OK, there have been some bad ones. Italy v Spain stands out in recent history but that was because Italy were intent on suffocating a better team. Germany v Austria is a prime candidate but that was because neither side had anything to play for - a draw was perfect for both sides. Tonight there was so much at stake: for West Brom the tantalizing prospect of three crucial, Great Escape points; for West Ham, a gimme game against the bottom team in the Prem with the second worst "goals for" column (despite netting three against ourselves) and the worst defensive record in the division. Europe beckoned! One point was useless to both sides so how on earth did we end up with a game where neither side wanted to commit players into the opposition box? Perverse, tedious, inept, degrading, abysmal, embarrassing - choose your adjective. I apologise in advance but "shit" will do for me.
Not that I am surprised. I posted before the game that I couldn't see how we would score (see Wet Behind the Sears) but I did expect us to at least try. I said that Sears and Di Michele as a pairing were to striking partnerships what Todd and Colleen would be to Olympic ice skating, but I really didn't expect us to be quite so flaccid, despite having witnessed first hand Sears' impotence against both Watford and the "mighty Macclesfield". What I do not understand is how Zola ever thought it could work. Against Macclesfield, Sears was up top alongside Ashton but still looked hopelessly out of his depth; against Watford he was paired with Di Michele and a wet paper bag would not have felt threatened. Surely Tristan isn't so bad that Sears and Di Michele are genuinely regarded as the better option? How bad must the Spaniard be that even after 80 limp minutes, Zola still didn't turn to him in complete and absolute desperation? Instead he sent on one goal in three seasons Luis Rigor-Mortis!
But it is, of course, unfair to blame Sears and Di Michele alone for this utterly inept showing. Again questions have to be asked about Zola's tactical nounce. No Collison, no Cole, no Ashton - so goal scoring was always going to be a problem. So what does Zola do? He picks Parker and Kovac in centre midfield and pushes Noble wide right, and, in so doing, guarantees a lop sided performance. When did we ever get forward on the right hand side? Once, and Noble then set up Sears for our best chance of the game. But for the rest of the night, Noble wandered inside and you could have thrown Posh Spice's thong over him, Parker and Kovac for 95% of the game. Then when Stanislas was belatedly brought on, what happened? He was played wide left, even after Rigor Mortis, a naturally left footed player, came onto the field. What was that about exactly? Stanislas comes on for his Premiership debut and is played on the wrong flank. How exactly does that help the kid? Meanwhile, the West Brom left back who had been given nothing to do all night was allowed to set up a deck chair and have a kip for the last ten minutes of the game! Absurd. Truly absurd.
So much was wrong tonight. West Brom had done their homework and like Villa and Boro pressed us very high up the pitch. Kovac and Parker dropped deeper and deeper as a result and getting the ball beyond the half way line became a problem. Amazingly, Parker ended up with the best pass completion rate in the game but was truly awful regardless. Time and again he gave away possession or stalled the pass and move game by dwelling on the ball. But then again, what hope did he have of finding an out-ball with Sears and Di Michele up top?
Did Kovac play a forward pass all night? I bet he didn't. Around about the 70th minute, Kovac picked the ball up ten yards inside our half and what happened? Parker dropped back and took the ball off him! Why? Why in Brooking's name wasn't Parker breaking forward?
And tell me, what was Zola thinking of with his substitutions? No complaints about Savio coming off, he was hopeless all night, nor with Stanislas coming on, but why was Noble sacrificed with the score 0-0? Surely Kovac should have gone with Stanislas played on the right, Rigor Mortis pushed wide left and Noble played at the front of a diamond? At least players would then have been playing in their right positions!
Were there any positives tonight? Tomkins did ok and the man of the match in my opinion was Lucash Neill. But before we get carried away by these two, let's keep in mind that we were playing West Brom. Donkey Hilton and Gary Strodder would probably have coped against this mob!
Tonight our seventh place was put into perspective. West Brom let us off the hook, not vice versa. Cole has his critics but how poor do we look without him? This squad is as deep as a summer puddle. Money has to be spent but what money will be available after Shafted United have been appeased?
I am going to bed depressed tonight!
Ratings: Green 6, Neill 8, Tomkins 7, Upson 6, Ilunga 6, Noble 5, Kovac 5, Parker 6, Savio 4, Sears 4, Di Michele 4 Subs: Spectator 4, Stanislas 4, Rigor Mortis 5