Wednesday, 1st October 2003
At last a home league win that didn’t involve us winning 1-0. After our dismal performance in the second half against Millwall when we changed to a 4-4-2, Neil Mellor was included in a starting line-up identical to that which had begun on Sunday.
Pre-match there was a surprise when your correspondent and this very website were name-checked by Jeremy Nicholas. Unfortunately this was in response to a request from KUMB forum regular Believe In The Bubbles for THAT bloody record by the Foundations. Thankfully the “treat” was curtailed by the arrival of the teams, for which small mercy I was truly thankful!
The opening exchanges were a bit flat if truth be told. The better of the few chances went to Palace who went close with a shot from the edge of the box that was deflected just over for a corner, and a header that James had to be very alert to tip over. Our main source of potential goals seemed to be from Palace themselves, Mellor having a shot saved by ’keeper Berthelin after a woefully loose ball from a defender. However, we seemed content to let the opposition have a lot of possession, although they thankfully didn’t really seem to have much idea as to what to do with it.
Things changed for the better on twenty minutes. Palace right-back Butterfield (who, movie buffs, really ought to have been wearing the no.8 shirt) played a terrible ball across his own penalty area towards Berthelin. The ’keeper took his eye off the ball under pressure from Defoe, who won the race to the loose ball to poach the opening goal.
About 10 minutes later we should have doubled the lead. A flowing move from the left found Mellor cutting in from the right hand side, only to hit his shot straight at the ‘keeper when he really ought to have scored. However, we didn’t have to wait too long for him to make amends. The loose ball eventually got fed out left to Etherington whose sublime cross was powerfully headed home by a joyful Mellor. The on-loan striker gratefully applauded the crowd in a gesture that suggested “thanks for bearing with me - I’ll be fine now”.
We saw out the first half in some comfort with Etherington in particular seeming to gain in confidence once he’d realised he was actually better than the defender who was marking him and we ended the first half on the attack.
The second half started with a particular bugbear of mine. It always irritates me to see the midfield playing only a few yards or so in front of the back four as, by doing so we immediately concede the 30-40 yards between the forwards and the defence. It must have annoyed Mellor, Defoe and Connolly to see their hard work being in closing defenders down negated by the midfield’s territorial concession. However, having had a rest for a few minutes, Lee, Horlock and Etherington worked out what was required of them and began to press forward more.
The game was effectively killed off on 56 minutes. Etherington combined superbly on the left with Quinn for the left back to play a fine ball between the ’keeper and his defence, leaving Mellor the easiest of tap-ins from a couple of yards out.
The rest of the match consisted of the occasional foray by Palace, usually ending with a weak shot wide. On the few times that any shots were on target, James was more than equal to the task. Particularly impressive was a close-range block from an advancing forward, and a fine tip round the post from a long-range effort.
Up the other end our best chance fell to Defoe who, winning the ball from a hesitant defender, turned the Palace defence inside out before rasping a powerful drive against the post. There were long periods of Hammers possession and a few rampaging runs from the entertaining Repka but the game had really died with the third goal and we were rarely troubled by the opposition in any meaningful way.
Trevor Brooking made a few substitutions, bringing on Kilgallon for Quinn and Ferdinand for the tiring Lee. Finally Mellor left the proceedings to deserved applause, all three changes presumably being made with one eye on Saturday’s away match against an improving Derby.
In truth this probably wasn’t our best performance of the season. However, paradoxically, 3-0 was probably a fair result, such was the below-par standard of Palace’s game. I suspect that if we’d been able to play to our potential for the full 90 minutes, rather than just for intermittent spells, we could have run up a cricket score. Still, I for one am not going to complain at a performance that was a vast improvement on that served up during the second half on Sunday - they’ve even found a new battery for the stadium clock. Now if someone could put me out of my misery and tell me what that “Jack & Sam” advert is all about I’ll stop being a grumpy so & so!
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Beginning to show a high level of consistency. Excellent handling and pulled off a few fine saves despite being a spectator for long periods.
Another strong match. Even found time to go on a few forays forward without ever really seeming to have much of a clue where he was going.
Combined well with Etherington down the left hand side, a combination which culminated in his setting up the 3rd goal.
Rarely troubled by the Palace attack, was highly effective in tandem with Pearce.
Rarely troubled by the Palace attack, was highly effective in tandem with Dailly!
Ok in the first half but seemed to tire in the second before Trev decided to give him a rest.
Another quietly effective match in the middle.
I think it’s a confidence thing with him. If he can get an arly run in against his full-back (as he did tonight) he is capable of being a constant threat.
A bit quieter than of late. Even so provided some good link up play.
Amazed many tonight by actually passing the ball on occasion. Always looked dangerous and was unlucky not to get a second when he hit the post in the second half.
My MOTM. I’m really pleased for the lad. The goals that his hard work has merited seemed to lift a great weight off his shoulders.
(For Lee, 63) Looked ok and was given time and space to play.
(For Quinn, 63) Filled in ok for Quinn in an unfamiliar left-back role.
(For Mellor, 81) Played a few nice balls up to the forwards when he came on.
Did not play
Did not play
Man of the Match: Neil Mellor.
West Ham United
Goals: Jermain Defoe 19 Neil Mellor 32 Neil Mellor 56
Booked: Wayne Quinn 54 .
Sent Off: .
Berthelin, Smith, Powell, Butterfield, Mullins, Hughes, Rihilahti, Freedman, Shipperly, Johnson.
Substitutes: Borrowdale (Smith 50), Routledge (Shipperly 63).
Subs not used: Cronin, Fleming, Symons.
Booked: Shipperly (59), Derry (85).
Sent Off: .