Saturday, 13th November 2004
A brisk November day and it was time for one of little bruvver's periodic visits to Gnome Towers with the added treat of a trip to the Boleyn thrown in. I'm beginning to wonder whether these trips are a good idea since a 2-0 win against Norwich in the mid 80's the best result we've had with bruvver watching has been a 0-0 draw. So blame him for what was about to occur.
Team news was that Reo-Coker wasn't quite fit enough to claim a place in the starting line up. Hutchison, who had impressed the previous week against QPR, was rightly preferred to Zamora, who was left on the bench. We thus lined up as follows: Bywater, Mullins, Powell, Repka, Davenport, Fletcher, Lomas, Chadwick, Etherington, Hutchison, Harewood.
Well to say we dominated proceedings would be something of an understatement. Harewood came closest. After an excellent spot of one touch play, Marlon found himself free on the right of the box only to see his shot rebound off the far post to safety. Shortly after, Marlon again went close, this time forcing a save from Kuipers. Hutchison too got in on the act, following a run and cross from Chadwick who was causing all sorts of problems down the right hand side. Sadly Don's effort lacked accuracy.
Brighton's only outlet was to lump it as far as possible in the hope Claridge might be able to buy time. One such clearance looked like it might cause a problem as Bywater came out to head clear at the edge of the box. The header caught Brighton on the hop as they belatedly swarmed out after the clearance and they appeared not to notice Chadwick as he embarked on a run at the defence that ended with a shot that missed by only a few feet.
Most of the good work was coming down the right hand side, though one promising run down the left by Matty ended up with the no.12 being unceremoniously shoved off the ball, a foul that was strangely ignored by this week's incompetent in with the whistle. Hutch was next on the miss list. Davenport, who had stayed up after a set play found himself winning the ball in the air from Kuipers. Calum appeared to lose his bearings for a second before completing a 360 degree turn and tour of the right hand side of the box. Davenport's cross from the byline was perfect for Hutch only for Don to head wide.
To be honest there were so many efforts on goal I've probably missed a few out. Fletcher had a run and rode a few challenges before shooting wide and another promising run from Matty ended up with yet another desperate clearance saving the day.
Well we Hammers fans know the score don't we. Our half time discussions revolved about whether we would live to regret missing so many chances though there was some muted optimism that if we could just get the first goal the floodgates would open to give the scoreline a more realistic look.
The early signs in the second half were identical to those of the first. Marlons run and cross only just eluded Hutch. Then, one of the best moves of the match Matty, cut in and played a ball inside to Harewood. Marlon opened his body shape and played an exquisite through ball inside the full-back on to Matty who had continued the run. It was a straight race between Matty and Kuipers. Matty just got there first but Kuipers was able to get enough on the ball to divert it wide, clattering into Matty in the process. There was a lengthy delay as both Matty and the keeper required treatment. Sadly the clash effectively ended Matty's meaningful contribution to the match.
Marlon then managed to head a cross from Mullins wide after Chadwick had combined well with the right back. Then, just short of the hour mark, came a double substitution. Etherington's was understandable. In the 5 minutes or so following his collision with the keeper Matty had been little more than a passenger so his replacement was inevitable. I will admit to being slightly more perplexed by the removal of Chadwick, who I thought had been having a decent game. I can only presume that AP simply wanted to try something different. Either way, Reo-Coker and, much to the delight of the away support, Zamora came on.
Reo Coker's impact on the game didn't take too long to manifest itself. Bursting through the middle he managed to angle a shot wide of the keeper but sadly wide of the far post where Marlon's slide was just a tad too late. Another Marlon shot then produced a fine save. Unfortunately for Brighton the hands in question belonged to a defender. Fortunately for Brighton, referee Armstrong (these clowns no longer deserve the title Mr) decided to add another helping hand by unilaterally repealing the law relating to handball and, to the amazement of everyone waved play on.
