Sunday, 29th October 2006
Meanwhile over at Chadwell Heath, Alan Pardew had a similar problem with a number of similarly recalcitrant young individuals. Apparently it was all about one to ones, a sort of West Ham Brat Camp.
Rock bottom of the form table and seemingly in free fall after a diabolical debacle in Derbyshire, the stakes were about as high as they had been since that run in to the Championship Playoff Final.
The manager’s solution was to try a slightly different line up, with Green in goal, Spector and McCartney as the respective right and left backs but the rest had a very familiar ring to it. Gabbidon and Anton were the centre backs; the midfield was the one that served us so well last season: Matty, NRC, Mullins and Yossi; while Teddy and Zamora were up front.
West Ham fans are always at their best when our backs are up against the wall and today was no exception. No blame game aimed at the manager amongst the Irons, there was very lusty rendition on ‘Alan Pardew’s Claret and Blue Army”. It brought a lump to your throat.
It all started a bit nervy. No surprise there given the circumstances.
The first move on note came on 8 minutes when a nice exchange of passes between Teddy, Matty and then McCartney saw a corner won down the left side. A flick on from Anton saw Z-man leap up but he headed tamely over the bar.
Two minutes later Gabs held on to Roberts just outside the D and conceded a free kick in a dangerous position. Benni McCarthy smashed a shot against a West Ham defender and although the ball came back out to him his second attempt was sliced wide.
Back to no-one
Matty found some real space for the first time on 14 minutes, following an intelligent pass over the top by Teddy. A good cross was sent over, but Z-man cushion headed a ball back to no-one and the move broke down.
Mullins tried his luck on 15 minutes following a free kick. Teddy set him up but his shot had no real power and it was gathered down low easily by the keeper. A minute later, Teddy showed his class again with a delightful ball to allow Matty to run into space. Unfortunately the cross was hit way too hard and over everybody in the box, when he was under no pressure whatsoever. This lack of quality of balls from out wide has been a real problem for us this season.
Zamora was tearing after a good ball from Mullins out right on 18 minutes. He cut the ball back from the byline with no support at all in the box and the keeper almost palmed it into the path of Teddy. Immediately after this a poorly cleared McCartney cross came out to Reo-Coker just outside the box. He seemed to stumble a bit and pushed his shot just of the right hand post.
The old master saves our bacon
Then on twenty minutes we managed to avoid the club record of 6 league games without scoring with a bit of magic from the oldest head in the Premiership. A long kick from Green was headed on and Zamora picked it up in the box. He laid it back to Yossi who jinked up a lovely ball to find the head of Teddy around the penalty spot. It was placed with perfection into the top left hand corner. A fantastic controlled finish.
Eight and a half hours since a goal and boy were we all relieved by that. It was if a very large weight had been taken off your chest.
McCartney got done for pace by Bentley down the right and appeared to clip the Blackburn man trying to get back on terms. The ref decided that this should be a booking. The free kick was dangerously whipped in but this was held confidently by Green down low.
There were some real sharp counterattacks from West Ham and that is where we looked so good last year. One such example came after the Blackburn free kick as Matty sped off and delivered a useful cross which Z-man could not direct to Teddy.
Mokoena tried a speculative snap shot on 24 minutes but this went high and wide. Just after this, Zamora showed real aggression battling for a ball back in his own half. Just the sort of tenacity and commitment required. The same came from Spector sliding back to deny Roberts, who looked like he had taken a bad knock to his left foot. Jeffers had to come on to replace him.
Some amusement then followed as one of the Blackburn backroom staff trotted round to assist Roberts. This guy was packing a bit of weight and it led to a chorus of “Are you Lampard in disguise?”
McCartney found space on 32 minutes after Teddy had released Matty again. Although his running was good, the delivery of the cross was far too heavy and it bounced behind for a goal kick.
Matty got poleaxed on the touchline on 35 minutes and just after McCartney showed great determination to win a corner which was launched into the hands of the keeper.
