Tuesday, 30th November 2010
Those of you not fortunate to have been present at this one may have noticed that it was a bit nippy out. It's fair to say that few, if any of us that made the trip to E13 were particularly warmed by the team news when it arrived. Some absences we expected – let's face it the sub-zero temperatures and snow meant that Dyer's hamstring was never going to survive the effort of actually putting football kit on. Similarly, Jacobsen being cup-tied meant that he was never going to be available (though we've made a mess of that one in the past, haven't we!). The big question was whether Parker would be risked. The answer was no – the major surprise being the appearance of Jonathan Spector in midfield to replace him. This left us with a starting XI of Green, Faubert, Ben Haim, Upson, Tomkins, Spector, Kovac, Barrera, Boa Morte, Obinna and Cole.
Well the early exchanges were fairly even with the opponents seeing a bot more of the ball at first, though we were not without our moments – an early Boa-Morte cross looked promising and saw a rather hurried defensive header give us a corner from which we failed to capitalise. The best chance in the opening few minutes though went the way of the visitors. With six on the clock we failed to clear lines and Obertan found himself a bit of space in the box. His low cross shot was superbly tipped onto the post by Green and almost as impressive was Tomkins clearance of the loose ball with Hernandez looking odds on to put the loose ball away.
We survived another minor scare as a long pall was played towards the goal line. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you think that it might not run out, then it probably won't. Faubert became the latest to make the schoolboy error of trying to shepherd a ball out that simply didn't have enough on it. Obertan got the better of the Frenchman and played a low either pass or shot (delete as appropriate) across the face of the goal. Whichever option you select it either missed or failed to find a team mate and, though Giggs kept it alive, Bebe's shot was dealt with comfortably at the near post by Green.
With ten played Obinna was beginning to have some influence on proceedings and, following some persistence on the left, he played the ball in to Barrera who, in turn, laid the ball into the path of Kovac who sent the ball into the tourists in the Sir Trevor stand. The ball never came back, presumably the thief had one eye on triumphantly sticking it on Ebay as part of their record 3rd League Cup in a row souvenir package. He wasn't the only one who was totally unprepared for the next few minutes of what would become “The Jonny Spector Show”.
Picking the ball up deep in his own territory after Tomkins had coolly broken up another potential Salford attack, Spector embarked on a storming run which took him to the edge of the box where he fed Obinna. Vic took a touch before unleashing a shot from just outside the box which deflected off a defender to send the 'keeper the wrong way and put us 1-0 up. Or so we thought. After a good minute's worth of celebrations the assistant referee decided to raise his flag. It appeared that the shot may have taken a second deflection off Spector on its way through and, with the Septic being a few inches offside the goal was disallowed. Now the officials may have just been right, though this would have been more by luck than judgement. Even a broken clock will tell the correct time twice a day and Clattenburg is definitely a few springs short of a fully working movement. However, by only raising the flag when Man Utd's defenders told him to, the assistant only served to confirm how spineless officials get when confronted with this most bent of clubs. Just ask yourself this one question: if he incident had happened up the other end would the goal have stood? You bet your life it would.
In a perverse way, however, the perceived injustice seemed to spur us on – and really from that moment on there was only one team in it. Even the normally docile Grant was moved by Clattenburg's weakness in the face of Fergie, throwing the ball back towards the ref in an angry manner after it had gone for a throw. Clattenburg came over and had a few words “sorry Avram they made me do it” presumably being the general tone.
We didn't have to wait long for a goal that couldn't be disallowed. Ben Haim brought the ball out of defence an played a nice little ball into the space in front of LBM who, in turn, played the ball into the box where Cole held the ball up well. CC played the ball back to the edge of the box where Obinna made himself a crucial foot or two of space, enabling him to chip a neat little cross into the box. Spector's diagonal run took him across his marker and his diving header was too good for the 'keeper's despairing dive. It was, I understand, Spector's first goal in English football. I have vague memories of him trying to claim one up at Derby a few years back but I think it was eventually given as an own goal (I may be wrong – I had located a particularly fine real ale that day which may have re-arranged my memory a little). This one was definitely his – and anyone who had backed him to be first goalscorer is probably sitting on a nice few bob at the moment.
The choruses of “1-0 to the Cockney Boys” were predictable. The revised version of “2-0 to the Cockney Boys” was funnier though. The opponents tried to make the most of their obviously limited talent but it slowly began to dawn on those present that, despite the hype, they weren't actually very good. As if proof were needed Bebe put the ball about 20 ft over into the Bobby – we returned the ball being football supporters rather than tourists – and O'Shea managed to pull off the interesting trick of seeing a shot end up ten yards nearer his own goal than that of his opponents.
