The players of both sides seemed to be effected by the weather in the first half of this match. The grey and rain that surrounded St. Mary’s was personified in the scrappy temperament that manifested itself in becoming the main theme of the game. The second half burst into some sort of life however, with Ramirez clipping over Jaaskelainen for a Southampton advantage, but which was quickly cancelled out by Carroll’s free kick that took a slight deflection.
It was an encounter that saw two mid table sides play out an average game and was crying out for some quality. Southampton’s main source of creativity, Ramirez, had an indifferent game while equally Diame for West Ham took too much upon himself and was all too often left isolated.
Conditions took a hold of the flow of the game with mistimed tackles and unusual passes becoming much too common. Southampton were able to demonstrate why they deserve their mid table place, but West Ham continue to frustrate teams away from home, despite a lack of goals throughout the season. From a West Ham point of view, Carroll was showing why he’s becoming the main focal point of attack. As speculation of his future continues in the background, the admiration from the fans and media alike is growing.
Frustratingly, Kevin Nolan has fallen from the limelight and once again put in a laboured performance which is turning his relationship with the fans sour for the second time. No one can doubt the mentality of the man, but his recent showings have much left to be desired. In the absence of Mark Noble, who is likely to be out for the rest of the season, Gary O’Neil has stepped up from his permanent place on the bench to keep the Hammers’ midfield ticking.
Jussi Jasskelainen is another player who has had a tumultuous relationship with the support of West Ham, but once again he proved to be a very capable shot stopper in the same week that he triggered a clause in his contract to extend his stay at Upton Park for another year. In the first half, a Southampton free kick came over that evaded everyone except for Lambert at the far post who was millimetres from putting the Saints into the lead, but Jaaskelainen was able to claw away his first effort before kicking away the resultant loose ball. A save from the spritely Rodriguez in injury time meant Jaaskelainen had only one blemish to his afternoon playing behind the impressive James Collins and James Tomkins who picked up an injury after a melee in the Southampton penalty area.
The lack of creativity from West Ham in the final third is something that will need to be remedied for next season. Joe Cole’s absence has been all too noticeable with Ricardo Vaz Te and Matt Jarvis both putting in dour performances and were both substituted in the second half. The pair have only produced two goals between them all season leaving the sole duty of goal scoring being rested upon Carroll’s shoulders. Nolan’s goals have dried up and while West Ham seem safe, with Manchester United and Manchester City to come in the next two weeks, Allardyce will have to hope that his side defend as resolutely as they did today to prevent losses.
Both of these teams will be in the Premier League next year after successful first campaigns back in the top flight, and the performances were efficient if not spectacular. Cruise control has not been put on just yet as a strong end will be required as Southampton and West Ham edge closer to the 40 point mark.