Tuesday, 24th August 2004
Let's be honest we were on a big hiding to nothing with this one really. The “local” element to the match just added to the slippiness of the potential banana skin, especially in view of the fact that we were fielding a less than first-choice starting XI. The reason for this was mainly due to injuries, though I suspect that some of the absentees might have been available for a league match. However with two league matches in three days to come over the bank holiday weekend the precaution seemed a sensible one. We also took the opportunity to give Walker his first start in goal. Brevett took over the armband from Sheringham who was given a spot on the bench behind a screen marked “in case of emergency break glass”. The team lined up as follows: Walker, McClenahan, Brevett, Ward, Repka, Reo-Coker, Nowland, Cohen, Chadwick, Rebrov, Harewood.
It was a bright start. Early on following some good interplay with Harewood, Reo-Coker had his shot well saved by Griemink. Ward headed over from the resulting corner. Southend recovered from the early scare and moved forward but on 10 minutes it was one of their attacks that resulted in our first goal. A low cross from the Southend right caused a brief spot of confusion but the ball found its way through Chadwick to Reo-Coker who embarked on what is rapidly becoming a trademark burst out of defence. We've witnessed this scene several times this season and it's quite an exciting sight to behold. Unfortunately up to now the end product has been a bit lacking usually ending in a weak shot or an over-hit pass. However, on this occasion Nigel timed his pass to Harewood to perfection and Marlon's shot gave Griemink no chance to give us a 1-0 lead.
We might have increased the lead a few minutes later when Nowland found McClenehan on the right. The Aussie hit a cross/shot (ok it was a mishit cross let's be honest) which seemed to have the 'keeper struggling but his save was probably a lot more comfortable than it looked.
Southend continued to press forward when Broughton headed a cross from the left wide. Broughton , who was probably Southend's biggest threat in the first half, also put Walker under pressure from a cross but the debutant 'keeper coped admirably despite the major disparity in height. Southend looked to go very close when Brevett failed to cut out a through ball to Dudfield whose shot cannoned back off the post. However, the linesman's flag had been raised, presumably for offside, so it wouldn't have counted.
We had our own “ball-woodwork interface situation” shortly after. The ball was played up to harewood whose clever turn on the edge of the box was deflected onto the outside of the post for a corner on 24 minutes. The corner was an interesting one. Rebrov pulled the ball back to Nowland on the edge of the box. Nowland's first time shot looked goalbound but eventually ended up deflecting away from a goal kick.
Then on the half hour there occurred something I haven't seen in ages. Maybe it's the ravages of advancing years affecting the memory but when I was younger I remember the sense of anticipation whenever the ball was played onto the roof of the East Stand – the will it/won't it come back down as the ball rolled slowly down the slope. In the 70's two blokes who used to stand near me used to bet on whether the ball would come back. This time it didn't.
The fact that I'm remarking on the fact that the ball got stuck on the roof is, perhaps, indicative of the quality of the game. Not that it was without incident but the passing from both sides was not at its best and overall we were looking at a scrappy game rather than a fluent one. This was highlighted by a move on 38 minutes where a nodded pass from Harewood was played back into him by Rebrov only for Harewood to scuff his shot harmlessly wide and we went into the interval 1-0 up looking comfortable if not totally convincing.
If things were pretty even in the first half Southend had more of the game in the second period. Dudfield's pull back to Broughton brought a powerful shot that was deflected over for a corner. Another cross found Ward whose clearance fell out to Maher whose shot went wide.
We survived a penalty appeal on 67 minutes McClenanhan gave the ball away on our right but he got back well to block Dudfield's gross while sliding in. The Southend man went ballistic claiming that the Aussie ha handled but in truth it would have been a harsh penalty – ball to hand rather than the other way round. The main effect of this was that every time a ball was driven against a West Ham player from close range the 3,500+ travelling supporters would, somewhat tiresomely, shout handball irrespective of where the ball hit. Once the fuss had died down AP made his first change. Presumably with one eye on the weekend fixtures, Mark Noble came on for his debut replacing the largely ineffective Chadwick.
