Saturday, 27th January 2007
Three times I called in the week to get an extra ticket. “Yep, I can book that ticket now sir. Ooops, it’s gone down again. Hold on, it's back. Nope, I've lost it again."
The big dipper
Not only is it a roller coaster season, but it's a f*cking roller coaster just trying to get inside the Boleyn Ground. Eventually, the needs of this particular customer were met. Not a seat near my season tickets of course, but stranded in the middle of the East Stand Upper near the halfway line.
Is it really too f*cking much to ask for an online booking system that enables you to choose a seat and buy it?
Magic of the FA Cup my ar*e. Watford at home. About as magical as Paul Daniels in his prime. The game that the manager tried to talk up by suggesting that a good cup run would have positive spin-offs for the anti-drop campaign in which we are well and truly embroiled. Nice idea, Curbs, but not one of the most convincing lines I've heard of late.
Let's face it, the team lineup didn't shout “this is an important game”, did it? Charlie Newton down the right was not what I was looking for. A litany of injuries, suspensions and being cup tied led to a makeshift team which included Dailly and Spector in central defence with McCartney and new signing Goldigger Neill at left and right back respectively. Carroll was still preferred in goal. Boa, Reo-Coker and Squashie were the rest of the midfield with Cole and Z-man up front.
He fires (or is it hires?) a Blanco
Just before the game started, a rather bemused looking figure strolled out from the players’ entrance. It was the boy Kepa fresh off a plane from the Iberian peninsular. He looked about as uncertain as the greeting from the Hammers faithful. Another roll of the dice from the new Chairman who has an Animal Farm-like distaste of the ancien regime. Four legs good, two legs bad. Change, after all, is better than a rest, eh, Eggy.
Forced into unfamiliar surroundings in the middle of the East End, I settled down to watch the game.
Two minutes in and the ref took an age to decide to award a West Ham corner down our left. Boa sent over a great ball which Zamora headed well towards goal but slightly too high as it ounced of the top of the crossbar. A minute later, Quasimodo made a strong surge out his own half and laid off a good pass to Boa, but his cross was less than average.
Bouazza was looking busy around the edge of the West Ham box on five minutes and he managed to get a shot away which was blocked by a Watford player.
Zamora managed a nice run forward on seven minutes and then exchanged a 1-2, allowing McCartney to get to the byline. He chipped a nice cross in but this was cleared at the far post. A minute later, Spector made a right hash of a simple pass in a dangerous position in front of goal. He was lucky not to give away a one-on-one on the keeper.
Two blokes in front of me jumped out of their skins on 14 minutes as Newton made a pussy tackle on the edge of the box following a free kick. "Mean it!” I bellowed, as the half-hearted challenge allowed Watford to chip a ball in to the edge of the 6 yard box. The ball was headed back across goal to a waiting Watford player who put in the back of the net, but he was ruled offside.
On 18 minutes a deliberate handball which should have registered a yellow card was ignored by ref Howard Webb, although he did at least give a free kick. Boa sent in a deep cross which was cleared out to the waiting Quashie who got a half decent strike away but which was taken comfortably by Ben Foster in the Watford goal.
Three minutes later Boa made a great run forward and a clever little jink past a defender, allowing him to feed a perfect ball out right to Newton. He ran into the box with the ball and unleashed a shot which he attempted to slide under the goalkeeper. Unfortunately Foster got something on it and the ball rebounded over the bar.
A West Ham corner on 23 minutes saw Dailly get a good downward header on target, but Newton couldn't latch onto it and the ball was cleared by defender at the left hand post. Almost immediately afterwards Boa had another crossing opportunity, but everybody missed the low swerving ball nto the box.
Newton was presented with a half chance or on 31 minutes after the ball broke loose just outside the box, but he sliced appallingly wide.
West Ham's confidence seemed to be draining away as the goal remained elusive We began to look hesitant and on some occasions were bottling out on 50/50 tackles. We also seemed to be consistently missing out on the second ball and began to drop deep in defence.
On 35 minutes Watford won a corner and a game of head tennis followed in the West Ham box, with Carlton Coles saving the day by heading the ball over the bar as he stood underneath the crossbar. The pressure was on as a further two corners followed.
Newton, who was having a howler down the right, failed to run down a decent pass on 37 minutes and couldn't get a cross in.
Carlton Cole put in a good challenge on 38 minutes to win a ball. He passed and then took the ball back in a central position, trying a placed curling shot which just went wide of the left hand post.
Then calamity struck with just four minutes left of ordinary time. The end of halves at the moment is a nervous time to be a West Ham fan and Carroll lost the plot as a high Bouazza cross was sent into the edge of the area. It looked like a bread and butter clearance for the central defence, but Caroll decided to come out and try and punch. He missed and the ball and it spun back towards McNamee who scissor-kicked it backwards into an open goal.
The only other notable action of the half was on 43 minutes, went Golddigger got his first booking in a West Ham shirt for scything down a Watford play near the corner flag. He hadn't looked the most mobile since a knock early on in the game.
West Ham had enjoyed the lion's share of chances in that first half, but had failed to capitalise. There's always been a certain inevitability to what happens next this season under those circumstances, although it had taken an error to gift the goal, rather than any particularly good play by the Premiership's bottom club.
Given the poor contribution of Newton during the first half, I was looking for Matty to be introduced in the second half, with Boa switching sides. It seemed an obvious move to try and heighten the threat down both flanks. However, no such move was made.
Instead, the first change of the afternoon was the new signing Lucas Neill. It just had to happen - yet another defender crocked. On came a man I hadn't seen since that disastrous journey up the M1 to Chesterfield – John Pantsil.
