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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 13th November 2004

West Ham United 0
Brighton & Hove Albion 1

by East Stand Martin

Teddy turned up today at the Boleyn Ground with hope in his heart. Not the 38 year old that looks like he may be lucky to make half our games this year, but ESM Jnr’s half brother Ted, some 33 years the old master’s junior.

Teddy is my ex-wife’s boy with her second husband, but the complexities of relationships in the 21st century are immaterial when it comes to football. He’s part of the family, so in my book he’s got to be an Iron.

Who’s the wa*ker in the black?

Just outside the ground, Teddy pointed at a copper and asked, “Is that the referee?” Amazing how one so young can spot the enemy without being prompted, although he had got that one a bit wrong.

It was fantastic to see his face as he walked up the steps and saw the pitch for the first time and I captured him with my camera for posterity as he took his seat for the very first time. As I said to one of my neighbours, “I just hope that he’s not heading for 75 years of misery.”

The whole occasion reminded me of ESM Jnr’s first visit at the beginning of the 1998/99 season. It all seems a million years ago, as that day we were playing Liverpool, and you know what, we did ‘em 2-1. Surely Teddy was going to mark his first visit with a victory, not just by the odd goal, but by a hatful.

There seemed to be every reason to believe that, as the Seagulls had lost three on the bounce and our home form had been pretty convincing, not having lost in nine games.

The West Ham line-up was still missing Sheringham and Reo Coker only started on the bench along with Z-man. Hutch, after his fine performance last week, was chosen to partner Marlon.

High octane start

The game began pretty much as expected, with West Ham looking threatening from the kick off. In the first minute, there was a great ball over the top to Hutch who then found Chadders in the box. Unfortunately his first time effort at goal was fluffed. Just a minute later, there was a great interchange of passes on the edge of the Brighton box. Marlon picked the ball up and hit a powerful swerving shot which beat the Brighton keeper, Michel Kuipers hands down only to find the foot of the right hand post.

Marlon managed another turn and shot on 3 minutes, but Kuipers held the ball well down low. It was all coming quick and fast, and Chadders, who was looking very lively down the right flank made a great run on 5 minutes which resulted in a fine cross. Don was on the end of it, pt he fired just wide when it looked easier to hit the target.

What a gay day

It was at this point that the Bobby Moore Lower decided to engage in some collective homophobia to try and taunt the away fans. Brighton is of course a favoured spot of Britain’s gay community, so this led to a number of chants such as “Does your boyfriend know you’re here?”, “Stand up ‘cos you can’t sit down”, “We can see you holding hands” and “You’ll be running round Brighton with your boyfriend up your a*se.” I reckon we’re asking to be picketed by Peter Tatchell and Outrage.

On 12 minutes, Hutch picked up the scraps and then put through a perfectly weighted ball to the advancing Mullins. He put over a great cross, but Marlon headed wide. Five minutes later, Donaldo featured again with an excellent crossfield pass to find Matty down the left. He ran in on goal and angled in a dangerous near post cross which Marlon couldn’t quite get his foot on as he was under pressure from a defender. The ball went harmlessly wide.

On 20 minutes, Brighton made their first serious foray into the West Ham half and a shot followed from 30 yards which went well wide. Bywater was not too impressed with the closing down in central defence.

The game reverted back to the other end almost immediately, and Don managed to pull the ball down on the edge of the box. His left shot, though, went some way over the bar.

Bywater was required to come out of his box sharpish on 24 minutes to head away a long ball downfield by Brighton. The clearance found Chadders, who went on a very effective 25 yard run to the edge of the box. He unleashed a shot, but it went just wide of the left hand post.

Donaldo dictates

Much of the play was sparked by Donaldo, who was spraying around a really nice array of passes. The creativity was in evidence; the problem was clearly the finishing.

On the half hour, West Ham looked certain to score as Kuipers impetuously surged out of his goal and didn’t manage to gather the ball. Devo picked it up but his back was to goal. He did manage to turn and get a cross back in to find the unmarked Hutch, who headed wastefully wide with the goal at his mercy.

Three minutes later, Brighton had their second move of the first half, where creaking ex Milscum striker Steve Claridge got involved in a move down the right. A cross was put over the top of central defence, but the waiting Brighton player, Daniel Harding could not get the ball down quick enough and was only able to loop a shot well over.

Fletch dishes out more of the same

On 34 minutes, Fletch decided to get in on the act with a bustling run forward after he had won the ball off Claridge. Like Hutch and Chadders before him, he blasted his shot wide when he reached the edge of the area.

Two minutes later, Lomas made a lovely lay of to Matty to send him on his way and he put over a wicked cross. Unfortunately Marlon was just beaten to it by the Brighton defender.

The final chance of the first half came on 40 minutes when the ball came out to Fletch after Marlon couldn’t turn past a wall of defenders in the box. Once again our nerve failed us on the edge of the box as the ex-Cherry hoofed his hot way over the bar.

Profligacy

To be honest although we were guilty of profligacy in front of goal, we had run the first half with overwhelming possession. The build-up play was also pretty good and the defence had been hardly called upon. To me it looked like we just needed to sort out our shooting in and around the box, and we were bound to score. What was slightly worrying me, though, was the recent tendency for West Ham to go downhill in the second half.

