Friday, 10th December 2004
These are the three main questions that need answering as, not for the first time this season the result of a match has turned on the whim of an over-awed official who simply wasn't up to the job.
Following the previous week's excellent result up in Mackem-land it was a rare unchanged
eleven that started the match in front of a 30,000 plus crowd that included Thrower Senior and neighbour Ray – who as a Leeds supporter - was on the receiving end of some good-natured banter during the pre-match session in the Wakefield. Both Mullins & Reo-Coker were available following suspension and both were on the bench.
The early chances came our way. A couple of minutes in Rebrov put in a powerful shot that Sullivan did well to get a strong hand to. A couple of minutes later came the game's first controversial moment though many seem to have missed it – including, as I look at my video re-run of the match, the Sky commentary team. Sadly, and not for the last time in the evening, it involved the ref who had a complete 'mare of a match from start to finish. We forced a corner following some good work down the right from Chadwick. As Etherington's corner came across Powell (D) was hauled to the ground by Butler. As he went down the ball rebounded off his forearm on to the bar. The ref, whose view of the incident was one of the clearest in the house, gave the handball despite the foul and despite the fact that Powell had his back to the ball on his way down to the ground under the illegal challenge.
Leeds' first chance of the game also involved Darren Powell – who had an eventful match. A long hopeful clearance was played down towards the corner flag. Under pressure from ex-Hammer Deane, Powell D got his back pass horribly wrong and sold Bywater short. Deane curled his shot past the stranded 'keeper but got the height wrong and the ball clipped the top of the crossbar.
The game settled down a bit after this. It wasn't a particularly flowing affair. Leeds effectively playing with five in midfield leaving Deane up front to forage about on his own meant that the middle third was over busy. The next chance fell to Healey whose first time shot from the edge of the box had the direction but little pace and was easily dealt with by Bywater.
The ref then got in on the act once more. Along free-kick from Repka on the right looked harmless enough. However, Gregan made a complete hash of his jump which fooled Butler and let in Rebrov. Butler took two swings at the ball, the first of which connected only with the Ukranian striker who went down. Butler's second swing put the ball out and the ref once more took the easy, but incorrect, option and gave a corner.
The next chance went Leeds way. A defensive header bounced in front of Powell (D) who made a mess of things. Healey clipped a first time chip having spotted Bywater off his line. The effort was curling away and may just have been going wide. Bywater was adjudged to have got the faintest of touches however and is thus credited with the save.
Up the other end, Etherington cut inside and fed Lomas. However the skipper's shot was laughably weak and came straight back at him. Lomas elected to play a hanging diagonal cross in towards Harewood but, given no pace on the ball to work with, Marlon's header under pressure effectively turned into a cushioned back-pass.
Have I mentioned the ref yet? Well having turned down a couple of good shouts at one end he decided to even things up a bit. This seemed to be his preferred method operation – refereeing by the law of averages rather than by any meaningful reference to the laws of the game. Leeds swapped a few passes on the edge of the box. Ferdinand stuck a leg out and Pugh went over it. I suppose at a pinch one might say that Pugh was on his way down before he made contact with Fredinand's leg, but there couldn't have been too many complaints had the ref given the spot kick. As the ball was cleared away the ref then compounded his error by awarding us a throw up the other end when the ball had quite clearly come off Chadwick. Clueless, pure and simple.
The interval came with little further incident. The second half saw us make the first substitution of the game. Rebrov had dropped deeper and deeper as the game had progressed. This had had the effect of leaving Harewood increasingly isolated up front. AP therefore took the decision to replace him with Sheringham. Interestingly, Pardew referred to this switch as being the “sacrifice” of Rebrov. After I heard that comment I got stuck with a strange image in my head of our Ukranian striker being burnt at the stake in some bizarre satanic ritual, possibly involving goats. As you do.
We took the lead from the first real attack of the second half. About 5 minutes Fletcher won the ball in the air in midfield. The ball came to Sheringham who laid the ball off into the path of Fletch, who had continued his run. Fletch brought the ball across and fed Etherington on the left. Matty's cross really ought to have been buried by Harewood whose header was across, rather than directed at goal. Fortunately the ball rebounded off Kilgallon's back into the path of Chadwick who had the simplest of tasks to stick the ball away from close range for his first goal for the club.
