Two things seemed almost inevitable before kick off today. Firstly, the expensive debutant Loic Remy would score. Secondly, the rejuvenated QPR would be stubborn, organised and fiercely competitive.
Both things came to pass on what was largely a frustrating afternoon for The Irons in front of a subdued, if packed, Upton Park. As the sleet rained down, the atmosphere on the terraces was equally cool, and the game began in what was to be the pattern for the afternoon.
QPR had come to be determined and dogged. Most of the afternoon they put 11 men behind the ball in a bid to frustrate. And it worked. Their one break away of any real purpose saw Remy outpace Tomkins and slot the ball easily past Jaaskelinen and then the afternoon became even more anxious.
I haven’t seen the possession stats but as someone who was there, it was clear that there was only one team that was intent on playing football and making a game of it and that was West Ham. The problem we had was that incision was incredibly difficult against such a well marshalled and packed rearguard ‘offensive’.
Jarvis, Cole and Demel delivered cross after cross but all to no avail. Chamakh tried and didn’t have a bad debut to be honest. Nolan had a poor game for me, failing to support the attacking play with his usual panache. Noble was slightly out of sorts too, with too many balls being played square or, worse, back to Tomkins. This resulted in a great many balls played up to Chamakh by our centre-backs and therefore a return to the old route 1 strategy which is a kind of default position for Allardyce’s side once the passing game is not coming off.
I was frustrated to see the withdrawal of Chamakh upon the introduction of Cole. One down at home and with 25 minutes to go, you would have thought that even Allardyce might have gone 4-4-2. I guess not.
Anyway, fair play to Cole. He did well when he came on and was instrumental in creating the goal, forcing the previously impeccable Cesar to spill a firm header, which Joe Cole profited from.
It was a must not lose game and we didn’t lose it. That said, we ended the match feeling that QPR and Mr Rednapp had left with something that they were simply not deserving of.
This season is far from over in terms of our primary aim and we have some nervous games ahead.