Belfast Telegraph

Robert Green rises above his Rustenburg moment to make West Ham point

Stoke City 1 - West Ham United 1: This was almost Rustenburg revisited for Robert Green, with an early fumble and a critical second-half save, but another goalkeeper who endured a troubled World Cup maintains the Englishman has the technique and resilience to rise above the "dodgy keeper" chants and help West Ham through their crisis.

Stoke's Thomas Sorensen also made blunders in South Africa, if not quite on the seismic scale of Green's turning a routine save from the United States' Clint Dempsey into an own-goal. After seeing his opposite number commit another elementary mistake, spilling Jermaine Pennant's free-kick for Robert Huth to hit a post, the Dane looked on in a mixture of exasperation and solidarity as Green denied Kenwyne Jones a winner much as he frustrated Jozy Altidore in June.

"It was a great save," Sorensen said of the way Green selected his angle before thrusting out a strong hand to divert Jones's angled drive on to the far post. "I'd have liked Kenwyne to have gone a bit lower [with the shot], but it was an important stop, too. If we'd gone 2-1 up there I think we'd have pulled away and won. That's what keepers are there for."

Sorensen detected no evidence of shredded nerves or shattered self- belief in Green, who has been dropped from the England squad by Fabio Capello. "Near the end he came for a long throw [by Rory Delap] and caught it. That's what you want from a keeper. He looked confident. If you have a bad game or a bad spell, people will try to use it against you.

"But we're a tough breed. We just try to concentrate on our game. One mistake doesn't make you a bad keeper. You need to have the inner belief that you're good, no matter what everyone else says. You can see he's playing through it and doing well. There's no sign of his being affected by it."

One man all too aware of the taunts aimed at Green was Scott Parker, an inspirational leader as West Ham claimed their first point on an afternoon when their manager Avram Grant stayed away to observe the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. "You obviously feel sorry for him but that's the nature of the beast," he said. "As a keeper you make one mistake, it's highlighted and no one seems to forget it."

In an aside which applied equally to another player marginalised since the World Cup, the out-of-sorts Matthew Upson, Parker added: "There's no hiding place in the Premier League. We're a big club and you have to face the music if you're not doing it. We need to stick together and pick up results as quickly as we can. We can take great hope from our first point and try to kick on."

Stoke hoped to do precisely that after their first win, against Aston Villa, but it fell to their assistant manager Dave Kemp to explain a slightly flat display that left Tony Pulis's team with three wins in 12 League fixtures in their supposed citadel. Kemp claimed their style was evolving.

"One of the goals against Villa was a 15-pass move," he said. "No one picks up on it. Everyone says 'Stoke City – long throws' and all that. Nobody says you passed it around brilliantly to create that opportunity."

West Ham led through Parker's close-range finish, and Frederic Piquionne shook Stoke's bar before Jones equalised with a traditional centre-forward's header after equally old-fashioned wing play by the impressive Pennant. When Ricardo Fuller's late header flew past him, Green's shoulders slumped in another echo of Rustenburg, only for the ball to come out off the underside of the bar.

Match facts

Stoke City (4-4-1-1): Sorensen; Huth, Shawcross, Faye, Collins; Pennant (Whelan, 83), Delap, Whitehead, Etherington; Walters (Fuller, 66); Jones (Gudjohnsen, 72). Substitutes not used Begovic (gk), Higginbotham, Wilson, Wilkinson.

Booked Delap, Whitehead, Collins

West Ham United (4-3-3): Green; Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson, Gabbidon; Behrami (Kovac, 52), Parker, Noble; Piquionne, Cole, Obinna (Boa Morte, 90). Substitutes not used Stech (gk), Tomkins, Barrera, McCarthy, Faubert.

Booked Behrami, Cole

Man of the match Pennant

Possession Stoke 44% West Ham 56%

Shots on target Stoke 4 West Ham 6

Referee L Mason (Lancashire) Attendance 27,028

Match rating 5/10.

Belfast Telegraph


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