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Nationwide Division One
Saturday, 28th February 2004

West Ham United 1
Cardiff City 0

by East Stand Martin

ESM Jnr has a soft spot for Cardiff fans. It all goes back to a time a couple of seasons ago when he played in a penalty shoot out for his youth football team during the half time interval in a match between Wycombe and Cardiff.

The Cardiff fans were down the end where he was taking the penalty and they gave him a big cheer when they announced his surname, as it is distinctly Welsh-sounding. He slotted home, ran over to them with his shirt over his head and maintained later that the Welsh fans would be talking about his finish all the way back to the Principality.

ESM Jnr’s patenal grandparents’ roots are in Walthamstow, that no-mans land between West Ham and Sp*rs. The maternal side do actually come from the Welsh valleys – his great grandfather was a miner from Tradegar, who cycled to London to find work and ended up operating a crane in north London.

This means that I could have played for Wales, but I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never felt that great an affinity for the place. With a bit of luck, though, today’s result means that we are all well on track for a little trip down to sheep-worrying country in less than three months’ time.

The goal is over there…

The main concern going into this game was whether we could start finding the net again. Marlon in particular spurned a number of good opportunities earlier in the week against Fulham and the pre-match warm-up today did not exactly fill me with confidence. Marlon was standing on the edge of the box with the ball being passed to him so that he could shoot at goal. Let’s just say that a number were scuffed wide before one found the target much to relief of the faithful in the Bobby Moore Lower.

I must admit that I was attracted to the 0-0 result with the bookies. Couple their away form with our home form and you see where I’m coming from.

We were all expecting a depleted defence again as there were doubts over Dailly and Repka, but both came out for the start, despite Dailly looking like an extra from a Hammer horror movie. It allowed us to play Harley as left back and Mullins down the right. As it turned out, they looked a pretty solid unit throughout and Earnshaw barely got a look in all game.

Only five minutes in Michael Carrick – who was excellent again today – had the ball in the back of the net after a couple of quick exchanges between home debut man Zamora and Connors. Unfortunately it was ruled offside.

Earnshaw caused a couple of scares. First came on 10 minutes after Repka gave the ball away, but the compact striker looped the ball well over. The second chance on 21 minutes almost resulted in a goal after he brought the ball down neatly in the box. Fortunately, Bywater closed him down very quickly and made a fine save at his feet.

Straigh jackets in the East Stand

A minute later, the next incident had me and others on our feet berating the ref. One geezer near to me who I’ve never seen before almost totally lost it. The controversy was caused by a professional foul on Zamora who looked clean through on goal after a fine ball from Reo-Coker. Why that got a yellow instead of a red was beyond me – there looked like there was no other defender between the Z-man and the goal. Needless to say, the free kick that followed amounted to nothing.

Carrick was running around like a man possessed, winning balls and then slotting an array of excellent passes out to the flanks. Connors, too was putting in his usual high work rate and was the provider to Reo-Coker on the half hour, but the ex-Wimbledon man blasted wide.

I’ve noticed of late that Dailly looks the like the biggest threat at corners and yet again he connected on 34 minutes, but it went wide. Matty was also having another lively game and proving to be a constant threat down the left. It was one of his typical penetrating runs which led to the Cardiff keeper just getting enough of a hand out to brush his shot around the post.

The post again…

Reo-Coker added to the frustration on 39 minutes when he found space in the middle to run on goal and rifle a shot which bet their keeper hands down but struck the upright. The ball bounced out sideways indicating that three inches the other way would have seen him open the scoring.

The final action of the first half saw a repeat of the farce that had taken place with Matty at Norwich. This time, it was about where a free kick should be taken after Cardiff had been ruled offside. Tom was told to take it again, even though it looked like he had it in the right place. The ref clearly did not appreciate whatever he uttered in his broken English.

Repka was so incensed, he lost concentration and slotted the free kick straight to a Cardiff player. Earnshaw very nearly scored.

