I hope everyone is safe and well.
With the backdrop of one of the largest fan protests against owners Gold, Sullivan and Brady before the match, a superb performance on the pitch and a first goal for new recruit Jarrod Bowen secured a well deserved win to lift the Hammers out of the drop zone into 16th spot, albeit on goal difference.
With 2 months since West Ham United’s previous win in the Premier League, fans protest and anger at how the club was being run by the owners had built up to a demonstration outside the London Stadium before kick off. On the whole peaceful, fans gathered around speakers and held banners with the slogan GSB Out – referring to Gold, Sullivan and Brady. The demonstration of about 3,000 fans began at Plaistow, a short walk from where the Boleyn Ground once stood, and ended up outside Pudding Lane DLR station with banners, t-shirts, balloons and stickers all displaying the same slogan, and chants expressing the broken relationship between supporters and the owners. Would this protest and anger have an impact on the team and match where previously the stadium had seem fans run onto the pitch disrupting play to express their feelings on how the club was being run?
The performance on the pitch showed the potential of the team and also highlighted some progress under Moyes, who had returned to replace Manuel Pellegrini in December with the team sitting in 17th place and only 1 point above the relegation zone. If anything, on this performance the protest may have spurred the team on with excellent performances from Antonio, Haller, Bowen, Rice and Fornals and the rest of the players to produce a commanding home win against a Southampton team whose own performances during the season had left them looking down the table.
Jarrod Bowen made his first full debut and scored his first goal on 15 minutes after taking an excellent pass from Pablo Fornals before dinking the ball over McCarthy to send the crowd roaring. The haggling over Bowen’s deadline day transfer had paid off as he demonstrated why he had scored 39 goals in a season and half in the Championship.
“I think that’s the way it went in my dreams last night,” said Bowen. “The assistant manager said the keeper liked to go down quickly. I knew the angle was tight so I got enough on it to dink it over him.
“I thought it might be offside – I joked with my dad last night about what if I scored and it was ruled out.” Moyes was right to ease the 23-year-old in gently, with Bowen only coming on previously as a sub. “I know a little bit about bringing in the boys from the lower leagues at the right moment,” he said. You couldn’t argue with that and indeed Moyes set the team up to allow the Saints the lions share of possession, but still managing to stifle them in attack.
How often we have seen in previous games during this season an equaliser take the wind out of the sails of the team, but not on this day. There seemed to be more purpose in the team and a defiance not to let the equaliser by the young teenage forward Michael Obafemi after Bowen’s opener put them off their stride. McCarthy gifted the home side with an opportunity by getting his position all wrong in a routine challenge by Antonio and Haller out jumped the keeper and reacted quickly to squeeze the ball home from a tight angle.
The Hammers went into the break with the advantage on the back of a run of poor run of results where they had previously given 22 points away from winning positions, most recently in the defeat against Liverpool at Anfield the previous Monday where the team had come close to nicking a point.
Another assist by Fornals, whose lofted pass sent Antonio through for the Hammers’ third on 54 minutes sealed a much needed victory, although there was time for another opportunity after Haller’s audacious rabona that sent Antonio through on goal only for McCarthy to be equal to it.
It was a performance and result to lift the crowd and the mood at the club but given the situation that David Moyes had found the club in on his return, West Ham ended the season in 16th place on 39 points, their lowest tally since 2010-11. Moyes eventually achieved only 20 points from his 9 games in charge, only 1 point more than Pellegrini had done in the first half of the season.
I hope you enjoy my photos from that match.