Saturday, 1st May 2004
I spent the morning looking for lucky omens but, being unable to remember the colour of the underwear worn at Stoke the previous week I opted for simply putting a clean pair on – well it is May after all.
We were slightly depleted in number at the Wakefield due to the ill health of KUMB stalwarts Romford & Jen. Jen rather unsportingly refused to get a round in when I sent my request in by text message on the dubious grounds that she was in hospital with suspected appendicitis, although that shouldn't have prevented her sending the cash along by courier. Anyway hopefully both will respond to treatment and be available for selection for next week's trip 'oop North. Get well soon guys. Coming off the subs bench was Oslohammer who had made the trip over from, er, Oslo, and Brillo who had managed slip over from France. Meanwhile Wanstead, by now recovered from his marathon the other week, was handing out thank you cards to all who had sponsored him. I'm sure that he'll be giving out apology cards for the shirt he was wearing on a later date.
The team was much as expected with Connolly's absence through suspension meaning a first start for ages for Don Hutchison in midfield with Harewood moving up to play alongside Zamora. Ferdinand continued on the left hand side of an unchanged back four.
It may have been “last home game” syndrome, the KUMB discussion with Jeremy Nicholas on pre-match music, or simply the realisation that almost despite ourselves the play-offs were a distinct possibility, but for whatever reason the crowd were up for this one. This seemed to transmit itself to the players who seemed to pick up in confidence where they left off during the second half last week at Stoke. We looked dangerous every time we went forward and Watford were forced into giving away a number of free kicks on the edge of the box. Mayo picked up a yellow for one such challenge on Zamora that had the crowd calling for a red card. The referee got it right though. There were covering players and a clear goalscoring opportunity was not denied. The respite was temporary though.
We were awarded another free kick just outside the box when Lomas had been impeded by Hyde. At this point I did one of my predictions. I don't do them very often but Trevor who sits next to me will verify that I have a good strike rate whenever I do make them. “Hutch'll have this one” I said. He did and drilled a low shot through the wall and inside the left post to send the already hyper crowd into ecstasy.
Watford had a few moments after the goal, most notably when Bywater had to scramble a shot from Cook that seemed to be curling in at the far post. However, to be fair, the good moments for the Hornets were few and far between and we doubled our lead on the half hour. We gained a corner on the left and following the strange signal used by cricket umpires to signal dead ball, Etherington found Dailly who rose to head past Chamberlain. Although the goal was originally credited to Dailly, Hutch claimed a touch on it and he seemed very put out when Mr Nicholas announced Dailly as the scorer!
The midfield was playing as well as I'd seen them play all season. Lomas getting the foot in, Carrick orchestrating every move with some excellent passing with Hutchison intelligently running on and off the ball. Etherington was also proving a willing outlet on the left and Watford had the excellence of Chamberlain to thank for the fact that they went in only 2-0 down at half time.
During the interval we were treated to an appearance from Elijah Wood who, I am reliably informed, is an actor in popular motion pictures from the USA. He assured the crowd that he is a Hammers fan and so drew generous applause, although such was the improved demeanour of the crowd, i rather suspect that King Herod himself might have got a polite ripple. Since he didn't draw out my number in the raffle I shall henceforth boycott Mr Wood's films in the unlikely event that my local flea-pit shows one!
The domination continued after the break. Etherington and Harewood both suffered from meeting a goalkeeper who having one of those sublime days most keepers can only dream about. Chamberlain's save from Etherington was particularly imprssive as matty's shot from the edge of the box was tipped over. Chamberlain also saved well from Lomas, although Lomas really ought to have done better having intercepted a poor ball out of defence, his shot being an attempted side foot finish rather than the more powerful drive that might have paid dividends.
Chamberlain then foiled both Zamora and Hutchison before we finally got the third goal our efforts deserved just after the hour. Alan Pardew might want to claim an assist. The ball was played out for a throw and the manager's catch enabled a quick throw to find Zamora whose run into the box was ended with a trip. Harewood was nominated to take the spot kick which Chamberlain promptly saved. However, the linesman's flag was raised as Harewood struck the ball though whether this was to to indicate that the 'keeper had moved off his line or for encroachment I was unable to ascertain.
Harewood decided to take the second kick himself, much to his manager's dismay. Thankfully he made no mistake with the retake. I suppose when you see 'keepers get away with similar efforts week in week out it may have been a bit harsh on Chamberlain, but then again we've suffered enough over the last few years from referees getting it wrong so if we benefit from one getting it right for a change that's fine by me!
