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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 27th November 2004

West Ham United 3
Watford 2

by Gordon Thrower

A roller-coaster match that saw us retrieve a 2-0 defecit, go 3-2 up then nearly throw away the win at the death. Not for the faint-hearted!

The big team news related to changes at either end of the park. In defence the departure of Taricco meant a spot for Fletcher in the centre of defence alongside Darren Powell making his home debut on loan from Crystal Palace. Up front, the continued absence of Sheringham, coupled with the suspension of Harewood following some disgraceful refereeing last weekend, meant a rare start up front for Rebrov alongside Zamora.

A confident start saw Rebrov find Chadwick whose cross, in turn, found Zamora who couldn't get enough on his header to test Lee in the Watford goal. Then the wheels came off. On 5 minutes Watford got the ball out of their half for probably the first time in the match. A “one-two” was played down the left hand side with Chadwick failing to pick up his runner. Darlington's cross fell to Gunnarson whose shot from the edge of the box was unstoppable to put us 1-0 down. Like the Brighton game, we'd been mugged.

We continued to take the game to Watford despite the early setback. Etherington found Powell (D) in the box only for the defender's header to bring out a good save from Lee. Reo-Coker also brought a save out of the 'keeper before those wheels that had been brought in to replace those that had earlier fallen off, fell off.

A long hopeful clearance from the back saw the ball enter West Ham territory for probably only the second time in the match. Repka failed to deal with the header and, with Bywater having come far too far off his line, Dyer had a fairly simple task to lob the 'keeper to put the visitors 2-0 up. Mugged again.

The crowd were not happy with this state of affairs. Thankfully we had a certain Ukranian forward who, with his own point to prove, decided that now was the time to stand up and be counted. Enter Mr Rebrov. Denied by a last-ditch tackle on the verge of unleashing a shot, he started to cause problems for the opposition and won a foul some 20 yards out. Sergei's free-kick was well-saved by Lee but Reo-Coker was the first to react and his cool side-footed finish was probably a lot more difficult than it seemed at the time.

The goal seemed to galvanise the home side and restore some of the confidence that had, for a few minutes at least, all but disappeared and within 10 minutes we were level. The hard-working Chadwick forced a corner on the right hand side. Matty's corner found Powell (D) coming from deep and the defender's header rocketed into the net much to everyone's joy. Having sorted out the “blip” of going 2-0 down parity had been restored and it was now time to roll the sleeves up and set about the proper business of the day which was getting the win.

The third goal nearly came almost immediately. Etherington's free kick just evaded Powell (D) and Repka, who had clearly put his earlier blunder out of his mind, caused problems with a cross from the right which the opposition were happy to see out for a corner. Rebrov, who was everywhere, then saw a shot scream just the wrong side of the post.

Just before half time Fletcher picked up a yellow card for a late challenge when stopping a Watford break out. The booking was fair enough, though Fletch hardly endeared himself to the ref by ignoring his repeated calls to go over to receive his punishment. Incidentally I thought the ref, Mr Wright, had a decent match. Occasionally a little fussy on placing free-kicks to the exact blade of grass perhaps, but his intelligent application of advantage was something all too rarely seen. In any case Mr Wright was certainly a vast improvement on many of the incompetent jobsworths that we've seen in recent months.

In recent times when we've had the advantage going into the interval, the half-time break has often disrupted the flow and we've often struggled to keep the tempo going into the second half. However, despite an early effort from distance from Dyer that troubled the crowd rather than Bywater, we continued to hold the initiative.

Chadwick's fine run down the right hand side got him to the goal-line and his cross found Zamora. Finding himself in a position from which a shot would have been difficult, Zamora laid off a short ball to the better-placed Lomas who pulled his shot wide. Rebrov then drew another foul from the Watford midfield but his resulting free-kick didn't start to come down until it had already cleared the bar.

The respite for Watford was, however, temporary and the third goal was not long in coming. A fine goal it was too. Fletcher nicked the ball as a Watford attack broke down and fed Etherington. Etherington played the ball inside to Zamora who, in turn, found Lomas. Lomas' long ball inside the full back to find Etherington was superb and Matty's first-time cross eluded Chadwick & Darlington to find Rebrov coming in at the far post to put away a well-deserved goal. I've said this before but it always irks me that whenever they have goal of the month competitions, the winner always goes to the 35-yard shot that could have gone anywhere rather than efforts such as this which involve a decent passing move. The goal was old-fashioned West Ham for those of us old enough to remember.

We could, and should have gone further ahead a few minutes later. Rebrov, finding a blade of grass that he hadn't previously covered at least twice, won the ball and found Etherington on the left. Matty's long diagonal ball found Zamora who had stayed onside. Zamora brought the ball down well only to pull his shot well wide. Sadly, it was the effort of someone almost totally lacking in confidence. He had a further chance with a header from distance shortly after from Chadwick's cross. However this attempt too went wide, though to be fair it was a far more difficult chance than his earlier miss.

