Tuesday, 26th August 2003
After what was by all accounts an awful performance "oop North" on Saturday we returned to winning ways following the weekend that saw Glenn Roeder being "relieved of his duties" - amazing, isn't it the linguistic acrobatics the club will go to avoid using the word "sacked"!
The first occurrence of an eventful evening occurred with the arrival in the Wakefield of KUMB message board regular Jen straight from work in her office best. Deciding to change into her civvies, our Jen controversially used the facilities in the pub rather than those at the ground. Caretaker manager Trevor Brooking later refused to comment on the rumour that he had used this foul slur on the facilities at the Boleyn as the theme behind his pre-match team talk.
As he had often done during his previous stint in the hot-seat, Brooking elected to start with three up front. Repka moved to right back with Horlock reverting to the left back position he occupied against Sheffield United after Brevett's injury. Carrick made a welcome return to the starting XI with Hutchison dropping to the bench.
To say we dominated the first half would be something of an understatement. However, bizarrely, it was the visitors who could have opened the scoring, James doing well to save low to his left, especially with a Bradford forward hovering for any "spillage". Shortly after this, Repka picked up his regulation yellow card. Whilst his challenge on Windass was certainly strong, I felt that he got enough of the ball for the challenge to be legal. Unfortunately, referee Beeby, some of whose decisions hummed more than Lost Hammer's feet, didn't agree and was therefore able to cross Repka off his list of big names to caution. In the light of several equally robust challenges on both Mellor and Connolly, none of which got anywhere near the ball, this decision seemed a little perverse to say the least. Mind you Windass had a few words to say to Repka on the subject when he hobbled off ten minutes later.
Meanwhile we were, for once, trying to play football. The contrast between the playing styles of Connolly and Defoe on the one had, with that of the more muscular Mellor allowed us to mix the type of pass from the back. Sometimes a few short passes, occasionally a longer one up to Mellor for a flick on. We created several good chances during this period. Connolly and Mellor combined well to set up Defoe only for Jermain's shot to be diverted wide for a corner. A shot from Carrick was then diverted into the path of Mellor only for the forward to snatch at the shot and put it wide. Not to be outdone, Etherington had a dig from 20 yards but his effort was comfortably saved by the 'keeper.
Then came the goal, and what a beaut it was. Picking up the ball on the left hand touchline, Defoe lost two defenders then took on and beat a further three before burying a fierce drive into the bottom right. The 30,000+ crowd, bolstered by the kids for a quid scheme, went wild and with good reason. It was, quite simply, one of the best goals I have ever seen at the ground. Hopefully it will stick in the mind of some of those kids for a good while yet and strengthen their enthusiasm to come back in the future.
Defoe had further chances to increase the score. Collecting a flick-on from Mellor he pulled a save out of the visitors' keeper. Then, after some good close combining with Pearce, Repka's clearance from deep in his own half found Defoe in acres of space to run at the Bradford defence. The resulting near post shot was diverted onto the post by the keeper.
Of course it is West Ham we are talking about here. So it was entirely plausible that a game we ought to have been winning 3 or 4-0 should somehow finish up 1-1 at half time. That this did not happen was only thanks to some appalling finishing by the visitors when Edds found himself clean through with only James to beat.
There was just time for Connolly to go up the other end to see his shot just clip the crossbar before the half-time whistle went. This prompted our resident DJ to play THAT bloody song by the Foundations. Please Buttercup, flipping well build him up NOW before I go mad. Actually I'd dearly like to know whether the continued appearance of this song at half-time is due to Jeremy Nicholas visiting this site or whether it's simply one of the gang winding me up by requesting it every week. Whatever the reason, my sense of paranoia was not helped by the later inclusion of another of my pet hates - Hi Ho Silver Lining - in the interval setlist. I mean even Jeff Beck hates that song and he recorded the damn thing!
Back on the pitch the second half started badly for us when Lee went in for a 50-50 ball with Branch. The veteran went down in some pain and, despite treatment, was unable to take any further part in the match. Hutchison came on to replace him. The change in personnel, coupled with the half-time interval, seemed to take away the head of steam we had built up (buttercup) before the break. However Bradford failed to provide much of a threat, despite their increased possession. It was always possible we'd try and give them a helping hand of course. Dailly found James with a back pass. James unwisely took a touch and found himself under pressure, forcing him into a decidedly average clearance. The resulting shot from distance was unconvincingly tipped over by James.
Up the other end Mellor had a good shout for a penalty turned down when a defender appeared to bring him down when clear through. Certainly the defender got a lot less of the ball than Repka had when he picked up his booking. Etherington and Connolly had a couple of good efforts denied whilst, towards the end, Defoe beat a goalie gone walkabout to the ball out wide on the left only to fail to get enough on his shot to claim a second goal. Mr Moon came and went and we finished up with a three points that were a lot more convincing than the close scoreline would suggest.
Given the events of the preceding few days it was vital that the performance showed some improvement and it was easily our best of the season so far. There was more drive, desire and sheer bloody-mindedness over the 90 minutes than had been shown over the whole of the previous three matches. The performance wasn't perfect by any means but there seemed to be more of a team out there this evening. You'll have to draw your own conclusions as to why that was. Lets hope that when Mr Moon (or whoever takes over as manager) can keep this form going - and perhaps add a little more luck in front of goal if that's not too much to ask for.
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A good save early on although it was heart-in-mouth time with that dodgy clearance in the second half.
Superb.Who'd have thought that the simple tactic of playing an international right-back in his proper position would pay off dividends!
Did quite well as emergency left back. Looks set for a bit of a run in the position given the remote possibility of our signing anyone in the absence of a full-time boss.
Continues to look quite good at this level.
A fine display. Good in the air and, as they say, "on the deck".
Solid and hard-working. Did a lot of tracking back when we didn't have the ball. Chipped in with a couple of "Cole-esque" flicks to entertain.
Continued to impress until forced off by injury.
Provided the crative edge we've been missing of late. Maybe his injury did us a favour by preventing the vultures gathering during the close-season.
Loads of running and unlucky not to get on the score sheet a couple of times.
A constant threat to Bradford. Looked dangerous every time he got the ball and the goal was sheer class.
Worked his socks off for little reward. His efforts gave scope for the more spectacular displays of Defoe and Connolly to flourish.
Improved after a shaky start when replacing Lee.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Richard Beeby.
Man of the Match: Tomas Repka.
West Ham United
Goals: Jermain Defoe 32
Booked: Tomas Repka 13 Kevin Horlock 35 .
Sent Off: .
Paston, Francis, Edds, Wetherall, Jacobs, Gavin, Heckingbottom, Evans, Gray, Branch, Windass.
Substitutes: Standing (Windass 23), Wolleaston (Branch 69).
Subs not used: Combe, Emanuel, Kearney.
Booked: Edds (75).
Sent Off: .