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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 27th November 2004

West Ham United 3
Watford 2

by East Stand Martin

When was the last time you went to two football matches in a week where the home team went two nil down only to emerge victorious 3-2?

Last Sunday, I was at the Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao Basque derby, where Real looked dead and buried, yet turned it around. Today, at the Boleyn Ground, the same thing happened again, although to be honest many loyal Irons had given up the ghost half way through the first half.

We had to win this game after two successive defeats, yet this was never going to be a stroll in the park, given Watford’s impressive run without defeat.

Is that white bread for your sandwich?

There were two changes in the West Ham XI that had faced Millwall. Taricco was happily munching a beef sandwich in downtown Buenos Aires and Marlon was sitting out a suspension, meaning that Rebrov and Zamora were brought in. I have to say I was fuming at the outset as I really could not comprehend why Fletch had been put a centre half alongside home debutant Darren Powell. Fletch is undoubtedly a utility player, but he does not look like a central defender to me. Funnily enough he ended up doing a pretty good job there despite his lack of height.

The atmosphere at the ground was really pretty flat. Everybody seemed to have had an enthusiasm bypass and it was clearly a real struggle to even join in for the pre-match anthem of ‘Bubbles’.

The first West Ham player to make a mark was Sergei who threaded through a great pass to Chadders in the very first minute. Luke did everything right and put over a decent looking cross towards the waiting Z-man. However, he made a comical looking header which spooned upwards. Then a minute later, Lomas got the goal in his sights but his overly ambitious 35 yard shot sailed harmlessly over.

Pants down

It was all looking pretty good, but we got caught with our pants down following the first Watford attack on 5 minutes. Darlington sent over a cross from the left which ended up at the feet of Gunnarsson just inside the box. He hammered the ball past Bywater who had absolutely no chance.

West Ham’s response was almost immediate when Matty put over a dangerous cross to find Darren Powell in the six yard box. His diving header was superbly blocked by ‘keeper Lee.

Zamora showed some industry down the left on 11 minutes and had two chances at a cross. The second went dangerously over to the far post, but there was no West Ham player on hand to meet it.

Reo-Coker engineered an opportunity on 18 minutes after he persevered in the box and won a ball. However, he found himself just a little too wide of the goal and his shot was saved well down low.

Pear-shaped

It then went completely pear-shaped on 20 minutes after Tom allowed a speculative long ball forward to bounce. He seemed to only get half a head on it, allowing Bruce Dyer to latch onto the ball. He hit a powerful rising shot which beat Bywater hands down.

This was too much for the suffering Hammers faithful and Pardew’s managerial career seemed to be hanging by a thread at this point. The Bobby Moore Lower struck up with a chorus of “Are you Roeder in disguise?” and “Harry Redknapp’s claret and blue army.”

Unclean, unclean

Frustration all round spilling over, but let’s face it there’s more chance of Natalie Appleton actually doing a bush tucker trial task than Harry coming back to the East End. It aint gonna happen with Brown at the helm and let’s face it, what manager worth their salt would contemplate joining us while the deadbeat caravan park owner is still got his hairy snout in the trough? The door to the board room at Upton Park has got a dirty great X on it, just like on the front doors to those hovels in the Middle Ages where the occupants were on the edge of death from bubonic plague. Enter at your peril.

Despite this early disaster, Sergei looked determined to try and get us back in the game. On 23 minutes he went on a surging run after an excellent exchange of passes, but he had the ball taken away from him just as he was on the verge of unleashing a shot. Three minutes later he was brought down by Gunnarsson as he was weaving around looking for space on the edge of the box. Sergei himself took the free kick from 20 yards out and Lee couldn’t hold his shot which had evaded the wall. The ball was pushed out towards Reo-Coker who sidefooted home.

Powell levels it

West Ham were immediately buoyed by the goal, and Chadders chased down a ball well on 29 minutes to win a corner down the right. Matty stepped up to send over an excellent swerving ball in which was met like a traditional centre forward by Darren Powell. Lee had no chance as the header went like a bullet into the back of the net. 2-2 and not even half an hour gone.

