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Saturday, 11th September 2004

Sheffield United 1
West Ham United 2

by East Stand Martin

You could see them coming for miles. I was glad I had my sunglasses on. Those Blades away shirts are made from just the most retina-burning fluorescent material you have ever seen.

I reckon the northerners are radioactive after wearing them. Perhaps it keeps ‘em warm during the long Yorkshire winter.

Nostalgia aint what it used to be

As we climbed the stairs to the Gordon Lamb Stand, it all felt very nostalgic. The seats were wooden as well with no ergonomic bum shape at all. Flat and uncomfortable. Welcome back to football circa 1975.

There was more nostalgia to follow. Sir Trevor Brooking came on. Admittedly it was at half time to pull the raffle. But wait. Could it be true that one of the greatest Irons ever had returned to Bramall Lane? They were chanting a name I hadn’t heard for years. “Devo. Devo. Devo.”

It wasn’t Alan though, but Calum, the boy that marked Teddy out of the game at Highfield Road, on loan from the bagel-munchers. More about him later.

Not for the first time over the past 12 months, the team had an unfamiliar feel to it. Continuity? We don’t know the meaning of the word. In came new signing Fletcher in the centre of midfield, meaning that Hayden dropped back to right back. Repka stayed in central defence alongside the towering Davenport. The rest of the team was pretty much as expected with new signings Malky and Powell on the bench.

A bright start

Like other away games I have attended this season, we got off to a bright start. With just two minutes gone, Teddy got a great pass out wide to Matty who went on a penetrating run. His cross was just the ticket, but Marlon managed to kick fresh air when the goal looked at his mercy.

Two minutes later Matty failed to find his way through the Sheffield defence, but the ball spun out to Fletch who blasted it wildly over. Then on 8 minutes, we took the lead. The Sheffield defence failed to clear the ball effectively when a header went over the top of Teddy but landed at the feet of Marlon. He took one touch, advanced on goal and unleashed a peach of a shot from outside the area which rifled into Kenny’s right hand corner.

Sheffield looked shell-shocked, although they did win a couple of early corners. These came to nothing due to the superb aerial strength of Davenport who showed throughout the game today why he is so highly rated.

On 19 minutes, a Bywater clearance bounced awkwardly and Teddy picked it up near the edge of the box. Unfortunately he volleyed straight at the keeper who took it comfortably.

Possession and tight defence

West Ham had a lot of possession during this period and both Reo-Coker and Fletch were putting themselves about to good effect. On 29 minutes, Marlon showed great strength down the left, shrugging off a challenge and then running menacingly on goal. Unfortunately he decided to fire in a shot from too wide a position, when a cross could have been lethal.

Repka was also playing his part alongside Devo. He was missing very little in the air as Sheffield tried route one with very little joy. Tom was also back as peacemaker on 31 minutes as there was a lot of pushing and shoving following a disputed free kick conceded by Reo-Coker. I am now certain that Tom has been on an anger management course. That therapist that’s working with Tom is a genius. Reo-Coker and Sheffield’s Gray ended up in the book for that scuffle, but ex-Hammer Jon Harley made a poor free kick which went harmlessly wide.

Teddy then succeeded in finding Marlon with yet another classic flick on 33 minutes, but he volleyed poorly over when he should have found the target.

The final move of note was on 37 minutes when there was excellent passing between Teddy, Reo-Coker and Matty. Etherington let go with a powerful shot which could well have gone in if it hadn’t have been blocked.

Sheffield hardly got a look in during the first half. We were passing well and holding the ball. Fletcher was certainly passing the ball better than Mullins has been in that position of late and Devo was just totally in control at the back.

John Denver is a northerner

On came Sheffield to the strains of “Annie’s Song”, a particularly odious song by John Denver that the northerners seem to love. Maybe we were transfixed by that appalling tune, but it was clear from the outset of the second half that we were not the same team.

It was all very scrappy and Fletch ended up in the book on 52 minutes for a careless tackle. Then Mullins was on hand to make a great defensive header with the West Ham goal vulnerable from a first time cross. Sheffield caused more problems in our box on 54, when we seemed incapable of clearing our lines. The ball seemed to go back in about three times in a row, before the ball was nodded over the bar.

Aimless

We seemed to have forgotten about our passing game and there were quite a few aimless punts out of defence which simply found the opposition. Matty managed a half decent run on 58 minutes after he had been found by Marlon with a good pass. Unfortunately he shot very weakly at the grateful Kenny.

Chadwick, who had made one or two good defensive tackles, but showed little else during the match was then replaced by Nowland on 63 minutes and that change looked like the right move.

Only three minutes later, I revised that view after Nowland made a clumsy tackle on the left hand side of the box. It was a bit reminiscent of the blunder made by Frank Lampard in Austria, and the result was the same. Alan Quinn stepped up and hit a shot into the far corner which beat the flapping Bywater. It was a well-placed kick, but it looked like Bywater was out of position.