The misses clearly affected Zamora and every touch became tentative. One misplaced lay-off let Watford in and Bywater did well to hold onto a header from Helguson whilst under pressure. During the closing period we sat back and conceded possession to Watford, something I don't like to see us doing. However, we did look likely to score on the break. Chadwick burst through on one such break down what my Dad still refers to as “the inside-right channel”. However, he delayed his shot for too long and his effort ended up tamely in the arms of Lee who had come out to narrow the angle.

Rebrov then nearly capped a fine performance with a second goal when driving a cheeky free-kick into the side netting at the near post. It was reminiscent of an almost identical effort from a certain Mr DiCanio a few years ago, coincidentally also against Watford. Sergei was then involved in a move that ended up with Etherington finding Chadwick in the box. Chadwick's first effort was blocked but, gathering the loose ball, he got in another shot only to see Lee keep the ball out at the far post.

As the clock ticked down Watford gained a corner at which point it was decided to replace Etherington with Ferdinand. It always used to be a basic accepted wisdom that you shouldn't make a substitution when defending a corner as the changes can disrupt a defence at the time when organisation and concentration are most required. However, maybe modern coaching thinking differs from this view these days. Whether the substitution had anything to do with it or not it was heart in mouth time as the corner found Helguson, whose header hit the ground and bounced up onto the crossbar with Bywater only able to look on as an interested observer, though he did get a good punch on the ball as it was returned into the box.

There was just about time to see a clearance go out to Zamora on the left. Unfortunately, electing to cut into the box, his shot was more of a friendly back pass and Lee had all the time in the world to deal with it.

So another three points at home. This was a match that could easily have gone the same way as the Brighton match insofar as we were really the dominant side but we could easily have succumbed once we went behind. That we didn't was largely down to the efforts of Sergei Rebrov. Many have wanted to see the Ukranian given a run up front, rather than the wide right position that he's often been played in this season. Given the opportunity this weekend he grabbed it with both hands and it will be interesting to see whether he retains his place for the tough away trip to Mackem-land next weekend. I for one hope that he will.

As I was on a late pass for the weekend I returned post-match to the Wakefield where there was a surprisingly good selection of music being played on the jukebox, Romford having gone straight home after the game. Sicknote seemed less than impressed that I'd told Watford manager Ray Lewington that he would do his TV aerial for half-price. And we were all highly amused to discover that a respected member of the KUMB moderating team has been bought a West Ham teddy bear by his other half for Christmas. No prizes but send a used fiver to the “Rio B is a Shandy Drinking Girl Whose Other Half Buys Him Teddy Bears Competition” and all shall be revealed.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
A somewhat tentative match. Didn't inspire confidence under pressure some of his kicking left a lot to be desired. Was caught far too far off his line for their second goal.


Hayden Mullins
Should have kept his head after the assault, though the tackle was so bad it's understandable that he didn't.


Chris Powell
Good solid effort without ever being really tested


Tomas Repka
Back at right back he had a fairly decent game, especially when getting forward to assist the attack. Won't look back on his header that gave them their second goal with any pleasure though.


Darren Powell
Good home debut and the goal was a good old fashioned burial of the sort that we never seem to score enough of.


Steve Lomas
Unspectacular but fairly solid. The through ball to Etherington that led to the winner was superb.


Luke Chadwick
Often fades in and out of games – today was more in than out. Got through a lot of hard work and was a little unlucky not to find himself on the scoresheet.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Started well but faded as the game progressed, partly because Watford made a tactical switch in the second half and put a man on to specifically deal with his threat. The finish for his goal was coolness itself


Matthew Etherington
A better match. There were some signs of some good link play with Rebrov in the middle that could prove interesting in future months if the Ukranian gets a run in the side up front


Bobby Zamora
I want the lad to do well – I want everyone in a claret & blue shirt to do well. However, he is so utterly devoid of confidence at the moment that you wonder if there's a way out for him. Looks certain to get a spell on the bench once Harewood returns.


Sergei Rebrov
When we were 2-0 down he single-handedly pulled us back into the match. He worked his socks off often covering huge distances to tackle back. Thoroughly deserved his goal and his efforts must surely have earned a run up front alongside Harewood when he returns.


Substitutes


Anton Ferdinand
(Replaced Etherington, 89) Given only a few minutes at the end. Not enough time to do anything good or bad.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Elliott Ward
Did not play.


Mark Noble
Did not play.


Youssef Sofiane
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: K.Wright.

Attendance: 24541.

Man of the Match: Sergei Rebrov.

West Ham United

Goals: Nigel Reo-Coker 28 Darren Powell 30 Sergei Rebrov 58              

Booked: Carl Fletcher 45          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Watford

Lee, Doyle, Cox, Dyche, Darlington, Chambers, Mahon, Gunnarsson, Ardley, Dyer, Helguson.

Substitutes: Young (Gunnarsson 41), Devlin (Ardley 71), Gayle (Darlington 78).

Subs not used: Chamberlain, Fitzgerald.

Goals: Gunnarsson (5), Dyer (21).

Booked: Gunnarsson (27), Mahon (59).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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