After ending a frustrating night with the only goal of the game in the 90th minute, goal scorer James Tomkins has been radiating with glee to be on the winning side of West Ham United’s first leg advantage over Birkirkara in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.
Despite enjoying 74 percent possession and unleashing 14 attempts on goal to the visitors’ one, it looked as though the Hammers would be heading the Malta with the tie in the balance as a mixture of goalkeeper Justin Haber and the woodwork kept them at bay.
But just as the clock ticked towards 90, Mauro Zarate swung over a corner for Tomkins to knock home from close range, much to the relief of the majority of the 33,048 in attendance.
“They frustrated us,” he admitted. “They worked really hard and sat back deep. To be honest it was all us possession-wise and we knew the goal would come.
“We had a couple of chances early and played pretty well in the first half. The second half sort of died down a little bit, but we managed to get the goal at the end.
“It was a long time coming, but we got there in the end. They made it hard for it and it’s going to be hard over there as well.”
It’s nice to get a couple of goals already. I only had one last year and I wanted to add more to my game”
Tomkins’ goal was his second in three Europa League games and he hopes that is a sign of things to come.
He explained: “I saw the flight of the ball all the way and I felt it was going over the keeper, so then it was a decision over whether to head it or chest it.
“I thought I’d chest it just in case the header flies over, so I made it easy for myself.
“It was a great ball by Mauro. I don’t think it was going in itself, but it was a great ball and the first one that really came in my area. I only had to touch it in a proper centre forward’s goal!
“It’s nice to get a couple of goals already. I only had one last year, which is something I wanted to add to my game.
“I’ve started to do that, and if I can do that for the team then all the better. We did need that goal tonight and luckily we got it.”
Three competitive games into the campaign, the Hammers are all together as a squad for the first time following staggered training camps and Tomkins can see the cohesion coming already.
He added: “The Gaffer’s impressing on us how he wants to play pass and move, and press and defend. It’s the whole rotating system that we need to get used to and it takes a bit of time.
“For a lot of the boys it was their first 90 minutes tonight so you can’t be too harsh on us. I think we played really well Adrian didn’t have a shot to deal with, so that’s another positive.”