SCOUT Phil Smith looks back on a stunning victory at West Ham.
Many will have their heads firmly in the clouds after a quite remarkable, and crucial, seven days of the season.
With 15 minutes to go at the KC Stadium, just over a week ago, the relegation zone loomed ominously.
Nine points from the subsequent 195 minutes of football have eased the pressure which was understandably starting to build, following a nightmare month of November.
Dean Marney returned to the side as Eddie Howe opted for a disciplined 4-5-1.
Some suggested that this was to match the formation of our opponents.
I am inclined to disagree as I refuse to class the system preferred by Sam Allardyce as a rigid 4-5-1.
Granted, this was certainly the case during their defensive transition.
However, it was evident that West Ham United resembled a normal 4-3-3 during offensive transition.
Carlton Cole was most definitely the focal point of the Hammers’ attack, which is why we cannot class their system as a 4-3-3 with three inner players.
If this had been the case, we would have seen the England international pull back into inner midfield, whilst the two wingers moved into a forward position.
Instead we saw a predictable, percentage orientated, normal 4-3-3 wherein just the one winger offered support to the attack, and thus the main threat came through the centre.
With substitute Frederic Piquionne coming in from the left, Ben Mee was able to operate from a more central position during defensive transition, in order to flood central areas.
The wheels fell off the 4-5-1/4-3-3 system, chosen by Allardyce, as a result of the lack of consideration given to his own footballing principles.
Offensively, a normal 4-3-3 is the ideal formation for those who wish to combine possession football with an attacking mindset.
That is not the Allardyce way. If you look back at his time at Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers, the team were lethal off the ball.
On it, the considered and conservative approach was the tactic of choice.
The phrase “attacking mindset” is not one which sits comfortably with the man affectionately referred to as Big Sam.
Eddie Howe set our stall out to stifle West Ham United.
That is not a criticism, but evidence of his tactical dominance down in the capital. By having a midfield unit of five, we aimed to limit the chances created by the opposition through the middle of park.
The long ball tactic was always likely to be adopted at some stage in the game, this is an Allardyce team after all!
Poor central defenders can eliminate any advantage of a midfield five, as a simple long ball over the top can exploit that particular weakness, whilst bypassing midfield.
Thankfully, both Duff and Edgar (pictured) were a tower of strength, and if the game continued until tomorrow afternoon, would still be the first to any scraps in the air.
If I can offer one criticism, it would be the utilisation of Rodriguez as a lone striker.
His ability to run into space via the blind side and peel off defenders render him as a second striker in my book.
Having him up top on his own will never harness his ability.
For the first hour or so on Saturday he battled bravely, but he is not the type of player to hold the ball up.
Supply was cut off to him as a lone striker, and thus possession was repeatedly being squandered.
Portsmouth are next up for the rejuvenated Clarets, and, a fourth consecutive victory is well within our grasp at Turf Moor.