Wednesday, 27th October 2004
Given that we had a patched-up side (and that the manager had scandalously turned down my offer on Saturday to play centre-half!) I came into this match with a large sense of foreboding, not helped by the discovery that Andy “Two Bookings” D'Urso was refereeing. I left the ground with a sense of pride, happy in the knowledge that we had not been disgraced by our efforts against the team lying second in the Premiership.
An early start in a hostelry in the South Ken area was nearly messed up when we all managed to lose eachother just outside the tube. Great bloke though Romford undoubtedly is, he does display a tendency to being, shall we say, technologically challenged. As we left the tube station the new Romford mobile – a most basic Nokia - received a text message. Unable to work out how to reply, Romford handed me the mobile with the instruction to “reply to that will you”. Presumably his normal personal assistant was away that day. Having sent the message I found myself stood in the street like a lemon. The only one of the group whose mobile number I had was Romford – and his phone was in my hand! Thankfully we managed to locate eachother by using the time-honoured ploy of wandering about until we bumped into eachother again. A quiet word mate. I know we're rooming together in Plymouth but if you think I'm acting as secretary all weekend you have another think coming! Still the pub was nice and it was as if the Wakefield had been transplanted along the District line, even if the cobwebs were artificial spray-on efforts in honour of Halloween.
To the ground and the usual combination of injuries, cup-tieds (is that a word?) and, in the case of Powell, lack of permission from employers, meant that the following side started: Walker, Mullins, Brevett, Repka, Ferdinand, Etherington, Lomas, Nowland, Reo-Coker, Harewood, Zamora.
The pattern of the game was set very early on. Chelsea had the lion's share of the ball without ever quite dominating proceedings as much as they would have liked. When they eventually did get a shot in they found Walker in simply superb form. An early effort from Kezman was brilliantly turned around the post by the no.2 choice 'keeper. Despite Chelsea's possession, we did have efforts of our own. Zamora, confidence boosted from his excellent effort on Saturday, saw an early shot go over.
However, Walker was definitely the busier of the two 'keepers. Cole, who was roundly booed throughout, saw his shot well-saved before playing Kezman in. With Walker advancing, Kezman hilariously tried to be flash and put the ball one side of the 'keeper whilst running around the other. Whilst technically, he achieved this aim, his leaden-footed touch on the ball meant that he struggled to keep the ball in play and Brevett had time and space to clear.
Opportunities up the other end, though limited, did exist. Nowland, fresh from the somewhat more basic facilities of the Priestfield, er, Stadium, shot over when Etherington's free kick was delivered short. An Etherington free-kick went a little bit too close for Cudicini's comfort. Zamora also went close, deciding to shoot early when running at the defence. Etherington again went closer still. Bursting through the middle he evaded a number of challenges only for Cudicini's dive at his feet to deny him.
Meanwhile Kezman was going for some sort of record for most chances required to score a goal. Perhaps his best chance came when getting on the end of a cross from the right. Unmarked, Kezman's header was calm. It was measured. It was wide.
Towards the end of the half Harewood challenged Cudicini for a cross. It was a foul, as Harewood was the first to admit but it was hardly the crime of the century that you'd have thought from the reaction of the Chelsea defence. The statutory round of handbags ensued. More seriously, as the half time whistle went Babayaro had a kick out at Marlon. I'll be charitable and assume that it was missed by D'Urso. Either way Babayaro was lucky not to receive a red for his actions.
After what seemed like an interminable half-time break the second half continued much in the same vein as the first. Lomas's early effort, went close, though in fairness it didn't really bother Cudicini. Ferdinand took a touch when the first time clearance was probably better advised. This let Kezman in but Walker was up to the shot with Brevett having the time to clear up after. Walker was in even better form when Cole was allowed the time and space to push forward. The 'keeper's dive down to his left to turn the ball round the post was superb.
With the hour approaching, it was, perhaps inevitable that we would give Kezman one chance too many. Cole's through ball found Kezman with a slight suspicion of offside. It was close enough for there to be doubt, which was given in Klezman's favour. Walker got a fingertip to the cross shot but the ball went in off the far post. This just prompted another chorus of “Bubbles” from the away contingent, who had kept up a constant supply of singing from the off – though my own throat had given out somewhere between 1,576 and 1,577 men (and their fork lift trucks) couldn't carry Lampard.
