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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 21st August 2004

Crewe Alexandra 2
West Ham United 3

by East Stand Martin

Today had the quality of a momentous day in the history of our club.

The morning news that Michael Carrick had not decided to join many other sensible professional footballers and turn down a move to Spurs, marks an end to an era. Carrick may not have been one of our greats, but he certainly was part of a pool of talent that made us the envy of clubs throughout England. This talent has now all disappeared into the ether, sacrificed to ensure that our Chairman can keep the creditors at bay, maintain his lifestyle and guarantee continued employment for the police close protection squad in the Directors’ box at Upton Park.

Closure

To look at things more positively, and to run the risk of sounding like an amateur psychologist, maybe Carrick’s departure allows us to have closure and move on. That’s what the Yanks say: “We need closure here”. In a footballing sense, there may be some merit in this argument, but this club will never move while Brown remains at the helm. To pursue the analogy further: Terry, the crew have now all left the ship, it’s time for you too to jump over the side.

Hammers fans in peril

Back to the game. I’ve got to say that over the years I’ve felt like it’s been quite dangerous to be a West Ham fan. You put your health at risk by wearing the claret and blue and a hundred or so of us in the stand behind the goal were under real threat during the pre-match warm up. We were sitting ducks as our strikers and midfielders decided to practice their shooting.

I learnt a lot from this: Teddy has all the guile, Rebrov hits the target about 1 in 2 times and Marlon is more likely to hit the corner flag than the goal. One hapless West Ham fan near me should be talking to Claims Direct this morning about recompense for the Harewood-induced coffee scalds to his hands as yet another shot got blasted wide.

Natural shape

The team set-up looked more natural for a change. We started with two wingers in the shape of Matty and Chadders, with Marlon and Teddy up front. Eureka! Nowland came in to midfield alongside Reo-Coker while Mullins dropped back to right back, meaning that Anton and Repka covered the central defence.

We had to start well, given the non-performance against Wigan. The response from the team was clear from the outset, with Chadwick, Marlon, Teddy and Reo-Coker all looking sharp in the opening exchanges. The first shot on the Crewe goal came from Chadwick on two minutes after good link up with Teddy and Marlon was on a mission to close down their keeper at every opportunity. On 5 minutes, he charged down a clearance which Crewe were fortunate to see bounce wide.

2 minutes later Teddy flicked a ball on to Marlon who looped his volley over and a minute later on Marlon fired in a powerful header from an excellent cross from Matty which hit the crossbar and bounced over. Matty looked a real threat every time he had the ball, taking on players and delivering quality balls over into the box.

Onslaught brings goal

A succession of corners was being won and Crewe were penned into their own half under the Hammers onslaught and it was no surprise on the quarter hour that we took the lead. Marlon’s determined attitude was shown once again near the halfway line as he won the ball and went on a powerful run. He slotted a great pass out right to Chadders who put over a fantastic cross. Teddy met the cross with a superb controlled strike which creamed into the top right hand corner of the goal.

Marlon was back defending as well and looked very pumped up. He ended up getting booked for dissent on 18 minutes after protesting about a free kick. The ball was moved ten yards nearer, but the free kick was blasted at the wall and was deflected wide.

Domination

3 minutes later a Crewe ball out of defence got intercepted by Teddy who immediately found Matty. On a day of superb crossing from the flanks, Matty delivered an inch-perfect cross back to Teddy who directed a top notch header wide of the keeper. 2-0 and it was looking like a stroll in the park.

Crewe had their first shot on goal on 22 minutes, but Bywater was well positioned to tip a dipping shot over the bar.

Marlon then had a hand in the build up to the third goal on 28 minutes as he first lost a ball and then won it back down the right side. He found Chadwick who fired in a low cross which was deflected for a corner. The clearance from the corner found Rufus about 30 yards out. He took one touch and fired in a shot which took a slight deflection before it hit the back of the net. 3-0 and we were all expecting to double this; such was the dominance of the Irons.

Crewe get lifeline

But even in strong positions like this, you still need to maintain a disciplined defence, and our frailties there were exposed once again on the half hour as the lively Dean Ashton latched onto a back heel on the edge of the box with our defence looking for offside. He shot hard and low and beat Bywater at his right hand post. They barely deserved it, but Crewe had been given a lifeline.

Marlon made an unbelievable crunching tackle on 37 minutes and then he latched onto a Teddy pass a minute later but shot wildly wide.

Crewe then nearly snatched a second on 41 minutes, but Sorvel could not get his head on it at the far post as a deflected cross came over from the right. Chadwick then gathered a great crossfield pass from Matty two minutes into added time. He cut inside, but just lost his balance as he unleashed his shot and the ball went wide.

Although the edge had been taken off the half time party by the Ashton strike, we were delighted with the team performance. We were playing with real pace and width, which had to be the result of playing natural wide players down the flank. Marlon was really putting in a committed performance and Teddy was running the whole show up front.

No change at half time

Unsurprisingly there were no changes for West Ham at half time and Nowland nearly made it 4-1 on 46 minutes as he collected a flick on from Marlon in the box. Unfortunately he couldn’t get his foot on it and got crowded out. Three minutes later, Marlon found Matty who then got another quality cross back to him but Marlon headed over.

On 52 minutes, Anton spurned a gilt-edged opportunity as a free kick was delivered dangerously from the right. He had a free header which should have been buried.

