After a such a good win against Manchester United, Sunderland brought us right back down to earth. They do that, don’t they?
A defeat away to West Ham isn’t the end of the world though. The Hammers are enjoying a fine campaign under Slaven Bilic and we were always going to be in for a tough afternoon as the home side looked to solidify their top-seven position.
It was a frustrating way to lose the game however, as we gave away a soft goal and missed big chances.
Before going behind, we looked comfortable in defence, despite being uninspiring going forward.
Just like we had against Manchester United, the defending around the edge of the box was tight and effective, reducing West Ham to shots from distance.
Mark Noble hit the bar, via Mannone’s gloves, but most defences would be happy to see the opposition shooting from there - if it ends up in the back of the net then you just have to take your hat off to the effort.
When you go behind after only half an hour, that decent defending counts for nothing, sadly.
Patrick van Aanholt’s failure to first put the ball out of play and his inability to make a tackle gave Michail Antonio the opportunity to get a shot in, which Vito Mannone seemed to let go past him as if it was the wrong bus.
Sunderland didn’t have any response as the first half went on, with aimless long balls in the vague direction of Dame N’Doye and Jermain Defoe looked like the only ideas after West Ham took the lead.
N’Doye had an ineffectual afternoon, but, by playing him in a role he isn’t right for, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
As for Defoe, it was another afternoon where service to him was in short supply. The ex-Hammer should have done better with his chance early in the second half though, failing to hit the target after James Collins misjudged the flight of the ball .
Even though we need points rather than positives, there are still some to be taken from the game, as Jan Kirchhoff gave a good account of himself and proved to be the best player in a green shirt.
If Sunderland are to be critiqued for their poor distribution, Kirchhoff deserves to be exempted as he effortlessly kept play moving on and was a calming influence in Sunderland’s midfield.
The towering German was also unlucky with a couple of quick through balls in Defoe’s direction, something we’ll hopefully see more of in the future.
Another sub-par game from Lee Cattermole saw him taken off for Jack Rodwell, who instantly burst through West Ham’s midfield to win the lads a corner. It led to cries of “who’s this?!” from the away section in The Trevor Brooking Stand as Rodwell looked nowhere near as pedestrian as he has done so far this season.
Rodwell got into two good positions, which he should have scored from, but we’ve seen similar indications from him, before so I don’t think anyone will be getting too carried away with his showing.
But if Cattermole’s form isn’t to improve then a rejuvenated Rodwell and a return to fitness from Seb Larsson will certainly start to increase the pressure on Cattermole’s position.
The four points taken from Liverpool and Manchester United gave us hope that we’d turned a corner and I don’t think the West Ham game should dampen those hopes too much.
It does put the pressure back on us to get a result in tomorrow’s game at home to Crystal Palace, but we’ve done well at home against the sides outside of the top six this season and we’ve beaten them once already this season, therefore there’s nothing to be worried about.
Nothing at all. Hopefully.
Can we just have one season where every other game doesn’t feel like a “must win”?
* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes