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Nationwide Division One
Saturday, 13th September 2003

West Ham United 1
Reading 0

by Gordon Thrower

A pattern emerges ...

This match was like spending an afternoon watching UK Gold on the box - yet another repeat. The game seemed to me to be almost a carbon copy of the Bradford match in that there were spells where we looked irresistible and looked like scoring a hatful. Then there were spells when we sat back, put our feet up and let the opposition play a bit, potentially allowing them to nick a point.

The team news was that Michael Carrick was out injured - obviously cursed by the matchday programme article telling us how great it was that he was fit again. New loan signing Wayne Quinn started on the left of a back four in which Repka continued at right back. Ferdinand played on the right of a midfield containing a returning Lee and Horlock whilst Sir Trev continued with the three up front that he favours.

Early on it was all West Ham. Connolly and Defoe looked lively and the Reading defence seemed worried by their pace. The best of the early chances fell to Defoe who, following a magic turn in the box, was unlucky to see his shot come back off a post. Mellor followed up but Reading keeper Hahnemann’s save was academic, Mellor being rightly given offside.

We took the lead on 18 minutes. Quinn did well down the left to force a corner. Defoe took the corner and Dailly’s header beat the defender on the line. A bit of a double rarity this, as I’m not sure that Dailly had scored for us previously, although I’m sure some statto will correct me if I’m wrong. The other rarity being the fact that we had actually scored from a corner for the first time since I don’t know when. Actually make that a triple rarity - it was just about the last time in the match that Defoe passed to anyone else.

This was surely our cue to take Reading apart. Er, no. Instead of going for the jugular and killing the game off we sat back and allowed Reading to start to dictate the match, which, as a result became very scrappy. In keeping with the general niggly shape the match had taken, the human lightbulb Dermot Gallagher started to punctuate proceedings with a smattering of yellow cards. Reading’s Sidwell was first as Gallagher finally got fed up after his 4th foul on Repka. Then Defoe rather stupidly incurred the wrath of Dermot by not retreating back 10 yards at a free kick. Repka picked up his statutory yellow for a blatant block on the half way line, an action which seemed slightly unnecessary in view of the fact that Ferdinand seemed to have been covering.

Although we seemed happy to concede possession, opposition chances were not particularly clear cut and James was more than equal to those shots which did get through. However I was fairly glad when half time came as it would give Trev a chance to give them what passes for a rocket and sort things out. Just before the interval I had a glance at the brand new shiny stadium clock. Obviously we went for the budget version though as it only counts up to 45 minutes so you can’t tell how much injury time has been played.

I spent a very pleasant half time only marginally spoilt by Jen who, on realising that Jeremy Nicholas hadn’t played “Build Me Up Buttercup”, kindly sent me a text message containing the lyrics in case I was suffering from withdrawal symptoms. In return I promised not to mention the mysterious bruise on her arm.

I lied.

The second half was a mirror image of the first in that we sat back and let Reading have far too much of the ball and, if that wasn’t enough, we started to give the ball back to them when an attack broke down. After about 10 minutes of this Trev had seen enough. The strangely tired-looking Ferdinand was replaced on the right hand side by another new loan signing Alexandersson whilst the largely ineffective Mellor was replaced by Etherington thus moving to a 4-4-2.

Alexandersson’s impact was felt almost immediately. Firstly he forced a corner on the right hand side. Then the Swede’s header from the resulting kick brought an excellent save from Hahnemann. Up the other end Reading’s best chance came when a cross from the left eluded everyone. Fortunately the ball came over with too much pace for the Reading forward to control his shot. James seemed happy that he had it covered as it went wide. I wasn’t quite so sure. Reading had a further chance when James had to gather a shot at the second attempt.

Towards the end of the match we started to take a bit more control of things and, with a bit of luck we might have got a second. Although Defoe brought a couple more saves out of the Reading keeper he was guilty on several occasions of failing to release the ball when colleagues, well Connolly mainly, were better placed to take advantage. This was a disease which seemed to be catching as a Reading player hilariously did his nut as a colleague elected to shoot harmlessly high and wide from 35 yards rather than put him through on the right.

The hairiest moment of the second half came when a long hopeful ball from the back was allowed to run through to James. Goater optimistically chose to chase the ball and was shoved over by Repka for his statutory brainstorm moment. Thankfully for us the officials took a different view of things and waved play on. Connolly and Horlock picked up late bookings for fouls and we played out the 3 minutes of injury time with little to worry us.

So a useful 3 points, helped in part by Reading’s unusual tactic of time-wasting when 1-0 down. However, for the second game running we had won 1-0 when the score could easily have been either 4-0 or 1-1. Whoever the new manager is he needs to be able to get the team killing off teams when we’re on top - it’s all very well sitting back when we’re 3-0 up but if we don’t score the goals first we can look forward to teams coming to the Boleyn and pinching points from matches we ought to have won. That’s what happened last season after all.

There a whole match report without mentioning Pardew, Madejski or his jacuzzi once.

Er, apart from that bit.

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Player Ratings

David James
Easily equal to anything thrown at him - nearly spilled one shot but was quick to recover.


Tomas Repka
A bit of a curate’s egg from Tomas. Largely impressive but those brainstorm moments won’t always be missed by the officials.


Wayne Quinn
Good debut by the Newcastle man. Looked good both going forward and in defence.


Ian Pearce
Won most things in the air and often had an air of calm authority when those in front of him had gone AWOL.


Christian Dailly
Another good performance and he thoroughly enjoyed his goal.


Anton Ferdinand
Looked quite good going forward early on but seemed to run out of steam alarmingly.


Rob Lee
My personal man of the match despite the fact that he didn’t get one mention in the report - a reflection of the solid way in which he held the midfield together. Unlucky not to score with an excellent shot that brought a good save out of the keeper


Kevin Horlock
On occasion got stuck in quite well. On others guilty of sitting back and conceding too much ground to the opposition.


Neil Mellor
Had a couple of early chances but his first touch let him down and as we conceded possession became something of a peripheral figure.


David Connolly
Looked lively throughout and must have been tearing his hair out at Defoe once or twice.


Jermain Defoe
It’s hard to criticise a striker for being greedy but Jermain must learn to distinguish between those situations where it is better to put a team mate through and those where a solo approach is called for. Still looked our most likely goalscorer.


Substitutes


Matthew Etherington
Ran up a few blind alleys too many for my liking and was guilty of giving the ball away more than once. However, his introduction did give more structure to the midfield.


Niclas Alexandersson
A promising start from the Swede who was unlucky not to score early on.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play


Matthew Kilgallon
Did not play


David Noble
Did not play



Match Facts

Referee: Dermot Gallagher.

Attendance: 32634.

Man of the Match: Rob Lee.

West Ham United

Goals: Christian Dailly 17                  

Booked: David Connolly 88 Jermain Defoe 37 Kevin Horlock 89 Tomas Repka 44    .

Sent Off:      .

Reading

Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown, Shorey, Murray, Hughes, Sidwell, Harper, Goater, Forster..

Substitutes: Watson (Harper 76), Tyson (Murray 79).

Subs not used: Ashdown, Mackie, Newman.

Goals: .

Booked: Hughes, Sidwell.

Sent Off: .

 
Match Report


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