The signs at the beginning of the second half were encouraging, as on 46 minutes Marlon used his strength and pace to make the by line. He put in exactly the right ball along the six yard line, but Hutch couldn’t get there in time. Two minutes later Matty went on a penetrating run and exchanged a pass with Marlon who slanted a top class ball back to the corner of the box. Matty was steaming in and managed to get to the ball before the advancing Kuipers. He tried to lift it over the keeper, but failed to do so. Both players collided and required attention, with Matty looking like he’d come out worse in the clash.

On 54 minutes, Chadders continued in the same vein as the first half and found Mullins with a nice ball down the right. The cross was a good one, but Marlon could only head down and wide.

Double change is doubly confusing

Due to the injury sustained by Matty, Pardew decided to make a double change on 56 minutes, with both wide men going off for Reo Coker and ex Brighton hitman Zamora. Although clearly Matty had to go off, the withdrawal of Chadders was pretty puzzling. Apart from the fact that Chadders had been playing well in the game, the loss of both wingers was bound to remove the width in our play. I’d like to hear why that decision was made, and it looked to me like it was almost a habitual move rather than one dictated by tactics.

Marlon was still putting in a tremendous amount of effort, chasing down every ball and back pass, but it was beginning to look like we were running out of steam and ideas. Reo-Coker decided it was his turn to try and win the game on 64 minutes when he ran clear on goal. Once again the finishing was not what it should have been as he shot wide of the keeper and the far post. Marlon slid in to try and retrieve it and could only find the side netting. It wouldn’t have counted if he’d found the goal as he was ruled offside.

Mugged

A minute later there was a massive shout for a penalty as it looked like a Marlon shot was handled, but the ref wasn’t even mildly interested. After Don got booked for a late tackle on 66 minutes, Tom blundered into a challenge with makeshift striker Adam Virgo down the right which led to a free kick near the touchline. The free kick was sent over the top and Butters rose above everybody to direct a header past Bywater. Daylight robbery, but who says that crime doesn’t pay?

It was the first Brighton attempt on target and we were picking the ball out of the net. Some might say that was harsh, given the domination and possession enjoyed by the Irons, but the reality is that there is always a chance of the sucker punch when you’ve failed to score yourselves.

Hayden loses it

There was still 23 minutes left at this stage, but we were looking frustrated and lacking in ideas. This frustration got the better of Mullins on 72 minutes after he had been the victim of a horrible late tackle by Virgo. Mullins decided that he would take the law into his own hands and decided to scrap, leaving the ref with no alternative than to send both players off. A stupid reaction in my book.

Sergei was introduced on 79 minutes as a last roll of the dice, but all of West Ham’s play was coming down the middle. It was predictable and largely easily cut out by the Brighton 9 man defence. Devo was sent up front to try and add aerial strength in the box and Repka looked like he was playing as a winger. It all looked somewhat chaotic. Out of this disorganisation, it looked for a fleeting moment like Lomas had pulled something out the bag on 85 minutes when his half shot half cross from the right was tipped over.

In desperation Marlon tried a shot from 25 yards out but he was nowhere near with two minutes of normal time left. The final chance to save it came in added time when a failed clearance came to Rebrov, who let fly with a snap shot inside the box which only rose over the bar.

Ominous signs

Teddy shrugged his shoulders when the whistle went, in a way that is possible for a five year old who has not suffered the pain of the last 18 months or so. He had just enjoyed the atmosphere of his first match. For the longer suffering, we all knew that we simply cannot afford to lose games like this if we want to avoid the lottery of the playoffs. It’s all looking ominous as we flounder 8 points behind the leaders with only four games to go to the midpoint of the season. Questions are bound to be asked about the tactical nous of the manager. The game should have been won in the first half, but despite all the domination and probably 15 or more attacks on goal, we actually got only a couple of shots on target.

This all adds increased pressure on the team for the trip to south London next week. We simply have to improve our finishing if we are to get anywhere with that game. I wish everybody a good and safe trip down there – I’ll be following this from afar as I’m off to see my Spanish team Real Sociedad in the Basque derby v Bilbao. After today’s performance, who says that I’ m wrong to take a break, although Sociedad are hardly puling up trees.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Comments to follow.


Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.


Chris Powell
Comments to follow.


Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.


Calum Davenport
Comments to follow.


Steve Lomas
Comments to follow.


Luke Chadwick
Comments to follow.


Carl Fletcher
Comments to follow.


Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.


Don Hutchison
Comments to follow.


Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Etherington, 57) Comments to follow.


Nigel Reo-Coker
(Replaced Chadwick, 57) Comments to follow.


Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Hutchison, 80) Comments to follow.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Anton Ferdinand
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: P.Armstrong.

Attendance: 29514.

Man of the Match: Marlon Harewood.

West Ham United

Goals:                    

Booked: Don Hutchison 67          .

Sent Off: Hayden Mullins 74    .

Brighton & Hove Albion

Kuipers, Nicolas, Butters, Cullip, Oatway, Carpenter, Reid, Virgo, Hinshelwood, Harding, Claridge.

Substitutes: Currie (Claridge 90).

Subs not used: Roberts, Mayo, Knight, Hammond.

Goals: Butters (68).

Booked: Cullip (61).

Sent Off: Virgo (74).

 
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