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Nationwide Division One
Saturday, 10th January 2004

West Ham United 1
Preston North End 2

by Gordon Thrower

Subterranean Home-sick (Claret and) Blues ...

I had my blood pressure checked this week. It was, I was told “dangerously high” and I urgently need to avoid stressful situations. Could someone please tell the football team I support that they're ruining my health. Frankly there was enough going on both on and off the pitch to make even the most laid-back of us angry.

Late-running tubes and engineering works meant only time for a rushed diet coke in the Wakefield. This meant that I was able to avoid KUMB regular Paddy The Greek's new habit of putting his hand on people's knees. Lost Hammer seemed to be enjoying it although he assured me that the strange white marks down one leg of his jeans were merely some sort of fashion statement. Still at least they were on the right way round, unlike Brillo's T-shirt!

The team news was that Hutchison was to start a game at home for the first time since goodness knows when. Dailly replaced the suspended Repka whilst Deane was back on the bench. The proverbial bright start saw Michael Carrick have a shot from outside the box palmed away by Gould. Then Preston, who, unusually had come with more ambition than to merely see what they could nick, had a spell where they created a number of chances. Fuller, who as Craig Brown later admitted, didn't have half as good a match as he seemed to think he was having, first missed a sitter from a cross on the right. Then, looking more than a little offside, he hit his shot straight at James when through one-on-one. Five minutes after this we took the lead. A Preston attack ended with a poor cross which James collected and threw out to our left to Etherington. Etherington did well to keep the powerful throw in play and stormed down the wing to play Connolly in for a fine counter-attacking goal.

The goal seemed to settle the side and for the remainder of the first half – and indeed for the first 15 minutes of the second half we looked comfortable. Preston rarely threatened and messrs. Carrick, Hutchison, Etherington and especially Mullins had the midfield sewn up. Dailly had Fuller in his pocket despite the latter's tendency to lead with the elbow and fall over within 10 yards of a challenge. So the blood pressure was fairly stable come half-time.

We really ought to have had the game sewn-up in the early stages of the second half. Etherington shot narrowly wide. Connolly fed Mullins who shot narrowly wide and Carrick, finding himself in space 20 yards out, shot, er, narrowly wide. Oh, and a bit high as well. Then, on the hour it all went wrong. Very wrong.

Hutchison fouled O'Neill out on the touchline. The ball was kicked against Harewood, who had his back to the ball. The over-fussy and inconsistent Mr Warren deemed this to be delaying the restart, booked Harewood and moved the ball 10 yards forward. The ball was crossed for Lucketti to head back across the 6 yard box for a chance that even Fuller couldn't miss. Fuller proceeded to celebrate as if he'd won the World Cup single handed and I can't help feeling that had his name been Defoe he'd have picked up the yellow card he deserved at this point rather than much later on.

From that point we went to pieces. Slack defending allowed Fuller in again only to see his shot blocked by James. From the resulting corner Healey was unmarked at the edge of the box and his free shot somehow went under James's arm. Cresswell could have made things a lot worse. Stockdale fell asleep and the Preston man's slightly sliced but powerful shot came back off the angle of bar and post. Somewhere in all the mayhem Stockdale had both his legs taken away but the ref – who seemed to think that it was more important to make sure a throw in for a goal-kick after an injury was taken from the correct place – bafflingly chose to ignore it.

With 15 minutes left AP, who had already replaced Hutchison with Deane, took off Quinn replacing him with Ferdinand. The reception given to Quinn was, in my opinion, disgraceful and the lad was clearly upset by the booing as he disappeared down the tunnel. In truth I didn't think he was all that bad and, although he lost the ball on several occasions he didn't hide and more often than not won the ball back. Unfortunately Quinn can do no right in the eyes of some and amongst those booing were probably some of those who were shouting abuse at him during the warm up. Senseless.

The final moments were played out with four strikers on the pitch with Mellor replacing Stockdale and we had a couple of chances towards the end, including one that nearly fell to James who had gone up for a corner at the death. However, I reckon that even if the ref had added on half as much time as was actually due instead of the paltry 4 minutes that he arbitrarily decided on, we still wouldn't have scored. 5 substitutions plus 2 long injuries plus a number of bookings that took an age to sort out equals 4 minutes apparently. That's not even taking into account the Preston tactic of taking an injured player to the far touchline when only two feet away from the dead-ball line. Conned ref? You surely were.

So another 3 points thrown away at home in entirely unsatisfactory circumstances. No wonder my blood pressure has a comma in it. Yet only two of the sides above us won and I still feel that if we can start to put a run together we could sneak something this season. Unless we sort it out soon at home though even the play-offs may be beyond us.

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Player Ratings

David James
Some good saves in the first half and a fine throw to set up the goal. Might have done better with the second which appeared to go under him.

Christian Dailly
Kept the niggly Fuller fairly quiet but not otherwise inspiring.

Wayne Quinn
Not the greatest of performances but nowhere near as bad as some were making out. Didn't deserve the abuse.

Ian Pearce
Poor. That's it really.

Robbie Stockdale
OK, one strange lapse in the second half aside. Fell victim to referees' strange reluctance to give us a penalty even for the clearest of fouls.

Hayden Mullins
Seems to be finding his feet at last.

Michael Carrick
Better than of late and was unfortunate not to score early on.

Don Hutchison
Looked ok but seemed to tire in the second half before being replaced by Deane.

Matthew Etherington
Started well but disappeared in the second half after the equaliser.

Marlon Harewood
Seemed strangely out of sorts.

David Connolly
Some good runs but guilty of taking an extra touch in the box a couple of times instead of getting his shot in.


Brian Deane
(Replaced Hutchison, 69) No noteworthy contribution.

Anton Ferdinand
(Replaced Quinn, 76) Got stuck in well in the 15 minutes he was on.

Neil Mellor
(Replaced Stockdale, 83) Not really enough time to make a difference.

Stephen Bywater
Did not play.

Kevin Horlock
Did not play.

Match Facts

Referee: M.Warren.

Attendance: 28777.

Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins.

West Ham United

Goals: David Connolly 19                  

Booked: Don Hutchison 42 Marlon Harewood 63        .

Sent Off:      .

Preston North End

Gould, Alexander, Lucketti, Davis, McKenna, Keane, Healy, Cresswell, Fuller, Mears, O'Neil.

Substitutes: George Koumantarakis (Keane 58), Dickson Etuhu (Davis 90).

Subs not used: Lonergan, Cartwight, Abbott.

Goals: Fuller (64), Healy (67).

Booked: .

Sent Off: .

Match Report

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