Southend continued to press forward. A ball played down their right seemed harmless enough but Ward lost his footing and Repka did well to deal with the resulting cross despite being outnumbered in the middle. Repka then picked up what I think was his first yellow of the season. The ball was played inside Repka on the Southend left. As barrett burst into the box Repka, somewhat cynically, pulled the Southend man back to earn a deserved caution. The free-kick was awarded right on the edge of the box – another inch or so and we'd have been looking at a penalty so in that respect Repka's intervention was finely judged.
It seemed that the pressure might be getting to one or two of the younger players so AP decided to break the emergency glass and introduce a wiser head to the proceedings. Exit Rebrov enter Sheringham to the biggest cheer of the night from the 16,910 crowd. This was promptly followed by Southend's best and clearest chance of the evening. Walker made a superb save from point blank range and Cohen bravely blocked the follow-up effort for a corner, picking up a knock in the process.
We then had a brief respite when we started to go forward ourselves when Nowland's effort from Repka's ball inside brought a fine save from the 'keeper and a Reo-Coker angled drive was also well saved. A second ball then joined the one already on the roof of the East Stand. Harewood got onto the end of a long clearance which he lobbed over and a similar clearance saw both Harewood and Cohen put a defender under pressure but the ball didn't quite run for either of them.
So with the clock running down and 3 minutes of added time to come we added the lead. As with the first goal it came from a Southend attack. A Southend midfielder tried a shot from optimistic distance and the ball rebounded kindly to Harewood. Marlon stormed forward but seemed to have lost the opportunity to feed Cohen who was streaming forward in support. However, as the defender shepherded Harewood wide Marlon got his shot away which went straight through Griemink.
And that was it. 2-0 was harsh on a Southend side who had taken the game to us, especially in view of their supposedly poor start to the season. The travelling support were rightly proud of their efforts. Having said that, and as already mentioned, we were really in one of those no-win situations. Had we lost the record books would have merely shown another West Ham defeat to a team from a lower division – there would have been no asterisk next to the result denoting that a much-weakened side had been fielded so in that respect we can be happy that we've negotiated this particular minefield.
Finally, I'd like to end on a small note of sadness. It would appear that my favourite advertising hoarding opposite me has disappeared. So farewell then Jack & Sam. I never did find out who or what the hell you were and now I'll probably never know!
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Excellent debut. Looked calm and collected throughout and made one excellent save when it mattered. Bywater has competition.
Fairly steady though we had tho odd moment from misplaced passes. The booking was 100% merited.
Skipper for the night and was one of the steadier heads in the back four.
Not a bad debut. A couple of slips but there was enough there to suggest some potential.
Obviously still a bit raw but stuck at it under pressure, especially in the second half.
Another strong performance and it was nice to see the burst out of defence pay dividends for the first goal. Brevett may have had the armband as senior pro but it was NRC who seemed to be in charge.
Ok without overly impressing. Had one shot from distance that produced a good save from the 'keeper.
A quieter match than of late. Didn't make much of an impression in the second half and was replaced by Noble.
More of a defensive presence down the left. Got one superb block in in the second half and would have been justified in strangling Harewood had Marlon missed his second with Cohen seemingly better placed.
A few good balls in the first half but as the game progressed he appeared to be playing deeper and deeper before eventually disappearing off the radar completely. Needs match fitness.
Not quite the barnstorming performance that we got against Crewe but that was countered by his two excellent finishes for the goals.
(Replaced Chadwick, 68) Got stuck in a few times without really stamping any authority on the game.
(Replaced Rebrov, 76) His calming influence seemed to take the sting out of the match just as it was threatening to become a little frantic.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Jimmy Walker.
West Ham United
Goals: Marlon Harewood 11 Marlon Harewood 89
Booked: Adam Nowland 49 Tomas Repka 75 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Griemink, Barrett, Jupp, Edwards, Pettifer, Gower, Bentley, Nicolau, Mayer, Broughton, Dudfield.
Substitutes: Bramble (Broughton 74), Gray (Dudfield 84).
Subs not used: Flahavan, Hunt, Wilson.
Booked: Maher (54).
Sent Off: None sent off..