Hodgson hits back at doubters

Saturday’s 3-0 win over West Ham at Anfield was achieved with the

minimum amount of fuss against a side who struggled to rise above

mediocre. The Reds’ fourth victory in six Premier League matches

came on the back of a defeat at Stoke the previous week, but it

lifted them to within touching distance of the top four. Having

endured their worst start to a campaign since 1953/54 with six

points from eight games, they have now accrued 13 from their last

six. And Hodgson is more than happy with his side’s recent form,

claiming too much emphasis has been placed on the Carling Cup

defeat to Northampton and league slip-up against Blackpool. “There

are two games this year which have done us untold damage,” he said.

“The first was when a total reserve team – although it does not

seem to have been noticed we had 14 first-team players who didn’t

play – lost to Northampton in the Carling Cup. “The other was the

disastrous (2-1) defeat to Blackpool at the end of a three-match

week when we played in Europe. “Those two defeats were costly for

us because they encouraged people to make bold conclusions but

we’ve lost once in eight (in all competitions). “There are still a

lot of things to do but what pleased me against West Ham was the

shape, discipline and organisation of the team. “If we can keep

that going with the quality of players we have got we can have a

good season. “Don’t ask me what a good season is because I don’t

know but after the start we have had where we are now is making us

feel pretty pleased.” Glen Johnson returned after a three-match

absence with a groin injury to score the first and put in a display

which suggested he could very quickly rediscover his marauding form

of old. The England international chested down Raul Meireles’

corner to fire home before Dirk Kuyt converted from the spot after

Danny Gabbidon’s handball and Maxi Rodriguez headed in left-back

Paul Konchesky’s cross – all in the first 38 minutes. West Ham were

complicit in allowing their hosts the time and space they needed to

pick them apart but there were small signs Hodgson’s blueprint is

beginning to take shape. And his two full-backs are set to play a

pivotal role. “Glen was very good in everything he did, as was Paul

on the other side,” added Hodgson. “It was nice to see Glen scoring

the first goal and Paul crossing for the third because we do try to

do some work in getting our full-backs in advanced positions by

using the space the midfield players create. “It gives you a chance

to cause your opponents more problems because your movements drag

them around. “If you play with wingers up there who hug the line

all the time it is a little bit easier to mark them rather than

having players who move off the line into other positions. “If you

can work on that aspect to your play and you have full-backs who

know when to go forward and exploit the space and, more

importantly, can deliver the ball then you have half a chance.”

Central midfield was expected to be a concern with Gerrard our

injured but the much-criticised Christian Poulsen had his best game

since arriving in the summer, admittedly against weak opposition.

Meireles lalso ooked much happier operating centrally, where he

does for Portugal, than he has done out wide. “We work hard every

day to win games but sometimes we don’t win but we showed great

football against West Ham,” said the 27-year-old. “I feel more

comfortable playing in the middle but I play where the coach