Relishing his opportunity to get involved, Armstrong effectively gave Brighton the match with about 25 minutes to go. Repka fouled Virgo on our right. A foul it was but it was identical to any of several that had been perpetrated on Etherington during the first half. Armstrong changed his policy of allowing such challenges to give the free-kick. As the cross came over Butters shoved Davenport to the ground with both hands before heading home. It was the most blatant foul of the day so far. Armstrong can have had no excuse he had the clearest of views so one can only speculate on what caused him to ignore the laws of the game at this point but ignore them he did. A post-match chat I had with one of the guys from the Brighton local paper was quite revealing he wanted to credit the ref with an assist - but his editor wouldn't let him!
A few minutes later all hell broke loose. Mullins fell victim to a horrible late and obscenely high tackle from Virgo. Thankfully Mullins had seen it coming and managed to ride it thus avoiding potentially serious injury. The correct response would have been to let the ref get on with it. Understandably, if inexcusably, Mullins reacted to the assault and there was all manner of shirt pulling and pushing as any number of players sought to get involved. In amongst all the carnage we were treates to the strange sight of Repka the peacemaker Tomas preventing the situation from escalating further. Once it had all died down, the ref consulted both linesmen before dismissing both Mullins and Virgo a correct decision though I suspect that had Mullins not reacted Virgo would have escaped the red card his assault deserved.
We continued to press forward but the cutting edge wasn't really there. Whereas most of our chances had previously been created from wide positions, the removal of Etherington & Chadwick had removed this threat and even the introduction of Rebrov for the last 10 minutes didn't alter this. There were chances Harewood shot over and Lomas mishit a cross to produce a save from Kuipers. The best chance of all fell to Rebrov in stoppage time. A loose ball fell to Serge but the Ukranian couldn't keep his shot down and the final whistle went with us somehow contriving to lose a match we should have won by a cricket score.
Over the past couple of seasons teams have come to the Boleyn looking to survive. Our problems last season stemmed partly from the fact that we couldn't break sides down. This wasn't the problem today. We tore Brighton apart so much, especially during the first half, that if it had been a boxing match the ref would have stopped it. Typical West Ham really we've been grinding out 1-0 victories against defensive sides all season so when we come up against a team we can finally tear apart what happens? We lose. The lesson to be learnt is a simple one. We can't afford to waste so many chances. The fact that we, apparently, had more chances than both A*senal & Sp*rs combined in their 5-4 match but still didn't score says everything you need to know about this match. The fact is that, dreadful refereeing notwithstanding, we ought to have been out of sight before Brighton's 12th man got a chance to influence things. The final word must go to the Brighton local paper (not that I expect he had the bottle to commit his words to print!): That was so much like the Alamo we'll be signing Davy Crockett next week together with Dick Turpin!
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No chance with the goal. Largely unemployed really.
Should have kept his head after the assault, though the tackle was so bad it's understandable that he didn't.
Sound got up to help the attack well whilst Etherington was on the pitch.
Had a decent game but the challenged from which the goal arose proved costly.
It took illegal methods to knock him off the ball, a fact disgracefully ignored by the referee when it mattered most.
Kept it simple really picked up the odd loose ball and fed it wide.
Was causing the Brighton defence all sorts of problems before mysteriously being withdrawn.
Strong in the tackle but, like Lomas, when everything had to go through the middle following the substitutions he seemed to lose his way.
Still not the Matty of last season but I thought he was playing well before his premature exit.
All the hard work and craft let down by his finishing today.
Worked incredibly hard again but, like Hutch, really ought to have god more efforts on target.
(Replaced Etherington, 57) Came on in the double substitution that saw Chadwick and Etherington replaced. Acknowledged the cheers of the crowd then promptly disappeared.
(Replaced Chadwick, 57) One surging run that finished with a shot wide but lost without a wide outlet for his efforts.
(Replaced Hutchison, 80) On too late to make a difference but should have scored late on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Calum Davenport.
West Ham United
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).