Wednesday, 17th March 2004
Another kids for a quid night saw another crowd in excess of 31,000 including 500 or so from Crewe who, no doubt, were cursing the fixture computer for making them travel on a Wednesday night (only fair really we had to go up there midweek too).
The omens weren't great to be honest more than one pre-match customer at the Wakefield was heard to express doubts about our ability to beat Crewe. Whether this theory was common in other hostelries in the area was something that I had neither the inclination nor the, er 'research' budget, to examine. Suffice to say that denied Etherington and Connolly from a side that has on occasion lacked a creative edge, my immediate thoughts were of Walsall rather than of Wimbledon as a template for this match. I needn't have fretted.
It's no exaggeration to say that the first 45 minutes were the best I've seen us play this season. Reports from official sources suggest that Harewood is perfectly happy playing in his right hand side role. Well in that case he must be absolutely ecstatic at being given the proper striker's job in the absence of David Connolly. Marlon it was who opened the scoring on 6 minutes. Zamora had a shot blocked for a corner which was taken by the ever-improving Carrick. Harewood lost his marker to bury a powerful header past 'keeper Clayton whose surname my censoring software won't allow me to type. A delighted Harewood celebrated with a little dance down in the corner that reminded me why I never, ever dance, no matter who wants to drag me onto the floor!
Harewood ought to have doubled the tally a few minutes later when McAnuff, who had a fine game, found him in the box only for him to make a pig's ear of the shot. Picking up the pieces Reo-Coker found Zamora whose shot was blocked by the 'keeper. Harewood made amends for his earlier faux pas on 20 minutes when, on receiving a ball into feet from Horlock he was able to take advantage of the less than tight marking to turn and put a powerful shot past the 'keeper.
To say it was one-way traffic would be an understatement. I recall wave after wave of attacks taking place with the Crewe 'keeper having a particularly busy evening. Zamora had a shot blocked and another go narrowly wide whilst Harewood got a header in which our chum Clayton was positioned well to deal with comfortably.
The lead was increased on 35 minutes with a wonderful goal. It always amazes me whenever you see goal of the month competitions that the winner is invariably a 35 yard screamer that, though undeniably spectacular, is the sort of effort that nine times out of ten will end up in the proverbial row Z. Generally, I much prefer those goals that have an element of teamwork involved in a decent build-up if there's a good finish involved all the better. This was one of those goals. A series of short one-touch passes found Harley out wide on the left. Harley played the ball into Zamora who laid it off to Reo-Coker whose first time drive into the top corner gave I*ce no chance. This prompted further dancing celebrations in the corner.
This goal was pushed close for the goal of the night award by the fourth which came with a couple of minutes to go. McAnuff, whose confidence was growing by the minute, started off with the ball our on the right. Finding his route down the line blocked he cut in left and kept going diagonally across the pitch past probably four opposition players. Although this run drove him a little wide, he had enough of an angle to put a shot along the ground across the face of the goal just inside the far post for a fine solo goal.
There was just time for Marlon to pay an unscheduled visit into the Centenary stand. Unable to stop running after a successful attempt to keep the ball in, he leapt over the hoardings and ended up in the crowd. For a few moments it looked nasty as a squadron of medics and stretcher bearers descended on the area and for a couple of minutes my eyes were on the stand rather than the pitch. Thankfully Marlon was ok although by the time he'd dusted himself down ready to come back on the ref had blown for half time and the team left to a well-deserved standing ovation.
The half-time discussions centred on whether we could keep the momentum going I was reminded of a match earlier this season where Plymouth had scored a hatful by half-time but only got one in the second half. On a lighter note we also had a discussion as to whether or not a trip to the Millwall beam back would really make an ideal Mother's Day present as suggested in the matchday programme. I'm 42 but I reckon my Mum would put me up for adoption if I were to suggest that one!
We continued to dominate the second period. McAnuff had a shot pushed over the bar and another Zamora effort went just wide. However, there was an increasing tendency to over-elaborate and we seemed, not for the first time this season, occasionally guilty of wanting to walk the ball into the net.
An hour had gone when we remarked that the ref had done ok up to that point. In fairness he hadn't had any major decisions to make. Immediately we had said that Mr Crick, assisted by his linesman, proceeded to get two decisions wrong in two seconds. Reo-Coker was upended. The ref had a perfect view of this but inexplicably failed to give the free kick. The ball found its way to a yard offside Jones. The linesman couldn't be bothered to raise his flag and Jones ran through to score. Just add those decisions to the catalogue of shockers we've seen this season. An understandably upset Repka went over to the linesman to enquire as to whether the offside law had actually been abolished thus giving the ref the opportunity to give him his statutory yellow.
