Wednesday, 13th August 2003
Perhaps the fact that we're now a division lower makes us less of a target for the sort of upset that saw us go out to Oldham last season. However I couldn't help feeling that the match should have been well and truly killed off a long time before the end. Team news saw David Noble in for Don Hutchison, Yousef Sofiane in for Richard Garcia and "Angry Ant" David Connolly start in place of Neil Mellor.
For the first 15 minutes or so we looked like world-beaters. Good running and sharp, incisive passing made it look like we were likely to score every time we pushed forward. We took the lead on 10 minutes. Sofiane's ball into the box was partially cleared by a defender to Connolly who had time to steady himself and put in an exquisite chip. The Diamonds' keeper my have just got a finger to the shot which came off the bar to Defoe who made no mistake from six yards,
Four minutes later we were two up.Connolly's attempt to feed Defoe came back to him and the Ant gathered the loose ball, ran at a defender before delivering a superb angled finish inside the far post. At this point we were in superb form and Bluebutterfly's pre-match promise to streak if we went 4-0 up was looking as if it was a promise she would regret. However, instead of going for the jugular and putting the game beyond reach as early as possible we took our foot of the accelerator and sat back as if the job had been done.
So the inevitable happened. Firstly James parried a low hard shot from outside the box, thankfully no forwards were following up. Then, on 34 minutes, Diamonds pulled one back. Dailly gave away a needless foul on the edge of the box. Lowe buried the resulting free-kick into the right of the net in superb manner. Thus it was that we turned round at the interval 2-1 up when, with a greater spirit of adventure, we might have already put the match beyond doubt.
The second half continued in much the same vein. We sat back and conceded territory for much of the match although we rarely looked much like conceding a goal. Up the other end Ferdinand was unlucky not to increase the lead when nodding on a Noble corner, the defender on the far post heading clear from just inside the far post. Disaster was to strike for Ferdinand shortly after, as he fell awkwardly in an attempt to clear a Diamonds corner. The youngster looked in considerable discomfort and was stretchered off with what hopefully is not as serious an injury as looked from the side. Ferdinand was replaced by Byrne and, at the same time, the tiring Sofiane was replaced by Garcia. The Aussie nearly increased the lead shortly after coming on when, latching onto Connolly's pass, he cut inside from the right and drove narrowly over from 25 yards.
Connolly and Defoe were beginning to prove a handful up front and the two were to combine once more for our third with 12 minutes left. A corner from our left was nodded down, I think by Dailly. Defoe did marvellously well to twist to get a shot in which the Rushden 'keeper could only parry out to Connolly who couldn't miss from a matter of feet. The goal effectively killed the game offany hopes Diamonds had of forcing extra time and little further of note occurred.
So, some encouraging signs. A potential banana-skin was successfully avoided and, maybe I was guilty of wanting too much from a side which is relatively inexperienced. The nagging feeling remained that a failure to kill off sides might cost us dear in the future. Or maybe that's just the inbuilt pessimist mechanism we Hammers build up over the years.
My final word must make mention of the somewhat surreal conversation I had when trying to get the word "Gnome" printed on the back of my new home shirt. I was told that this was not possible as the club shop had run out of "M's". The helpful assistant did, however come up with an ingenious potential alternative. "We could do you an upside-down "W" if you like"!
Rating? B+ Can do better.
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Had little to do. No chance with the goal. Otherwise solid.
A useful match. Needs to work a little on his distribution but looked composed on the ball. Hopefully the injury isn't as bad as it looked.
Another good display from Whoopi. Sorry but I'm not wearing the wig again though.
A good performance spoilt slightly by a tendency to give away silly free-kicks.
Similar to Repka. Though the free-kick count was lower, it was his challenge that lead to the Rushden goal. Looked potentially dangerous as an attacking force at corners.
Again looked as if he had loads of time on the ball. Used it well.
First time I have seen this lad and he looks fairly useful. Got stuck in well and was willing to chase back when necessary.
A few good runs showed potential but tended to drift in and out of the game.
Same comments as for Sofiane apply.
Man of the match by a street. When the ball was played to his feet he was able to hold up play superbly and did an excellent job at bringing the wide players into the match wherever possible.
A good game from Defoe who, nevertheless could learn a bit from Connolly about involving others in the play. Sometimes guilty of failing to lay the ball off to a better placed colleague.
A better performance from the Aussie who might have scored with a drive that went a foot or so over.
Did little wrong when replacing Ferdinand.
Did not play
Did not play
Did not play
Referee: Mark Cowburn.
Man of the Match: David Connolly.
West Ham United
Goals: Jermain Defoe 9 David Connolly 14 David Connolly 69
Booked: Tomas Repka 80 .
Sent Off: .
Rushden & Diamonds
Turley, Underwood, Bignot, Edwards, Hunter, Hall, Burgess, Mills, Bell, Lowe, Jack..
Substitutes: Derby (Jack 81), Gray (Mills 85), Dempster (Hunter 86)..
Subs not used: Talbot, Sambrook.
Goals: Lowe 34.
Booked: Hunter 25.
Sent Off: .