Saturday, 21st August 2004
I've had my fill of rail travel this week having spent more time waiting for connections at such god-forsaken holes as Birmingham New Street and Luton Airport Parkway than is advisable, so I was quite pleased that the lovely girlfriend was easily persuaded to take a trip up to Bolton to visit her daughter, dropping me off at Crewe on the way. Sure it would mean a brief train journey north after the match and it would cost me a night in a Travel Inn (we would have used Travel Lodge but their incompetent customer relations people still haven't sent me the free stay voucher due after the last time they messed-up one of my bookings), but anything would be preferable to the nightmare that is long-distance rail travel these days.
So it was that I arrived at The Bank public house early doors to meet with some of the usual suspects for pre-match beers in front of the big screen showing the Southampton v Blackburn match . With the score at 2-2 and stoppage time being played Rio B and I decided to leave for the ground just in time to miss referee Andy D'Urso make an even bigger fool of himself than normal. I'm not worried about missing it though. He's bound to be on live telly again before the season's out.
The starting eleven was very different from that which had failed to live up to expectations the previous weekend. Injury had denied us the services of Dailly (who is looking at a 3-month break), Melville and Zamora. Carrick, is en route to Sp*rs since nobody good wants him and he's not making the first XI here and Lomas is still not quite fit. So AP shuffled the pack and, having thankfully decided that the Rebrov on the right experiment had run its course, came up with the following side: Bywater, Mullins, Brevett, Repka, Ferdinand, Nowland, Reo-Coker, Chadwick, Etherington, Sheringham & Harewood. All Change as they're fond of saying in that part of the world.
Well the criticisms of the previous week must have still been ringing in the ears of those who played in that match as we started like a team with a point to prove. The passing looked crisp and direct and the intelligent running off the ball was something that hitherto has been missing in this (admittedly still young) season. Harewood clipped the bar with a header from an Etherington corner and Chadwick, making his first start, also went close. The pressure finally bore fruit on 15 minutes when Harewood fed Chadwick whose cut back found Sheringham with the space and time to curl his shot away from 'keeper Williams and into the left hand side of the Crewe goal.
Sheringham's goal was a clever finish as was his second which came about 10 minutes later. Sheringham found Etherington in space wide on the left. Matty's cross was perfect, containing as it did just the right direction and pace to enable Teddy to angle his header past the 'keeper inside the far post.
Up to this point Crewe had created little, though Bywater had to be alert to tip over a shot from distance from Briggs but otherwise it was mainly one-way traffic and the lead was further increased on the half-hour from probably the most unlikely of all sources. We gained a corner which was cleared only as far as Rufus Brevett who found himself somewhere between 20-30 yards out. Rufus unleashed a piledriver that simply screamed in. I think the two words that summed up our collective state of mind at this point are “Gobsmacked” and “Delerious”
My good chum Margot was unable to make this match and I was under strict instruction to text her the minute anything happened. I was in mid-text when Crewe pulled one back. Crewe skipper Kenny Lunt (no sniggering please), cleverly back-heeled into the path of England Under 21 international Dean Ashton whose shot gave Bywater no chance.
So we went into the interval looking good value for the 3-1 lead and possibly looking for the proverbial hatful during the second half. To say we dominated the second half for about 38 minutes would be something of an understatement. However to score goals you have to convert chances and though we created a good number of decent openings it was one of those days when the ball wouldn't go in.
Early on in the second half Mullins was replaced by Aussie youngster Trent McLenehan at the back but it was up front where all the action was. Harewood headed over an Etherington cross and, as if inspired by Brevett's appearance on the scoresheet, even Ferdinand threatened to get in on the act when heading over a free kick from the right. Harewood was scaring the pants off the not so solid Crewe defence (copyright 2004 “Obvious Puns Ltd”) and was certainly not deserving of the abuse he was getting from certain quarters of the travelling support. Typical of his luck was his effort just before the hour when, breaking into the box on the right hand side, he unleashed a thundering near-post effort against the upright which, unfortunately, came straight back at the otherwise impressive Reo-Coker too fast for the midfielder to react and the ball rebounded harmlessly to go out for a goal kick.
Crewe's only effort during this spell came from a long ball over the top which Bywater came out and gathered low to his right hand side with Ashton lurking menacingly. The major effect of this interlude was to relieve the pressure on about 7,500 sets of neck muscles which had been frozen in one position as all eyes were on the home side's goal. The chances came thick and fast. Harewood fed Nowland whose drive from just outside the box was well- if comfortably – saved by Williams. Harewood then saw one useful effort go over then one less than useful effort go horribly wide much to the delight of the boo-boys who it appeared actually wanted a player in a West Ham shirt to fail. Strangely, a similarly poor finish from Etherington who was arguably in a much better position to score than Marlon had been, did not receive similar derision from those who had been so quick to criticise Harewood.
