Saturday, 2nd October 2004
Along with the likes of Mckay and Ferdinand, I too was doubtful for this match. A 4-day old headache coupled with a dodgy stomach left me cursing my luck – only I could get all the symptoms of a rotten hangover without actually drinking! However, a lie in and far too many painkillers meant that I was able to make a late appearance at the Wakefield and meet the contingent from Belgium & Sweden, including Belgian Iron, Ricky Boy and a chap whose name I didn't catch but he was a dead ringer for a character out of Asterix. Chalks junior also made his Wakefield debut and, just like his dad, he managed to get through the whole session without buying a round (although young Thomas's excuse of being under age was infinitely more convincing than anything his dad has come up with to date!)
Having said a few quick hellos it was off to the ground where the team news was that, at his own request, Edward Sheringham had been dropped to the bench giving Zamora a start in his place. The remainder of the team contained no surprises and we lined up as follows: Bywater, Mullins, Powell, Repka, Davenport, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Fletcher, Chadwick, Harewood and Zamora. In the absence of Sheringham, the captain's arm band was given to NRC.
It was a quietish start – well no 18 second goal anyway- and the main entertainment was to be found in the crowd's baiting of I*ce who delighted the crowd with an early mis-kick which, I expect, he later blamed on bad advice from those around him. We had the better of the early part of the match though most chances during this period were of the half chance variety.
The best of these chances followed a flowing move that summed up in a few short moments why we are only winning matches 1-0. An intelligent throw out from Bywater found Etherington who brought the ball forward before finding Zamora who, in turn, found Harewood in space on the right hand side. Marlon crossed in but, though the ball appeared to have the right amount of pace on it Zamora got the direction of the header horribly wrong resulting in a goal kick. The move contained some bright passing and movement lacking only in the final touch inside the box.
Though we were probably the dominant force during the first half, there was the odd moment of concern. A low cross in from the Wolves right caused confusion and the clearance from the normally reliable Davenport was a bit of a mess. The ball looped high up to the edge of the box where I*ce tried a spectacular volley that sailed yards over the bar causing great mirth amongst those present – I'd love to know exactly what was said by Repka as I*ce walked back – probably the Czech equivalent of “Guv'nor my backside” or words to that effect!
Then we scored. Or would have done but for the antics of a linesman whose repeated display of ignorance of the offside law was worrying even by the dreadful standards of officiating that we've had to endure at this level. When we get a ref who has a half decent game it seems a shame when he gets let down by his assistants. A long ball out from the back seemed to be causing no problems as it bounced towards the Wolves goal but Harewood did marvelously well to outmuscle the covering centre back. Bearing down on goal, as the 'keeper came out Marlon elected to square the ball for Zamora who put the ball into the empty net. At the time I saw it it seemed clear that Zamora had come from an onside position to score and, having had the opportunity to see the incident again, I have to say that Zamora was, at worst, level. The flag went up just in case and we were denied a decent goal. This was not the only time that the Chicken Run lino erred. Although Harewood does sometimes have a propensity to go too soon, there were at least two occasions where he was given offside when the official had actually been looking up the pitch in the wrong direction, the resulting late flag therefore being waved as a result of a hunch and taking no account of the players actually playing Marlon on at the time the ball was played. It's quite simple gentlemen. If I can take the time to learn the laws of the game surely you as paid officials could be bothered to do the same? Just a thought mind.
We continued to push forward and were unfortunate not to take the lead when an Etherington corner from the left found Davenport in the box. The blonde one's powerful header was superbly saved by Oakes in the Wolves goal, the keeper diving to his right to tip the ball wide for another corner.
We survived a bit of a scare before the break. A loose ball rebounded fortunately off a defender into the path of Miller who got a shot in. Davenport's attentions, possibly combined with a touch from Bywater, ensured that the ball came off the outside of the post. From the resulting corner Bywater's excellent punch gained some distance and fell out to the touchline where Etherington came to collect. Breaking forward Matty found Zamora who laid the ball perfectly into the path of NRC. Unfortunately the skipper mis-hit his shot and the ball bobbled harmlessly wide.
Well I'll say this for I*ce he's certainly good comedy value these days. A central free-kick a few yards outside the box ended up with I*ce doing that thing where players run up as if to shoot but then run over the ball to allow a team mate to actually take the free-kick. This ploy of course only works when the decoy actually informs his team-mates what he's about to do. I*ce, presumably having been given some more bad advice on the matter, didn't mention this plan to his team-mates and the ball was left to itself to decide what to do. As to what became of the free-kick when they eventually got round to taking it I'm not sure – the tears of laughter obscured my view! Shortly after we got another corner ourselves when the Matty/Calum combination nearly paid dividends, Davenport's header hitting the roof of the net from the outside rather than the inside.
