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Nationwide Division One
Monday, 12th April 2004

Crystal Palace 1
West Ham United 0

by East Stand Martin

Imagine being marooned in a hostile place, bereft of hope and then suddenly you get out of the sh*t. The first words of Gary Teeley, liberated West Ham fan and Iraqi hostage were to enquire after the team’s performance.

Today several thousand West Ham fans knew how he felt before they let him go. I’ve just booked a ticket to Baghdad, as I’m sure it can’t be any worse over there with the Mahdi Army.

The team line-up looked ‘different’ in midfield. No Matty, Carrick or Lomas. I’m not sure we’ll ever see Hutch play again for us. So in came Horlock, Reo-Coker, Jobi and Mullins to do the job with some aggression and ball-winning muscle. Less creativity, more of the foot in. That was the theory anyway, the practice was somewhat different.

Z-man benched

Zamora was where he should be at the moment – on the bench, while Anton got his chance again at right back. Harewood – wonders will never cease – was finally started as a centre forward rather than a right winger. He looked well up for it as well, encouraging the large travelling contingent to raise their voices at kick off.

Three away defeats in a row against teams challenging for elevation to the Premiership was never going to be a good backdrop and Palace under Dowie had not lost at home in 2004.

Dowie v Pardew

While we’re on Dowie, you have to hand it to him. There will be inevitable comparisons between him and Pardew, particularly as the facially challenged one was in the frame for the Hammers job. No doubt many will argue that Dowie was given a more settled team, but the fact is that since he arrived he has won 11 out of 18 games and only lost 2. It’s a great run and he’s got cult status already down at Selhurst Park.

Pardew’s record looks distinctly average in comparison – the same number of games won as Dowie, but he has been in charge of 16 more games. The draws are the root of the problem – 13 of ‘em.

One thing I will concede where Pardew is streets ahead of Dowie is in the beauty stakes. I almost froze in my tracks on passing the Palace club shop when I saw a t-shirt with Dowie’s mug on it. They were even advertising it at half time. You could scare the kids with that, but I have to confess I would much rather have an ugly successful manager than a handsome failing manager. Do I think Pardew is failing? No I don’t, but he has to be bitterly disappointed at the way the team has been found so badly wanting at the crucial point.

Tom loses the plot

The game started with very little pattern or shape to it. Connors was running around as usual trying the steal the ball, while Repka made the first really telling intervention in the 12th minute with a suicidal late tackle which got him a deserved yellow card. I was certain he would go off at some point and later on he was ranting and raving at the ref and repeating the argument he seems to have regularly about where free kicks should be taken. I have a soft spot for Tom, and he is arguably the most technically accomplished defender we have. But the truth is that he is becoming an increasing liability with his lack of self-discipline.

The other thing I noticed in the first part of this game was that Reo-Coker appeared not to be at the races again. Last week’s OLAS interview with Pardew revealed that the manager thinks that Nigel needs a rest. He certainly looked half a yard off the pace today and made a number of misplaced or underhit passes. Not impressive at all for someone who looked like he was out to make his mark at the outset. I know he’s young, but he is very disappointing at the moment.

Red card for Connors

Harley had a shot over the bar on 17 minutes and then 10 minutes later Connors picked up a yellow card for a late tackle down the right hand side. This proved to be costly as 12 minutes later, he got a second yellow for another late tackle, this time on the left hand side of the box. Butterfield appeared to go down very easily (“like a sack of sh*t” said my neighbour) and Connors was fiercely protesting his innocence along with Mullins who got a booking for dissent. I’d like to see that again as I was standing down the end away from the incident. The Hammers fans nearest were incensed and Butterfield took a lot of abuse for the rest of the match. I saw a few coins being lobbed in his direction as well, which was cretinous.

Palace were pretty clueless and created nothing at all of note in the first half. In fact, after Connors got his marching orders, we could have taken the lead on two separate occasions. The first was on 44 minutes when a Repka free kick was floated over the top to find Dailly standing on his own in the box. Unfortunately he blasted it over when he should have found the target.

This opportunity was swiftly followed with a snap shot by Marlon, but he was well wide of the post.

