West Ham United 1 Blues 1 .. Match Report

Last updated : 09 February 2008 By Richard Barker

Token bad Blues defending led to West Ham taking an early lead, but a James McFadden penalty levelled matters, and 1-1 was how it remained.

As I got into the car to set off for the game, after putting "Tokyo" into the Sat Nav to get directions, I switched on the radio to hear the cringeworthy attempts to justify sending Premier League games around the globe by the chairman of a football club who are so precariously perched in the table themselves that it could be an issue that doesn't even affect his club. It would have been laughable, had it not been David Gold. Everyone knows the reasons why it may happen - why are people lying about it? And why is David Gold first to comment? Can't the chairman of an established Premier League club do it, rather than one who only got promoted last season and might be relegated again this season? I can just see it in three years time, as I tune in to Five Live and hear the interviewer say, "So, Mr Gold, there's Premier League fixtures in Beijing, Sydney, Montreal, Los Angeles and Cape Town this weekend - do you think Birmingham will get a result away at MK Dons?"

Anyway, to the football...

Alex McLeish made two changes to the side that drew with Derby County. Gary McSheffrey filled in for the suspended Olivier Kapo (I'm not prepared to say "replaced") whilst Mikael Forssell came in for Garry O'Connor who was omitted from the sixteen altogether. Mehdi Nafti returned on the bench after Tunisia's exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, which is due to be held in Finland in two years' time.

Blues got off to the worst possible start, as they tend to do, by gifting West Ham their opener. The defending was poor enough in allowing Carlton Cole to flick on a long throw, but in truth, he did only flick it towards Maik Taylor who was unchallenged in his six yard box. This, of course, is Maik 'Liability' Taylor we're talking about though, so rather than step a yard off his line and pick the ball up, he just let it run across the face of his goal where Freddie Ljungberg was on hand to tap home. Well done again, Maik.

It didn't take Blues a great deal of time to get level. McFadden and Forssell had started brightly up front and Blues did look like they'd cause West Ham problems. Sure enough, a quick David Murphy throw (he looked like a proper player for the second week running - he's impressing me) and a clever bit of play by McFadden and he was being dragged to the floor. Mark Clattenberg gave Blues the only decision he'd give them all game and awarded a penalty, and after initial panic as McSheffrey looked to take it, McFadden pulled rank and scored. I think Robert Green had saved every penalty he'd faced all season before that? It was a good penaty to beat him too, as Green went the right way.

Blues continued to look shaky at the back, but promising further forward. McSheffrey got into some decent positions but his decision making was poor, whilst Forssell possibly should have done better with a header after a great ball by McFadden. Cole and Dean Ashton were a handful at the other end of the pitch, but Martin Taylor had another fair game.

In the second half, as you'd expect, West Ham upped their game a bit, and Blues seemed to be tiring. McFadden and Forssell faded considerably, and it was a surprise that McLeish waited as long as he did to bring Cameron Jerome on for Forssell. Forssell did go close just before he went off.

After Jerome came on, Blues lifted their game a little, and pushed a little harder for the win in what was, to be honest, one of the most even football matches you'll see. Blues' cause was assisted even further when Lee Bowyer was sent off late on for a challenge on Damien Johnson, but Blues seemed to settle for a decent point. Given recent results, you can't blame them.

We're at the stage of the season now where results are judged by looking at how other teams have done too, and with Reading, Wigan and Fulham all losing, a draw at West Ham is a very good point. They've got plenty of injuries at the moment, but still have some quality players out there - Ljungberg was excellent. A decent point for Blues who now need to pick up at home and hope they can pick up a few more decent results like this on the road.