Shortly after the goal Noble came on for Nowland and, much to the delight of the away support, Lampard replaced Parker. His first effort delighted Hammers everywhere as it consisted of an awful shot that lacked pace, power and direction. It was high on comedy value though.
Then came the moment that will earn Walker free beer in the East End for the rest of his life. D'Urso was turned down by West Ham as a player as a youngster and, judging by the ridiculous number of dodgy decisions that he manages to give against us every year, he still harbours a grudge. It really is about time he got over his problem – maybe the next time he picks up a suspension for incompetence the FA could throw in some therapy along with the retraining. Having managed to assist Chelsea by getting in the way during the build up, D'Urso was on hand when Repka gave him the opportunity to award a penalty. Robben pushed the ball past Repka and, having no chance of reaching it, and not for the first or last time during the evening, he made sure that he went over the outstretched leg. Repka was less than impressed and picked up an increasingly rare yellow for his reaction.
There was a delay as a ball that had been retained from an earlier wayward shot was returned to the pitch. Less excusably a plastic bottle was also launched into the goalmouth. Klezman was also apparently hit by a coin. When the fuss had died down Lampard stepped up to take the spot kick. Much to everyone's delight Walker stood his ground and pulled off the save that will go down in Hammers folk history. I expect someone is making up a song even as I speak!
Lampard seemed visibly affected by the incident and scarcely played a decent ball after, save for one free-kick – again awarded against Repka when Klezman had theatrically thrown himself over an outstretched leg, executing a pike and two and a half twists with a 2.4 degree of difficulty in the process. The free kick was flicked onto the bar by sub Gudjohnsen with Walker, for once, nowhere.
With time running out we pressed forward in search of the equaliser and it almost came from the most unlikely of sources. A deep cross from Rufus was met by Ferdinand only for Anton's header to come back off the bar. The final chance came after good work from sub Hutchison, who had replaced Zamora. Hutch's layoff was begging to be buried but Lomas pulled his shot wide and the League Cup was gone for another season. Laughably in a match where Walker played as well as he did, the man of the match award went to Cole – still got to keep the sponsors happy haven't we!
Overall there was a lot to be proud of over the 90 minutes. Given the relative strengths of the two squads there was every reason to fear the worst. However, the players worked their collective socks off. Let's face it, all we can ask of them every week is that they try their best and they gave us that in this match. All we need to do is translate that attitude into league matches – especially those against the so-called weaker sides – and we'll be laughing. And not just at Frank Lampard!
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A fantastic match. Probably worth a 10 even without the penalty save. Interesting selection problem for the weekend.
Much maligned in certain quarters, you couldn't fault the work he put in tonight, even if he sometimes does seem to have the slipperiest boots ever manufactured.
A busy night but a solid one. Supplied the cross from which Ferdinand nearly equalised.
Generally solid but was unfortunately unwise enough to dive in with D'Urso needing only the flimsiest of excuses to award a penalty.
One “laid-back” aberration that let in Klezman aside, this was a good performance. Was desperately unlucky with his late header.
Another one who put the miles in over the course of the evening. With a little more composure he might have tested Cudicini a couple of times.
Started strangely, sort of playing almost alongside Harewood, though he reverted to a more conventional role as the game progressed. Another one whose effort could not be faulted.
Obviously benefited from his spell of regular first team action at Gillingham.
Excellent going forward he did his fair share of the tracking back when required as well – as epitomised by one 40 yard run to get in a tackle.
Ran his legs off for little reward. A couple of decent efforts, particularly in the first half.
Chased down the ball right from the kick-off and continued to do so throughout the match. Scores highly for effort rather than for goal threat.
(Replaced Nowland, 65) Picked up from where Nowland left off in the middle. Got into a good position but sliced horribly wide – but didn't hide afterwards.
(Replaced Zamora, 83) Some good touches and lay-offs – particularly during the sequence that led to Lomas's chance at the death.
(Replaced Etherington, 85) Not really given enough time to influence proceedings.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Jimmy Walker.
West Ham United
Booked: Tomas Repka 78 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Cudicini, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Gallas, Babayaro, Geremi, Parker, Tiago, Kezman, Robben, Cole.
Substitutes: Duff (Cole 64), Lampard (Parker 68), Gudjohnsen (Robben 82).
Subs not used: Cech, Huth.
Goals: Kezman (57).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..