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Nationwide Division One
Saturday, 17th April 2004

West Ham United 2
Coventry City 0

by Gordon Thrower

Well it wasn't particularly pretty but the three points were very useful and, in a week when the other results weren't exactly the worst for us, we could yet manage to claw our way back into play-off contention.

Hard Work Never Hurt Anyone

Team news was that there was a radical restructuring of the side due to a combination of injury, suspension and, in the case of Harley, the end of loan period. Ferdinand, though distinctly right footed, was pressed into service at left back whilst Mullins played on the right. Lomas Horlock and Nowland made up the midfield whilst Harewood, Zamora and Connolly formed a three man attack.

It was far from scintillating stuff. Coventry put Bywater under early pressure but the young keeper did well to punch clear under heavy pressure from (I think) McSheffrey. Melville went close and, following one ball from the right all three forwards found themselves unmarked in the box but the ball appeared to bounce of Connolly to go harmlessly wide. The ever hard-working Connolly was very unlucky not to get a penalty when the keeper came out and flattened him. Not that the first half was incident-packed by any stretch of the imagination. Despite their numerical superiority in across the middle, the five man Coventry midfield failed to use the extra possession and the flanks seemed to be alien territory as the game became more and more pressed into the middle third of the pitch.

We took the lead on 37 minutes. The game had been quite flat for a few minutes so it came as a bolt out of the blue. The ball from an earlier attack was only partially cleared by the Coventry defence. Horlock played the ball back into the box where Zamora had time to power the ball past the 'keeper at his near post, despite his first touch not being the cleanest. Zamora was one of several players in the box at the time the ball was played in and the Coventry players were convinced that there was an offside decision in there somewhere – Staunton's protests at the immovable assistant ref earning him a yellow. I have to say that it looked like one of the players in the middle might have been off. I'm not sure about Zamora so it may have been a case of whether or not the players in the middle were active or interfering with play or whatever buzzwords the “let's confuse the hell out of everyone” department at FIFA are using these days.

That was just about it for the first half, apart from a couple of long range Coventry efforts which were comfortably dealt with by Bywater. At half time Jeremy Nicholas attempted to interview former Iraqi hostage Gary Teely, who was the guest of the club. Whether he was overcome by the occasion or just a bit “refreshed” (and who could blame him) he managed to squeeze a few words out before disappearing back into the crowd to general applause.

The second half was a bit more lively. Dailly was unlucky to see his powerful header cleared off the line by a defender. Connolly was the first to react but was unable to direct his overhead kick the right side of the far post. A further Hammers attack started with a moment of high farce. Coventry were awarded a throw in don by the West Hanm corner flag. The ball was thrown to a Coventry player who was so busy pointing and shouting at anyone within earshot he failed to notice that the throw had been taken allowing an easy clearance to be made in the general direction of Harewood. The attack came to naught, sparing the Coventry player's blushes, if not a possible appearance in the “What Happened Next” section of a TV quiz show or two.

Then Zamora embarked on a mazy run from the left hand side, a run which came to an abrupt end when he was dumped to the ground by a none too subtle defender. It looked a fairly clear penalty to me but the ref strangely refused to give either the penalty or the alternative of a free kick for what must surely have been a dive if it wasn't a penalty.

The referee finally managed to award a spot kick on 68 minutes, although even that relatively simple decision involved some controversy. A short ball was played into the box where Staunton blatantly pulled back Zamora. At first the ref waved play on despite Zamora's protests but a quick glance at the assistant showed that the man with the flag had seen all. Staunton should have walked at this point since, at best, his challenge was a yellow card offence – which would have been his second, or at worst, the offence was worth a straight red since it undeniably denied a clear goalscoring opportunity. The ref failed to award any card at all, presumably due to his being unable to decide on the colour, much like my Mum in a dress shop. A brief debate ensued as to who was going to take the penalty, and having persuaded Harewood that his Dad was biggest Connolly tucked away the spot kick for a well-deserved goal.

That was it really. Cohen replaced Nowland, McAnuff came on for Harewood and, very late on Deane came on for Zamora but despite a few half-chances for Coventry most of which ended up either in row z or in Bywater's arms , there was little of note that I can remember – even the physios remained unemployed as far as I can recall.

QPR manager Ian Holloway recently made a comment about one of his side's wins being akin to going home in a taxi with the ugliest woman in the nightclub. Well this win wasn't quite that bad although it's fair to say it was some way from being invited in for coffee by that Samantha Janus off the telly (to give her her full title). But as I've said on other occasions, at this stage it's all about the points and, if by some chance we go into the final match at Wigan still in with a chance of a play-off spot I won't care how hideous the woman is (note to lovely girlfriend – I'm speaking metaphorically here of course!).

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Looked confident with everything he did today.


Anton Ferdinand
Got better as the match went on, although being a right footed player on the left hand side his distribution often depended on him having the time to get across the ball to play it on his right. (If my Dad were reading this he'd be moaning about modern players not being two footed!)


Hayden Mullins
Tonight Matthew I'm going to be a right back. Fairly solid throughout.


Christian Dailly
Not overly troubled and as a result looked quite solid for a change.


Andy Melville
Kept it simple – Row Z first, ask questions after.


Adam Nowland
Didn't exert a lot of influence going forward though, urged on by Lomas, he did try to do a fair bit of work defensively.


Steve Lomas
Worked hi proverbial socks off with some excellent tackles interspersed with some intelligent play.


Kevin Horlock
Got stuck in well although his passing let him down on occasion.


Bobby Zamora
Much improved. Took the goal well although his first touch still needs a bit of work. Like Harewood was also seen to be doing a bit of chasing .


Marlon Harewood
Spent most of the second half on the right hand side where his battle with Staunton proved quite entertaining. Perhaps inspired by the applause given to Connolly for his effort Marlon was, whisper it, even seen to be tracking back on occasion.


David Connolly
Tireless. I lost count of the amount of chasing across the back that he did, often drawing applause from the crowd for his efforts. Man of the Match.


Substitutes


Chris Cohen
(Replaced Nowland, 63) Another quietly confident performance from the youngster.


Jobi McAnuff
(Replaced Harewood, 86) As usual not really given, er, Anuff time to exert an awful lot of influence.


Brian Deane
(Replaced Zamora, 89) Brought on purely to run the clock down as far as I can see.


Pavel Srnicek
Did not play.


Don Hutchison
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: H.Webb.

Attendance: 27890.

Man of the Match: David Connolly.

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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