Despite the setback we continued to push forward in numbers. A strong run through the middle from Reo-Coker ended with a shot that was blocked by I*ce. Shortly after followed a moment that Zamora will want to forget. Harewood shifted up a gear and put a shot cum cross across the face of the goal. Despite being totally unmarked in the six yard box Zamora failed to get enough on the ball and missed an absolute sitter from very close range.
Five minutes later Crewe pulled another one back. Jones found himself through one on one with Bywater who did well to force the Crewe striker wide. Probably more in hope than expectation Jones diverted the ball goalwards and was slightly fortunate to see the ball creep in at the bottom of the far post. However, as a fellow striker (in my day) I'd have claimed it was a deliberate effort as well. Jones had got through a lot of running on and off the ball throughout the match, most of it with little support from his beleagured midfield so it would be churlish to begrudge him his little spot of good fortune.
We then saw a few substitutions presumably to ensure fresh legs for Sunday. Cohen replaced Reo-Coker. This was followed by the first appearance of the on loan Sebastien Carole, who replaced McAnuff. The final change saw the arrival of Deane for Zamora. Zamora was not impressed by the switch and stood motionless with his hands on hips in the centre circle staring at the dugout for what seemed like ages in a display of petulance that won't have impressed AP.
Shortly after Crewe had to replace I*ce with sub 'keeper Tomlinson. I*ce went down in agony clutching his thigh in dealing with a back pass and was stretchered off to generous applause. The sub keeper had two saves to make one from a stunner of a volley from Cohen and another from Deane to ensure that the match finished 4-2.
When you look at the bald facts, 4-0 up at half time and 4-2 at the end seems to suggest that the foot was well and truly taken off the pedal in the second half. However, I don't think that this was really the case. If we were guilty of anything it was a combination of poor finishing and of complicating things too much when you're 4-0 up I suppose there must be a tendency to want to put on a show and Harewood seemed preoccupied with trying to become the second Hammer to take home a match ball in consecutive weeks. Still it was a fine performance, especially in the first half and one from which we thoroughly deserved the points. Lets hope we can carry on this sort of form for the rest of the season.
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Had little to do. Not at fault for either of the goals and dealt well with a difficult cross that might have crept in at the far post late on.
Did exactly what Repka didn't going forward and played a vital role in Reo-Coker's goal.
For the most part coped well with what little threat Crewe showed.
Didn't mess about after the slow-motion horror movie that was Sunderland's second goal at the weekend.
In a match where he had such a quiet time defensively I'd like to have seen a little more from him getting forward to support the midfield.
Strong performance linking well with both attack and defence. Fine finish for the goal.
The midfield partnership with Reo-Coker is developing nicely. Always seems to have time on the ball and pinged some lovely passes to all parts of the pitch.
Took his goals well and was unlucky to miss out on the match ball for the trophy cabinet. The cause of no end of problems for the Crewe defence.
Grew in confidence as the game progressed and realised that he doesn't have to simply run down blind alleys. The goal will do him good.
Not one of Bobby's better nights. Although he played a major role in the build-up to Reo-Coker's goal, he seemed a yard off the pace at times and was guilty of some profligate finishing.
In the midst of some spectacular first-half performances Horlock was a bit of an unsung hero. It was often his hard work that allowed the others to play.
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 76) Not on for long but had time and the confidence to try a spectacular volley.
(Replaced Zamora, 79) Time only to produce one save from the Crewe sub 'keeper.
(Replaced McAnuff, 81) Little time to influence matters and seemed to be concentrating on keeping things simple which he did well.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: To be confirmed.
West Ham United
Goals: Marlon Harewood 6 Marlon Harewood 20 Nigel Reo-Coker 35 Jobi McAnuff 41
Booked: Tomas Repka 62 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Ince, Vaughan, Walker, Foster, Jones, Cochrane, Sorvel, Hignett, Lunt, Ashton, Jones.
Substitutes: McCready (Jones 70), Tonkin (Hignett 70), Tomlinson (Ince 86).
Subs not used: Robinson, Edwards.
Goals: Jones (61, 71).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..