Tuesday, 10th August 2004
Off & Running – Sort Of
We made one change from the side that started up at Leicester. The new fast-track disciplinary system meant that Brevett's one match suspension for the two yellows received at the Crisp Bowl took place immediately rather than a week later as would have happened in the past. Cohen came in to deputise leaving the line-up as follows: Bywater, Repka, Cohen, Dailly, Melville, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Rebrov, Etherington, Sheringham, Harewood.
We got off to a poor start. Harewood immediately gave the ball away from the kick off and the ball was fed out to the Reading right. The ball was crossed over to find Hughes unmarked on the left but the Reading player's shot thankfully had all the accuracy of a Met Office forecast as it sailed harmlessly into orbit.
Duly warned, we started to put together some attacks of our own. Unfortunately Harewood was in similarly wasteful mood. Latching onto Sheringham's fine through ball, he beat the defender but, possibly with Saturday's misses from similar positions on his mind, Marlon delayed the shot and allowed the defence to get back at him. The keeper's clearance came out to Rebrov whose cross was headed just wide by Sheringham.
Back up the other end we allowed both Kitson and Forster to produce saves from Bywater. The save from Kitson's effort was superb, that from Forster somewhat more routine.
Back in squander territory Sheringham fed Harewood once more but the no.10 dragged his shot wide as the keeper came out. Mullins went close twice, firstly with a header from an Etherington corner then with a drive from the edge of the box. Then Sheringham fed Harewood again but Harewood's attempted shot came back off the 'keeper then back off the luckless Marlon to go out for a goal kick.
We've got used in this division to some awful refereeing and you'll probably not be surprised to discover that standards don't seem to have improved any during the summer. Tonight's “look at me I'm on the box” joker was the incredibly fussy and laughably inconsistent Mr P Taylor. His first daft decision was to caution Reo-Coker for delaying the restart at a free-kick. The fact that the player had his back to the ball and had absolutely no chance to retreat as Reading attempted to take a quick free-kick seemed to bypass Mr Taylor who, having made himself look stupid went for broke by then marching the ball forward 10 yards. Mr Taylor notably failed to award similar sanctions for delaying the restart on the several other occasions that this happened.
The second half started in similar vein to the first in that a Reading shot went miles over, Sidwell being the culprit on this occasion. Forster then missed his kick from Sidwell's knock down under pressure from Dailly. Rebrov then fed Sheringham whose clever turn and curled drive went narrowly over. Harewood fashioned a chance for himself but brought out a good save from Hannemann. Chances continued to accrue at both ends. Sidwell blasted a shot over after being given offside but escaped punishment (a similar incident occurs later on in this report– when it happens see if you can spot the difference). Following a Reading corner Sheringham headed back to Bywater in a manoeuvre that had our hearts in our mouths but was under control all along. Honest.
Bywater then failed to deal with a low hard cross from the right but Cohen put in a marvellous challenge to deny Hughes a crack at the loose ball.
Then we saw in one move both the vest and worst of Harewood. He turned superbly to beat two defenders on the halfway line and burst forward. However, with Rebrov screaming for the ball on the right Harewood first delayed then overhit the pass. Back up the other end Hughes, looking suspiciously offside crossed for Forster to slice a shot well wide.
Sidwell gave away a foul on the hour and, once we'd retrieved the ball which he'd rather petulantly thrown away (without punishment of course) the free-kick fell to Mullins who shot wide from the edge of the box.
Our first change came on the hour mark. Ferdinand came on for Melville which prompted Repka to move across to the centre leaving Ferdinand to take up the right back spot. Shortly after Kitson headed tamely at Bywater, but significantly this was to be Reading's last clear chance of note until near the end.
The ref, possibly remembering that he was on the box, then decided to caution Dailly Ok it was a foul but the ref allowed far worse challenges from both sides on the night to pass without caution so quite why he deemed that particular infringement to have been worthy of disciplinary action only he will ever know. Meanwhile a throw from our right came out to Mullins whose shot hit a fellow Hammer to be diverted wide for a goal kick.
