Sport Soccer

Monday 23 October 2017

Hammers fail to hit target as striking problems bite

Southampton 0 West Ham 0

Henry Winter

This was a mangy dog of a match, shivering in the rain and the wind, crying out to be put down.

West Ham managed one effort on target, making that six in four games this Premier League season. Southampton were more adventurous but failed to beat the excellent Jussi Jaaskelainen. This will not feature prominently in either club's monthly highlights DVD.

Some positives were worthy of accentuating. Even amid the sea of misplaced passes and missed chances, there were pieces of driftwood to cling to before Andre Marriner rescued all present with a whistle that pierced the gloom shortly before 6.0.

At 38, Jaaskelainen demonstrated his ageless shot-stopping qualities. At 20, Ravel Morrison gave glimpses of his quick-footed composure under pressure.

At 18, Luke Shaw continued to enhance his burgeoning reputation, driving down the left. Otherwise, this 90-minute 'Super Sunday' live offering was a great advertisement for a good book, even a bad book.

Southampton's decision to end its 31-month ban on the local paper must have felt a mixed blessing to the reporters.

Chants

There was more invention in some of the fans' chants. Southampton supporters came up with an unlikely suggestion for what the visitors could do with their famous "bubbles". West Ham fans responded with a burst of "Play Up Pompey".

There was precious little football to inspire the lyricists in the stands. The lack of goals reflected a general early trend this season in the Premier League towards defensive parsimony, or attacking deficiencies.

The stalemate raised questions in both camps. West Ham had four efforts on target against Cardiff as the season opened but since then have had only one against Newcastle, none against Stoke and one here. Modibo Maiga did little yesterday. West Ham need Andy Carroll to regain fitness.

In the short term, Mladen Petric, the 32-year-old Croatian striker, is honing his sharpness while Carlton Cole is back at the club, working on his speed and stamina after becoming a free agent in the summer.

West Ham's absence of a cutting edge was partly offset by the excellence of their defence, particularly Jaaskelainen, who made fine saves from Dani Osvaldo, Morgan Schneiderlin and Rickie Lambert. Centre-halves James Collins and Winston Reid proved solid sentries in front of the goalkeeper. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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