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Sunderland AFC v west ham (a)...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

It’s just our luck that West Ham decided to hit some form at last against Palace last Saturday. They’ve got some real quality players in addition to Payet with Antonio always looking dangerous and Ayew, whom we should have signed, probably returning from injury. For us, it’s good news that Kone will be back in defence and I hope it’ll be him and O’Shea and not Djilobodji. A panellist on a Five Live show earlier this week commented that Djilobodji wasn’t a Premier class player and on the basis of what I’ve seen so far, I can only agree with him. He was great against QPR and that says it all really. Kaboul was equally bad at the start of last season and he came good so I can only hope that Djilo will emulate him. As we all know, PVA is a liability in defence too and the news that he’s fit for today’s clash is a mixed blessing.

I noticed you can get 14/1 for us to win 1-0 this afternoon but, much as I’d love to see that result, I won’t be betting on it. The new stadium seems to have been a bit of a hoodoo to the Hammers so far and in addition to a series of bad results, there’s been some disturbing crowd trouble. I’m going to the match with a colleague of mine who’s a Spurs fan and who hates West Ham so he’ll be well on our side. A result today would be a great fillip as rivals Boro are away to Arsenal and other rivals Hull and Stoke play each other. Apparently Vito and Seb aren’t too far away from returning to duty and that news today gave me a bit of a glimmer but I can’t say I’m optimistic about our chances today. Match prediction: 2-1 to West Ham.

I can’t remember feeling as gutted at the end of a match as I did today. We’d managed to stem the tide of West Ham’s complete domination in the first half-hour of the game and then make it into a much more even contest, even producing several decent goalscoring efforts ourselves. Then with maybe thirty seconds left of the fourth minute of stoppage-time a cross came over from the right and Reid met it just outside our box to shoot home through a ruck of players, with Pickford possibly unsighted.

I don’t think Defoe touched the ball till at least the twenty-fifth minute and that gives some indication of our midfield’s inability to create anything fir him. For much of the game he had two big defenders on him and didn’t get much of a sniff. Just after the restart we should have gone ahead when Khazri was in a one on one with Adrian in goal but shot almost straight at him. A few minutes later Defoe had his best chance when he shot just over the bar. I was very pleasantly surprised that we’d managed to keep it to 0-0 at the break as it seemed inevitable that we’d concede as we struggled to deal with their pacey attackers. A Payet shot hit our left post just before the half-hour but that seemed to prompt us into a fight-back and we ended the first period a lot more positively. We must have had a shot of something at the break as we did a lot better for the first twenty minutes or so and the home fans were getting rattled. As we were forced onto the back-foot Kone was playing great in defence and we were dealing efficiently with whatever they could throw at us. We were still wasting far too many passes though and Watmore in particular was having a substandard performance. Sadly he’s failed to improve on his great showing last season and is actually getting worse. Khazri also didn’t do much and he and Watmore were eventually subbed by Jones and Gooch. Pienaar had shown a bit more endeavour and he was replaced by McNair. None of the subs improved matters as far as I could see and some of Gooch’s passing was terrible. Still I thought we were going to nick a point right until the dying seconds only to experience the awful silence and pained faces all around me as the big screen opposite us replayed their goal. See you at the Arsenal game.

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