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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 28th August 2004

West Ham United 1
Burnley 0

by Gordon Thrower

A game of two halves, one dull, the other less so but three welcome points nevertheless.

The name Burnley always induces a certain amount of nostalgia to me and, I suspect, other forty-somethings. The first game I ever sat down to watch (as opposed to struggling to look over the ridiculously high wall on the West Side) at the Boleyn was against Burnley. We won 3-1 courtesy of a Geoff Hurst hat-trick inspired by a superb debut from a kid called John Ayris. Ayris's promising career was ended by a disgraceful tackle from Chelsea's Ron Harris – which is something to remember next time you see his gormless mug pontificating about how much better the game was in his day.

However, my main memories of Burnley stems from our shared use of the claret & blue. Younger readers may find this hard to believe but during my childhood days in the late 60's and early 70's football shirts were unblemished by the logos of shirt sponsors or kit manufacturers. In fact in those days even club badges were something of a rarity. At that time our shirts were virtually identical to those of Burnley. There was one very important difference (well important to 9 year-olds anyway!)The collar and cuffs of a Burnley shirt were plain whilst a West Ham shirt had two contrasting stripes. It had to be two stripes. Any more than two and you had a Villa shirt and I reckon that the arguments continued to rage amongst the classrooms of St Thomas of Canterbury Primary in Grays well after I left right up to when the money men saw their chance to earn a few bob by changing kit designs every five minutes, thus banishing generations of future schoolchildren to arguing about the merits of Japanese cartoon characters.

In those days Burnley were managed by an avuncular figure called Harry (Potts) and had a reputation for producing decent players from a decent youth system which they would periodically have to sell from time to time to make ends meet. Sound familiar?

Back to the present and the injuries which forced precautionary evenings off on Tuesday night for the likes of Ferdinand, Mullins and Etherington had all benefited from the extra reecovery time and we lined up as follows: Bywater, Mullins, Brevett, Repka, Ferdinand, Reo-Coker, Nowland, Etherington, Chadwick, Sheringham, Chadwick.

It was a pretty awful first half. Neither side had muchg in the way of a passing game and and Burnley's five across the middle was effective in stifling much of our movement. That's not to say the game was without chances – just that they weren't particularly good ones. There were a couple of shots wide from distance from Blake – one a free-kick – for the visitors, and efforts from similar distance from Harewood, Nowland and Sheringham but these were all really half chances rather than edge of seat heart in mouth moments.

The biggest talking point of the first half (in our bit of the ground anyway) revolved around an appalling offside decision. Harewood, who spent a lot of the match chasing with little reward, closed down a Burnley defender who subsequently went down under the slightest of contact. The defender stayed down in a vain attempt to con a free-kick out of the officials. Having failed to win the free-kick the defender elected to stay down to make things look better, thus playing Reo-Coker on by some 10 yards. Unfortunately both ref and lino chose to ignore the offending player – they must have seen him since both were looking directly at him – and gave the “offside”. In a week where I've had to put up with a large amount of unprofessional behaviour from people who ought to know better, this was yet another example of poor standards from officialdom. As for the “injury” - well when the defender realised what he had got away with he recovered and was able to sprint away quickly lest the ref change his mind.

The players left the field at half time to some boos. Now I'm fully aware that if people pay £600 for a season ticket they have every right to make their views known but it seems to me that some sections of the crowd are lacking a sense of perspective. Certainly the first half had been a poor one, and in no little way frustrating, but it wasn't as if we were 3-0 down or anything. We were up against a side whose tactics were always going to make an all action free-flowing goalfest unlikely, but unfortunately that's the nature of the division. There again maybe I'm just turning into Victor Meldrew in my old age.

As it happens the second half, whilst far from being a classic, was better. The midfield worked hard, particularly Nowland, and Burnley's attacking threat during the second period was minimal. However we still needed a bit of a spark to get things going and this duly came when Lomas replaced Chadwick, who had had been a bit quiet on the right. Shaggy's arrival gave a bit of a lift to everyone and Harewood's header from a corner prompted a fine low save from Coyne in the Burnley goal.

Shortly after the hour mark we took the lead. A cross was put over from the right by Mullins following some chasing from Harewood. Sheringham got on the end of the cross. Teddy's header was blocked and cleared only partially as far as Nowland who was lurking on the edge of the box. Nowland's powerful drive went into the ground then up into the roof of the net giving Coyne no chance. Nowland's celebratory sprint was indicative of his joy at getting his first goal in a West Ham shirt.

This prompted series of chances. Etherington had a shot well saved by Coyne but Harewood was unable to get on the end of the rebound. Then Sheringham, whose intelligence stood out like a beacon given the overall mediocrity of the match, got the ball into the net. Unfortunately the effort from Matty's cross on the left was ruled out by the hair-trigger flag of the linesman. Teddy certainly thought he'd timed the run but the goal was ruled out.

It was then time for some more refereeing larks. Sinclair, who had earlier been cautioned for a clumsy challenge in the first half , cynically brought down Etherington who had pushed the ball past him into space on the break. Matty would have been through on goal and the very least that was merited at this point was a second yellow. The ref bottled it however and merely gave the free-kick. Following the incident last week involving Mr D'Urso, many were amazed to discover that, not only can referees be charged with the offence of “failing to apply the laws in a proficient manner” (as I think it's called) but also that the FA are actually aware that the offence is on their statute book. Maybe they should think about using that part of their rule-book more often – though don't hold your breath.