On 49 minutes Zamora did well to shrug off a defender on the edge of the box and managed to get a decent shot away but this went straight into the arms of the goalkeeper. Z-man looked unhappy with the challenge on him just prior to his shot.
The Bobby Moore Lower began to get restless and apparently somewhat confused as they accused the travelling Watford fans of being "dirty Northern bastards”. This was either irony or collective failure to pay attention during geography lessons at school. Desperate to raise spirits, the BML moved on to a chorus of "Paolo Di Canio”, which only depressed me more. It was like a sorrowful dirge, which only served to underline the fact that the team was lacking any creative genius.
Newton broke down the right on 55 minutes, found some space and put over a good cross which got slightly deflected on the way. This put Z-man off, and he was only able to put a header over the bar.
A dive for Webb
Three minutes later Carlton Cole went on a searing run down the left. He managed to get into the box but then lacked options in front of goal. A challenge game in and he went down heavily. Naturally, everybody when up for the penalty, but the only result was a yellow card for the striker for simulation. The incident was too far away to make a judgement about that.
A West Ham free kick on 62 minutes resulted in a lovely headed lay off to Newton, but he snatched his shot wide when he should have definitely put it on target. That was his final involvement in the game as he was substituted for Teddy Sheringham on 65 minutes.
Boa went off like a steam train on a 60 yard run on 68 minutes and he was tackled just as he was advancing towards the box. A minute later a good run by Cole down the right allowed him to make a pass to Reo-Coker who in turn put in a great ball from the byline but Zamora was beaten to it at the near post. From the corner that followed, the keeper spilled the ball. Boa came piling in to try and profit from it but shot wildly over the bar.
Return of play-off hero
Goalscorer McNamee was replaced on 71 minutes by former hammers favourite Chris Powell. A minute after the change Pantsil got caught out position allowing what looked like a perfect Watford cross into the box, but it evaded everybody and somehow went by the far post.
Boa was replaced by Matty on 76 minutes, and it took him five minutes to get his first opportunity with the ball. He ran down the left and laid off the ball to Cole who shot woefully over the bar.
Time was running out and Watford started the usual spoiling tactics. Francis was booked on 83 minutes for kicking the ball away, and just after this it looked a certain West Ham goal (and an unwelcome replay) as the ball bounced around loose in the box. Teddy couldn't get it under control, knocked it back across where Zamora tried an overhead kick which he only succeeded in kicking against his own chest. With one minute left of normal time, Teddy tried one last snap shot from the edge of the box, but this was gathered easily by Foster.
Not pretty but no disaster
After the final whistle blew, the scenes were pretty ugly around me. There was a lot of booing, and some fairly trenchant criticism of the manager's selection policy. The case was being made for Mascherano and Noble.
To be brutally honest, I didn't feel half as gutted as after the Fulham game. I really couldn't get excited about the Cup this year, and maybe both the manager and the team had a similar outlook. The reality is that the Cup pales into insignificance compared with the need to survive in the Premiership. The big game is of course in two weeks time when Watford return. I would have happily accepted a 5-0 defeat in the Cup for a 1-0 win when they come back.
To hear some of the callers to the radio phone-ins on the way back, you would have thought we had suffered some major disaster. They were like wounded animals. Get a f*cking grip. It wasn't great, but was it actually that crucial? I think not, and let's not lose our sense of proportion, although everybody will be fully entitled to go radio rental if we repeat this performance in two weeks time.
Before we get back to that game, we have the small matter of Liverpool at home and then Villa away. Hopefully, players returning will mean that we have got something out of these two games. We shall see if the manager and team can turn things around.
(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)
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The difference between the sides. In any other career (other than that of Home Office Civil Servant possibly) a mistake that bad would see the perpetrator demoted. I hope the boss is as quick to replace Carroll with Green as he was to make the corresponding decision after Reading.
Some promising stuff marred by a silly yellow card and of course the injury that means we won’t be seeing too much of him for a bit.
Did ok – though I’d like to see more work on building up some sort of partnership with Boa Morte on the left – like the one between Konchesky and Etherington that used to work well once upon a time.
Battling performance from the old war horse against the sort of side who he usually does well against.
Considering the relative lack of threat from the opposition he looked very uncomfortable.
Didn’t bring much to the table that Mullins might otherwise have provided in my opinion.
Felt a little sorry for him as he made a number of decent runs only to be ignored by team-mates. However, when he was given the ball he failed to make much of an impression.
Got into one promising position and really should have scored. Otherwise looked worth about as much as his original transfer fee.
Luis Boa Morte
You want your left winger to take people on, get crosses in, create. One burst through the middle that fed Newton apart, he didn’t really do that.
Lots of running and chasing lost causes, though often this was as a result of him having lost the ball himself.
Poor finishing when in good positions. Not for the first time this season.
(Replaced Neill, 48) Okay going forward, not really tested defensively - though he was well out of position in the build-up to Watford’s only effort of the second half.
(Replaced Newton, 65) No real influence on the game but the die had been cast by the time he arrived.
(Replaced Boa Morte, 77) Looked a bit lively but there was little substance to his contribution for the few minutes he was on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Christian Dailly.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Christian Dailly, Jonathan Spector, Nigel Quashie, Nigel Reo-Coker, Shaun Newton, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, Bobby Zamora.
Booked: Lucas Neill 44 Carlton Cole 55 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Foster, Mariappa, Stewart, Demerit, Mackay, McNamee, Bangura, Bouazza, Francis, Smith, Henderson.
Substitutes: Powell (McNamee 72).
Subs not used: Chamberlain, Kabbam Doyley, Baltacha.
Goals: McNamee (42).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..