West Ham secured a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier against the Maltest outfit Birkirkara FC, thanks to a last minute James Tomkins goal that woke many out of their slumber and a few out of their 'boo mode'.
These early qualifying games have been used by Slaven Bilic and Terry Westley as an opportunity for the youngsters and out-of-favour players under Allardyce to stake a claim for a first team place & showcase their talents and skills. The youngsters were front and centre against Lusitans in the previous round, but the game against Birkirkara saw the introduction of a number of players who didn't receive much playing time under Allardyce, most notably Modibo Maiga & Mauro Zarate. Joey O'Brien, James Tomkins, Matt Jarvis & Morgan Amalfitano all started having also played against Lusitans, while Hammer of the Year Aaron Cresswell was also brought in along with Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Winston Reid & Adrian.
The 'West Ham way' was certainly implemented for all to see i.e. 'The hard way', as a strong starting XI struggled to break through the resolutely organised team from Malta. Maiga hit the post, Nolan put his overhead kick narrowly went wide, Aaron Cresswell hit a free-kick just wide of the post, Morgan Amalfitano curled high & wide from just outside the 6-yard-box and Mauro Zarate fired straight at the keeper on a few occasions. What would Bilic have learned from this lifeless game then?