West Ham have an excellent record against Sunderland over recent years - both home and away, such that we travelled to the Stadium of Light in expectation of at least a point if not snatching all three. As it turned out we came away with a decent point in a game that really could have gone either way. West Ham will undoubtedly feel aggrieved at the Sunderland penalty award, which was soft in the extreme, but in all fairness a sharper strike force would have slotted at least one of the other chances that Sunderland created.
The Andy Carroll-Diafra Sakho partnership looks impressive and will give opposition sides lots to think about in their pre-match preparations for encounters with the Bubbles boys. the combined physicality and pace will force sides to adopt a cautious stance and already we are seeing this translate into increased ball possession for Sam's lads. Downing was again splendid – it’s easy to underestimate just how fast he is and his ability to bring theball forward quickly on the counterattack is really exciting and inevitably led to much panic and foul play from retreating Sunderland defenders on a number of occasions yesterday. Unusually, we also got to see Stewart’s nastier side as he picked up a booking for a quite ruthless and deliberate swipe tackle!
In midfield, Alex Song continues to look majestic with Cheikidh Kouyate adding muscular presence. Even at the best of times Kevin Nolan can look a little pedestrian and yesterday was no exception as the fluidity of our current side contrasts with his more direct style. Nolan will need to start notching goals if he wants to really justify his continued inclusion in the side, especially with Noble returning soon (hopefully!).
At the back, we looked solid with both full backs adding plenty in terms of attacking overlaps. Carl Jenkinson almost opened his Hammers’ goalscoring account in the first half, while Aaron Cresswell linked in beautifully with Diafra Sakho to create a great chance in the second. Sadly, neither came off but there is no doubt that we are a considerably more potent force at full back than in previous years.
Sam didn’t whinge too much about the penalty in post match interviews, belying the fact that he was mostly satisfied with another point on the road. In terms of Japanese respect rituals, this game warranted a keirei bow.
Next up, its Leicester at the Boleyn. Let’s hope this is the start of a major charge over the Christmas period…