Saturday, 31st January 2004
A strong, professional performance under difficult conditions. It must have been awful at half-time for the Hammerettes what with the swirling wind and torrential rain. As for the match, well lets just say that any of the “kids for a quid” attending their first match will have seen a fairly typical state of affairs – yup another lead thrown away under silly circumstances. Unusually we were able to rise above the silliness and collect a full share of the points for once.
Perhaps thinking we'd be fooled into thinking we were playing Inter Milan, the club treated us to a chap called John Innes singing “Nessun Dorma” before the match. Now, despite my surname, I know little about gardening (as a cursory look at my back yard will confirm) but I always thought John Innes was a type of compost. His efforts were, however, well-received and thankfully he didn't move onto “Build Me Up Buttercup” as an encore. Also thankfully any resemblance between Rotherham and Inter started and finished with their blue and black away kit. It was an unfamiliar line up with Repka returning from suspension to partner Dailly in the middle. Mullins was moved over to right-back whilst new-boy Reo-Coker joined Etherington and Carrick in the middle with Harewood playing out wide on the right slightly behind the front two of Deane and Connolly. The visitors, meanwhile, named only four substitutes, presumably through a lack of fit players rather than from any Redknappesque hope that a player might make it back from the African Nations Cup in time for kick-off.
As is often the case we started brightly with Deane having two shots blocked at close range following an early corner. This was followed by long spells of possession as we kept Rotherham pinned in their own half. Probably the best chance during the opening spell fell to Connolly who, following a neat bit of interplay with Deane, had his shot well saved by Pollitt in the Rotherham goal.
We took a not entirely surprising lead on about 15 minutes. A simple goal really. Carrick took a corner from the right hand side and an unmarked Deane buried the header. Now we don't score that many from corners but when we do it traditionally follows my making a comment to the effect that we never score from corners. I didn't say it this time round so I was quite surprised when the header went in, although the marking was definitely more Milmoor than Milan.
The stage was set for us to turn our dominance into goals. So we did our usual thing and chucked it away in a moment of poor defending. Byfield found himself wide on the Rotherham right and, following an ineffectual half challenge from Deane, had the time and space to send a long diagonal cross in the direction of Barker, who Mullins had lost. Barker got a diving header in which was parried at close range by Bywater. As the ball rolled toward the goal Repka slid in to clear but got all his angles wrong and succeeded only in burying the ball into his own net. Certain KUMB regulars (hi Jen!) maintained that the ball had already crossed the line by the time Tomas got there. However, having seen it on the box I have to say that it was an own goal. Sporting a head bandage after an earlier challenge saw Barker bounce off the Czech (sorry!), perhaps Repka might claim to have been suffering from concussion.
The rest of the first half seemed strangely flat. Despite having the lion's share of the ball we seemed to lack any desire to do much with it and I rather suspect that AP will have had more than a few quiet words at half-time whilst the Hammerettes were doing their unscheduled wet t-shirt routine.
The second-half started poorly as an early volley from Sedgewick hit the roof of the net – thankfully from the outside. Bywater seemed a lot happier that it was going to clear the bar than I was (which probably explains why I keep goal for the Internet Hammers rather than the real thing). However Reo-Coker, Carrick and Etheringon gradually began to establish a stranglehold on the middle and my fears that we might throw the match away gradually began to recede
Amazingly we were looking dangerous at every corner, not just the odd one now and again. The improvement in the standard of play at set pieces is one of the more obvious and welcome changes in recent months. A quieter than usual Harewood went close with a header from Etherington's corner and on the hour we took the lead from an unlikely source. An excellent through ball from Connolly saw Etherington's effort saved by Pollitt. Now I don't expect you lot to believe this but just before the corner was taken I said to Trevor who sits next to me “Dailly's on the end of this one”. I only hope that when I check my ticket in a minute my lottery prediction was as accurate. Dailly had obviously scored in training during the week as he'd had a couple of optimistic shots go over the bar and he must have been overjoyed at the lack of marking as he threw himself at the ball to get his second of the season.
From that moment we looked the more likely to score. Etherington might have done better from Carricks fine pass when one on one with the keeper, only succeeding in putting the ball over as the keeper came out to meet him. Reo-Coker also had a couple of chances to cap an already impressive debut with a goal. Getting on the end of a through ball he dinked (I've always wondered if that's a real word – spellchecker says no!) a delicate shot past the 'keeper only to find the far post as Deane and Connolly slid in. Another strong run saw the new signing have his shot saved by Pollitt.
The other new signing from Milton Keynes, Nowland, made an appearance on 70 minutes replacing Harewood, and showed enough good touches to suggest that he'll be a useful acquisition over the coming months. Melville came on for the last few minutes with Repka moving over to right back and Mullins pushing up to midfield and we comfortably saw out the remainder of the match to collect the three points. The only real noteworthy incident being when Repka survived being kicked into the advertising hoardings by substitute Warne who rightly received a yellow card for his efforts.
Looking back it was possibly expecting too much of a massively re-modelled side to demolish Rotherham, even allowing for the fact that, even with the best will in the world Rotherham were not the strongest of sides. What was encouraging was that, despite not firing on all cylinders, we were able to collect the points, in direct contrast to some recent home performances. And I certainly can't remember the last time we scored from two corners in a match. Suffice to say it was so long ago there wasn't a sale on at Allied Carpets. Two and a half cheers then and a renewed sense of optimism all round. Right now for those lotto numbers....
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Not overly tested but got some good punches onto crosses when under pressure.
Funny game for the skipper who seemed to think his name was destined for the scoresheet right from the start with a succession of long-range efforts. Had the last laugh when he buried his header.
Also looked not entirely comfortable and might be considered fortunate that Rotherham didn't overly test him.
Impressive debut – looked at home in the middle and was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet. If he can continue in the same vein he could prove to be a very astute signing.
Not a bad game from Tomas (sorry Chas!) despite the own goal. Was, for once, the beneficiary of some sensible refereeing when he and Bywater had a go at the ref for missing the ball going over the goal line during a rare Rotherham attack.
Didn't look entirely happy in an unfamiliar right-back role and was caught on the wrong side of Barker for their goal.
Continues to improve although he's still a fair way from the peak that saw him win full England honours a while ago. Keep it up sir.
A lot of hard work and kept the Rotherham defence on their toes throughout. Replaced by Melville late on.
Some excellent runs terrified the Rotherham defence throughout. I'd like to see him work on some finishing though.
Doesn't seem entirely happy with his role out wide on the right and spent a lot of the match being shouted at by new assistant boss Peter Grant for wandering away from his wide berth.
Lively and full of running as ever. Some good link up play with Deane.
(Replaced Harewood, 70) Lively and some intelligent use of the ball in the 20 minutes he was on.
(Replaced Deane, 90) Not really on long enough but since the proprietor of this fine site insists on a mark......
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Matthew Etherington.
West Ham United
Goals: Brian Deane 15 Christian Dailly 59
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Pollitt, S.Barker, Swailes, Baudet, Minto, Sedgwick, Garner, Mullin, Hurst, Byfield, R.Barker.
Substitutes: Monkhouse (Hurst 78), Warne (Byfield 78).
Subs not used: Montgomery, Talbot.
Goals: Repka og (23).
Booked: Warne (84).
Sent Off: None sent off..