It was at this point that I really began to fear a re-run of the Coventry game. We looked very shaken and we were causing no threat up front because the service to our strikers was so poor. On 73 minutes Rufus nearly made a disastrous back pass, which Bywater thankfully anticipated by coming out of his area. He did not help our nerves by then taking an age to clear his lines.

On with the Ukrainian

Sergei came on for Marlon on 75 minutes, as it looked like he was carrying a knock. Although he had not made any significant contribution in the second half, this was due to the fact that no-one found him with any half-decent passes. Nowland emphasised this fact just after the change when he made a hopeless pass across field that was not within ten yards of a West Ham player.

Sheffield looked the more likely to score, and Tom had to be on hand to make a crucial block when a ball got whipped dangerously across our box from the right.

Finally, we got a bit of passing together and Rebrov got it to his feet on 84 minutes and won a foul to the right hand side of the box after dancing around a few defenders. Teddy placed the ball about 10 feet to the left of where the foul took place and after referee Wiley had moved it back, fired the ball past the wall. The ball missed everybody except what looked like the back of a Sheffield defender, deflecting the ball past the unsighted Kenny.

There was still a nervous 5 minutes plus injury time to go, and Reo-Coker made a fantastic blocking tackle after Tom made probably his only poor defensive header during the match. Malky came on for Hayden and then there was another panic in our box when on 89 minutes Tom blasted a clearance against a Sheffield player. Somehow the ball rebounded wide with Bywater stranded.

A lot of credit during the half has to go to Devo for the way in which he handled the long ball from Sheffield. He has great strength and appears to have great ability in using his body to win balls or block strikers without giving away free kicks. There was a constant bay from the Sheffield fans for free kicks after Devo challenges, but the fact was that he was just a lot better than the strikers, getting to the ball first.

Eventually we managed to play out the added three minutes of injury time and we were helped by a wild tackle on Tom by Jon Harley, who ended up in Wiley’s book.

Football is a game of 90 minutes

This was not a brilliantly convincing performance purely because we played poorly in the second half following an effective first half display. Who knows what Pardew said at half time, but here’s some words for next time, “This game is far from won, we have got to up the tempo in the second half as they will be coming looking for us. Keep your shape and keep passing.” We allowed them back in due to sloppy passing and giving the ball away too easily. There was no width or pace to our game either. We had one shot on goal from open play. The only way we won was because we continued to defend well, got the set piece and Teddy had the guile to convert it.

Despite the disappointment of the second half, this was a very valuable win as the Blades were above us in the league before this game. I do take some comfort from the fact that we defended well. We will always take a win, even when we've been a bit fortunate. Results elsewhere now put us in a very handy position. Is it too much to ask for a 90 minute performance in the next game?

(Player comments by DannyBoyLister)

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Looked steady all game; not an awful lot to do, but looked at fault for the goal.


Tomas Repka
Had a good game - a few times we saw some typically Repka-esque things but solid nonetheless.


Rufus Brevett
Looked okay; not a great performance but did better than in recent weeks.


Hayden Mullins
Solid; looked good at right-back, didn't do anything amazing but nothing really bad either.


Calum Davenport
Awesome, Won everything in the air. Never saw him get beaten once and he looked the sort of defender we've been needing for a long time.


Carl Fletcher
Very good game, sat deep a lot allowing others to do their thing. Ran his balls off and looked to be talking a lot.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Had a cracking game in the centre breaking things up but he's not the perfect partner for Fletch for me - just not good enough going forward.


Luke Chadwick
Poor again, never got involved; outfought all game.


Matthew Etherington
Wasn't impressed really. A few good bursts but currently failing to recapture the form of last season.


Teddy Sheringham
Quality again, his touches and link up play are amazing.


Marlon Harewood
Cracking goal but lazy again. Did nothing to impress apart from scoring the goal. Eventually replaced by Rebrov.


Substitutes


Adam Nowland
(Replaced Chadwick, 63) Plenty of effort but nothing to show for it.


Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Harewood, 75) Not enough time to get in the game but impressed with his effort.


Malky Mackay
(Replaced Mullins, 87) Looked steady; not really on the field long enough to warrant an opinion.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Chris Powell
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Wiley.

Attendance: 21058.

Man of the Match: Calum Davenport.

West Ham United

Goals: Marlon Harewood 9 Teddy Sheringham 85                

Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 32 Carl Fletcher 52        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Sheffield United

Kenny, Bromby, Morgan, Jagielka, Wright, Quinn, Thirlwell, Tonge, Harley, Ward, Gray.

Substitutes: Lester (Tonge 45).

Subs not used: Montgomery, Forte, McCall, Sharp.

Goals: Quinn (65).

Booked: Ward, Harley.

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Match Report