Our second substitution came on 70 minutes with Harewood being replaced by Zamora and this was shortly followed by the introduction of Chadwick for the fading Rebrov. Chadwick's arrival in particular looked a good move and the new boy managed to get over several crosses all of which looked infinitely more dangerous than anything that had hitherto been delivered.
With 10 minutes left I'd come to the conclusion that this was going to be another 0-0 draw and I was mentally cursing Maltese Hammer's decision to come to this country on a permanent basis- his last 6 matches having ended without us scoring. However, having come to that conclusion I was immediately proved wrong. A long clearance from Bywater was nodded down by Sheringham. Murty sliced his clearance which fell kindly to Chadwick. Chadwick's turn in the box lost two defenders and his cut back was gloriously diverted first time into the net from close range.
The ref was, of course , on a hat trick when it came to stupid bookings and he didn't disappoint. Zamora was given offside and lobbed over the bar, promptly receiving a yellow card. Did you spot the difference? That's right. Identical offence to Sidwell. Different punishment – also compounded by the theatrical pacing of ten yards as the ball was moved forward. Incompetent refereeing at its worst.
Zamora was also unlucky when breaking away from the halfway line when he tried to do what Harewood had failed to do earlier, namely play an early ball into the player coming in from the right. Unfortunately his pass caught the back of the covering defender's leg rather than reaching its intended Target in Etherington.
There was time for one final Reading chance when Kitson headed over from a corner but that was that.
As I said it was far from convincing at times and the chances allowed in the first hour, though entertaining for the neutral, can't have pleased Alan Pardew much. It certainly didn't do much for my headache. However there were some encouraging signs. Firstly it was another clean sheet which is not to be sniffed at. The form of Sheringham was a pleasant surprise (to me anyway) and Chadwick's form following his belated introduction suggested that he might be as big a revelation over the coming months as Etherington was this time last year.
And Millwall & Leeds both lost!
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Largely sound, though one cross in the second half eluded him and he was grateful to Cohen for helping him out.
Solid at both right back and in the middle. Didn't allow his recent bother with plod to affect his game.
Looked uncomfortable in the early exchanges but improved after the enforced early substitution of Little who had caused him problems.
Must be wondering how he picked up the softest booking of his career. Was caused problems by the lively Reading front pair.
Didn't seem to be over happy at his substitution and hadn't done anything particularly wrong up to that point but again had his work cut out dealing with the opposition forward line.
Beginning to grow into the centre midfield role. Some good bursts through but could improve his distribution.
Did the holding role in midfield. Got his foot in on numerous occasions and even had time to get the odd shot away.
A few good touches but faded alarmingly as the game wore on. The successful introduction of Chadwick might see him play in a more forward role in future.
A lot of hard work but, as on Saturday, expended a lot of energy in running into blind alleys. Needs to vary his runs a bit.
I'll hold my hands up and say that I was far from convinced by this signing. However, he had a superb match tonight, setting up Harewood on several occasions. His intelligence and experience were something of a revelation and I'll be well happy if he can keep this sort of form going throughout the season.
Infuriating. Constantly got himself into good positions only for his finishing to let him down. Seems a little short on confidence in front of goal at the moment.
(Replaced Melville, 61) Did ok when coming on for Melville and played some nice passes doen the line.
(Replaced Harewood, 71) Got through a fair bit of running without really threatening much. Beaten into bronze medal position for the prize of “least merited booking”.
(Replaced Rebrov, 76) I like the look of this guy. Well, you know what I mean. Looked dangerous going forward, got in some good crosses and, at the death when required, got in some solid defensive work.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Teddy Sheringham.
West Ham United
Goals: Teddy Sheringham 82
Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 20 Christian Dailly 65 Bobby Zamora 86 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Hahnemann, Shorey, Williams, Murty, Ingimarsson, Harper, Hughes, Little, Sidwell, Kitson, Forster.
Substitutes: Convey (Little 34), Goater (Hughes 84).
Subs not used: Young, Sonko, Newman.
Booked: Nalis (21).
Sent Off: None booked..