At half time, you wondered whether we were ever going to break the deadlock. We were well on top against a jaded Cardiff, but the worry was like the Fulham game, the longer it went on, the more the confidence would drain away.

Second half – the frustration continues

My nerves were not helped by the first good West Ham chance of the second half on 49 minutes when a good move down the right led to a Zamora shot which cannoned off the cross bar. Matty retrieved the rebound, but blasted it wide.

3 minutes later, Zamora showed a great touch again in the box, by bringing the ball down skilfully, turning on a sixpence and then smashing the ball wide of the post.

A word about Jon Harley. He had a great game today, showing pace that simply was not there when he first joined us from Fulham. He seems to be establishing a very good understanding with Matty and the two linked up well throughout. Very little indeed got past Jon today and I am coming round to the idea that we should sign him up permanently.

On 55 minutes the unhinged bloke a few rows down went spare yet again as we got a perfect view of a foul on Matty in the penalty box. He drifted past the defender and was shoved over just short of the dead ball line. Matty couldn’t believe it. Nor could we.

Harewood was on target on 58 minutes after a deft turn on the edge of the box. The save looked spectacular, but in truth it was at a good height for the keeper who turned it around the post. The same happened again 7 minutes later, when we were all looking to him to place it rather than kick the ball through the back of the net. Marlon looks like he’s suffering a slight loss of confidence after the Fulham game.

Z-man to the rescue

Zamora had a good header saved before he finally saved the day by scoring his second goal for the Hammers with 18 minutes left on the clock. A nice flicked header from Connors put him through on goal with a defender snapping at his heels. He made a quality left foot finish along the ground wide of the keeper. You felt the relief around the ground.

From then on, not a lot much else happened of note. Nowland came on for Marlon (who did not look too impressed at being substituted) and Deano came on for Connors, presumably so that we could hold the ball up front. Zamora had another shot wide on 85 minutes after some good work by Reo-Coker and he provided another nice pass to Deano two minutes later after a 20 yard run. Deano, though, was ruled offside.

The second home debutant of the day, McAnuff was given five minutes at the end as it looked like Zamora had taken a knock. West Ham played the clock down pretty well, although there was one final Cardiff corner which had us all on the edge of our seats.

The score does not tell the full story

Overall, this was a convincing and dominant performance by the Hammers, with Cardiff putting in a pretty lacklustre performance. The scoreline did not represent the gulf in class between the two teams, but that is nothing new for us of late. We probably ended their playoff hopes today, although it’s not yet over for them. In reality we did not allow them to play and the only slight threat came from Kavanagh who is pretty effective in central midfield.

The main success of Pardew for me is that he has West Ham playing like a unit, but whilst we are outplaying teams of late, we never seem to put the game completely beyond our opponent’s reach. We’d all feel a lot more comfortable with a two or three goal cushion, wouldn’t we? I suspect that we will all be nipping down to the doctors for some valium before this season’s out.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Comments to follow.


Jon Harley
Comments to follow.


Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.


Christian Dailly
Comments to follow.


Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Comments to follow.


Michael Carrick
Comments to follow.


Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.


Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.


Bobby Zamora
Comments to follow.


David Connolly
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Adam Nowland
(Replaced Harewood, 76) Comments to follow.


Brian Deane
(Replaced Connolly, 80) Comments to follow.


Jobi McAnuff
(Replaced Zamora, 86) Comments to follow.


Pavel Srnicek
Did not play.


Andy Melville
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: G.Cain.

Attendance: 31858.

Man of the Match: Michael Carrick.

West Ham United

Goals: Bobby Zamora 73                  

Booked: Tomas Repka 45          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Cardiff City

Mergetson, Weston, Barker, Gabbidon, Vidmar, Boland, Langley, Kavenagh, Parry, Lee, Earnshaw..

Substitutes: Prior (Weston, 20), Robinson (Langley, 63), Campbell (Parry, 80)..

Subs not used: Alexander, Whalley.

Goals: .

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Match Report