West Ham won another free kick on 31 minutes and Powell was only inches away from getting his second as Matty’s free kick just eluded his head. Tom also nearly created a goal five minutes later after he had collected a fine pass down the right from Sergei. Unfortunately, Tom’s cross to the far post was chested out of play before a West Ham player could get to it.

Rebrov was now just popping up all over the place and on 39 minutes he made a fantastic run and cut back from the left. His shot was hit with real venom and it only just whistled past the right hand post.

Aside from a booking for Fletch just before the break, that was about it for a rollercoaster first half, which in reality had been largely dominated by West Ham. Watford had two real chances and had converted them both.

Chadders on the tease

The first chance of the second half fell to Watford on 48 minutes, after a hesitant West Ham defence allowed Dyer to shoot on the edge of the box, but his effort went way over. Then two minutes later, Chadders went on a teasing run down the right, beat a defender and put over a good cross from the dead ball line. Z-man laid this off to Lomas, but he shot wastefully wide when he should have at least hit the target.

On 52 minutes, Sergei had another chance after a free kick had been conceded on the left hand side of the Watford box. He hit a dipping shot, which didn’t come down quickly enough to cause any problems.

Ukrainian league opener

The ball landed on the roof of Bywater’s net on 56 minutes following a free kick, but then a minute later, West Ham completed a fine fight back. Steve Lomas made a great pass out left to find Matty who went down the wing like a rocket. He delivered a perfect low ball across the box which Z-man – thankfully – could not reach. Sliding in at the far post was Sergei who slotted home his first league goal for the club. That was some time coming, but let’s face it, he’s hardly been given a chance, either only playing a bit part role or being stuck out wide when he should be playing centrally.

Bywater was hardly filling the West Ham faithful with confidence as he came and missed a cross on 62 minutes. He seemed to lack confidence today and his kicking in particular was somewhat erratic – on one occasion he just completely miskicked a backpass from Fletch which nearly let Watford in.

Z-man spurns diamond chance

Z-man was presented with a 24 carat opportunity on 64 minutes after Sergei won a tackle and released a pass to Matty. His inch-perfect chip found Z-man who brought the ball down well on his chest but then inexplicably put his shot wide of the post.

A minute later Z-man was presented with another chance after Sergei fed the ball right this time to Chadders. The cross was good but Zamora headed wide at the near post.

As usual at home this season, we then entered a period of high tension for five minutes around the 70 minute mark as Watford came looking for an equaliser. It was that familiar problem of failing to kill off a game, and after an appalling lay off in his own half by Z-man, Helguson nearly scored with a header which Bywater held well and then almost dragged back into his own net.

With ten minutes left, Chadders won a ball in the Watford half and set off on a penetrating run on goal. He was closed down and his weak shot was easily gathered by Lee.

Sergei everywhere

On 81 minutes, Sergei had another chance with a dead ball situation on the right hand side of the box, but the angle was too acute and he could only find the side netting with his shot. The Ukrainian popped up again a minute later with a great lay off to Matty. He made a trademark run down the wing and delivered a good cross to Chadders whose first shot was blocked. The ball rebounded straight back to him and Lee did well to push his first time volley just around the post.

We tried to play out the remainder of the match, but it was all a bit nervy, with Lomas amongst others electing to hoof the ball rather than play a possession game. We nearly paid the price in the very last minute of normal time, when Helguson headed down a corner and saw the ball bounce up against the left hand upright with Bywater stranded.

Two dimensional

Three points from this game was absolutely essential given the two recent slip ups. It all looked very ugly indeed after 20 minutes but this match seemed to turn on the terrific performance of Rebrov who looked like the international class player he once was. Darren Powell put in a fine home debut as well and if he keeps that up we’ll all be very happy. Fletch did pretty well in an unfamiliar position and both Matty and Chadders made effective contributions. We looked less one dimensional down the left today which meant that the Watford defence was stretched both ways.

The downside, as usual, was the lacklustre display of Z-man and I can conceive of no argument that he should start the next game if Marlon and Sergei are available to play. In fact, I have now lost all confidence in Zamora as a West Ham player and believe that it is time to move him on.

(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)

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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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