Almost immediately Etherington, who is still recovering from a groin strain, was replaced by Cohen. Etherington received a standing ovation, as much for his efforts during the course of the season that have earned him the “Hammer Of The Year” title as for his admittedly fine performance during the match itself.
Somewhere in amongst all this a banner was unfurled in the Bobby Moore Upper saying something along the lines of “Don't Treat us Like Clowns”. As the stewards moved in the banner was passed out of their reach much to the crowd's amusement.
We continued to press forward in numbers and a powerful run from Carrick ended up with yet another save from Chamberlain. A shot from distance by Cohen went a few feet over and Zamora was foiled yet again by the 'keeper who must be wishing he's paid by the save. With 15 minutes left that was the last effort from Zamora who, suffering from a touch of cramp, was replaced by McAnuff.
The fourth and final goal came right at the death. Receiving the ball on the right hand side Carrick played a superb short pass into the path of McAnuff. The sub carried the ball forward for about 50 yards and, ignoring the calls for him to play Hutchison in, elected to take on Chamberlain himself. The 'keeper made yet another save but Harewood was on hand to put the rebound away to complete the scoring and the match.
The players left to well deserved applause, returning shortly after to take further applause to the sounds of “Now That's What I Call KUMB's Greatest Hits” although the traditional end of season lap of honour was not forthcoming. Alan Pardew's speech of thanks to the crowd said that he wasn't going to have a lap of honour until we'd won something which was fair enough.
Only a few weeks ago we'd had a rotten Easter and looked dead and buried but a combination of hard work and a renewed self-confidence have left us going into the last game needing only to avoid a heavy defeat to qualify for the play-offs. The pleasing thing about this performance was that we never took our foot off the pedal, something we've done a few times this season. But for Chamberlain we could have run up a cricket score and we're starting to look convincing just at the right time. Certainly I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about our prospects for the first time this season and I'm actually looking forward to next weekend's Blackpool and Wigan extravaganza a lot more than I was a few weeks back. Now where are those lucky Stoke underpants?
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Called on a couple of times in between long periods of inactivity. One dodgy kick but he got away with it.
Received the “Young Hammer of The Year” award prior to kick-off. Having a run in the side seems to have strengthened his self-confidence and, whilst he wasn't over tested today it was another improved performance.
Settling in nicely at right back. It'll be interesting to see what happens now Repka's suspension is over.
Showed no ill-effects from having played the full 90 minutes for Scotland during the week and might feel a bit unlucky to have had a potential goal given to Hutch on the dubious grounds that his fellow Scottish international actually got the final touch.
Beginning to look settled alongside his skipper. Again AP has an interesting call to make now that the bouncing Czech is available for selection again.
The full range of passes from Michael today. Once more he seemed to have time to spare on the ball. If he can maintain this form please can we actually make some effort to keep hold of him.
Has made a hell of a difference since his return from injury. His efforts allow Carrick to play.
Although he doesn't appear to be fully match fit after his recent injury he still caused problems down the left and his delivery from corners was, as ever, excellent.
Caused the Watford defence numerous problems and was unfortunate to find Chamberlain in such good form to deny him the goal he probably deserved.
It may be my imagination but Marlon always seems to work harder when playing up front. Fortunate to get a second go at the penalty and his second was hardly the most difficult of chances. However his general link up play was excellent today and he earned his good fortune.
Superb. Full of hard work, craft, intelligence and running. It's been a frustrating season for Hutchison who has had to contend with bereavement as well as injury this year. Another possible selection problem in the making for next week once everyone's back from suspension.
(Replaced Etherington, 64) Replaced Etherington and had the confidence to take on the keeper from about 30 yards. Continues to impress.
(Replaced Zamora, 75) Superb run from his own half to set up the fourth goal after replacing Zamora.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Don Hutchison.
West Ham United
Goals: Don Hutchison 17 Christian Dailly 44 Marlon Harewood 63 Marlon Harewood 90
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Chamberlain, Mayo, Cox, Baird, Cook, Devlin, Hyde, Blizzard, Mahon, Dyer, Bouazza.
Substitutes: Helguson (Bouazza 53), Vernazza (Cook 84), Fitzgerald (Hyde 89).
Subs not used: Pidgeley, Fitzgerald.
Booked: Mayo (13).
Sent Off: None sent off..