Beyond the bubble machines and the grandiose nature of the Olympic Stadium, the contest on the field was far from a close one.
West Ham United inflicted Town’s first defeat in the Premier League thanks to a deflected strike from Pedro Obiang and a poacher’s finish from Andre Ayew after a penalty box scramble.
Whilst there may have been some luck in both goals, the chances made by West Ham should’ve already put the game to bed.
Javier Hernandez struck the bar from eight yards out when he should’ve done better and Cheikhou Kouyate also had a chance to break the deadlock but he shanked his shot well wide.
Despite the disappointing nature of the defeat as Town were taught some harsh lessons, there were still some positives to be taken, both individually and collectively which I will address in the piece below.
Players in focus
Christopher Schindler- A personal recovery in the face of adversary
Since the opening day of the season, Christopher Schindler has not put a foot wrong. Marshalling Town’s defence he has played a major role in Town’s three clean sheets from the opening games.
Last night, Christopher Schindler faced adversary as he had the difficult task of having to deal with a fit again Andy Carroll who was a much needed boost for the home side.
Whether by design or by default, Schindler was man-marking Andy Carroll to the extent that the German centre-half would follow Carroll into midfield to keep touch tight. It was an interesting aggressive approach but ultimately one that wasn’t successful.
However, as the team collectively recovered so did Christopher Schindler. In the second half, Schindler was given the equally difficult task of having to deal with Michail Antonio but Schindler dealt with the powerful forward well.
Based on the performance last night, Christopher Schindler was one of the Town players who did not deserve to be on the losing side.
Scott Malone – An impressive cameo
After a rare below-par performance by Chris Löwe, Scott Malone was handed his Premier League debut under very difficult circumstances.
Even though Town did concede twice after his entrance to the game, the blame can’t be apportioned to the former Fulham full-back.
Instead, Scott Malone played to his strengths as he bombed forward and continued to play positively as one of Town’s brightest sparks in the final third.
There was one memorable example as Malone ghosted past a number of West Ham bodies as he cut in-field which ultimately created a big chance for Tom Ince who was unable to convert.
With a fearless attitude and the ability to beat a man, Malone made an impressive cameo and put a strong case forward to be starting ahead of Chris Löwe for the clash against Leicester City.
Jonathan Hogg – A telling absence
Usually the players in focus are players that stood out during the game but what was apparent to me last night was that Jonathan Hogg’s absence was particularly telling.
Jonathan Hogg has yet to feature this season due to injury. Up until now, Philip Billing has stepped up to the mark and impressed in the deep lying midfield role.
However, in recent weeks, in spite of Philip Billing more than justifying the hype that is surrounding him, the past two games have seemed to be just too much for the Danish midfielder.
Last night, Town struggled to get a grip in the centre of midfield, a hard physical game that I’m sure Jonathan Hogg would’ve relished.
Even though there won’t be that many games this season that are so overtly physical compared to the Championship, Hogg would’ve provided an element of control and a combative edge which was sorely missing last night.
The return of Jonathan Hogg could be perfectly timed as it was the axis between him and Aaron Mooy which was so successful last season.
A game of ironies
As the rain lashed down in East London, it was clear from the very beginning that the game wouldn’t follow a similar path to Town’s first games in the Premier League.
Oddly, the game was one of ironies.
From the first whistle, West Ham United were putting Town under debilitating amounts of pressure and it seemed that David Wagner’s side was being outfought.
Despite the enormous amounts of pressure that West Ham were putting on Town, David Wagner’s side survived until half-time.
After half-time, the game appeared to level out. The direct threat of West Ham was being nullified and Town seemed to be growing into the game.
However, the irony was that when Town seemed to most comfortable dealing with West Ham’s attacks which were becoming more and more sporadic, that was when Pedro Obiang’s deflected strike came out of the blue which left Jonas Lössl stranded.
The other major irony was the source of the second goal. Despite being under the cosh for the vast majority of the game, one of Town’s major strengths was their discipline when defending set-pieces.
Whilst Andy Carroll and West Ham’s back three had exerted their aerial dominance particularly in the first half, Town coped with West Ham’s set-piece threat well… until their goal.
After fending off nine other corners, finally the pressure told as Ayew scrambled in West Ham’s second to put the game to bed.
Resilience and reaction
What impressed me most and more than likely David Wagner also about yesterday was the resilience and reaction shown by Town.
Whilst Town’s performance seemed rusty, possibly due to the international break – a theme we saw at times last season, the mental resilience and strength was clear to see.
Against Southampton and Crystal Palace, Town had to show mental strength and resilience as they had to dig their heels in and stand strong and they did so again yesterday for seventy minutes.
After West Ham broke the deadlock and subsequently scored the second, it would’ve been very easy for Town to concede defeat completely and play out the remaining minutes.
However, there was a positive reaction. Tom Ince rattled the bar and if it wasn’t for a last ditch block that took the sting out of his shot, he could’ve scored his first Premier League goal for Town.
Some will say that it was a waste of time searching for a consolation goal but for me, it showed that no matter what the adversity this group of players face, they will never stop fighting.
Brought back down to earth with a bump
After an unbeaten start in the Premier League, I think some of us may have been starting to think there’s not much to this Premier League lark.
However, the defeat last night showed how far we’ve still to go. The sheer physicality of West Ham’s midfield and attack was too much for Town to cope with.
Every 50-50 challenge, second ball and aerial challenge was being won by West Ham and it meant that Town never had a chance to sustain pressure.
Seemingly, an under-pressure West Ham United who were desperate for the three points in an attempt to kickstart their season was a test too far for Wagner’s Town side.
Whilst this result may have brought us fans back down to earth with a bump, David Wagner’s level-headedness and acknowledgement of the magnitude of the task ahead will have Town in good stead for the remainder of the season.
Therefore, whilst the defeat may be difficult to stomach considering the nature of the goals conceded, there are still positives to be taken and I’m sure David Wagner will placing an emphasis on them over the next week or so. If Town could bounce back with a result against Leicester City, it could give an indication of how Town’s season will fare.