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FA Cup
Sunday, 25th January 2004

Wolves 1
West Ham United 3

by East Stand Martin

Whoever said that the Black Country is a miserable place has got it all wrong. It’s a great place. In fact, it is currently my favourite spot in the whole country.

I felt good about this one on the way up, despite ESM Jnr’s caution – although he did say “At least this one’s away from home, as we’re rubbish at home”. Oxford Fred was in fine form. He had only been able to attend two previous matches this season, but both had been wins for West Ham. He saw no reason why this was not going to be a third.

Approaching Wolverhampton from the South, Fred saw a sign for the Black Country Museum. “I bet there's not many light switches on display in there”, he quipped. We also enjoyed another sign for the ‘Black Country Urban Forest’. It looked like a dozen manky Christmas trees surrounded by razor wire to me. Talk about how to put a positive spin on a pile of sh*te.

But sometimes in life, no matter how good something has been there is always someone is not completely happy. On the way back to after the game, I actually heard a disgruntled West Ham fan on the radio saying that he wished we had been more entertaining in the second-half. What was that bloke on?

This team will self-destruct in five seconds….

All that was concerning me at half time, was that the West Ham self-destruct button was going to be pressed once again. You wonder if Pardew’s got one of those metal briefcases chained to his wrist marked top secret. Inside you find a big red button with the words “Danger do not press” on it. Clearly lately someone’s having difficulty resisting pressing that button just to see what happens. Maybe it was Goddard.

Anyway, suffice to say that I confess that I uttered the words, which ESM junior has heard on more than one occasion this year: “This match is far from won”.

As it turned out, the second-half became a happy non event. At last West Ham managed not to snatch defeat or a draw out of the jaws of victory. It was crucial that there was no repeat of last week's debacle at Sheffield United. Maybe it’s a seminal point in this roller coaster season. I hope so.

The first half, though, was a peach. The motivational powers of Alan Pardew, at last seem to be having an effect, because from the outset every West Ham player looked like they were up for it. Hardly had we settled into our seats, when Deano conjured up a brilliant goal following excellent work down the wing by Marlon.

I have been a bit critical of Marlon's work rate of late, but today, he really turned it on. Fiery pace down the wing and great trickery, which Wolves simply could not handle. Coupled with the Matty’s pace down the other wing we looked unstoppable. Fantastic stuff.

The second goal came as no surprise, as we were really dictating the game. Maybe my criticism of Marlon has been unjustified, because, although arguably the work rate has been lacking the goals haven't.

Maybe Marlon has been watching Connors. What an absolutely superb masterclass in commitment. Once again, putting real meaning into the phrase “playing for the shirt”.

Running the show in the middle was the Michael Carrick that we all know and love. I actually think after going missing for a long time, he's back. Not only is he making his presence felt by winning the ball in and around the centre circle, but he is striking some sublime passes out to the wings.

I have got to admit that I felt the Grim Reaper tapping me on the shoulder when they got it back to 2-1. The problem is that their goal, when it came underlined again the principal problem that we have. Week defensive positions down the flanks at the back.

Harley was the culprit in not clearing our lines properly, but prior to this you felt that he was often in too advanced a position. We all like to see free-flowing attacking football, but not at the expense of leaving vast parts of the park unprotected. The bloke behind me said that “Harley doesn't know how to defend”. He also said that Ferdinand looked out of position on a number of occasions and I think he had a point. Developing positional sense comes with maturity, and that is something that Anton clearly has to work on.

But it was our pace again, that did the damage. Jenny, an old friend of ours who is a mad Wolves fan said after the game that the linesman should have had some sunglasses on as she thought that the third goal was clearly offside. Being at the other end, it was difficult to see. But what I do know is that Connors made a world-class finish. I went mad like everybody else, but my jubilation was still tempered by the fear of self-destruction.

But it didn't come, although Wolves squandered a couple of excellent opportunities in the second half. One looked like the miss of the season in front of an open goal after an excellent block by Bywater. The second hit the post after Bywater judged his angles perfectly so that, although the ball was put by him, it didn't go in.

