The vital 48 hours of our season only served to produce two defeats - a lame league defeat against Wigan to certainly end the league route into Europe and then the disappointment of Monday in a game which to me we never looked like winning.
I didn't catch any of the Wigan game as I was on a train heading down to London, but left instructions that texts should be sent detailing any crucial moments. I got the half-time score, Wigan's goal and then the full-time score (accompanied with the word 'dreadful'). Pearce surprised me by going against his comments earlier in the week and resting the bulk of the 'Cup' side. On my previous post if you recall I'd suggested he should play the same side to continue the momentum built up. By dropping eight players though, this did at least ensure that the team didn't become too disjointed if say he had only rested three or four of the side.
Onto Monday then. Any remaining confidence I had drained when I saw that Samaras had lost his fitness battle, which left us with a out of sorts (and unfit) Vassell to partner the raw Wright-Phillips in attack. Even more crucially perhaps was the absence of Sinclair from midfield. Around ten minutes into the game, it looked obvious that we looked a little disjointed and the attacking moves which we have shown in recent times at home were not in evidence. Musampa's failure to hit the target was inexcusable (why did he hit it with his right foot?) and Vassell's lack of confidence was clear as he looked for other options as opposed to striking at goal.
Once West Ham scored we were always struggling to get back in the game, and for me it was a neat build up and well taken goal with Ashton starting and finishing the move. It was interesting to hear that Norwich had 'rested' him for their third round Cup defeat, which of course meant he wouldn't be Cup tied. If memory serves he didn't move until late in the window but it seems clear Norwich were looking to sell, so if Pearce was keen it seems the £7.5 million was definitely an issue.
The second half didn't see is exactly spring into life and was went from one disaster to another - first with Sun's 'raising' of his hands in the direction of Etherington (who I saw engage in a winding up session with Bolton's Kevin Nolan the week before) and then both Jordan and Barton going off injured. And it was only once West Ham scored their second that we mounted a sustained period of attack on their goal. However, it was often more in desperation than anything else and disappointing that we did not test Hislop enough either side of the superb strike from Musampa.
Congratulations though to the youth team who booked their place in the Cup final against Liverpool with a 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle last night, winning 4-3 on aggregrate. I doubt there would have been much chance to celebrate as it looks like most of them will be lining up against Chelsea tomorrow at the rate that the first team are going down at the moment.