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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 2nd October 2004

West Ham United 1
Wolves 0

by East Stand Martin

I never get upset when Paul Ince turns up at the Boleyn Ground. Call me Judas Jnr (or should that be Snr?) if you like, but I always find myself wistfully recalling a game in late November 1988, when he scored a brace in a 4-1 Hammers win over Liverpool in the League Cup.

Happy days but either long forgotten or never seen in the first place by the gathered hordes of the claret and blue faithful as they greeted him with the customary rendition of “Stand up if you hate Paul Ince”. This was probably the loudest I have heard the crowd this season and you do wonder why we can’t support the team with so much venom.

Nigel is our leader

The first thing of note about this game was that Nigel Reo-Coker was handed the captain’s armband for the first time as Teddy was left on the bench. The Marlon/Z-man combo was given the task of trying to improve on the less than satisfactory 5 goals in 5 games at home.

The Judas-baiters were pleased early on when the despised one made a horrible mis-kick on 3 minutes when he found himself in a promising position in the box. Reo-Coker was keen to impress in his new role and on 5 minutes he slotted through a good pass to find Chadders on the right. He put a dangerous ball into the box but Z-man couldn’t latch onto it.

A minute later a fine exchange of passes sent Marlon on his way down the right, but he could only scuff a shot wide of the post without there being any danger of troubling the keeper.

West Ham underlined the team’s lively start on 9 minutes when Bywater got a great throw out to Matty. He found Z-man who then made a great pass to Marlon who ran on and put over a dangerous cross. Waiting in the box was Z-man, but it was more of what we have come to expect with the increasingly hapless striker as he made an awful header way wide of the target. It wasn’t going to get much better as the game wore on, with Lescott always on top in the aerial battle.

Devo was having another dominant game and looked totally composed on the ball. However, he made an error on 16 minutes when he failed to clear a ball which had been delivered in from the Wolves right by Shaun Newton. The hated one came steaming in but volleyed wildly over when he should have hit the target. The Bobby Moore Lower loved that.

Sure plays a mean pinball

Chadders had made a bright start and on 19 minutes he skinned a Wolves defender and won a corner from his deflected cross. The corner led to a game of pinball in the box with about four West Ham players trying to get in a shot. The ball was cleared but there was some panic amongst the West Midlanders.

4 minutes later it looked like we had got the goal that our early control of the game merited. Marlon used his strength brilliantly to win a ball which had been speculatively punted up field. He brushed aside Craddock, ran on goal and we all expected him to get the shot away, but unselfishly he passed it sideways to the waiting Z-man who was adjudged to be in an offside position when he sidefooted it into the net. The decision to pass was clearly a poor one.

Hayden Mullins, who was playing again at right back was having one of his better games of late, and he managed to get into some good positions to cut out crosses from the lively South Korean international Seol.

Set piece Devo

On 27 minutes Marlon sprung the offside trap and won a corner after a powerful run down the left. The corner was whipped in by Matty and there was the waiting Devo who was a constant threat at set pieces today. He got a good head on the ball, but Oakes made a fantastic leap to his right to somehow pluck it out of the top corner and tip it wide.

Although he had made a fine throw out earlier, Bywater’s distribution during the first half left much to be desired. He either seemed to kick it into touch – there was a right howler from a free kick near the corner flag – or he kept finding an opponent. He did look pretty solid though in dealing with shots – he easily coped with a swerving shot from 30 yards on 34 minutes and then four minutes later managed to turn a shot from Miller onto the right upright and wide after a lucky rebound off a West Ham defender let the Scottish international in.

Nigel blots his copybook

From the corner which resulted from this athletic save, Bywater made a strong punch out which found Matty on the left wing. He passed to Z-man who made a quick pass out to the advancing Reo-Coker who found himself in the box. All he had to do was slot it wide of the keeper, but he shot poorly wide of the right hand post. This was the only blemish in a captain’s first half performance – if he could finish more clinically or find the killer final ball more often, then he would be a complete player. In this respect he seems to have a similar weakness to Joe Cole.

With three minutes of ordinary time to go, Z-man made a comedy jump where his feet were back on the ground by the time the ball arrived. He simply looked like he did not fancy it against Lescott. Straight after this, the ball got pushed forward by Wolves and Tom got penalised for a foul in a dangerous central position around 22 yards out. What followed was a complete cock-up with Judas running over the ball and Seol left stranded wondering what to do with it. You wonder what they’ve been doing on the training ground.

The final action of the half was a good piece of link up play between Chadders and Matty down the left. A corner was won and Matty found the inevitable head of Devo again, but the ball just went over nestling on the roof of the net.

Double substitution

Half time came, and it soon became clear that the Ukrainian would be taking the pitch at the restart, as he was warming up. I was expecting Z-man to come off but surprisingly Pardew took off both wingers and brought on Rebrov and Lomas. Strange, as both Matty and Chadders had been effective and you would have thought that width was the way to beat the negative tactics of the opposition.

