Hammers fan blog: Selection errors cost West Ham dear at Sunderland

Hammers fail to sparkle in the north-east

Sunday evening, and it’s back to earth with a bump for West Ham supporters, and more importantly it’s back to the foot of the Premier League table following a 25 hour absence that proved to be nothing more than a brief flirtation with the lofty heights of 19th position.

After a week that has been so positive in so many respects for the club, it is unfortunate that the enduring feeling at the end of it and at the beginning of the next, is one of negativity.

A stunning performance against Manchester United in the Carling Cup left all and sundry brimming with confidence for the trip to Sunderland. What followed was a depressingly familiar tale for supporters who are once again left bemoaning the fact that the Hammers were the architects of their own downfall.

If back-to-back wins had alleviated the pressure on boss Avram Grant temporarily, the Israeli did little to keep it off permanently with his team selection.

Carlton Cole’s two goal salvo in midweek had done enough to convince Grant that he was approaching something like his best form, Luis Boa Morte’s tenacity likewise; but both were back to their infuriating worst at the Stadium of Light, routinely conceding free kicks and possession in equal measure.

Acts of petulance were thrown in and both were fortunate not to be sent off.

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That said, it would be churlish to single out individual players following a team effort so devoid of attacking ideas and it is the manager’s decision to split up the Hammers most productive front pairing of Victor Obinna and Freddie Picquionne that warrants the most scrutiny.

It is the repetition of these basic mistakes in team selection that ensures Grant will find sympathy in short supply should his P45 arrive from his employers sooner rather than later.

The day was not without positive elements. The work of Wally Downes (on whom this column REALLY wanted to focus this week) continues to impress and the Hammers look a solid defensive unit, with the resurgent James Tomkins in outstanding form.

Indeed, it is questionable whether the Sunderland winner would have been scored had first choice right back Lars Jacobsen been fit enough to take his place in the starting XI, his replacement playing the Sunderland forward onside is exactly the sort of situation that a lack of continuity brings about.

A quick word too on Jonathan Spector, who followed up his midweek wonder show with another impressive performance in the heart of midfield.

Very few will begrudge Spector his moment in the sun and all the plaudits that followed his heroics against his former club.

An honest man, he has never complained or given anything less than 100 per cent regardless of the role he has been asked to perform for the club, Some have been critical of a perceived lack of ability in the past, but no one could ever doubt his commitment to the cause.

With the continuing malaise away from home cranking up the pressure on each and every game at the Boleyn and with Manchester City in good form prior to Saturday’s visit, everyone at the club will need to match those attributes for Hammers to secure a result that could move them off the foot of the table for longer than 25 hours this time.

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