I was living in a Devil Town
Didn't know it was a Devil Town
Oh, Lord, it really brings me down
About the Devil Town
West Ham United respected the point with a 1-1 draw against Blue Square Bet South behemoths Boreham Wood in their opening pre-season friendly on English soil. Venturing into darkest Hertfordshire, to the town that inspired Urban Dead's quarantined gameworld in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak, Sam Baldock and Ravel Morrison provided the stand-out moments in a game the Premier League outfit controlled for long spells but could never quite kill off.
The visitors got off to a good start as George McCartney and Ricardo Vaz Te combined well down the left before the former Portugal Under-21 international found George Moncur, whose first-time curling effort was palmed away well by the goalkeeper. Pelly Ruddock, who joined the Hammers from Boreham Wood last winter after coming through the non-league club's Programme for Academic and Sporting Excellence scheme, was handed the captaincy on his return. He almost opened the scoring as he attempted a volley from Matthew Fanimo’s pinpoint cross, but the midfielder sliced his effort when he should have controlled the delivery.
With 21 minutes on the clock, the home side almost took the lead from a corner, but Callum Reynold’s powerful header went straight over Jaaskelainen’s bar and out for a goal-kick. Six minutes later Boreham Wood were left ruing that miss as Sam Allardyce’s side took the lead through Baldock. The tireless striker had scored the Hammers’ only goal in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat against Austria Vienna and playing here up front largely on his own, he caused the home team plenty of problems. First, hitting the base of the post from a first-time left foot shot, then eventually breaking the deadlock when Vaz Te unselfishly laid the ball into his path and he struck a crisp shot into the corner of the net via a deflection.
As the first half came to a conclusion, Jaaskelainen was finding himself more and more involved, first stopping Graeme Montgomery's free-kick from the corner of the penalty area, then diving down to his left to stop a low strike from left-back Mark Jones as the hosts showed that they were determined to make an impression in front of a bumper crowd that included the local Mayor. Flickering consciousness lurched into animated revivification six minutes into the second half when giant forward Inih Effiong seized on some calamitous defending by Sam Allardyce’s team. Young defender Eoin Wearen saw his weak back pass intercepted by Omer Riza and when he squared it to the cyclopean substitute, the striker beat Jake Larkins from just inside the box.
Manager Allardyce, back in the dugout after spending last week working on bringing in new recruits, cut an unconcerned figure on the night as he ambled around the ground signing autographs. The relaxed atmosphere was underlined by the presence of Rob Burgess-Allen, his 'Assistant Manager for the Day', who had successfully bid for the right to spend all day at Chadwell Heath, before mixing with the squad on the team coach and in the dressing room pre and post-match. Just as Neil McDonald had done in Vienna, Big Sam was using the night to give his full squad more valuable game time in the run up to the big kick-off at home to Aston Villa on 18 August. He opted to play two different teams in each half, providing a mix of youth and experience throughout. For the second period Winston Reid, Gary O’Neil, Kevin Nolan and Nicky Maynard were the senior players; replacing Vaz Te, Noble, McCartney, Jaaskelainen and Baldock. They were joined by talented former Manchester United midfielder Morrison.
Indeed it was Morrison, partnering Nolan in the middle of the park, who seemed the most likely to produce something after the break for West Ham. The 19-year-old looked sharp spreading the play nicely and probing for openings, while Maynard played the lone striking role, with little success. He did have one shot saved after latching on to Morrison’s pass, while he should have scored right at the death when Morrison’s long-ranger was parried into his path, only to stab the rebound wide. Nolan had come even closer a few minutes earlier. Following more good work from Morrison, Matt Taylor’s cross from the left picked him out perfectly, but the skipper’s shot hit the ground and bounced up on to the bar as Boreham Wood held on for a creditable draw.
In the absence of Burgess-Allen, Neil McDonald declared himself happy with proceedings. "It was a good workout and though it would have been nice to have won, it is not about results," he said. "This is all about building up the fitness, building up the endurance as well which we have been working on for the last week and a half." McDonald did have some words of praise for Morrison after his second-half showing. "I think he is an exciting sort of player, especially when we have got the ball," he said. "He can play that final pass and drive on with the ball, which is certainly what you need in the Premiership. It was a good workout for him, another 45 minutes under his belt after 90 against Austria Vienna, so that is a good week for him and he has got to know the other players a little better."
West Ham (first half): Jaaskelainen, Driver, McCartney, K Lee, Spence, Vaz Te, Moncur, Noble, Ruddock, Fanimo, Baldock.
Second half: Larkins, Chambers, Potts, Reid, Wearen, Turgott, O’Neil, Nolan, Morrison, Taylor, Maynard.
The Hammers travel to Southend United this weekend.