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Ironside: The positives continue to pile up at West Ham despite Stoke draw

10:46 24 November 2012

Chris Wilkerson, London24 West Ham blogger

A draw with Stoke is a fairly solid result, and if nothing else the fact we are disappointed with only a point shows how well we are doing this season.

In what was proclaimed by some as a match of long balls and ugly football, West Ham defied this view and again showed that their best stuff is played on the ground.

The main talking point from Monday night seems to be Stoke’s goal. A foul is a foul, and if a clear obstruction is clever and cunning then why is a dive so infuriating?

In terms of our game, there was much to be happy with. Firstly, there was no fear of Stoke and what they had to offer. That is all down to Allardyce, as we all remember being bullied by Stoke in the few seasons before relegation.

Winston Reid and James Tomkins stood up to the physical stuff and were commanding aerially, while the whole defence should be praised and the tactical freedom that allowed the full backs to bomb on applauded too.

It was great to see both George McCartney and Joey O’Brien bursting forward and exchanging passes, and the latter’s goal was a testament to how willing both were to get into attacking positions. Similarly, Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble should be credited for responsible midfield work and covering that made this possible.

Those two benefitted from and were part of a whole ethos that showed how willing every member of the side is to have the ball at his feet and to play passes. Some of the exchanges down the wings were gorgeously worked, especially for Gary O’Neil’s beautiful curler that went only inches wide.

O’Neil also showed that wonderful depth we have got in the squad, as well as the opposite winger Modibo Maiga.

The Mali international is being eased into English football, and while he was often unwilling to dart past the full back, his interplay and quick feet were brilliant. It is also worth noting how well he stood up to the physical play of Stoke, showing promising signs that he is adapting well to our game.

The only criticisms I saw were of our first half performance, and how Andy Carroll played.

The first half can be assessed as a mixture of Stoke’s stifling play, caution and shock at conceding. The Potters had periods where they would press us, but they mainly sat in their own half and just shielded, which halted our play.

We adapted in the second half and were happy to be the team in authority.

On the matter of Carroll, I think the big striker deserves praise. He is a very vital cog in our team. His presence makes it easier for the rest to play, and is bringing out Kevin Nolan’s best football in a West Ham shirt.

The Liverpool loan striker creates space and occupies at least two defenders. He holds the ball, works really hard and is a constant option which gives us a lot of variety in our attacking approach. Defenders fear his presence in the box and maybe focus harder on that than the other threats we offer. The goals will come, but for now he is doing his job in a fantastic way.

So, maybe a point was a missed opportunity, but again we had plenty of positives. And 19 points are already on the board, which should not be underestimated as an achievement.

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