23 clearances completed: James Collins celebrates his birthday in style at Cheltenham

West Ham United secured a first win of the season away at Cheltenham Town in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, but it was the defensive masterclass of birthday boy James Collins that got fans excited.

It was a day of jubilation for the Welsh international defender as Collins celebrated both his 34th birthday and his 200th appearance for the Hammers, while he was named the Sky Sports Man of the Match for his showing.

And it was with good reason too that Collins got the acknowledgement from the broadcaster. The centre-back was solid at the back and added strength, leadership and stability to the defensive line.

As a team against Cheltenham Town the Hammers made 42 clearances in the Carabao Cup tie and Collins was responsible for a very impressive 23 of them – more than half of the side’s total.

No other player on the pitch came close to matching the Ginger Pele when it came to battling for the ball in the air either. Collins won an incredible nine aerial duels in this content – only one other player on the pitch won more than five in Cheltenham’s Jordan Cranston, who succeeded with six.

It wasn’t just in defensive work that Collins excelled either. The No19 alone held 7.8% of the ball possession in the entire match. This figure was the joint-best on the pitch, equalled only by the 18-year-old Declan Rice on his second start for the Hammers. 

Collins’ teammates clearly trusted the centre-back with the ball and with any sign of danger possession was sent straight back to the Welshman, who in turn calmed the play down and sent Slaven Bilic’s side back on the offensive. 

West Ham United’s birthday boy even made an impact in the opposition penalty area, coming close to scoring a celebratory goal as a headed effort narrowly shot over the crossbar.

James Collins

It wasn’t the only effort Collins had either.

The defender registered three efforts on goal on Wednesday – the joint-second most of any player in the match. Only Diafra Sakho (4) had more attempts.

It seemed Collins enjoyed his birthday outing for West Ham United and has given manager Bilic food for thought heading into this weekend’s Premier League outing against Newcastle.