Big Sam's birthday blues

Sam Allardyce lamented West Ham United's uncharacteristically charitable defending as Manchester City ran out 3-1 winners at the Boleyn Ground to dampen the manager's birthday celebrations.

Sergio Aguero twice escaped the attention of the Hammers' defenders to put the visitors two goals to the good, and though Ricardo Vaz Te's acrobatic effort halved the deficit, David Silva's tidy finish wrapped up the points with 80 minutes on the clock.

While Manchester City were excellent on the day, Big Sam was nevertheless disappointed in the manner of the visitors' first two goals.

He told West Ham TV: "It's a miserable birthday for me, because the only thing you want for your birthday is a good, positive result. But we didn't get that and unfortunately, when you play a side of Manchester City's quality, we need to hit top form.

"I don't think we set the tempo high enough at the beginning, and, Manchester City, with their quality, got the ball down and kept it, passed it and passed it until they got through us. It made life very difficult for us. When we did win it again, we didn't pass it properly ourselves, we gave it back to them.

"So they were controlling the tempo and then we made, unfortunately, a howler of an error for the first goal. Just a straight little ball down the middle and unfortunately neither of our centre-halves dealt with it, which is very unusual for them. And you don't give Aguero a one-on-one with the goalie. Very rarely does he miss and he puts it in.

"Not only did we do that, we did exactly the wrong thing on a free-kick six minutes into the second half. So the first half was very disappointing, apart from Jussi, who kept us in the game with some outstanding saves."

At the other end of the pitch, Big Sam conceded that his men had failed to give England stopper Joe Hart enough to worry about, in the knowledge that the 26-year-old had endured one or two difficult moments in recent weeks. That said, the Hammers boss could, at least, take some solace in his side's response to going two goals down.  

He continued: "We had a few fleeting moments in the opposition's box, but we didn't test Joe Hart enough by hitting the target, which I tried to insist on before the game. He has made one or two errors, as we know, and we needed to find out whether there was any nervous edge there.

"We certainly didn't hit the target enough to find that out and he did make one outstanding save at 2-1 when we got through with Mo Diame's one-on-one. 

"It was disappointing up until we went 2-0 down and then we showed a bit of spirit, a bit of fight and a little bit of quality, at last. We scored a very good goal and looked like we might actually get a result out of it. In the end, we didn't score again in that spell and Manchester City scored a very good third goal. I can't criticise the lads too much for that one, but we'd already gifted them two."  

Even in defeat, Big Sam pointed to the stand-out performances of Jussi Jaaskelainen and Stewart Downing, though he acknowledged that too few of his men were able to replicate their heroics at White Hart Lane.  

"Stewart Downing was very, very good, and, like I said, Jussi too. But the rest of the team never hit the same heights as they did at Tottenham, and that's my big disappointment.

"For me, you can talk about systems, but at the end of the day, the players have to play their best within the system that you pick and then it works. It would always have to be the best performances from the XI out there to compete against Manchester City and then see what happens. Unfortunately, we didn't and Man City, on top of that, were very, very good as well."

Casting an eye toward next Sunday's trip to Swansea City, Big Sam knows exactly what he expects of his side, namely a performance akin to the one produced at Tottenham Hotspur.

"Certainly the last away performance at Tottenham is something we have to try to emulate at Swansea. They've eventually won, having not won at home for a very long time, against Sunderland.

"So we have to go there with a positive attitude and say to the players, I want you to perform like you did at Tottenham and if you do that, you're going to give Swansea a hell of a game and will get the chances to win the game. Because Swansea, as good as they are, are not as good as Tottenham, so if we get to that level, we'll get the opportunity. Whether we take it or not will be a different matter."