Hayden Mullins was replaced by debutante Trent McClenahan on 55 presumably because he had taken a knock. Mullins had a relatively quiet game at the back, but that was much preferred to the poor game he had against Wigan where every pass appeared to go astray. From a distance Trent has a look of Steve McManaman about him. Not in a playing or positional sense, you understand.

Marlon goes close

A minute later, Marlon came very close to get the goal that his performance deserved. After picking the ball up on the right he made a storming run into the box and made a superb strike from a tight angle. He beat the keeper hands down but the ball hit the post and shot out sideways. The advancing Reo-Coker was caught by surprise by this and could not slot the ball home into an empty net.

Crewe tried a ball over the top of central defence on 59 minutes which Steve Bywater managed to gather before the Wigan striker, although that was a close one. Two minutes later, Marlon was the provider for Nowland – who had a pretty good game today – but his 25 yard shot at goal was comfortably taken by the keeper.

On 69 minutes Marlon broke free again, but he blasted over. He then had a great interchange with Teddy who found Matty down the left. Matty advanced menacingly on goal, but he put his shot wide.

Matty was a constant threat and spent most of the match firing in excellent crosses. Following a great ball to him from Nowland on 75 minutes, his cross was directed at Chadwick who couldn’t quite connect with a scissor kick. 6 minutes later Marlon’s predatory approach came good again as he nicked the ball from the keeper, but the shot got fired wide.

Ashton puts us on edge

Despite dominating proceedings throughout the half, we couldn’t get the deserved fourth goal. Ashton decided to give us all a nervous 9 minutes when we failed to deal with a ball down the right. He showed his goal poaching qualities again by putting the ball wide of Bywater from inside the box.

Shortly after Chris Cohen came on for Matty, who had been on the end of a late tackle in the first half, although he had seemed to shake this off. Cohen always seems to show immediately when he comes on and his cross was met by Marlon, but Teddy couldn’t quite connect to get his hat trick.

Anton was a bit in the wars and had to receive treatment twice following two challenges down the right. Crewe were trying hard to steal an undeserved draw and that travesty almost came to pass on 44 minutes when a header went just over following a corner.

However, we managed to navigate 4 minutes of time added on, with Marlon taking the ball down into the corner. He received some stick for that from some people near me, which I think was completely unjustifiable given his performance today. I have no doubt that he should start in preference to the Z-man and I hope that he can keep up the work rate that he showed throughout this match.

Teddy is our leader

This was a game that we controlled for large parts and we deserved to win by more. A bloke in front of me said that we had scored ten goals against Crewe in three games, but all of these had come in the first half. The shape of the team looked right today and Teddy as captain was exceptional. You could see him constantly directing things – he was our player/manager out there.

It’s just the defence that needs attention. I’ll be happier when Dailly is back and we do need to add to the squad at the back. Everybody, including the manager more than anybody else knows this. Even Crewe has a quality striker and there is a lot of talent out there in the Championship as proved by Ellington and Roberts last Sunday. Shore up the defence and play the expansive attacking football evident today and we all might start getting optimistic again.

(Following ratings by RM9 Hammer)

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Didn't have a great deal to, first real effort was to pick the ball out of the net, distribution was ok-ish, some good punts, others as usual went not to a claret head.


Tomas Repka
Good performance from the mad man. Anything and everything in air was Tommy's and he seemed to organise the back.


Rufus Brevett
Solid performance - and a cracking goal.


Anton Ferdinand
One of his best performances in a claret shirt, distribution was good and although he played the last quarter of the match with a serious shoulder injury, he started to show the qualities of big bruv.


Hayden Mullins
Had a solid performance until being subbed. Looked more comfortable than he did in the middle of the park. Had to go straight down the tunnel with the club doc.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Being so close to the action we could see how much he organised the team, Box to box running, good passing and deserved a goal.


Adam Nowland
Wasn't the best of performances but didn't do too much wrong other than punt the odd ball when he had time to bring it down.


Luke Chadwick
Finally we looked like a balanced team with a right midfielder on the right. Was creative, tracked back and assisted. Also drifted into the centre and even left wing at times. "Played ugly".


Matthew Etherington
Same old Matty really; he needs to be a little less predictable. Put in some quality crosses and once again didn't stop running.


Teddy Sheringham
Showed why Pardew signed him at the ripe age of 38. Organised, dropped deep, some quality passing/flicks and two good goals.


Marlon Harewood
Didn't stop running all game but wasn't destined to score (although the lad did everything but). Hit the bar (I think), hit the post with a thundershot, and caused problems for their defence all afternoon. Well played Marlene.


Substitutes


Trent McClenahan
(Replaced Mullins, 55) Long way from the finished article. A nervous debut.


Chris Cohen
(Replaced Etherington, 84) A couple of nice crosses from the left peg. Looked more comfortable in midfield.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Mark Noble
Did not play.


Sergei Rebrov
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Kaye.

Attendance: 7857.

Man of the Match: Teddy Sheringham.

West Ham United

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 16 Teddy Sheringham 22 Rufus Brevett 30              

Booked: Marlon Harewood 18          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Crewe Alexandra

Williams, B.Jones, Foster, Briggs, Vaughan, Walker, Sorvel, Lunt, Cochrane, Rivers, Ashton.

Substitutes: S.Jones (Cochrane 65), Tonkin (Briggs 71), Higdon (Rivers 78).

Subs not used: Ince, Moses.

Goals: Ashton (31, 82).

Booked: Cochrane (60).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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