Pardew opted for a narrow midfield instead, and Sergei made an immediate impression with some good passing. He is beginning to look like he might be firing on all cylinders and he certainly gave some impetus to the West Ham play at the start of the second half.

Marlon was also adding some penetration when he went on a typically aggressive run on 48 minutes. He did well to beat two defenders but his delivery across the box from the dead ball line was behind the advancing Zamora.

A corner down the right from Sergei two minutes later found Marlon at the near post, but his snatched volley was hit wide.

Wolves only answer was to play the offside game and their back four was pushing almost up to the halfway line at every opportunity. This led to quite a few offsides, but you felt that the success of this tactic was more due to the lack of quality balls forward out of midfield by West Ham. I remain of the view – and this is shared by a few of the East Stand faithful around me – that the ball is not going forward quickly enough to Marlon’s feet.

After an energetic start, Sergei gave the ball away on 52 minutes and this led to a shot on goal which Bywater didn’t hold convincingly at first ask. Fortunately he was able to recover.

Nicked off Calum’s head

Z-man put in a dire cross two minutes later, after some good work by Reo-Coker. Almost immediately afterwards another West Ham attack saw Marlon head the ball at the keeper with Devo piling in behind him. Calum looked very frustrated about that as he was in a better position to head the ball.

Z-man was put out of his misery and replaced by Teddy on 61 minutes, but not before a looped shot from the Wolves right drifted tantalising by Bywater’s upright. No sooner had Teddy joined the fray, but Marlon went on a superb mazy run but his cross was overhit and Sheringham couldn’t get a foot on it.

Marlon saw another header go wide from a corner on 67 minutes and an unlikely goal almost resulted a minute later when Marlon surged forward and hit a shot against a defender. The ball just spun wide.

Devo had clearly been told to get forward to ramp up the pressure in the box. On 72 minutes, he picked up an overhit cross down the left and showed great close ball control to beat a defender. He fired in a low cross right into the danger zone, but Sergei couldn’t get a full boot on it and the keeper collected the ball.

For the second time in the game, Tom gave away a free kick on 74 minutes in a dangerous position just outside the box. This time, the kick was not to be elaborate, it was taken very quickly and Bywater had to be at his most alert to turn it over as it dipped under the bar.

Remember 1966

Our inability to score was giving some encouragement to the Wolves fans and they struck up with “You’re gonna win f**k all”. It reminded me of that glorious day out at Molineux last year when we taunted them with “Premiership, you’re having a laugh”. This time the riposte from the Bobby Moore was even better – “We won a f**king World Cup”.

If this choral battle was won by the Irons’ fans, it was Teddy that really silenced the Wolves fans on 76 minutes. Chris Powell – who had a solid game today – put a ball forward to Marlon who in turn tried to thread a ball through. His pass hit Lescott and somewhat fortuitously bounced back to Teddy who picked it up, ran forward and coolly finished clinically to the right of the keeper. He looked so calm in the execution, but I suppose this is now pure instinct. Tremendous stuff.

The immediate aftermath of this perfect finish was a monsoon-like downpour that saw the front rows of the Bobby Moore Lower retreating for cover. You rarely see rain like that, and it must have been disorienting to play in. In fact Wolves nearly got an instantaneous goal in response from the kick off, but the shot went just wide of the post.

There was more good work from Marlon on 80 minutes as he shrugged off a couple of challenges and got over a cross which the keeper spilled. In the scramble that followed, it looked like that Marlon was body-checked in the box and he was claiming a penalty which was declined by Ref Barry Knight.

Teddy was all over the pitch and was even doing a job in defence as Wolves looked for an undeserved equaliser. Marlon was the outlet coming out of defence in the closing stages: on 80 minutes he made a great turn but converted the ball over the cross bar; three minutes later he was put free by a fine pass by Teddy, but he was pushed wide and could only win a corner from his blocked shot.

With a minute left of ordinary time, Teddy nearly made it a brace after Sergei got a great cross over from a short corner, but his glancing header went just over with a suspicion of a touch from the keeper.

What’s the score?

Nothing of any great note took place in the two minutes of added time apart from a cameo comedy moment from a Wolves defender who attempted to back heel the ball to save a corner but only succeeded in hitting himself. The final whistle went with “Judas, Judas, what’s the score?” ringing in Paul Ince’s ears.

Yet another 1-0 to Irons, but a win was certainly deserved against a Wolves team that looks low in confidence. They caused us few problems but we remain unable to put the games like this beyond doubt. We are yet to score more than one goal in a home Championship game this season and a victory never feels secure. We did look pretty solid at the back and Lomas, Fletch and Reo-Coker all had decent games. Generally there were far fewer misplaced passes than witnessed of late.