While we are on Bywater, let me say that I have been feeling very uncomfortable watching him in goal. He is always going to struggle to match the aerial presence of James and against Sheffield, he looked extremely nervous. But he is clearly gaining in confidence and today's performance was very encouraging. Let's hope that he goes on to join the West Ham goalkeeping Hall of Fame.

Although it will never rival that 4th Round FA Cup Tie at Old Trafford, today's victory should be seen as a vital boost. Every West Ham fan at Molineux had their own personal party. That “Premier League, your having a laugh” chant to their club anthem and “3 - 1 to the Nationwide” created a fantastic atmosphere.

After the game we met up with Jenny, for a drink. What you should all know is that the “Premier League you’re having a laugh” chant is sung by away fans every time Wolves are beaten at Molineux. Apparently, the Wolves fans were singing “Champions League, you’re having a laugh” to Liverpool earlier on in the week. Who cares though if it wasn’t original? We all had a great time, singing and jigging around to it, didn't we?

In a local pub afterwards, one of Jenny’s mates was reluctant to talk to us. He was gutted so we all made some allowances, particularly after we discovered that he had refused to take the cheapest mortgage offered to him by a financial adviser, because it came from the West Bromwich Building society.

Now that is what I call a football fan. It makes yours truly look rather hypocritical, since I have recently bought two leather sofas whose product name is ‘The Chelsea’. Straight up. My defence, your honour is that I did not discover this until I got home, and looked at the order. All I can do is ask for lenience and your understanding.

(ratings by Graeme Howlett)

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
A far more assured performance from the young keeper this afternoon. Having made one or two errors at Sheffield United this week there was some concern from the Hammers faithful about his ability - but today he more than made up for those mistakes with an assured display. Generally speaking he had little more than a few basic saves to make, but two fine second-half stops when one on one will have given him much confidence - as it did the supporters.

Christian Dailly
Again, not the most accomplished performance from the big Scot - and had the referee been not quite so lenient he may well have suffered for a string of (minor) offences committed on his gold-shirted counterparts. Yet again there were a few howlers to take into account from Dailly's performance today; one slip-up in the second half when he gave the ball away on the edge of the box should have led to a second Wolves goal. With Mullins proving such a force at centre-half today could it be Dailly's starting place that is under threat next week?

Jon Harley
If ever there was a performance of two halves, then this was it. To put it simply, Harley was awful in the first half - but solid after the break. It was from his error that Wolves scored, and on two or three occasions he was caught out before respite came with the half-time whistle. Thereafter I don't recall him putting a foot wrong. Could be a fine acquisition, if his current loan deal is turned into something more permanent.

Kevin Horlock
Many will suggest it was the goals that won it, but in reality the match was won in the engine room today by Horlock and Michael Carrick. The two Hammers nullified the ever-present threat of former Hammer Paul Ince who was made to look every one of his 36 years today. Once again it was a game in which the former Manchester City midfielder failed to do anything of note - like score a goal, or hit a defence-splitting pass, for example - but in his hole in front of the back four he was magnificent, mopping up every loose ball and distributing the ball wisely throughout. On this performance is really would be harsh to keep him out of the side; another (pleasant) problem for Alan Pardew to mull over.

Anton Ferdinand
It was clear from the off that Wolves' instructions were to target Ferdinand as the weak link in our defence. Time after time they attacked on that side, and Ferdinand found himself troubled more often than he would like to admit. Positionally he was naive today, and his distribution could have been better. You can understand why Alan Pardew feels Anton will benefit from a loan spell with a run of games.

Hayden Mullins
One of the best performances from a West Ham centre-half in recent seasons - and yet Mullins was playing out of position today. From this performance alone you can understand why Palace fans felt that this was his best position; he was quite simply immense today, winning a string of headers (including one which travelled a full 45 yards) and tackles in the danger areas. If nothing else, he will certainly have given Alan Pardew plenty of food for thought when it comes to including new boys Reo-Coker and Nowland in future starting XI's - and quite possibly an extra option he had never previously considered.

