
The first-half saw us dominate much of the possession but the lack of bite upfront was frustrating. Attack after attack resulted in either a cross in to the box with no one there to finish, or a weak effort on goal.
Matt Jarvis went close when he found himself clear in the area but he couldn’t manage to squeeze his effort past the crowd of Aston Villa players scrambling to get back, while Villa’s Andreas Weimann had to opportunities to open the scoring for the visitors when clean through on goal, but his first effort was saved by Jussi Jasskelainen and then Ravel Morrison tracked back well to stop his second chance.
That second chance for Weimann was arguably the only real talking point of the entire game. He felt he had been pulled down by Morrison but Howard Webb saw nothing in it and waved play on. Replays showed it was perhaps the right decision as Weimann was clearly leaning in to the England U-21 midfielder looking for the foul and the red card that would have followed.
The second-half saw much of the same as the first. We kept the ball well but just couldn’t find that cutting edge to open the scoring. Both Stewart Downing and Jarvis saw lots of the ball on their respective flanks, but there just wasn’t a credible goal scorer lurking in the Aston Villa penalty box to finish any of their crosses.
Christian Benteke went close twice late on, firstly heading against Jussi’s crossbar and then forcing a wonderful fingertip from the Finnish keeper with a low drive.
But that was all we really saw from one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League at the moment, while Villa were either clearly not at the races on the day, or they just aren’t as good as their wins over Arsenal and Manchester City first suggested.
We, on the other hand, looked good for most parts of the game, particularly defensively. Performances like that cry out for a goalscorer and, had we had someone like Andy Carroll on the field, there would be no doubt that we would have won the game comfortably.
For the tenth Premier League game in a row it came down to a lack of striker. We’re all bored of hearing it, but it’s plan fact that we are desperate for a front man.
We can talk about how Big Sam messed up in the transfer market until the cows come home but, when all is said and done, the players who are fit need to start stepping up and chipping in.
Even without Carroll we have goals in the team. The likes of Downing, Kevin Nolan and Morrison are all capable of getting on the scoresheet. In Nolan’s case, it’s somewhat surprising that he’s only managed the one goal so far this season. The 4-6-0 formation clearly doesn’t bring out his ability enough, which is perhaps why fans have been suggesting Allardyce should drop him until Carroll returns.
De we deserve it?
Considering that, on another day, we would have won the game comfortably, you have to say that we deserved the point.
We played good football, defended well and looked good going forward in stages. If we keep up those kinds of performances at home then we shouldn’t drop too many more points at the Boleyn Ground this season.
There wasn’t a single player on the field that didn’t put a shift in. The midfield was efficient, the defence solid.
Who stood out for the Hammers?
There were a number of stand out players on the day. Jack Collison played a blinder in midfield and went some way in convincing Allardyce that he can still do a job for the first-team.
Mark Noble was his usual self, as well. He was everywhere and rarely lost the ball, while his tackling was superb in the centre of the park.
At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time this season, Winston Reid was an absolute rock at the back again. He reads the game so well and his no nonsense approach to defending catches forwards off guard, as Benteke found out on Saturday.
Stewart Downing is beginning to give us a really attacking threat on the wing and you just can’t but think that he’ll bag a couple of goals with his trade mark cut-in shoot move, which we’ve seen him do so many times for Liverpool and Villa over the years.
James Tomkins is doing everything he can to ensure James Collins has a fight on his hands for a starting berth when he returns with injury. He made a couple of crucial of blocks and perfectly timed tackles and he seems to have built up a good understanding with Reid over the last few games.
Lastly, Jussi did what he had to do with minimal fuss once again. His last minute save to deny Benteke was as crucial as they come. Six clean sheets in ten games is very, very impressive.
We travel to Norwich City hoping to continue our good away record (haven’t written that in a while!) and heap more pressure on Canaries manager Chris Hughton. They were thrashed 7-0 at Man City at the weekend and will want to bounce back as quickly as possible, but we go Carrow Road having only conceded one goal on our travels so far this season, which was a dodgy penalty at Hull, so they’ll be aware of the tough test we’ll no doubt give them.
If we can hit the back of the net for once we should leave Carrow Road with all three points and will pull ourselves further away from the drop zone.
Norwich are in the bottom three, but could leap frog us with a victory, meaning a win is even more important for us. Lose and it’s going to be a long way back up to mid-table.