Saturday, 16th August 2003
The team showed several changes from that which had played against Rushden & Diamonds the preceding Wednesday. At the back, the absence of Ferdinand and the return from suspension of Pearce meant a switch to right-back for Repka. In midfield Hutchison and new signing Horlock came in for David Noble, who ended up on the bench, and Sofiane who I presume was absent injured.
The match started much as it continued. Sheffield United came with the intention of getting men behind the ball in midfield in an attempt to cut off the supply to the in-form front pair of Connolly and Defoe. Fair play to them the plan worked, although, the lack of guile and creativity in our midfield really played into their hands. It was telling that the most notable incidents of the early exchanges revolved around disciplinary issues. Firstly Page upended Defoe, a crime which he compounded by kicking the ball away, an act that earned him a yellow card. Then, whilst Defoe was preparing to take the free-kick, Pearce and Morgan incurred the wrath of referee Hill. Defoe's free-kick, when it was eventually taken, was hit straight into 'keeper Kenny's arms.
Little of interest happened until about 20 minutes in when Defoe found some space wide out on the right and whipped a cross in towards Connolly who was foiled by a last-ditch clearance by a defender. Back on the disciplinary front Connolly then picked up a yellow for a late challenge before the curse of the West Ham full back struck Brevett. Watching a long ball from the back Rufus appeared to stumble and apparently twist his ankle. Despite lengthy treatment on the touchline the left-back was unable to continue and was replaced by Garcia on the half-hour. This prompted Horlock to move to left-back and Hutchison to move across to the centre alongside Lee.
The closest either side came to scoring came shortly after the substitution. Picking up the ball on the left, Defoe jinked right then left before hitting a cross shot that Kenny managed to divert onto a post. The rebound came back too sharply for the following-up Connolly and a goal-kick was the only result. The only other thing that I can remember from the first half was Defoe receiving a yellow card for dissent hving kicked the ball away in frustration following an offside call.
At half-time my mood was not improved by Jeremy Nicholas' playing of "Build Me Up Buttercup" a song which has come from nowhere to become my least favourite of all time following its endless repetition during our otherwise wonderful weekend in Blackpool. Somebody obviously put our resident DJ up to it and, when I find out who it was I shall take great delight in remembering exactly what they got up to during the weekend away and repeating the sordid details on this site!
The second half was much the same as the first. We continued to lose out in midfield to a hard-working Sheffield United side. We hardly helped ourselves with our passing, which ranged from the average to the downright diabolical. The only real chance of note fell to Defoe who cut in from the right before shooting over.
On 70 minutes Garcia, who had delivered the ball much in the same way as they deliver the post round my way i.e. late and with little accuracy, was replaced by Mellor. Shortly after this substitution the visitors had their best chance when Ndlovu shot from the right hand side for James to save well low at his near post. The final few minutes saw Noble replace Lee and Hutchison pick up a booking for kicking the ball away and that, basically, was it.
It was a match that was crying out for some intelligence, creativity and skill. For someone like, oh I don't know Joe Cole or Paolo DiCanio, to take the game by the scruff of the neck and do something different. Unfortunately we seem to have got rid of the players we once had who were able to do that, and I fear that we must hope that other clubs who come to the Boleyn are not as adept at stifling the service to our forwards. Unless of course we go out and by an appropriate player. Yeah right - there's probably as much chance of that happening as I have of finding out who the hell the mysterious Chicken Run advert "Jack & Sam" is referring to.
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Dealt with crosses well and made one fine save low down at the near post.
Did quite well at right back but docked a point for committing a foul throw - something that annoys me in professionals paid thousands a week.
Was his usual steady self before the unfortunate injury.
Spent much of the early stages giving away free-kicks identical to that from which Rushden & Diamonds scored in midweek. Improved later on.
Glad to see him back in the centre of defence. A solid game largely untroubled by the Blades' front line.
Probably the best of a poor bunch today. Got stuck in very well.
Spent much of the match at left-back following Brevett's knock. Did ok there.
Largely anonymous, even when the Brevett reshuffle saw him move into his preferred spot in the centre. Picked up a silly booking late on.
Too often disappeared down blind alleys and often appeared to lack the confidence to take players on.
Starved of proper supply Jermain was forced to create our few clear chances for himself. Another daft yellow card recipient.
With the midfield clamped down at every opportunity we were on occasion reduced to lumping it up towards Angry Ant in the air. Not very clever.
I don't think Garcia placed one pass to feet. Looked a little boy lost and was put out of his misery by Roeder on 70 minutes.
By the time Mellor came on (presumably with Connolly's permission) the pattern of the match was set. Unsurprisingly failed to make much of an impression.
Replaced the tiring Lee. Got a couple of tackles in but had little time to make much of an impact.
Did not play
Did not play
Man of the Match: Rob Lee.
West Ham United
Booked: Ian Pearce 11 David Connolly 29 Jermain Defoe 45 Don Hutchison 88 .
Sent Off: .
Kenny, Morgan, Kozluk, Page, Montgomery, Jagielka, Tonge, McCall, Lester, Ward, Ndlovu.
Subs not used: Rankine, Allison, Peschisolido, Parkinson, Whitlow.
Sent Off: .