Reo-Coker gave away an unnecessary foul on Jeffers on 39 minutes about 22 yards out on the right hand side of the box. Bentley tried his luck but he was way off target with a curled attempt.
A quality reverse pass by Yossi on 43 minutes allowed Reo-Coker to go surging into the box and advance menacingly on goal. The angle was tight and he was about to unleash a shot when the ball got taken off his foot by a last ditch tackle.
Two minutes added time saw the visitors win a free kick down the left hand side of the box after a clumsy challenge by McCartney. Peter tried a shot on goal which sailed just over the bar.
Half time arrived amidst considerable relief around me that we had not conceded a goal prior to half time. The truth was that Blackburn had not proved too much of a threat and it was a brilliant piece of finishing by the veteran Sheringham that was the difference. We had certainly looked determined throughout and the work rate was good, without truly bossing the game. Compared to recent performances, though, any West Ham fan would have taken the lead at the break.
Dicksy lets me down for once
There was a bit of fun at half time when the legend that is the Terminator turned up to draw a couple of season ticket holders’ names out of a big football. Those drawn out would get their season tickets for free for four years. Dicksy, being a man of good taste decided to draw out a name from the East Stand Upper. Unfortunately he did not pull out anybody right near me and someone in Row J near the touchline was the lucky winner. The second name pulled out was in the Centenary Stand Lower which was pleasing as it meant that none of those glory-hunting c*nts in the Rio Stand won anything. Justice I call it.
The second half started with no changes on either side, but the early exchanges saw a more determined Blackburn team. Despite the goal lead, the travails of recent weeks have definitely left us looking fragile.
In the 46th minute Jeffers made a weak attempt on goal which went harmlessly wide. There was then a period where we seemed to be consigned to our own half, but with little threat from the northerners. McCarthy thought he had scored on 56 minutes as a ball was threaded through and Anton fell over, but he was ruled offside.
Soon after Peter was booked after he tried some retribution out on McCartney after failing to claim a free kick.
We had very little of the ball at all in the first fifteen minutes of the half, but Blackburn did not seem capable of causing any real threat. It may have been different if Roberts had not been forced off as the hapless Jeffers looked very ordinary indeed and apparently without a goal for 18 months.
Although he had an effective game in defence, Spector fared less well when getting forward. On two occasions on 62 and 63 minutes he was put into good wide positions but his crossing was pretty lamentable.
Blackburn won a corner on 68 minutes and it looked like a free header which was fortunately sent over the bar. Then a minute later it was or turn to win a corner which saw the ball bobble around in the box, but Blackburn managed to scramble it away.
Yossi was less of a source of creativity in the second half but he did make a nice reverse pass to send Spector on his way down the right on 70 minutes. Once again, though, the end product was poor and the ball in was easily handled by the Blackburn defence.
Gallagher came on for Mokoena on 71 minutes, an attacking move by Mark Hughes.
A minute of madness
On 74 minutes, Blackburn came powering out after Reo Coker lost out in a challenge to Tuguy on the edge of the Blackburn box. Peter – who was the best Blackburn player today – released McCarthy but Gabbidon was on hand to clear the cross in. From the corner in, Green looked like he had made a great reflex save from close range. We immediately broke away with Matty who released a fine through pass to allow Zamora a one-on-one with the keeper. He seemed to hesitate and his shot hit the leg of the keeper. Teddy tried to latch on to the ball, but it was cleared and a defence splitting pass was made, with Green saving the day by running out of his box to deny the advancing Blackburn player. In an action=packed minute, Ferdinand then had to be on hand to clear a low ball fired in from the Blackburn right.
Teddy had his last attempt on goal on 76 minutes before being replaced by Marlon. Mullins made a great pass out to Matty who sent over a good cross into the box, but Teddy’s first time shot was blocked. 40 years old and still commanding a standing ovation when he comes off the field. Tremendous stuff.
Mullins pops up
Marlon came on to almost immediately show his strength on 78 minutes. He shrugged off Gray to send in one of the first decent crosses in to the near post where Z-man flung himself at the ball. It appeared to bounce of him, then the defender and then him again but a corner was awarded. The corner was delivered in by Matty, flicked on at the near post and there was Mullins flying in to volley home from 6 yards.
