What is it with West Ham? Why can't we play well for the full 90 minutes? Why do we play in fits and starts? Prior to the arrival of Allardyce, people were pointing the finger at fitness levels, claiming the players weren't properly conditioned. But that can't be true when Doctor Evil is at the helm surely?
Time and again under Grant, the complaint was that we only performed for 45 minutes in any game. Well, yesterday, we played for about 35! We were dire in the first half, failing to force a single save from a young stand in keeper whilst Green was called into serious action three times, with Faye twice having to complete the saves as the ball stayed live in the penalty box. In fact, Faye's second intervention was necessary to stop the ball crossing the line. Had Hull scored from any of those three chances, I wouldn't have fancied us to win.
First half, Carew was useless, Nolan tetchy and wasteful with the ball, Baldock doing far too much work in his own half, tracking opposition players rather than them tracking him, and Collison utterly anonymous. Credit to Allardyce for shaking them up at half time and sending on Cole, but the tactics and attitude were all wrong until then.
Then for thirty five minutes of the second half we looked good - very good - banking two goals and taking control, until we again seemingly ran out of steam and invited Hull to try to claim the share of the points that, based on the full match, they probably deserved. Green was far too busy in the last ten minutes and, once again, you had the feeling that one goal would probably bring two as Corporal Jones screamed, "Don't panic! Don't panic!"
Allardyce talked afterwards about a strong defensive unit but we were sliced open five times over the 90 minutes and better forwards would have punished us. In fact, Hull created far more chances from open play than we did. True they were the home team, and realistically the opposition will get openings over 90 minutes, but we did not look like a team bossing the game like a top team should.
Claridge was interesting on the Championship show, admitting that he had identified West Ham as one of the underperforming teams in the division, despite our points total and position in the table, and I agree with him. Claridge said that we had "found a way of getting points in this division" which was "fair enough" but pointed to our lack of fluency and the fact that we are not convincing in a game.
My worry remains that we are operating with a very thin margin of error. Southampton are pounding teams and now have a safety buffer, we are scratching out results and still have the chasing pack on our heels. The optimists say, "We are in second and haven't really started playing yet" but the question is, when will we start to play and what happens if a string of close games end in defeat - as both the Bristol City and Hull games could have done.
We didn't play against Brighton as an offensive unit, and a team of 'Arry's female relatives could keep the Seagulls at bay at the moment given none were born in Barnsley; we only looked good for 45 minutes against Leicester; we were poor against Bristol City; and we were scratchy again yesterday, only really playing well for a third of the game. Yes we are getting results but we would all feel so much happier if the side could play with a bit of swagger instead of looking like a bunch of fly by nights, making off with the swag.