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FA Cup
Saturday, 14th February 2004

Fulham 0
West Ham United 0

by East Stand Martin

I was going to write something that entered into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, but quite frankly, both the BBC and Sky had really done that one to death today in their various FA Cup previews.

Talk about one cliché after another. In any event how can you be a romantic when you turn up at a football ground that looks like a multi-storey car park? As ESM Jnr put it succinctly, “Is that the ground?”.


I remember going to Loftus Road a very long time ago for a match against QPR. If I recall correctly, Phil Parkes was in goal for them and was the main TV model at the time for ‘Cossack’. A geezer’s ‘hair control formula’ (hairspray to you and me) that attempted to be macho, but basically was not the sort of thing you admitted to using unless you wanted to have the p*ss ripped out of you by your mates, even in the 70’s. I’m sure ‘Pop’ Robson scored the first goal that day and we ended up losing something like 6-1. I also remember a West Ham fan leaning out from the stand and showering Stan Bowles with a full cup of coffee. Those were the days. Maybe some historian out there can help me with that one.

I approached this game with a degree of indifference as whatever way you look at it the Cup is a bit of a distraction from the main event. No chance of indifference, though, as we approached the turnstiles having managed to lever Oxford Fred and his legendary ‘lucky hat’ reluctantly out of O’Neill’s.

We started in an extremely positive fashion, despite a starting line-up somewhat affected by cup-tied players. In fact the Fulham/West Ham exchanges of players had become so complicated that the programme actually had Harley in both the Fulham and the West Ham squads. Someone have a word, will they? One major relief was that we did not have to start with Quinn as left back, since Mullins stepped in to do the job – rather well as it turned out.

Matty inspires

As early as the first minute, Matty Etherington set off with a pacey run which led to a cross which Marlon failed to convert on the volley, despite standing unchallenged. But as Fred pointed out, Van de Sar made a good stop.

In many respects this early exchange was to set the scene for the rest of the match: a quick West Ham break, ending up with a good stop.

In midfield, Michael Carrick was also clearly up for the game. It reminded me a bit of the way he had played at Sp*rs earlier this season. Some might say that he is just raising his game for the big match, but of late, he has been really turning it on. There were some simply sublime long balls out to the wings today, and he was unlucky on 20 minutes with a shot that spun off his foot past the upright. He’s looking like the Carrick of old – maybe he wants to give us promotion as his parting present when he leaves at the end of the season?

But Matty was the real threat throughout this game. He was tackling, closing down and chasing down lost causes. I said a few weeks ago that he was my Hammer of the season to date and I remain of that opinion. It was one of those lost causes that looked destined for a goal kick that Matty managed to retrieve and set up Horlock on 23 minutes. Unfortunately, there was the giant Dutch goalie again to save low down in the bottom left corner.

Next came Fulham’s best chance on the half hour. Ferdinand – who otherwise had a very solid game today – failed to clear and allowed Bocanegra to take a strange swerved shot which struck the left hand upright with Bywater beaten. Fortunately we scrambled it away.

Before the half was up, West Ham created another two good chances. One fell to Connors at the far post, but again the shot was saved. The other came after a long looping cross came in from the left to Deano. His free header was fired towards the ground and the right hand corner of Fulham’s goal, but a strong hand from Van de Sar kept it out.

Computer virus

Half time, and I felt that we had the better of it. We had created the best chances, had a lot of possession, but only lacked finishing ability.

If last week at Bradford had revealed a bizarre mascot, then half time today at Loftus Road brought out what can only be described as some mutant from a failed radioactive experiment. ESM Jnr looked in disbelief as what can only be described as a ‘latex laptop on a pair of spindly legs’ appeared. Up until two weeks ago, I was somewhat shame-faced about our ‘Herbie’ and ‘Bubbles’. They are still sh*t, but I’m feeling a lot better now.

The second half started pretty much like the first half. Deano had what looked like a good chance after two minutes but ballooned his effort over from about 8 yards. Matty was continuing to chase everything and Fulham just looked lethargic and almost disinterested.

A word about the central defence. Both Dailly and Tomas were really good today. Neither put a foot wrong and it was Dailly just before the hour who nearly repeated his goal scoring header of the week before. The ball just went past the post.

With Harewood showing pace and skill down the right, we continued to look a threat throughout, but Etherington was the provider yet again with a great run that nearly put Connors in with a goal. The ball spilled out to Carrick and I was going up for the goal when Van de Sar got in the way yet again.

A collection for a train fare

Deano went off for the last 15 minutes having run out of steam. On came the Scouser who clearly does not want to play for us. Fred decided that the pie-worshipping Merseysider might at last do something spectacular and unexpected. He promptly got on to his preferred turf accountant and secured odds of 9-1 for Mellor to score. Money down the drain and the £15 he staked should have been used in a School End whip round for the Scouser’s train fare back to Houlier. I, for one, would gladly contribute.

We had a few scares towards the end, particularly when the giant Zat Knight rose to put a header wide, but it was West Ham’s favourite ref Graham Poll who had the final word in this game. A last minute break with Marlon running over the halfway line led to a Fulham defender pulling him back in a professional foul. This was not before the ball had been threaded through to Matty who was bearing down on goal when Poll blew up. Advantage – the geezer does not know the meaning of the word. We got punished twice – once for the foul and then again for the loss of advantage.

We only lacked a finish

Overall a very encouraging performance much appreciated by the travelling Hammers who were dotted around this stadium following the outrageous decision to limit the away quota to 3,000 tickets. The only thing missing was the finishing and without riding out my usual hobby horse again – and being told to ‘get over it’ - I think it is fair to say that both teams were missing what they once had in terms of a natural goalscorer.

Let’s look forward to a night of drama under the floodlights Tuesday week with the added incentive of a match against Millwall. I reckon that this draw could well come out of the bag Monday lunchtime and wouldn’t we just love that one.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Comments to follow.

Anton Ferdinand
Comments to follow.

Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.

Christian Dailly
Comments to follow.

Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.

Kevin Horlock
Comments to follow.

Michael Carrick
Comments to follow.

Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.

Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.

Brian Deane
Comments to follow.

David Connolly
Comments to follow.


Neil Mellor
(Replaced Deane, 79) Comments to follow.

Steve Lomas
(Replaced Connolly, 90) Comments to follow.

Rami Shabaan
Did not play.

Seb Carole
Did not play.

Wayne Quinn
Did not play.

Match Facts

Referee: G.Poll.

Attendance: 14705.

Man of the Match: Christian Dailly.

West Ham United


Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .


Van der Sar, Volz, Knight, Goma, Bocanegra, Legwinski, Malbranque, Davis, Boa Morte, McBride, Hayles.

Substitutes: Petta (Boa Morte 67).

Subs not used: Crossley, Inamoto, Djetou, Green.

Goals: .

Booked: Hayles (81), Bocanegra (90).

Sent Off: None sent off..

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