Tuesday, 25th November 2003
Joni Mitchell could easily have been talking about the sad demise of our beloved football club when she wrote the above line. Or even the fair but soulless city of Milton Keynes. However, it’s a fair bet that she didn’t have a turgid midweek match between Wimbledon and West Ham in mind.
The lack of any Big Yellow Taxis about meant that the Gnomemobile was pressed into service in atrocious weather conditions for a trip around the M25 in the company of Romford and Richie. Following a drink and a bite to eat in one of those bars where everything is made out of pine we repaired to the weirdest ground I’ve ever seen a professional match at.
The team news was that new signing Marlon Harewood went straight into the team at the expense of Don Hutchison to play alongside Connolly and Deane up front in a 4-3-3. Those of you who went to the Watford match saw a poor game that could at least have used the excuse of poor weather. This game was the same except the weather was a lot better, which was just as well given that three of the four stands at the National Hockey Stadium are open to the elements. To say it was scrappy would be to be over-polite about a 90 minutes in which decent football was virtually non-existent. Inevitably the first item of note was a foul. Horlock came in a fraction late for a challenge on a Wimbledon midfielder to pick up a harsh yellow. This left us with our collective hearts in our mouths as Horlock proceeded to perform two further identical challenges. Overall the three challenges together probably merited the one yellow but, with the ref having made a rod for his own back by booking him for the first tackle, we were possibly fortunate that the ref didn’t see fit to repeat the exercise, although he did have a lengthy chat with Horlock after the third challenge.
Chances were few and far between as we struggled to break down the opposition.The only items of note were a Connolly shot, which was easily dealt with by ex-Hammer Banks, and a four man move that found Harewood free out wide on the right. The new boy played a dangerous looking ball in low across the face of the goal but nobody could get on the end of it. At our end James’ main source of employment seemed to arise from dealing with back passes from Dailly which occurred every time the midfield lost its way going forward. Which was far too often for my liking. Wimbledon only mustered one meaningful effort on goal, a shot from distance that went harmlessly wide.
During the half-time interval we were given a presentation relating to Wimbledon’s “Football In The Community” scheme. A worthy cause to be sure but, bearing in mind the 45 minutes we had endured thus far, we could have done without the announcer’s comment that Wimbledon FC was about more than “bringing top-class football to the area”. Other half time entertainments included the worryingly young Wimbledon cheerleaders and the tannoy announcement that someone called Suzanne should go to Gate 8 where her dad couldn’t get in because she had his ticket. “I wouldn’t bother mate” was the universal reaction.
I was convinced at half time that the match was going to finish goalless so, five minutes into the second half we scored. The ball from our right hand side was played across by Horlock and, apparently more by accident than design, found Deane unmarked at the edge of the box. Deane curled his shot low into the far corner past Banks.
The lead lasted only eleven minutes or so by my watch. The equaliser came from one of our own attacks. A long ball was played up towards Connolly who, not for the first time was adjudged to have strayed offside. The resulting free-kick was hoofed long down towards Ageymang who, taking advantage of our defence’s decision to disappear, was able to find McAnuff for an easy sidefoot home.
Both sides were able to create few further chances. Harewood’s clever turn in the box and angled drive brought a good save from Banks whilst Carrick saw a long shot dip a couple of feet over. Hutchison then replaced Deane. I understand that the official site amusingly referred to this move as being a substitution for the “tiring Defoe”. Well if Defoe was there he’d certainly have been yawning, though if the writer had meant to refer to Deane it’s difficult to see what Deane had done to be tired. Past his bedtime perhaps.
Symptomatic of the poor state of the match was a free kick taken 40 yards out by Horlock. As players moved forward to get on the end of the cross, Horlock steadied himself, took a deep breath, and calmly placed the ball 20 feet over the bar, prompting a stirring, if highly ironic chorus of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” from the travelling support.
Up the other end James was called into action to make a fine double save to deny first McEnuff then Ageymang before the game drifted to the inevitable conclusion of a draw.
I’ll say this for Milton Keynes, it’s quite easy to get out of. Since everything is laid out on some sort of grid system all you have to do is guess the general direction you want to head in and you’ll eventually end up in the right place, thus leaving you to concentrate on discussion points such as whether this really is the worst West Ham side ever (as Romford contends), and whether or not one could legitimately base a match report on the lyrics of songs included on the post match mini-disc compilation. Well “Big Yellow Taxi” was easy enough although I’m prepared to admit failure when it comes to Monty Python’s “Every Sperm Is Sacred”.
50 years ago to the day a chap called Ron Greenwood went to Wembley and watched a superb Hungarian side become the first team from continental Europe to inflict a home defeat on England. Mr Greenwood describes the match as a defining moment in his footballing life. It was the moment when the Hungarians showed us how the game could be played with style, intelligence and vision. It was the moment from which one can arguably trace the birth of football “The West Ham way” and ultimately “our” World Cup win in 1966. I’m sure if Mr Greenwood had been at either the Watford or Wimbledon matches he would have been far too polite to make any adverse comments. However I’m sure he’d have wept inside at what has become of his legacy.
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.....
* Want to submit your match reports to KUMB.com? More details here ...
Didn’t have an awful lot to do other than clear back passes. Excellent double save late on.
The sight of him marking the aptly-named Small, who barely came up to Repka’s elbow was highly amusing. Didn’t do much wrong defensively but didn’t do anything right going forward.
Didn’t appear comfortable at any stage during the game and was AWOL for the goal.
Seemed bereft of any meaningful ideas as to what to do with the ball other than to give it to James. Repeatedly.
Lucky to stay on the pitch after his first three challenges. Even luckier to stay on the pitch after his Jonny Wilkinson impersonation.
Tried to play football but was largely bypassed by the nature of the game.
Got his foot in a few times but lacked ideas when given time on the ball.
Okay, I know he scored but he seemed to have all the mobility of Ayer’s Rock. Control was poor and, on occasion, was seen to trap a ball about as far as Horlock could kick it.
Solid if hardly given a hard time.
Looked exactly what he was. A player who was introduced to his team-mates just before kick off. Nearly scored with a nice turn and shot in the second half.
A lot of running but rarely looked like troubling the Concrete Cows’ defence.
(Replaced Deane, 68) Provided a bit of much-needed better shape to the side when he came on without ever threatening to tear up any trees.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: David James.
West Ham United
Goals: Brian Deane 51
Sent Off: .
Banks, darlington, Leigertwood, Herzig, Lewington, Small, McAnuff, Chorley, Reo-Coker, Nowland, Agyemang.
Substitutes: Gray (Small 67), Holdsworth (Agyemang 85), Holloway (Reo-Coker 90).
Subs not used: Worgan, Gier.
Goals: McAnuff (63).
Sent Off: .