At half-time we made a double substitution with both wide midfield players coming off. Matty, we later heard, had been struggling with a groin problem whilst the replacement of Chadwick was more of a tactical move. Rebrov and Lomas came on as substitutes.
The second half continued much in the same vein as the first in that there we enjoyed long spells of possession without seeing the creation of much more than half chances. Harewood ambitiously volleyed direct from a Rebrov corner but was unable to get around the shot enough to direct it goalwards. Another cross from the left saw Harewood and Davenport queuing up in the centre of the box. Harewood won the race only to see his header go tamely to Oakes in the Wolves goal. It was one of those efforts that, in hindsight, Marlon might have been better off, leaving to his slightly-better placed team-mate. (He could always blame “bad advice” for the error I suppose).
On the hour Zamora, who was struggling to have much effect, was replaced by Sheringham who almost got on the scoresheet straight away. Marlon picked the ball up on the right and went on a storming run down to the goal line beating now fewer than five players in the process. Unfortunately Harewood's cross was too far in advance of Teddy and it went harmlessly wide out to the touchline.
Wolves' main chance during this period came from a quickly taken free-kick which Bywater, unlike his fellow defenders, was ready and awake for and the young keeper did well to tip the ball over the bar.
So with about 15 minutes left it was time for Teddy's moment of class. Powell pushed forward and fed Harewood who in turn tried to find Sheringham. Marlon's pass was a bit over hit but it rebounded kindly to Sheringham. Teddy lifted the ball over Lescott's outstretched leg, took one touch away from the defender coming in from the left and passed the ball into the bottom right hand side past the despairing dive of Oakes. It was a fine goal.
Then it rained. Lots. In fact there was some speculation that Phil Parkes, our former keeper who had been introduced to the crowd pre-match, was really there to use his famous carpentry skills in building an Ark. Wolves tried to push forward and enjoyed a spell of possession ending in a weak shot wide. Another shot from distance brought a brilliant save out of Bywater. The save wasn't particularly spectacular but, in gathering the ball low in front of himself, Bywater brilliantly smothered a wet ball on a greasy pitch and made it look a lot easier than it probably was. Thanks to the rain we were then treated to the goalkeeping equivalent of a Grand Prix pit stop with Ludo sprinting around the touchline to replace Bywater's slicks with wet-weather gloves.
Not that we were snowed under – we were also capable of creating chances on the break and a storming run by Marlon that used NRC as a decoy ended up with his shot being blocked out for a corner. Wolves saved the funniest bit for last though. A ball was played down into the corner where a defender tried to shepherd it out of play. Having taken a touch under pressure from Harewood the defender tried to be clever and backheel the ball off Marlon for the goal kick. He got it superbly wrong and ended up kicking it against his own foot and tripping himself up. Only the fact that it wasn't I*ce prevented it from being the perfect end to the match!
Overall I thought we were well worth the three points. We could do with being a bit more clinical in front of goal as there will be times when the one won't be enough. However, since no-one else seems to want to run away with the league, we're nicely tucked in only a win off the pace. If only that Sheringham chap hadn't wasted so much of his time up north in the past we wouldn't need to be wrapping him up in cotton wool between matches. Have a nice kip Teddy – we'll send the meals on wheels lady round to pick you up in a couple of weeks!
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Looked confident today. Some excellent punches under pressure.
Mullins always seems to improve when he gets a run in one particular position. Injuries mean that he's having a few games at right back and he was fairly solid today.
Another strong performance down the left. Looks a better bet than Rufus at the moment.
Although I think he's better at right back, playing alongside the classy Davenport in the centre means that he is less of a worry in that role than he has been in the past. His performances seem to be improving as his hair gets longer.
One dodgy clearance in the first half apart, this was another fine effort. He even looks dangerous at corners and if, as is rumoured, we can keep hold of him for the rest of the season I expect him to weigh in with a few goals sooner rather than later.
Another solid effort – got his foot in and laid off the simple ball time and time again.
Another strong performance from the new skipper, though when he gets forward he perhaps needs to practice on his finishing a bit.
Has a tendency to drift in and out of games – looked dangerous at times but the last few minutes of the first half saw him disappear off the radar and led to his replacement during the interval.
Had some sharp moments but his game was hampered by a groin problem that led to his half-time substitution.
Laid off a few good passes but failed to worry the Wolves defence before cramping up and being replaced by Teddy.
Gave the Wolves defence a torrid time. If he could add some finishing to some of what we saw in this match the end product would be frightening.
(Replaced Chadwick, 45) A better match from Lomas who did the engine room stuff in the second half.
(Replaced Etherington, 45) Given a free role behind the front two he did some good work on the ball.
Continues to rub the noses of those who, like me I admit, were concerned at our signing of another old forward whose better days were in the past. It's a real shame that three games a week is probably too punishing a schedule for him at the moment.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Calum Davenport.
West Ham United
Goals: Teddy Sheringham 75
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
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.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..