After a tremendous start to life in the Premier League, Town faced a West Ham side whose pointless opening three matches had put manager Slaven Bilic under pressure. Despite a difficult opening to the season for the hammers, over 56,000 were in attendance at the London Stadium – a stunning arena, however not such a practical football ground. Due to the athletics tournaments that have taken place this summer, Monday’s game was the West Ham’s first home game of the season. During a two-week international break, the non-international players within the town squad played in a friendly against German side Altona FC. The Terriers won 3-0, as Laurent Depoitre and new-boy Abdelhamid Sabiri both impressed.
Wagner named an unchanged eleven for the third straight game, but the latest additions Florent Hadergjonaj and Sabiri were included on the bench. As for the hosts, a return to fitness meant that the difficult Andy Carroll started alongside Javier Hernandez in attack, whilst Kouyate also returned. West Ham, buoyed by their home fans for the first time this campaign started the better of the two sides, something that didn’t alter for the duration. However, as they have done so far this season, the Town backline stood strong, with Christopher Schindler impressing – not for the first time this season! Carroll was lively from minute one, causing Zanka problems, with the beast of a forward having early efforts off target. The best chance of the first period came on the 15 minute mark, as Chicharito rattled the bar following impressive work from Antonio. Town offered little attacking threat whatsoever in the first half, but hung onto the 0-0 scoreline, despite efforts from Kouyate and Antonio.
The second half started in a similar vain, with the home side dominating possession, however the large home crowd were getting increasingly restless. From a Town perspective, the longer the tie stayed level, the more likely it was to open-up later in the game, and the possibility of a breakaway goal increased – particularly given the Hammers’ frailties in the latter stages of games. However the game-changing moment came on 72 minutes, as Obiang’s shot deflected cruelly off Zanka to loop beyond the helpless Lossl in goal. Town tried to impose themselves in attack following the opener, but it was West Ham who extended their lead just five minutes later, as a Cresswell corner was poked home by Andre Ayew following a scramble in the box. That signalled the end of Town’s hopes of maintaining their unbeaten start. Despite the late introductions or Sabiri and Depoitre, Wagner’s men couldn’t force a nervy finish. There was one key chance of note for Town, as Ince’s deflected strike cannoned off the bar. Post-match, Wagner was obviously unhappy at his players lack of bravery to try to win the game. Following their first defeat in Premier League football, Wagner’s men have a few days to prepare for the visit of 2015 champions Leicester City to the John Smith’s Stadium – no doubt another difficult test.
A word for the fans, who were strong in both number and in voice yet again – we’re certainly making an impact!
Check out my weekly comments on Town’s result in Daily Mail’s ‘The Verdict’.