Ravel Morrison started his first competitive match for West Ham in yesterday evening’s Capital One Cup tie against League two side, Cheltenham Town. And he did not disappoint, with an impressive all round display and a very good strike to put West Ham 2-0 ahead. In the 46th minute, Morrison collected the ball, on the edge of the opposition penalty area, wrong footed the Cheltenham defence with a skilful piece of foot work and then sweetly curled a shot in to the net. That was the high point of a good display, in which Morrison demonstrated excellent technique, good passing ability, vision and a high work rate to boot.
Those fans expecting a torrent of goals were disappointed, but even if the quantity was absent, the quality was certainly there to be enjoyed. Prior to Morrison’s strike, Vaz Te opened the scoring, in the 42nd minute, with a very well taken, 25 yard free kick. Regardless of some lively and inventive approach play, two goals were the sum total of West Ham’s return on the night. Vaz Te’s free kick was won by Morrison, who was fouled by a clumsy challenge. Just prior to that, Morrison had been similarly fouled in the penalty box. Yet amazingly, not only was the penalty not given, but he was booked for supposedly throwing himself! The score line could still have been more heavily in West Ham’s favour, as Jack Collison went close with a drive tipped over the bar, George McCartney’s header hit the cross bar and Taylor had an effort cleared off the goal line. Cheltenham got a consolation goal in the 59th minute, when Richards converted a penalty kick. The penalty was awarded after Adrian was involved in a defensive misunderstanding and allegedly fouled McGlashan in an effort to retrieve the situation.
In terms of the starting line up, Sam Allardyce made eleven changes from the Newcastle Utd match. This saw Adrian, Razvan Rat and, promising young centre-back, Leo Chambers all making their first team debuts; plus McCartney, Tomkins, Collison, Taylor, Morrison, Diarra, Cole and Vaz Te all started. While Diame (in the 34th minute) and Downing (46th minute) were introduced from the bench. Worryingly, Diame’s introduction to the action was occasioned by an injury to Alou Diarra, who was stretched off the pitch. One can only hope that the injury is not as serious as it looked. A number of regular first teamers were rested for this match, including: Jussi, O’Brien, Demel, Collins, Reid, Noble, Jarvis and Maiga. it was perhaps disappointing that none of the U-21 trio of Ruddock, Lletget and Lee received a run out from the bench, but they will undoubtedly get their chance at some point this season. Both Nolan and Henderson were unused substitutes.
In conclusion, West Ham did just enough to ease past Cheltenham’s challenge and in to the draw for the 3rd round of the competition. There were a number of interesting aspects to the match, including McCartney’s return to fitness, the full debuts of Adrian, Rat & Chambers and Vaz Te getting a full 90 minutes. However, the overriding issue was undoubtedly the performance of Ravel Morrison; especially in light of the pre-match challenge issued to him by Sam Allardyce. Although facing League 2 opposition, Morrison did take the opportunity to reaffirm his claim to a first team place and scored a very well taken goal. The question is, will it be enough to guarantee him a starting place in the team for Saturday’s home Premier League match against Stoke City?
It should, but knowing Sam Allardyce’s past conservatism in team selection matters, it is more probable that he will be introduced from the bench. We shall see?