Tuesday, 16th September 2003
Well I needed cheering up and, for once, West Ham didn’t let me down. My decision to go to this match was a late one but it was amply rewarded by an excellent match. I travelled up in the Gnomemobile accompanied by KUMB’s Romford and chum Richie. The journey north was enlivened by a selection of cheesy hits on mini-disc, Romford winning a fiver off Richie for knowing that Captain Sensible’s marvellous single "Wot" was released in 1982. A break at Hilton Park services was only marginally spoilt by the discovery that the place was full of Man Utd supporters from Devon. (Bless them - I don’t expect they get out much).
On arrival at Crewe we adjourned to a hostelry known as the "Bank" where we were joined for the first time by KUMB correspondent Ron Manager in the beer "garden" which comprised of that wooden decking stuff that you find on those gardening programmes (or perhaps surrounding John Madejski’s jacuzzi!). The Bank was soon full of Hammers, including Believe In The Bubbles, Sicknote, Smudge and Scouse (accompanied by his impeccably-behaved offspring) and a pleasant time was had by all in the warm late afternoon sun. It almost seemed a shame to leave for the football.
The team news was that Sir Trev had decided to start with a 4-4-2, dropping Mellor to the bench and giving Alexandersson his first start on the right of midfield. The early exchanges were fairly even. Connolly looked sharp and sent Defoe through only for a defender to get back to clear. Goalscoring machine Christian Dailly came close to doubling his tally when his strong header from a Quinn corner was cleared off the line. Back up the other end we had a scare when a Crewe striker - Jones I think - found himself through one on one with James, thankfully for the England no.1 to save brilliantly with his legs.
We took the lead after 15 minutes. You’ve heard the expression that "The crowd was like having an extra man"? Well on this occasion it was true. A defender on the Crewe left received the ball. Richie let forth with a shout of "Man On" which confused the defender enough to let Connolly in. Connolly beat the unfortunately named Crewe ‘keeper In*e and rounded a defender before slotting home.
It took only a few minutes for the lead to be doubled. The excellent Lee was crudely hacked down about 30 yards out. From the free kick Quinn hit a low hard shot which In*e failed to hold. The ever-alert Connolly was first to react to the rebound to put us 2-0 up.
At this point we were buzzing and some of the football being played was little short of breathtaking. Neat incisive passing coupled with wonderful individual skills meant that the third goal was only a matter of time. A Quinn corner was cleared only as far as Etherington whose volley flew past a crowded box into the top corner. Sadly the corner was Quinn’s last contribution to the match having picked up a knock. The left back was replaced by Kilgallon.
After such a flurry of goals it was perhaps inevitable that the tempo would slow down a bit and towards the end of the first half Crewe might have pulled one back when the hard-working Kenny Lunt had a shot well saved by James.
To Crewe’s credit, and presumably following a frank exchange of views in the changing room at half time, the home side came out fighting. Ashton’s low shot was goal-bound until James dived low to his left to make a marvellous save. A few minutes later the same striker was further denied by James at the near post. However we still had our moments and Defoe was unlucky not to add to the score when his shot came back off the post into the ‘keeper’s arms. Defoe might also have scored in the last 15 minutes but the ‘keeper was equal to his efforts.
Trev made 2 late substitutions, Ferdinand and Noble replacing Etherington and Alexandersson, both of whom had run their legs off. The final incident of note came right at the end when Connolly & In*e collided in pursuit of a 50-50 ball. Both players went down injured and both players appeared as mystified as everyone else in the ground when Conolly picked up a yellow card for what was a genuine challenge for the ball. A thoroughly ridiculous decision which, if my maths is right, means a suspension for the Irishman. Thanks a bundle ref.
I managed to get a brief chat with a couple of Crewe fans on the way back to the car. Their view was that, whilst they had given away the first two goals, they had been well beaten by the better side and they were pleased that their side had come out and tried to play football in the second half. I couldn’t find any fault with that summing up and have therefore shamelessly nicked it word for word as my own!
The journey home was quick and fairly uneventful, save for the worrying sight of a fully ablaze lorry on the M6 and the worrying sound of Romford, Richie and yours truly singing tunelessly along to the 12" remix of The Style Council’s "Long Hot Summer." "Shooby doo dooby do wap......"
Thanks to the staff at Crewe Alexandra - it was nice to be treated in a friendly manner and as a human being for once - and to Sicknote for procuring me the ticket at fairly short notice. Final thanks to Richie and Romford for excellent company in the Gnomemobile, especially the big man for the CD of West Ham favourite tunes, including Twist & Shout, Bubbles and In Dulce Jublio. You won’t be too upset mate if I never play track 1 though!
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A couple of brilliant saves made a mockery of the Crewe kids jeers that accompanied every clearance.
A marvellous display that saw him look solid in defence and dangerous going forward. The improvement included a total lack of the silly brainstorm moment that had served to cast a shadow on previous performances. Well done sir.
Another strong performance from the left back whose strong shot led to Connolly’s second. Combined well with Etherington on the left before his untimely injury.
The chant of "Christian Dailly Football Genius" may contain a hint of irony but this was another fine runout for our skipper. Was close to scoring for the second match running.
Difficult to fault as he didn’t put a foot wrong. With Dailly he coped well with the threat from the occasionally dangerous Ashton and Jones.
Ran his legs off before coming off for a well-deserved breather 10 minutes from time. The Swede is making all the right noises concerning a permanent deal and, on the admittedly limited evidence of a game and a half, a full deal would be most welcome
Dominated the midfield throughout. rarely wasted the ball. A fine match.
A fine, if unspectacular, match. Did all the hard "engine-room" work alongside Lee in the middle.
In my opinion this was Etherington’s best game for us so far. For once he wasn’t afraid to take people on and his combination firstly with Quinn and then with Kilgallon echoed that of Repka and Alexandersson on the opposite flank.
Bit of a curate’s egg. During the first half he seemed to be trying to make amends for some of the recent criticism by passing the ball regularly. However, in the second half he lapsed into his habit of shooting when others were better placed.
Man of the match. Only denied a 10 mark because I wanted to annoy Romford!
It was a measure of his effectiveness that we hardly seemed to miss Quinn whom he replaced.
Looked quite keen for the few minutes he was on.
Hardly on long enough to make much of an impression but got in a few good tackles.
Did not play
Did not play
Referee: Alan Butler.
Man of the Match: David Connolly.
West Ham United
Goals: David Connolly 16 David Connolly 21 Matthew Etherington 25
Booked: David Connolly 88 .
Sent Off: .
Ince, Foster, Walker, Wright, Tonkin, Cochrane, Rix, Brammer, Lunt, Ashton, Jones.
Substitutes: Sorvel (Cochrane 77), Edwards (Jones 73).
Subs not used: Bankole, McCready, Varney.
Sent Off: .