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Nationwide Division One
Wednesday, 22nd October 2003

West Ham United 1
Nottingham Forest 1

by Gordon Thrower

Home-sick blues ...

They say things happen in threes. Pre-match I thought the omens were good. Descending the escalator at Bond Street tube I made out the distant echo of "Bubbles" being sung in a foreign language by a busker. However, as I got closer the busker turned out to be some bloke yodelling through a traffic cone, somehow missing the "fortune's always hiding" bit of the melody. The second musical disappointment came when the familiar (to me anyway) introduction to Marillion's "Incommunicado" came over the jukebox. For about 30 seconds anyway until it was switched-off by some philistine. The third disappointment was our third failure in a row to get all three points at home.

Team news was that, in the absence of the injured Pearce, new signing Hayden Mullins was pressed into immediate service at right back, presumably having been given the relevant page of the Paninni Sticker album to assist with team-mate identification (assuming that they still do Paninni Sticker albums and that they include first division teams if they do). Repka was moved across to fill the central defensive berth caused by Pearce's absence. The also-injured Horlock was also absent, Hucthison being given a start in his place.

We did not get off to the best of starts. Reid, who had an excellent match for the visitors, was allowed to embark on a run from deep within his own half. This he finished with a fine 25-yard shot into the top right-hand corner giving James no chance. Whether or not Mullins would have been able to get a challenge in had he not slipped at the vital moment we will never know.

That was about it really as far as Forest were concerned in the first half. Although they appeared to have little in the way of attacking ambition (in direct contrast to the side that lost a five-goal thriller in the cup last season), Forest were highly effective in stifling the midfield and it was a very frustrating experience watching us try to break them down. That's not to say there weren't chances. Carrick went close with a header whilst Dailly and Hutchison also went close. However, all in all it was a fairly lack-lustre first half performance that brought a few boos from the crowd at the half-time whistle.

So the big question was whether or not Alan Pardew could sort things out during his first half-time team talk. The answer was not long in coming. Ten minutes into the half the ball was fed out wide to Etheringon whose angled cross was met with an excellent header by Defoe into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Although the goal signalled the start of a spell in which we had long periods of possession and created a number of good chances, we were unable to put the ball away. I thought Dailly had done so, only to see the ball drift wide of the far post. At one point we were also treated to a move in which Connolly picked up the ball in the centre and fed Defoe whose return cross was inches too high for Connolly to put away. (Yes that's right, Connolly and Defoe were actually passing to each other!).

Not that Forest were without their chances. James pulled off a fine save down to his left at his near post and we had a really silly few minutes when goals could have gone in at either end. Forest's best chance of all came when - I think it was Harewood again (apologies if it wasn't)- went on a run down the left. Repka failed to stay on his feet and Harewood pulled the ball back to the unmarked Reid. Thankfully Reid chose to stage his own re-enactment of Beckham's penalty against Turkey and the ball flew harmlessly high and wide with the goal at his mercy.

Connolly then tried in vain to get on the end of a long ball under pressure from a defender. There was certainly some contact but the referee adjudged it to have been of no consequence . Seconds later the ball was played wide out to Forest's right hand side where I think it was Harewod controlled the ball with his arm. Unfortunately the ref saw some contact from Repka whilst, although infinitely lighter than that perpetrated upon Connolly seconds earlier, had the benefit for the referee of being well outside the box, thus enabling him to make a decision without doing anything silly like awarding a penalty. Repka, unfortunately, doesn't seem to have learnt his lesson from the Gillingham match where his dissent cost us 10 yards and a goal. He said something to the ref, a sentence which I'm guessing consisted of a maximum of two words. This enabled the ref to issue a yellow card and move the ball 10 yards nearer the goal. Reid was unlucky to see his free-kick come out from the angle of post and crossbar with James stranded. Worse still Repka could easily have found himself sent-off later on when, having correctly been awarded a free-kick down by the corner flag, he proceeded to sarcastically applaud both linesman and ref. Thankfully Dailly had a quiet word with Repka to put a stop to the silliness.

As time ran down we had some more chances to take the three points. In particular, Defoe was unlucky to see a long-range effort deflected onto a post. A Hutchison effort was also deflected, giving the 'keeper time to readjust his position to make the save. It was one of those nights that we weren't destined to get the three points.

Whilst there is a lot of disappointment at not getting the win, and we certainly had enough chances to have put the match beyond reach, I think a touch of perspective is called for at this point. Unlike the previous game against Burnley which we really ought to have won by miles, Forest appeared to me to be a strong side who will probably finish much nearer the top than the bottom of the division. We have a squad so thin at the moment that, even during the direst moments of the first half, there was nobody on the bench you could see coming on to make any significant impact. Our manager has been out tending the roses for much of the last few weeks and his main experience of the club has been limited (officially anyway) to sitting down watching videos and unravelling the conundrum that is the traffic in East London about the time that training starts. Give it a little time and let's see what happens.

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Player Ratings

David James
One fine save. Didn't have a prayer with the goal.

Hayden Mullins
Didn't have the most auspicious of starts when slipping over in front of Reid who went on to score. It was obvious that he had been pressed into service earlier than either he or the manager would have liked. Should improve.

Wayne Quinn
I'm unable to remember any significant contribution to the game, good or bad.

Christian Dailly
Fairly solid and came close to doubling his goals tally on more than one occasion.

Tomas Repka
His mark would have been higher but for his moments of madness that could have cost us dear. Up to the point where he picked up his booking he had been awesome. Afterwards less so.

Matthew Etherington
Didn't get down to the by-line enough for my liking, although in the second half we looked more dangerous when he got some crosses in.

Rob Lee
Seemed well of the pace and was left for dead by Reid at the start of the run for the goal.

Michael Carrick
Still looks half a yard short. Should be stamping his authority on matches a lot more than he is at the moment.

Don Hutchison
Played in a sort of withdrawn striker role behind the front two. Probably gets my man of the match award as far as our players were concerned as much of what was good when we attacked came through him.

David Connolly
Came off his marker and laid the ball off superbly on several occasions.

Jermain Defoe
A bit quiet tonight. Took the goal well and had another shot hit the post but seemed reluctant to take anyone on at all. At least he's started to pass to Connolly. Now it's a matter of getting the balance right.


Anton Ferdinand
(Replaced Lee, 77 mins) A couple of good runs down the right.

Neil Mellor
(Replaced Connolly, 86 mins) Failed to make much of an impact.

Stephen Bywater
Did not play

Shaun Byrne
Did not play

Matthew Kilgallon
Did not play

Match Facts

Referee: A.Bates.

Attendance: 29.

Man of the Match: Christian Dailly.

West Ham United

Goals: Jermain Defoe 56                  

Booked: Tomas Repka 78          .

Sent Off:      .

Nottingham Forest

Ward, Louis-Jean, Walker, Dawson, Morgan, Williams, Reid, Stewart, Taylor, Jess, Harewood.

Substitutes: Gunnarsson (Stewart 68), Sonner (Jess 68).

Subs not used: Roche, Robertson, Bopp.

Goals: Reid (5).

Booked: .

Sent Off: .

Match Report

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