Jubilation all around and further huge relief.
The goal sparked a further change with Yossi being replaced by Bowyer. Gray was also taken off for Blackburn.
Marlon smashed a shot at goal from inside the box on 84 minutes following a free kick down the West Ham left taken by Matty. It looked bound for goal.
Another chance went a begging with just four minutes of ordinary time left as Spector made a fine run down the left. His cross in was very dangerous and Friedel only managed to push the ball out, but there was no-one on hand to take advantage.
McCartney came off in the 89th minute to be replaced by Daily in a time consuming move. Four minutes – where these came from is anybody’s guess – were then added on. We were all hoping we could run the time down comfortably but were subjected to a very anxious couple of minutes as Blackburn pulled a goal back.
A rapid turn by McCarthy on the edge of the box left Gabbidon for dead and he hit a powerful shot which Green could only parry by diving to his left. Bentley was on hand to side foot into the goal.
We were all praying now for the final whistle and had one final fright as Jeffers just headed over the bar from a fine cross in from the right.
This was a result that was mightily needed and was ground out by sheer application. Some of the old tempo and counterattacking play was back again. We needed some luck to go with us too and Green’s point blank save plus getting the corner which led to the second goal gave us the breaks we needed. We struggled for twenty minutes in that second half, but Blackburn did not look like they were going to score. It might have been a very different outcome if we had conceded early after the restart.
We won the game in the first half where we showed some craft and guile which has been sadly lacking for too long. Yossi was looking almost like his old self again and Matty gave us much needed width. Reo-Coker had his best game of the season so far and it was sorely needed. Mullins also did a good job.
The crowd were fantastic today and responded well to the call to arms from the manager. Now out the drop zone, what we need now after this performance and result is some resolution of this takeover situation. The club cannot afford for this to be prolonged for too much longer. For f*ck’s sake, Terry, sort it out.
(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)
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One fantastic point-blank save when the score was still 1-0 and another commanding performance that deserved a clean sheet. If his defenders hadn't fallen asleep as Bentley strolled in unattended in the final minute it would have been.
An excellent performance defensively - although he needs to learn how to deliver a cross.
Some good challenges and one or two nice touches but found himself dangerously out of position on a couple of occasions.
Back to his best, calm, assured and inspirational. A definite contender for the captaincy (in the unlikely event that Pardew ever drops Reo-Coker).
A massive improvement on last Tuesday night although he will face a lot better in the weeks and months to come.
Reasonably anonymous although he made several vital tackles and interceptions. His late goal proved to be the winner; full marks for persistence and determination.
Better ... but still offered relatively little as an attacking force.
His one major contribution was the cross for the opening goal. Apart from that he offered little.
Failed to deliver one decent cross all afternoon whilst a lack of concentration almost allowed Khizanishvili in for an equaliser. Lucas Neill won't have many easier afternoons this season.
The old warhorse banged home the goal to calm the nerves but failed to have much of an influence on the game as a whole.
Doesn't hold the ball up, doesn't threaten the opposition and doesn't score any more. Doesn't make sense why he's still in the team.
(Replaced Sheringham, 77) Looked lively and up for it, still a better option than either of the two who started up front.
(Replaced Benayoun, 81) Back from injury and real competition for those who have strolled through games of late.
(Replaced McCartney, 89) A most bizarre substitution (central midfielder on for left-back?) that almost cost us the game.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: A. Wiley.
Man of the Match: Robert Green.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Teddy Sheringham 21 Hayden Mullins 80 .
Booked: George McCartney 23 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Friedel, Neill, Gray, Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Mokoena, Tugay, Bentley, Peter, McCarthy, Roberts..
Substitutes: Jeffers (Roberts 28), Gallagher (Mokoena 72), McEveley (Gray 81)..
Subs not used: Brown, Henchoz..
Goals: Bentley (90)..
Booked: Peter (58)..
Sent Off: None sent off..