The next person to spurn the chance to get his first goal for the club was Luke Chadwick. Nowland, who had been quietly but effectively going about his business throughout, fed Etherington whose low ball from the left was just begging Chadwick to finish it off. Unfortunately Chadwick came into the box slightly off-balance and was only able to miscue his shot harmlessly wide.
So there we are, cruising, looking more than comfortable and expecting the fourth goal any minute. You surely don't need me to tell you what happened next do you? However, working on the principle that the editor of this site would rather I actually write a report rather than just leave you all to make your own up in this space, I suppose I'd better state the obvious and tell you that we conceded a goal with about 8 minutes left. Crewe's second came from the same Kenny Lunt (look please stop sniggering at the back – we all know what a spoonerism is) Dean Ashton combination as before. Suddenly our opponents were back in a game that should have been out of sight long before.
AP chose the goal to introduce his second sub with Chris Cohen coming on to replace Etherington to give the midfield a slightly more defensive look for the remaining few minutes. Ironically, Cohen was nearly instrumental in setting up the fourth goal our territorial dominance merited. Cohen's cross found Harewood but Sheringham missed out on his hat-trick as he couldn't quite get on the end of the move.
It was a nervy last few minutes as Crewe tried to press forward to try to get an undeserved point out of the match. They did hit the bar at one point, though the effort would have been ruled out by the linesman's flag had it been a bit lower and they did have a header go wide from a corner. My nerves were also not helped by my not having seen the board for stoppage time. If there had been an announcement over the less than impressive public address system I missed it so I was totally unaware of how long there was left and I was just trying to remember how many times we'd seen the physios when the ref blew for time.
So there we were thankful for the three points which, although well deserved, in typical West Ham style, could easily have turned into one. Given the injury problems and the “will anyone capable of finishing in the top half of the Premiership come in for Carrick before we go bust” saga of recent weeks I thought it was a decent performance and credit is due both to those who had under-performed the previous week and to those who had come in to cover for the infirm and injured. Better finishing would be nice though!
On departure from the ground I aimed myself back towards The Bank only to find it shut until 7pm. Deciding that the 10 minute hike to the open pub suggested by the local constabulary would leave me not enough drinking time before my train to Bolton I went back to the station. I was awoken a few minutes into my journey by a typical Crewe resident – you know the type – nylon anorak, can of Special Brew and a strange “neither one thing nor the other” accent. He asked me if this class of train had a toilet. I shrugged my shoulders. The anorak returned shortly after to proceed to lecture me on the major classes of train used by the various train operating companies and which ones had the cleanest loos. I have never been more happy to see Manchester Piccadilly station where I was finally able to make my escape! (OK maybe this person may not actually have been a typical Crewe resident but since we were all accused of being “middle-aged, balding brutes” in a light-hearted dig at us on one of their sites I reckon I'm entitled to my own dig at a stereotype!)
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A couple of good saves, though it was hardly the busiest of afternoons. No chance with either of the goals.
Not the hardest day for the defence but looked solid anyway. Would I be right in saying that he hasn't picked up a yellow yet this season?
His best performance since his return from injury. Hellofa goal as well.
Seems lots more comfortable in the middle of the back four than at right back and this was probably the ideal game to play him in his preferred position. Might even have scored as well.
A much better performance at right back than at midfield in the previous match. His substitution was apparently due to his picking up a knock.
A fine performance from start to finish. Bossed the midfield both defensively and going forward. The occasional lapses in distribution are becoming rarer and, on another day, Harewood's shot off the post would have hit him on a different part of his anatomy and gone in.
A good solid performance. Kept it simple throughout and is another one who might have got on the scoresheet.
Another strong performance from Chadwick who, apart from providing Sheringham's first, might have opened his first team goals account in the second half. Hopefully will start on the right from now on.
Similar game to Chadwick in many respects – provided a goal for Teddy and ought to have got one himself. Replaced late on by Cohen.
During the first half he was the focus of most of our attacking options and the finishes for his two goals were sublime. Not quite as involved in the second half but still got in a lot of hard work and could have completed his hat-trick late on.
Everything but the goal. He terrified the Crewe defence who really didn't have a clue how to handle him. Keep plugging away and the goals will come.
(Replaced Mullins, 55) Comfortable enough debut though hardly the sternest of tests.
(Replaced Etherington, 84) Only on for the last 7 or 8 minutes but looked good enough and got forward well enough to create a chance at the death.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker.
West Ham United
Goals: Teddy Sheringham 16 Teddy Sheringham 22 Rufus Brevett 30
Booked: Marlon Harewood 18 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
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..