Of course with Clattenburg about there is always the sneaking suspicion that something might go amiss and Smalling's forearm smash into Spector's back simply reinforced that worry – it was a challenge would have earned deserved punishment had the roles been reversed. Thankfully the game developed beyond the scope of Clattenburg's ability to influence it and once again both Obinna and Spector were involved.
With eight minutes of the half remaining, Boa-Morte wriggled out of a tight space on the touchline and fed Kovac who fed Spector. The American shrugged off what was supposed to pass for a challenge from Bebe and burst into the acres of space allowed him before playing the ball in towards Obinna. Da Silva (F) partially blocked Obinna's progress – legally for once – but slipped as Spector continued his run into the box and taking the ball wide of the recumbent defender he stuck a fine finish past the 'keeper for his second of both the evening and of his English career (if you don't count that blurry one up at Derby a few years back). Anyone who had done some sort of accumulator bet involving Spector scoring the first two goals is probably sitting outside a new car showroom as we speak.
Obinna was on fire by this time – with the interval looming Cole's clever header found Vic on the edge of the box and only Kuszczak's decent save prevented us from going into the break three up. There was still time for a moment of comedy before half time. Da Silva (F), who had alternated his time between giving away free kicks (look up the word “persistent” Mr Clattenburg – as in “persistent foul play”) and falling over in a predictable heap as soon as an opponent entered the same postcode area, got a cross in which was partially blocked by Boa Morte whose follow through gave Da Silva (F) something genuine to collapse about for once. Green did marvellously well to get something on the deflection under pressure from Smalling as it looped across the goal. The ball got played back into the area where a wayward header rolled gently into the collapsed body of Da Silva (F). Much to the amusement of everyone except Fergie who was furious at the challenge. Obscene effort on our part I expect. Strangely, Clattenburg didn't feel the need to have a word with the sour-faced one as he had done with Grant earlier. Though I suppose in these days of recession and high unemployment it doesn't pay to upset your boss.
Well it was with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation that I faced the second half. There was one substitution – the rather useless Bebe was replaced by Macheda for the visitors. If we expected an onslaught though it failed to materialise. Sure for the opening spell they had a bit of possession but Upson and Tomkins were having fine games and, whilst Kovac was as profligate with the ball as ever, Boa Morte and Spector were tireless in their efforts to win it back. Of course all the hard work would have come to naught had we done something silly and Green nearly had one of those “blonde moments”, kicking his clearance straight against Macheda before recovering with a fine tackle on Hernandez – helped in part by the latter's bottling of the tackle.
We'd weathered the – well storm is too strong a word for it - let's call it a period of light but mildly irritating drizzle, when, ten minutes into the second half, we added to the lead. Da Silva (F) for at least the fifth time of the match was punished for holding back LBM. The visitors went totally to sleep at the resulting free kick which was played down the line to Obinna. Vic had all the time in the world to send in a cross where Cole had all the time in the world, plus a few extra minutes to get across his defender and place an angled header past the woefully protected 'keeper. 3-0 or, as the song put it, “4-0 to the cockney boys”.
“Even we can't mess up a 3-0 lead” opined the bloke in front of me, shortly before being told to shut up by everyone within earshot. The visitors forced a couple of corners – one of which came of Smalling's head rather than that of Kovac as Clattenburg had alleged but the defending was up to it. Even Obinna got in on the act at the back, nipping in to win a loose ball that was temptingly sitting there waiting for a shot before clearing the defensive lines.
Just after the hour the snow was falling with enough intensity for the white ball to be replaced by the yellow ball, a substitution dutifully – and amusingly – announced with due deference to the occasion by Mr Nicholas, I suspect the humour was probably lost on the visiting support though. A real substitution occurred a few minutes later when Da Silva (F) – who had added another two to his foul count – was replaced by Da Silva (R). This was either a) a shrewd precautionary move by the visiting manager, bringing on a replacement as a precaution against the eventuality that Clattenburg might eventually discover the meaning of the word “persistent” or b) a shrewd precautionary move by the visiting manager by resetting the player's foul counter simply by changing his shirt for one with another name on it. Either way the defender was soon made to look pretty stupid.
Obinna won a loose ball in midfield then went down the left wing. As he reached the left hand side of the box he stopped and indulged in a spot of footwork that you can file firmly in the file marked “taking the mickey”. Vic then played a low ball into the box where, with some rather neat footwork of his own, Cole turned the hapless Evans before placing a low shot past the once more woefully protected 'keeper to make it 4-0 (or 5-0 if you're happier with the song version). And there were still about 20 minutes left.
