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Nationwide Division One
Saturday, 17th April 2004

West Ham United 2
Coventry City 0

by East Stand Martin

What a wonderful day for putting a cucumber through a letterbox and shouting “Look out vicar the Martians have landed!” Oxford Fred has come out with some classics in his time, but he couldn’t resist an extraordinarily convincing Ken Dodd impression when we found a ‘tickling stick’ in the Wolverhampton hotel we were staying in last night.

Barely recovered from a friend’s engagement party - which contained all those classics you love to hate: ‘Tiger Feet’, ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘Making Your Mind Up’ and the almost compulsory ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ - we then jumped in the motor to speed down from the Black Country to make the kick off at Upton Park. After the first thirty minutes of the match, we’d wondered why we’d bothered, but things thankfully did get slowly better as the afternoon wore on.

Free ticket anyone?

I’d had to upgrade ESM Jnr’s season ticket to get Fred in and no less than two people offered me a free ticket in the queue for the ticket office. I wasn’t the first to refuse this kind offer, and some wag said “You can’t even give tickets away to see West Ham at the moment.”

Inside, the mood was depressing. The first thing I noticed was that there was a depleted crowd and quite frankly the atmosphere was very deflated. I know it was hardly the most scintillating fixture, but if we could make half the noise of the Pompey fans we’d heard on the radio on the way to the game, then maybe we’d help our boys a bit in these vital games.

Here was another changed team due to injuries, suspensions and as was later confirmed, the decision not to do a deal with Fulham. Mullins, Melville, Dailly and Anton were at the back, while Horlock, Lomas and Nowland came into midfield. The Z-man was back as well, after deservedly warming the bench at Palace.

It took 18 minutes before anything happened with a shot from outside the box by Steve Lomas. The shot lacked power, and the Coventry keeper dealt with it easily. Bywater then had to deal with a long range shot on 22 minutes and needed a second grab at it.


West Ham’s general play was hardly inspiring. Zamora seemed to be dishing out more of the same as he had a poor touch when he found space in the box on the half hour and then seemed to take an eternity in getting a shot in on target. This was inevitably blocked. Marlon showed a good burst of speed just after only to make possibly the worst pass I have seen this season into touch. Anton was getting forward down the left flank, but on a couple of occasions, his crossing was poor.

What we needed more than anything else to try and raise the team’s and the crowd’s spirits was a goal. We had gone three games without scoring and it showed. All changed on 36 minutes following the endeavours of Steve Lomas – and hats off again to his commitment throughout this game – when a good ball into the box from him led to a corner. Coventry failed to clear the corner properly and Horlock headed the ball back into the box, finding Zamora.

My first thought was that the Z-man had made yet another bad first touch as he seemed to knock the ball away from the goal. However, he retrieved the situation with a very powerful low shot which beat Scott Shearer hands down. Top man.

That was about it for the first half – not what I would describe as a commanding performance – but my spirits were raised even further when it became apparent that other key play-off contenders were not winning.

Aquamarine boots

Fred, being an observant character, noticed that Marlon had changed out of his somewhat garish blue boots at half time, and the change seemed to be doing him some good as he retrieved a ball from Anton down the right 5 minutes in to the second half. He won a corner and Dailly connected with his head, forcing a goal line clearance. It should be noted that Dailly had a very solid performance today, and although Melville looked a bit dodgy on occasions, failing to clear effectively, we looked pretty sound at the back. It all looked a lot more disciplined without the usual red mist descending on Tom.

I am coming to the conclusion that Dailly is not the problem. It’s Tom that is the problem.

A one-goal lead is always precarious, and Coventry nearly squared the game on 55 minutes. Bywater made a good initial block from a shot, but it looked certain that the rebound from him would be converted. Somehow the ball bounced across the face of the goal and we managed to clear.

On 61 minutes Zamora looked like he had a very good shout for a penalty, but this was waved away by the ref. Cohen then came on for Nowland, who had drifted in and out of the game today, but certainly had done better than I have seen Reo-Coker performing of late.

Coventry had a shot high and wide on 63 minutes after Anton missed a header and five minutes later Bywater’s side netting was hit following a move down the left. It was one of those moments where you see the net bulge and think that a goal’s gone in. Bywater looked cool as Fred’s cucumber poking through the letterbox.

The linesman gets it right

After turning down an earlier appeal for a penalty by the Z-man, the ref finally relented on 68 minutes by penalising 35 year-old Steve Staunton (why is it that it seems he should be nearer 40?) for a crude hack. Zamora burst through into the box in a determined run, but the ref only gave the spot kick after the linesman flagged for it.

What happened next reminded me of that time that Paolo and Fat Frank had a ‘discussion’ about who would take the penalty. Not quite as hilarious, but this time the row was between Harewood – desperate no doubt to get the division’s golden boot – and Connors, who was desperate to end his 6 week goal drought. The diminutive Irishman won the debate and slotted home very nicely indeed to close the game down. He deserved that after putting in an energetic and highly committed performance.

Cohen showed some nice tackling in midfield and Jobi and Deano came on in the dying minutes for Marlon and Zamora respectively. These substitutions were nothing more than running down the clock as Coventry tried to press forward and get a goal. They couldn’t break us down and only created a late shot wide by Gary McSheffrey.

It's results that count

The full time results elsewhere were as important as this victory, although I sincerely hope that the last gasp equaliser by Millwall is not crucial in this final run-in. It still looks like we need to win every game, and although this performance was not entirely convincing, we have got exactly what we needed.

Zamora in particular looked much improved today, but I think that we will miss the terrier-like Connors with his impending suspension. We also have Etherington coming back as well as Carrick and we need them to put in their best performances. Mullins and Lomas both did well today, and I hope that they both start next time. We need some more experienced pros out there in these coming games. The trip up to the Potteries next Saturday is now our biggest game of this season to date and we simply have to turn around our recent unacceptable form away from home. We can do it. Come on you Irons!

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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.

Anton Ferdinand
Comments to follow.

Andy Melville
Comments to follow.

Steve Lomas
Comments to follow.

Kevin Horlock
Comments to follow.

Adam Nowland
Comments to follow.

Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.

David Connolly
Comments to follow.


Chris Cohen
(Replaced Nowland, 63) Comments to follow.

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

Brian Deane
(Replaced Zamora, 89) Comments to follow.

Pavel Srnicek
Did not play.

Don Hutchison
Did not play.

Match Facts

Referee: H.Webb.

Attendance: 27890.

Man of the Match: tbc.

West Ham United

Goals: Bobby Zamora 37 David Connolly 71                

Booked: Adam Nowland 44          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Coventry City

Shearer, Davenport, Deloumeaux, Konjic, Staunton, Safri, Gudjonsson, Doyle, Warnock, Joachim, McSheffrey.

Substitutes: Kerr (Safri 66), Morrell (Joachim 80), Barrett (Gudjonsson 80).

Subs not used: Ward, Shaw.

Goals: .

Booked: Konjic (28).

Sent Off: None sent off..

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