Dull stalemate as Newcastle sweat

Posted by Peter Thorne

Andy Carroll jump West Ham v NewcastleGettyImagesIn-form Andy Carroll put in another good shift for West Ham against former club Newcastle

The media tried hard - and largely succeeded it must be said - to make this game into a battle of wills between the West Ham and Newcastle old boys; with the Magpies desperate need for points coming up against Sam Allardyce's desire to show his old boss that he was wrong to dispense with his services back in 2008. Add the presence of former Newcastle favourites Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan and it looked, on paper at least, a game full of tension and incident.

In truth, it never really felt like that though. This was a largely mundane Saturday where the nerves of the visitors seemed to transfer itself to the home side and the 0-0 draw was a good reflection of an afternoon of not very much.

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In West Ham's relegation season under Avram Grant, Newcastle had visited Upton Park during the autumn and come away with all three points, thanks to two goals by Carroll and Nolan. Could the players now reverse that score in favour of their new employees?

Well, if anyone came closest to breaking the deadlock it was probably those two players where, largely in the second half and in the closing quarter, the Hammers sensed they should make some headway against Newcastle's obviously nervy defence. The fact that the men in black and white put themselves under further pressure by giving away some pointless fouls in wide areas, only added to the tension.

The return of Fabricio Coloccini to the Newcastle defence was an obvious boost to the visitors, while Allardyce was happy to name an unchanged side, and it was Newcastle who looked brighter and snappier in the first half without coming too close, barring a superb clearance off the line by Winston Reid.

The move began with Yohan Cabaye playing a ball through for Papiss Cisse, who steered a slow shot seemingly over the line, but the speed was just enough to allow Reid to hook the ball clear with - from some angles at least - it looking as if the 'no-goal’ call would be another controversial decision. Later replays confirmed that referee Phil Dowd and assistant Matthew Wilkes had been spot-on with their assessment, but it was a close-run thing and showed great presence of mind and composure by the young New Zealand centre-back.

After the break, West Ham improved with Matt Jarvis being prominent and Rob Eliott had to be alert on a number of occasions, the Newcastle keeper probably saving his best for a double save from Kevin Nolan.

The late introduction of Joe Cole seemed to panic Newcastle, the player twice being fouled in good, but not dangerous, positions and there might be an argument to say he should have been introduced earlier. But a point apiece was probably a fair reflection of a game when, according to a large number of posts on the unofficial West Ham forums this week, most home fans were happy to see Newcastle safe at the expense of Wigan.

Events elsewhere certainly won't help the Geordies, but I'm guessing they'll see this result as a point earned rather than two lost. It's just a pity the game provided so few talking points.

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