Giant Slaying At Kingsmeadow
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 28 January 2019 at 8:00pm
Written by: Michael Randall @oklahammer1
Tuesday night under the lights in the EFL Cup, with West Ham coming into that game looking for a change of fortunes. Wimbledon sat 15th in League One, having secured five points from their five games thus far.
Two minutes on the clock and a Joe Piggot header saw the home side take an unexpected lead. Surely they couldn’t achieve the unthinkable – victory over a Premier League side some forty places above them? Thankfully Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna transpired to restore parity and take the lead, before the diminutive Hernandez added a third to avoid a potential embarrassment.
Fast forward to January and the Hammers were once again off to Kingsmeadow, Wimbledon now rooted to the bottom of League One, with a place in the 5th round of the FA Cup up for grabs. Piggot was on the bench but Diop and Ogbonna had to contend with far more dangerous opposition in the form of a lively Kwesi Appiah and industrious Scott Wagstaff. That it took the hosts 34 minutes to register their first goal was the biggest surprise of the night, given West Ham’s sloppy and uninspired start.
Wimbledon set off at a frantic pace, focusing runs against fill-in fullbacks Antonio and much maligned Masuaku, while the Hammers midfield chased shadows throughout. A second goal saw Obiang caught in possession before Wagstaff was inexplicably allowed to waltz through on Adrian, where he finished coolly. The image of Pellegrini and his equally stunned colleagues on the bench was a damning summary of the team’s display so far. There was no wonder he made all three of his changes at half time.
Any notion of a revival was initially silenced just 37 seconds later; Wagstaff finishing again with a deft flick past Adrian, sending the home fans into a stupor. Sensing a historic victory within their grasp, Wimbledon slowed the tempo slightly, giving West Ham’s Anderson plenty of possession as he tried to open up the hosts’ defence.
Snodgrass and a returning Ryan Fredericks combined on the right, culminating in a Lucas Perez finish just ahead of the hour. Anderson’s neat freekick saw an unlikely comeback on the cards. Yet it was Wimbledon who continued to threaten, winning a multitude of headers and second balls. West Ham looked desperate in defense and hopeful in attack at best.
One final insult came just before full time with substitute Toby Sibbick heading a forth. Credit to Wimbledon who were in full control from the start, securing revenge for the earlier EFL Cup defeat. West Ham were devoid of passion and drive, save for a few brief moments. Otherwise it was a sobering defeat that only added to Pellegrini’s hunt for consistency.
Hammers fans could be forgiven for heading into the fixture with confidence. However such complacency on the players’ part would be West Ham’s undoing. Pellegrini’s men were off the pace and second to every ball. Ogbonna and Diop were keen to hoof balls away, while Noble and Obiang failed to make any impression on the game at all. Carroll and Hernandez lacked cohesion, the former hauled off at halftime in what was undoubtedly a display which will do little to mend a fragile reputation with some fans.
Pellegrini’s post match interview was damning, while the vitriol of most social media was to be expected. Those that saw fit to show mercy drew on the fact several players had little game time of late. There’s some truth to rustiness and a lack of sharpness when a player hasn’t been in the first team every week, but backup players need to be raring to go when given their chance. They need to get out there and impress, push for another start and be knocking on the manager’s door.