Such was the humiliation that the visitors embarked on damage limitation. Brown came on for Evans to spare the hapless one further embarrassment. For our part Tomkins, who had had an impressive match, went off to be rested for the sterner tests to come at the weekend, Reid making an appearance for the second match in a row. A few minutes later saw the welcome return of Zavon Hines following a rotten knee injury that kept him out for about a year. Da Silva (R) then upended Obinna some 35 yards out, fuelling the speculation that he was really Da Silva (F) in a clean shirt. Obinna took the free kick himself and, such is his confidence at the moment, he elected to shoot from what was rally an outrageous distance. He wasn't that far off either.
Hines then played a nice one-two with LBM, his run coming to an unceremonious end with O'Shea shoving him to the ground. Clattenburg's failure to give the spot kick was pretty indicative of where his sympathies lay. Thankfully it didn't matter but if you are not going to give that as a penalty you really have no place in professional sport. Or anywhere outside some sort of hostel for the bewildered. Hines was then brought down by Giggs with a foul that, because it was outside the box, was given. The free kick was wasted however. Clattenburg confirmed his “Fergie Favoured” status by spotting but not punishing Fletcher's kick out at Boa Morte with the red that he no doubt would have issued had the situation been reversed.
Obinna's efforts to crown a fine performance with a goal continued. Another foul by Da Silva (R) – meaning that irrespective of the identity of the player the word “persistent” was coming into play again – gave a free-kick and another audacious effort from Vic was yet again fairly close. The free-kick marked the end of Carlton Cole's evening, his legs also being saved for sterner tests to come. Stanislas replaced. Those applauding presumably included the idiots who had booed his name before kick-off again. Clattenburg completed a laughably inept performance by dishing out a yellow card to Reid, who was punished for the new offence of mistiming a tackle without looking like one of the Da Silva family. That Reid's was the only yellow of the match was a bad joke. Three minutes of stoppage were announced as the snow chucked it down. We can, I suppose be grateful for the fact that it didn't occur to Clattenburg to abandon the match with a minute of stoppage left and the game ended 4-0 rather than the five that was probably deserved. Incidentally, I believe that anyone who had 4-0 with two goals from Spector as an accumulator bet, is likely to be arrested and burnt at the stake for witchcraft.
So humiliation for the visiting muppets who, at least, had the consolation of being home and tucked up in bed before most of us had reached the exit. Birmingham in the next round will be a harder test of course, but that's a month a or so away. More important stuff lies ahead over the next few weeks. But for now I'm going to enjoy the warm glow and stick with the silly grin that not even Southeastern Railways so called “emergency” timetable can wipe off!
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Yes we had a silly second in the second half but without his superb save in the first things could have been a lot different.
Good solid run out in Jacobsen's absence, once he stopped trying to watch the ball out for a goal kick.
Tal Ben Haim
Some strong challenges that upset the visiting manager, who, as we know, prefers his opponents to roll over and die. Disappeared for ten minutes early in the second half which was a worry.
Two decent showings in a row will do wonders for his confidence which took a bit of a hit last year.
Excellent from the skipper who, alongside his younger sidekick, kept the opposition front line quiet for much of the match.
Own up, whose heart sank when you saw his name on the team sheet? More than happy to admit the error of my ways. A decent game and who knew he was such a good finisher?
Still a weak spot for me. Gave the ball away far too much and, as the saying goes, there are times where he traps a ball further than I can kick one.
Luis Boa Morte
Good hard performance. Never let the opposition settle and more than held his own when it got physical. Can we stop the booing now guys?
Some good touches but I'd like a bit more out of him. Flits in and out of the game a bit too much at present.
Fine performance Played a part in all four goals and was a constant threat throughout. MOTM for me.
Two well-taken goals and some good hold-up play interspersed with the odd howler. Can we stop the booing now please guys?
(Replaced Tomkins, 74 mins) Able enough – ludicrously cautioned.
(Replaced Barrera, 76 mins) Good to see him back. Ought to have had a penalty.
(Replaced Cole, 89 mins) Barely enough time to make an impresion.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the Match: Victor Obinna.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Tal Ben Haim, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Jonathan Spector, Radoslav Kovac, Luis Boa Morte, Pablo Barrera, Victor Obinna, Carlton Cole.
Goals: Jonathan Spector 22 Jonathan Spector 37 Carlton Cole 56 Carlton Cole 66 .
Booked: Winston Reid 90 .
Sent off: None.
Kuszczak, O'Shea, Evans, Fabio, Smalling, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs, Obertan, Hernandez, Bebe.
Substitutes: Macheda (Bebe 46), Rafael Da Silva (Fabio Da Silva 65), Brown (Evans 72).
Subs not used: Amos, Park, Carrick, Eikrem.
Sent Off: None.