The last 10 minutes of the game were dominated by matters disciplinary. The ball was played up to Harewood with his back to goal. McGreal, as he had done on several occasions without punishment up to then, challenged with both arms around Marlon's shoulders. On this occasion Marlon was hauled down and a free-kick was rightly awarded. Whilst on the ground McGreal seemed to have a kick out at Harewood who, as a result, lost it and attempted to get at McGreal. This prompted a melee that seemed to include just about every player on the pitch with the notable exception of Tomas Repka who was possibly precluded from joining in by his current bail terms. It was all a bit of a mess and it was difficult to keep track of things. When it all died down Ferdinand, Harewood and Duff found themselves the winners of Mr Robinson's lucky yellow card lottery whilst McGreal, whose actions had led to the whole mess in the first place, escaped sanction completely. When the smoke cleared the ref marched the ball forward 10 yards but the free-kick came to nothing.

Shortly after, Cohen, who had earlier replaced Sheringham, was dismissed. From my angle it appeared that both he and Grant challenged for a loose ball and that Grant got there second. However, at the post-match press conference AP indicated that, although Cohen got some of the ball, the challenge may have contained a two-footed element. Either way under the new arrangements the youngster now faces an immediate 3-match ban unless the club decides to appeal, a course of action that seems unlikely given AP's comments.

So the game ended in a 1-0 win that had been ground out. Quite apart from the midfield-stifling tactics of the opposition, the presence of Maltese Hammer, who has seen something like 3 goals in his last 7 matches, is normally a guarantee that goals will be at a premium. I'm thinking of having a collection to send him to watch Ars*nal in future! It wasn't particularly pretty but it should be remembered that last season our failure to get near to an automatic promotion spot was due in no small part to our failure to get exactly this sort of result against this sort of team. Some days you've got to be pragmatic and this was one of those days.

The day ended marvellously with a couple more Olympic golds – Kelly Holmes's effort was greeted by a chorus of “Bubbles” from those present in the Black Lion, though I hadn't been previously aware of any connection between the middle distance runner and West Ham. Still World Cups, Olympic medals – we win them all don't we! Finally thanks to the lovely Margot for the lift home – I've never been in a convertible with the top down before!

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Competent enough in his shot-stopping duties but his distribution was not at its best today. The quick throw out to Etherington is potentially a dangerous weapon but all too often the good idea was spoilt by inaccurate throwing.


Tomas Repka
Another good run out for Tomas who, by and large, kept it simple and wasn't afraid to find the upper tier of the West Stand when merited. Constantly chatting with Anton, he kept the youngster in check (or should that be Czech) when required. Strangely absent from the handbags that followed the McGreal-Harewood incident.


Rufus Brevett
A solid enough display from Rufus who was a bit lucky to escape sanction in the McGreal-Harewood when he steamed in like a man possessed.


Hayden Mullins
Another player whose passing was not at it's most accurate. Good interceptions were let down by wayward passes, though there was some improvement in the second half.


Anton Ferdinand
Looks a lot more happy in the centre of defence than at right back and you can see his confidence growing the more he plays there.


Adam Nowland
Continues to improve and is obviously benefiting from the increased confidence that an extended run in the midfield will bring. Deserved his goal for the hard work he put in.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Another one who is finding his feet this season as the result of regular first team action. I like the way he can bring the ball out from the deep with those powerful runs – we saw another of these yesterday and if he can improve on his decision making at the end of those runs he has the potential to be a hell of a player.


Luke Chadwick
Not his best performance, he didn't really register on the radar against the club with whom he spent time on loan last season.


Matthew Etherington
Had a busy match but still not up to the standards he set last year. Caused his marker problems but didn't vary his approach enough in my opinion.


Teddy Sheringham
I wasn't keen on this signing to be honest – not because of his past club associations but because I thought that it was another example of us bringing in a player who was past it. I was wrong. His intelligence stands out a mile in this division and he was again a class act all round in this match.


Marlon Harewood
Less of a goal threat than in the previous couple of games a fact that can be put down to a lack of service to the front two in general. Marlon nevertheless got through a lot of hard work and chasing that sometimes went un-noticed perhaps because of his languid running style. Certainly the Burnley back four knew they had been in a game – especially McGreal!


Substitutes


Steve Lomas
(Replaced Chadwick, 59) Good to see him back. His introduction provided the lift that led to our best spell of the game and, ultimately the goal. Nice to see him pick up the armband after Teddy's substitution.


Chris Cohen
(Replaced Sheringham, 86) Came on for Sheringham and got an early bath following what apppeared to have been a rush of blood to the head following his challenge on Grant. Will now miss the away matches at Coventry and Sheffield United and the home match against Rotherham for his sins.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Trent McClenahan
Did not play.


Sergei Rebrov
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: J.Robinson.

Attendance: 22119.

Man of the Match: Adam Nowland.

West Ham United

Goals: Adam Nowland 62                  

Booked: Rufus Brevett 45 Anton Ferdinand 90 Marlon Harewood 90      .

Sent Off: Chris Cohen 90    .

Burnley

Coyne, McGreal, Sinclair, Camara, Chaplow, Branch, Grant, Hyde, Duff, Blake, Moore.

Substitutes: Roche (Branch 89).

Subs not used: Jensen, O'Neill, Townsend, Pilkington.

Goals: .

Booked: Sinclair (15), Duff (90).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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