If you're looking for a thrill that's newPre-season games are not supposed to be like this. Usually these games are played in blazing sunshine in front of shirt-sleeved fans, but this was strictly umbrellas, rainhoods and bovril as the West Ham fans descended on rain-lashed Roots Hall for a trip to the seaside. Away from the summer fete atmosphere that has recently dominated domestic sport at Wimbledon and Silverstone, there could be no clearer sign that the football machine is beginning to churn. At times this game looked more like a water polo match as the Hammers negotiated puddles as well as League Two opposition to record their first victory since returning to action.
Take in Fords , Dartford Tunnel and the river too
Go motorin' on the A13
Having failed to win either of their opening two fixtures of pre-season - losing 3-1 against Austria Wien and drawing 1-1 at Boreham Wood in midweek - the win was a welcome one. It was also thoroughly enjoyed by the travelling Hammers fans who filled the away end plus had many more supporters in the home stands. Of the official capacity of 7,135, at least half were supporting the visitors. They watched West Ham warm up for their Premier League campaign with a commanding performance that saw Sam Baldock score his third goal in successive matches.
Manager Sam Allardyce had opted for a strong team in the first half. Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, Winston Reid, George McCartney and Ricardo Vaz Te were all in the starting line-up and the difference in class showed as Jussi Jaaskelainen was hardly called upon in that opening 45 minutes. After just two minutes, Nolan's close range effort was ruled out for offside before Vaz Te's neat near post flick from Matt Taylor's right wing corner was tipped wide of the target by Blues' trialist goalkeeper Rhys Taylor. The Southend shot-stopper then did well to smother a long range shot from Taylor before the former Rotherham keeper denied the winger again with a solid stop low down to his right hand side.
With the Hammers in full control their efforts were rewarded with 22 minutes on the clock; finally making their pressure count as Taylor's right wing corner picked out an unmarked Nicky Maynard and the striker thundered a header in to the roof of the net from close range. West Ham did not stop there though and Jordan Spence doubled the lead in the 34th minute with a fine solo strike. The young defender charged from the halfway line down the right flank and unleashed a powerful long range shot in to the bottom left hand corner of the net. It was a goal of some class, though Southend boss Paul Sturrock will surely have been disappointed by the defending, or lack of it.
Allardyce made only one change at the break with Sam Baldock replacing Maynard as he looked to step up the game time of many of his first-choice players. Paul Sturrock countered with 10 changes with only one-time Hammers target Kane Ferdinand remaining on the field from the first half. If the aim was to help stem the flow then it seemed to have the desired effect, as the Hammers initially struggled to re-assert themselves after the interval. Allardyce eventually rang the changes on the hour with five more substitutions to give the youngsters a chance and it was one of them who created the third West Ham goal just four minutes later. Former MK Dons frontman Baldock reacted quickest when Southend's second half goalkeeper Phil Smith failed to hold a low 20 yard shot from Elliot Lee and chipped the rebound in to the back of the North Bank net.
The goal killed off any remaining hopes of a Blues fightback and from then on the Hammers were comfortable. Guy Demel and Ravel Morrison were both given run-outs, while youngster Amos Nasha stood out at the back, but as the pitch deteriorated, so did the game as the Hammers settled for three. The only sour note for boss Allardyce was the sight of young left-back Dan Potts being stretchered off after a nasty clash of heads with Southend's Mark Phillips. As an eloquent postscript, the biggest cheer of the day from the downbeat home fans came when former Hammers trainee Freddy Eastwood replaced trialist Joe Yoffe in attack with nine minutes remaining.
Speaking after the game, Neil McDonald said he was delighted to see West Ham United secure such a comfortable victory but was even happier to report encouraging news about stricken left-back Dan Potts. The youngster was knocked out cold for a short period before regaining consciousness and being tended to by the Club's medical staff and paramedics. He was carefully fitted with a neck brace before being stretchered off the pitch to an ovation. Thankfully, the 18-year-old was up on his feet again in the dressing room a short time later and was able to have a shower. Potts, who was voted Man of the Match, was taken to hospital for a precautionary scan and will be kept in overnight for observation.
McDonald told West Ham TV: "Pottsy is fine. He is going to stay overnight in hospital just to double-check he is all right but he's up and walking about. He's got showered and now he'll be taken into hospital for observation. He's come round and he's got a bit of a sore head which is only natural from a clash where he's made a fantastic defensive header. We'll make sure he's OK and, all things going well, he'll be back to work on Monday."
While the news about Potts' health provided a boost for everybody associated with the Club, the assistant manager was also pleased with the way West Ham played in testing conditions at Roots Hall. Heavy rain left the pitch sodden in places, with puddles holding the ball up in the corners, but the Hammers moved the ball quickly and relatively easily to open up Southend and score three fine goals. McDonald put West Ham's impressive performance down to the hard work that has been done on the training field since the Club returned for pre-season on 1 July. "They're getting stronger and they're getting fitter, which is what pre-season is all about. It was nice to get some goals as well, which was great," he confirmed. "With another good week of work under their belts and having played two games this week, it's building up well in pre-season. We passed the ball really well and kept it moving. We've been working on keeping the ball and passing and moving during the past two weeks and we now just need to build their fitness up. We played some really nice stuff at times."
Southend United manager Paul Sturrock felt the manner of his side’s defeat showed the friendly had come too early in Blues’ pre-season preparations. "The game was a bit too early for us in our preparations and I think everyone saw that," said Sturrock. "West Ham are also 17 days ahead of us in their training and you have to take that in to consideration. We were also up against a Premier League side, so it was always going to be a difficult game." The wet weather also played havoc with the Roots Hall pitch and Sturrock felt the match would have been called off if it had been a league contest. "If this was a normal game then it would definitely not have taken place," said the Scotsman. "But because it’s a friendly you just have to get on with it. The biggest plus point for me was that we got no injuries and we can now look forward to continuing our pre-season because we’re in the middle of some very hard work at the moment."
Shrimpers midfielder Kane Ferdinand felt Southend United were outclassed and never looked like troubling the Hammers. "I think the difference in class between the two teams was there to see but it was good for us to get out there again," said Ferdinand, 19. "West Ham have been back in training a few more weeks than we have and that showed as well, but it was nice to get a game in. The matches help to break up the hard runs and training we’re doing and I’m sure this will have done us good."
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Spence, Potts (Mavilla), McCartney (Demel), Reid (Nasha), Nolan (Bywater), Noble (Morrison), Hall (O’Neil), Taylor, Vaz Te (Lee), Maynard (Baldock)