West Ham slumped out of the FA Cup as Middlesbrough finished off what they threatened to do at Upton Park two weeks ago; the Smoggies generally out muscling and out playing a disappointing Hammers outfit.
The whole evening wasn't helped by the bizarre circumstance of ITV showing the replay on a night that Sky were covering two games in something called the Champions League, said games involving Chelsea, Inter Milan, Liverpool and Real Madrid. There are some people out there who prefer this type of tedium and they were all in the same pub!
Outmanoeuvred at home on the TV front, I decided to take my place in Colchester’s very own 'Dog and Puddle' - the Landlord is a West Ham supporter - only to find the bar split into three with Chelsea in the middle (I suppose the London connection is vaguely understandable but it’s a long way from the West, isn’t it?), Liverpool at the back (Essex Scousers? Eh?) and West Ham at the front on the only screen without sound.
Mind you, you didn't need to hear a lot to know how the home crowd reacted when debut boy Kovac needlessly bought down the dangerous Tuncay after four minutes for a free kick - why do players do these things? It was almost a duplicate of Saturday's needless tackle - and Stuart Downing curled in the resulting chance to the only spot Rob Green couldn't reach. Similar to the last league game where the team were outdone in a dangerous position; you have to applaud the free kick but question the tackle that brought the opportunity about.
Downing went close soon after when he intercepted a woeful pass from Upson but dragged his shot wide, even so it wasn't long before silence again greeted a goal after twenty minutes when James Tompkins managed to get his head to a superbly flighted O'Neill cross but only succeeded in diverting it into the path of Tunjay - Boro's Man of the Match - to smash home past Green.
Even at that stage, despite Boro's poor recent record, the match looked beyond the Hammers, Cole fought valiantly upfront but the replacement of Di Michele by Freddie Sears looked a wrong move as Sears looked too lightweight to deal with 'Boro's defence. West Ham also missed Collison who was strangely benched in order for Kovac to come in to steal Scott Parker's defensive midfielder role. Parker was the best of the Hammers team in a slightly more forward position but, even so, it's difficult to see why Zola and Clarke felt the need to change the side so significantly in a vital game.
Boro continued to dominate with Tuncay shooting over from an excellent chance just before the break and Aliadiere counting himself unlucky when his shot on the turn just after half-time just took a deflection off of Tomkins with Green beaten. West Ham showed more commitment in the second half and probably won the territorial battle but their play was too narrow and laborious and, even though their approach play was good, there was never a feeling a goal was going to come, Parker having the best chance going narrowly wide after good work by Di Michele.
Once again, the Hammers lack of threat up front is causing concern with Tristan completely anonymous in his substitute's role – why is this man so inept for us? - and Savio seemingly being kept back for....well, what exactly?
This was a disappointing result but, more importantly, an extremely disappointing tie to lose, although for the neutral, the FA Cup could be said to have weaved its magic insomuch that the team struggling turned in the type of performance that makes you question why they are in the bottom three in the League, while the side seemingly in form struggled to make headway. Perhaps Boro and Hammers fans may well remind themselves of seasons past when a good cup run resulted in relegation.
In truth, West Ham's lack of threat in front of goal wouldn’t have seen them march onto Wembley but it would have been nice to at least get the thrill of a quarter final. As it is, the coaching team need to find the best way to get the available players playing to their maximum potential so that there are no hiccups in the league run-in.