Under the cosh

Although Palace were poor in the first half, my instinct was that they would come looking for us in the second half. For a long time we defended well – Dailly in particular had a solid performance – but they had a lot of possession. The problem was that the ball kept coming back at us as we tried – and failed - to connect with a lone striker up front. Jobi was not used as an outlet and you felt that we needed to get it wide to stand a chance of creating something or at least holding the ball. It just didn’t happen.

The goal that settled the game came on 66 minutes after a good save by Srnicek led to a corner. The ball that was whipped in got flicked on at the near post and Freedman was waiting to volley it into the roof of the net. Always disappointing to concede to a corner and it had to be Anton’s job to stop the near post header.

Pardew changes it

Pardew tried to rescue the situation by bringing on Zamora and Deano, but quite frankly we were not at the races. Deano managed to get his head on it a few times, but Zamora and Marlon were easily closed down. The sad fact was that we did not manage one shot of note in the second half.

Palace had the best chances to make the defeat worse when Johnson managed to get two one-on-one opportunities with Srnicek in quick succession with about 20 minutes to go. One of these resulted from a dire attempt by Repka to clear the ball. Pavel spread himself well on both occasions and kept him out. With 8 minutes to go Palace had the ball in the back of the net, but this was ruled offside.

The only time I noticed Zamora was when he had a scrum after a challenge on a Palace defender. He just looks totally out of it at the moment and I wonder what can be done to get his confidence up.

Few excuses

You could argue that this game hinged on the sending off, but this is probably a convenient excuse for another poor display. We are simply not cutting it at the moment and 1 point and no goals from the Easter campaign is disastrous. It ain’t over yet, but the cruellest blow to take will be if we miss out on the play-offs by a point or two. Given the suffering we have had to endure over these past 15 months or so, I wouldn’t rule it out, as we look the worst performing team in the hunt at the moment.

(Player comments by Gordon Thrower)

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Player Ratings

Pavel Srnicek
Kept out the three or so chances that Palace created.


Jon Harley
Better but his performance was not helped by Johnson's theatricals every time he got near.


Hayden Mullins
Solid performance. Harshly booked for querying Butterfield's shameful antics.


Christian Dailly
Much of a muchness from the skipper who might have done better with the chance in the first half.


Tomas Repka
Spent much of the second half in headless chicken mode as he allowed himself to be wound up by Friedman's attempts to get him sent off. Sadly it nearly worked.


Anton Ferdinand
Was doing ok until the sending off left him exposed.


Jobi McAnuff
Got up and down well but often spoilt good work by running into blind alleys.


Kevin Horlock
Tried to get stuck in and survived what appeared to be a deliberate stamp from Hughes without fuss. Given the climate yesterday perhaps he should have rolled over in agony for a few minutes.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Comments to follow.


Marlon Harewood
Really was on a hiding to nothing once Connolly went.


David Connolly
Got through a prodigious amount of work before falling victim of Butterfield's 'injury'. Bravely resisted the temptation to jump on the prostrate cheat's head before walking off.


Substitutes


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced McAnuff, 67) No impact on the game.


Chris Cohen
(Replaced Harley, 72) Didn't have much time to exert any influence but showed a couple of good touches.


Brian Deane
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 78) Oh come on. If they fell over when Connolly was on they're hardly going to stay on their feet when up against a battering ram like Deano!


David Forde
Did not play.


Andy Melville
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Bates.

Attendance: 23977.

Man of the Match: tbc.

West Ham United

Goals:                    

Booked: Tomas Repka 13 David Connolly 30 Hayden Mullins 38 Chris Cohen 81 Bobby Zamora 86  .

Sent Off: David Connolly 36    .

Crystal Palace

Vaesen, Granville, Butterfield, Hudson, Popovic, Riihilahti, Gray, Hughes, Johnson, Freedman, Routledge,.

Substitutes: Derry (Riihilahti 63), Leigertwood (Freedman 83), Soares (Johnson 90).

Subs not used: Oakes, Edwards, Costa.

Goals: Freedman (66).

Booked: Popovic (7).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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