Shambolic 'Pool Hammered
I think we can rule automatic promotion out now, don't you? Dear oh dear, where to start?!
I'm going to keep this as short and sweet as possible and leave the post-mortem to everyone else on the forums.
After the FA Cup defeat against Everton at the weekend, attentions once more were turned to our promotion push tonight as we faced second placed West Ham at Bloomfield Road.
A win would have seen us close the gap on ex 'Pool manager Sam Allardyce's side to just two points, but as it transpired, the hammering that we took tonight (combined with other results in the Championship) has seen us drop out of the playoff places completely.
Ian Holloway made several changes to the side that lost to Everton, recognising the importance of this game, 'Pool lining up thus; Gilks, Crainey, Evatt, Cathcart, Baptiste, Ferguson, Basham, Sylvestre, Fleck, LuaLua M. Phillips. On the bench were Wilson, Eardley, Dicko, K. Phillips and Bednar.
West Ham meanwhile were without the suspended Kevin Nolan and Matt Taylor as well as the injured Papa Boupa Diop, but perennial thorn in our side Nicky Maynard did start up top for them in a 4-5-1 formation.
Both sides struggled to settle early doors, with the bobbly, slippery pitch being a large factor in what was shaping up to be a dour contest.
West Ham settled the quicker though, making good use of the direct ball over the top of our defence for the likes of Maynard and Ricardo Vaz Te to run onto.
The side with the best away record in the league dominated the first period in terms of chances as 'Pool - unbeaten in the league this calendar year - simply couldn't find their feet, shape of rhythm at all.
Vaz Te headed onto the roof of the net inside a minute, and followed that up by firing a freekick straight at Matt Gilks just minutes later, imitating an earlier freekick by our own Matt Phillips (who was called up into the Scotland squad earlier today) who had fired straight at Rob Green.
Amdy Faye then headed over the bar, before LuaLua put an acrobatic overhead kick wide.
Faubert then blasted the ball miles over the bar before the visitors - who the Seasiders have a terrible record against in recent years - took the lead just before the half hour; James Tomkins heading home after some poor, poor 'Pool defending.
Four minutes later it was 2-0; Maynard turning home a low cross with the 'Pool defence at sixes and sevens.
That goal prompted Ollie to replace Chris Basham with Kevin Phillips.
It was nearly 3-0 just before the break though; Jack Collison firing wide when through on goal.
In injury time of the first period though, 'Pool had a glimmer of hope; Kevin Phillips heading home an Alex Baptiste cross. Game on...
Most managers would give their sides 10/15 minutes of the second half to get back in the game before making further changes, but not Ian Holloway; half time saw Nouha Dicko replace Ludovic Sylvestre and Roman Bednar replace Lomano Tresor LuaLua.
Ten minutes into the second half the introduction of Bednar looked to have worked wonders when the forward was brought down by Rob Green when through on goal. The ex England international was subsequently sent off and the Hammers - having no sub keeper on the bench - were forced to put Henri Lansbury in goal. The game was there for the taking, surely?
Apparently not. As we so often do we struggled against ten men, appearing to have no idea how to approach the game, either passing the ball square (and losing it) or lumping it forward (something West Ham's giant defence lapped up, failing to test Lansbury until the dying embers of the game. Meanwhile, West Ham were still looking dangerous on the break as we committed more and more bodies forward...
Just minutes after Green was sent off, the home crowd were chanting for Amdy Faye to be dismissed as well for deliberate handball, but the referee was lenient and showed him just a yellow.
With twenty minutes left, Vaz Te gave a hint of what was to come when he fired just wide from distance.
Four minutes later, it was 3-1. 'Pool failed to clear a corner and sub Gary O'Neil was on hand to drive home from the edge of the area.
With ten minutes left Maynard missed a golden opportunity to make it 4-1, whilst seconds later Kevin Phillips hit the inside of the post at the other end.
On 90 minutes it was 4-1 though, Vaz Te running through and bending the ball past Matt Gilks via a deflection.
A shambolic performance. A shambolic result. No doubt the post-mortem will be a long one, but we need an instant reaction with us facing an away trip to Bristol City on Saturday.