Michael Carrick
Now this is more like it. In recent weeks regular readers of KUMB's match reports will have noticed a tendency to criticise the young Geordie for under-par performances - and rightly so, as he has been a shadow of his former self in recent games. But today Carrick stepped out of the shadows to give his performance of the season so far. Maybe it was the arrival of the two Wimbledon lads in midweek, or being back on the big stage against premiership opposition that gave him the necessary kick up the proverbial; whatever it was this was Carrick pretty much back at his best, much to the delight of the travelling faithful (and no doubt Alan Pardew too). Gritty is a word that you would perhaps have not used previously to describe Carrick; well he was today, winning several key challenges deep in home territory and getting stuck in against his opponents (and notably Paul Ince at times). Had he managed to convert a glorious opportunity in the first half he would have scored a 10 today. Simply marvellous.

Brian Deane
At 35, you would be forgiven for expecting the big striker to run out of steam way before the end of a game like this. But full credit to the former Leicester hitman, as he lasted the pace today with little trouble - so much so that he was still going on mazy runs as late as the final five minutes! His main contribution today however was the outlet he gave the team at the head of the attack; he won far more possession in the air than a striker should do. The goal looked like a fair crack from the stands too. Yet another selection problem for Alan Pardew!

Matthew Etherington
In a word? Outstanding. Despite some great performances from his team-mates today Etherington just about edges it for Man of the Match, due to a performance full of running, trickery and confidence. The work rate was 110%, and the way he tormented both full-backs was a joy to behold (unless you were of the gold and black persuasion, naturally). Once again he notched another assist for his part in West Ham's second goal, and had fortune smiled rather more often on Pardew's men he could have had more to his name. With this kind of performance, the £500k we paid to Tottenham for his services back in August looks an absolute steal. Now to repeat this performance at Upton Park!

Marlon Harewood
Another outstanding effort from one of Pardew's most recent recruits. Harewood tormented poor Oleg Luzhny so much in the first 45 that Dave Jones was forced to replace him at half-time. All the tricks in the Harewood repertoire were on display today; the fancy flicks, the spin on the ball and that delightful little overhead kick that left his markers standing flat-footed on several occasions. The goal was just reward for his efforts; overall he is wonderful to watch when he's playing with such confidence. And he even gave a slightly tongue-in-cheek rendition of the Wolves' fans goal celebration when we scored our final goal - to the delight of the 5,000 travelling Hammers fans ...

David Connolly
Yet another performance of sheer energy and commitment from the footballer formerly known as The Angry Ant. Although many have criticised other elements of his game (and all-round demeanour) in recent weeks one area you cannot fault Connolly on is his constant battling attitude. At times this can boil over the top - his altercation with Marlon Harewood after the latter supplied him a poor pass being a good example. But what is becoming quite clear is that of the current squad, Connolly is one we can sorely afford to lose. It could even be suggested that he is the natural replacement for Jermain Defoe should he move on to pastures new - for his goalscoring ability, there is little to separate the two at present. His goal today - West Ham's third and final one - was the perfect illustration of a striker in top form.


Wayne Quinn
(Replaced Ferdinand, 82) Faultless. Okay, he was only on the pitch for 8 minutes - but he didn't put a foot wrong. Therefore I have no hesitation in awarding the oft-criticised Cornish defender a perfect 10 out of 10 ...

Rami Shabaan
Did not play.

Chris Cohen
Did not play.

David Noble
Did not play.

Mark Noble
Did not play.

Match Facts

Referee: M.Halsey.

Attendance: 24413.

Man of the Match: Matthew Etherington.

West Ham United

Goals: Brian Deane 4 Marlon Harewood 21 David Connolly 32              

Booked: Jon Harley 15          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .


Oakes, Luzhny, Naylor, Butler, Clyde, Cameron, Ince, Kennedy, Ganea, Miller, Silas.

Substitutes: Craddock (Luzhny 45), Clarke (Miller 59), Gudjonsson (Silas 66).

Subs not used: Ikeme, Iversen.

Goals: Ganea (23).

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

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