Fan blogger Joe Difford returns with his regular look at all things West Ham United...
After four successive Premier League defeats, Slaven Bilic’s men were fired up and ready to break the run of poor form on Saturday, aided by a team bonding night earlier in the week to help the new signings integrate.
Immediately from the manager’s squad selection it was clear that he was desperate to get back to winning ways, opting to start Michail Antonio up front and bringing Pedro Obiang in to shore up the midfield and protect the back line.
The Hammers started well, urged on by the deafening sound of a packed London Stadium singing non-stop.
Middlesbrough’s opener was tough to take, as captain Mark Noble appeared to have cleared a towering header off the line, but goal line technology showed that it just went in.
In previous games when we have gone behind, heads have dropped somewhat and it has been difficult to get back into it, but on Saturday the Claret and Blue army were in full voice and rallied the troops.
Obiang was composed, intelligent and hardworking throughout, and has waited patiently for a chance to show what he can do. He may not have been a regular so far this season, but it looked like he had never missed a game, working well with Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate.
The equaliser was a moment of magic which, if you have been near a computer, mobile phone or television in the past few days, you will have already seen.
Winston Reid played a beautiful pass to Dimitri Payet, who turned past one defender, took the ball down the wing, cut inside and beat four more defenders with a series of twists, turns and step overs, before causing one to fall onto his backside and slotting home past the goalkeeper.
It was a moment of magic from the Frenchman, and a definite contender for goal of the month and maybe even goal of the season.
Saturday was far from a complete performance, but as Pedro Obiang posted on social media, we must take this recovery step-by-step, and the draw with Boro was a good platform to build on.
We looked more assured defensively, our midfielders were more composed in possession and Payet’s moment of brilliance shows that we have the quality to recapture the form we showed last season.
Next up after the international break is a trip to Crystal Palace, and we should have Aaron Cresswell and Andy Carroll back with us. Things haven’t been great so far this season, but Saturday showed that we are beginning to live up to expectations, one point at a time.
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