It does seem sensible to bring Teddy off the bench so that he can work tirelessly for half an hour. He is always able to turn a game. The problem is that it is very hard to justify a start for Z-man at the moment. Given that Sergei is clearly performing better, I would like to see him start with Marlon for a change. This probably won’t happen at QPR as Teddy will have had a two week recuperation.

It seems to me indisputable at this stage of the season that no team is taking the league by the scruff of the neck and making it theirs. What we really need is a decent run over the next 3-4 games and stamp our authority on the Championship. We have the quality to do it, but do we have the determination?

(Following player ratings by [HH])

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
I thought he had a solid game. Fumbled an Ince shot in the second half, but got down to the ball before Carl Cort pounced. His distribution looked better, despite one poor free-kick which went down the line before going out.


Hayden Mullins
He should be playing his heart out as Mackay has his spot when he comes back. He's sh*t. My Dad can tackle harder. Just some of Paddy's pre-match comments which had me chuckling away as it was clear he was never going to agree with fellow KUMBer Upton O'Good's view of Mullins' game. I thought he wasn't great, but done his job. Definitely not a full-back though.


Chris Powell
Overlapped with Etherington at times during the first half, some of his passing was outrageously poor during the spell where we found it hard to keep possession. Looked a lot more solid in the second-half.


Tomas Repka
Definitely not the same Repka I see as a full-back. He seems a lot more aggressive as a centre-back, and still has that persistency to climb over a defender, and ended up giving away free-kicks in dangerous positions, ala play-off final style. He said something which offended a Wolves midfielder early on, and Repka coolly walked away after the confrontation.


Calum Davenport
The guy really is a breathe of fresh air. If we can secure the services of this young lad for the entire season, then I feel we should. Unlucky not to score today, the woodwork and Harewood's late arrival stopping him in his tracks. However that goal from a cross is inevitable. He even showed some trickery down in the corner in the second half beating his man. Was solid throughout.


Carl Fletcher
His passing seemed a bit better today. He was willing to get stuck in, as always. At times when defending, seemed to panic in the air giving away needless corners and throw-ins deep in our own half. Also tried to be clever in the second half with a back heel which failed miserably. A decent game overall, and did a good job on the inside-left.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Same old, same old with today's young captain. I can't recall much dribbling with the ball, as he beats a man, but there certainly were some energising runs, and he enjoyed getting stuck in. However, once again, his final product was poor. A promising sign was though, as he was on the inside-right, and Harewood went to wing-forward, both combined extremely well, which is always a good sign.


Luke Chadwick
He was willing to run at defenders which made a hell of a lot of difference. Lee Naylow is considered to be a good tackler of the ball, and he got himself into plenty of crossing positions which is a good sign. He could have broke quicker at times on counter attacks. Mullins seemed to know where he was, as he would often come deep to pick up the ball.


Matthew Etherington
According to Hatter, was taking off at half-time due to him struggling before the match. In the forty-five minutes he featured though, he seemed to play well. Especially on counter attacks, and played several good balls. Beating his man at times as he entered the box, however, closed down quickly upon entry, and a chance was squandered. Looked good whilst he was on.


Bobby Zamora
Just never seemed to work for him today. The linesman seemed to have a vendetta against him at times, and he was clearly frustrated. It will be interesting to see if the goal was offside, as if he managed to stray into such a position, I think it could easily be classed as a school boy error.


Marlon Harewood
Produced a display above most today. Quick feet, willing to run, unselfish (disregarding the header he robbed Calum of), and was beating his man on a regular basis, and breaking into he box in a similar manner he done against Wigan on his home debut. Had chances to score, and the best probably came with a header which he sent wide in the second half. A very good performance all in all, and looked much more effective in the second half.


Substitutes


Steve Lomas
(Replaced Chadwick, 45) Kept it simple today, and provided adequate cover for the defence today, without recklessly diving in. He didn't have a great game, but far from a terrible game. Better than average.


Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Etherington, 45) I thought he was superb. He sat in the hole, and hit some superb passes. His corners were dangerous, his crossing was great, and it was superb to see such a move from a set-piece. It was unfortunate Teddy Sheringham never connected properly, as it would have capped off a fine move.


Teddy Sheringham
His introduction had a positive impact on the game. Some intellectual passing, the goal, and playing as more of a striker today with Harewood going out wide. This seemed a lot more effective, and combining the work winning aerial challenges, and the goal, he had a good game.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Andy Melville
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: B.Knight.

Attendance: 29585.

Man of the Match: Calum Davenport.

West Ham United

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 75                  

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Wolves

Oakes, Clyde, Naylor, Lescott, Craddock, Newton, Olofinjana, Ince, Seol, Miller, Cor.

Substitutes: Cameron (Seol 64), Clarke (Naylor 80), Andrews (Olofinjana, 85).

Subs not used: Jones, Bischoff.

Goals: .

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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