We were then treated, if that's the word, to a shocking challenge on Ferdinand by Pugh, whose raised studs over the top effort connected midway between Anton's knee and ankle. Thankfully a combination of modern shin pad technology and sheer good luck prevented what could have been a serious injury. Pugh escaped any form of sanction whatsoever.
Brian Deane then wasted Leeds best chance of the match. Although he scored four in Leeds' 6-1 demolition of QPR a few weeks ago, he also missed a complete sitter the other day against Leicester. This miss was in similar vein. Healey's run down the right ended in a cross into the centre but Deane's late run from deep ended up with the striker shinning his ball wide from 10 yards with the goal at his mercy.
Gregan was then lucky to escape action from the ref following a good tackle on Harewood. As Marlon got up he was unceremoniously pushed back to the ground by Gregan in a move reminiscent of the red card issued to Caldwell up at Sunderland last week. The words “consistency” and “referees” are rarely found in the same sentence, unless that sentence also commences with the phrase “there is no”. I'd be interested to know what action this particularly poor example of officialdom would have taken had Repka been the perpetrator – though I think we all know the answer to that one.
The bouncing Czech was having a fine match at right back. We were even treated to a neat little drag back out on the touchline that ought to feature in Soccer AM's “Showboat” section if there's any justice. Unfortunately Harewood was unable to get much on the resulting cross and the ball went harmlessly wide for a goal kick.
We continued to look dangerous – especially on the break. Etherington broke out on the left and swapped passes with Harewood. Marlon continued his run and Etherington played a fine ball inside Kilgallon. Harewood elected to put the ball into the box first time, though in hindsight he might have been better served cutting across the defender to play himself in on goal. The ball went behind Sheringham and was cut out for a corner before it could reach Chadwick.
Chadwick, having picked up a knock, was then replaced by Reo-Coker. Shortly after,a ball out from the back was nicely laid off by Sheringham to Harewood whose first time lay off into the path of Lomas was equally neat. The skipper seemed undecided as to which foot to use and Kilgallon got back to block the shot with Wright hoofing behind to tidy up. Powell (D) got a good header on the end of the resulting corner but the ball rebounded to safety off Butler's arm. The defender knew little about and it was definitely not a penalty.
Harewood then cut in from the left and fed Sheringham who delayed his shot only to be foiled by Sullivan's save at the near post. Harewood was then the victim of an attempted shirt-removal by Kilgallon which led to a free kick. Fletcher's delivery was superb and Teddy's header brought another excellent save out of Sullivan who tipped the strong effort over the bar.
Deane was then replaced – to generous applause from both sets of supporters. As the clock ticked down Leeds then won a corner on the right. The ball flicked off a Lees head and hit Powell (D) on the upper arm. It was a simple case of not being able to get out of the way. In my opinion it was no more a penalty than the effort from Butler that had denied Powell a goal a few minutes earlier. This didn't stop the Leeds players swarming around the ref who sadly was too weak to resist such treatment.
With seconds left on the clock the ball was played back into the box and Healey first controllet the ball with his arm then threw himself to the ground in a disgraceful piece of cheating, the likes of which one normally associates with the likes of Pires or Viera. Having been softened up by the previous verbal battering from the away side, the ref simply lost it and awarded one of the worst penalty decisions I have ever seen. Still Mr Pike – who I have manfully resisted the temptation thus far to refer to as “Stupid Boy” - can now be happy that he's turned the game on live telly in front of millions. After all I pay my £600 a year to watch headline seeking incompetents like him each week rather than the players. There were a few scuffles after the award of the spot kick as players tried to get at the disgraceful Healey. Powell (D) picked up a yellow in the aftermath and Healey put the ball into the bottom right hand corner despite Bywater guessing correctly, to give Leeds a point that, on their second half performance they never really looked like getting.
As the teams went off the ref hilariously held his hand out to be shaken – the look Sheringham gave him as he walked by spoke volumes. In an ideal world the FA would have a look at the video and issue sanctions against both Healey and the ref. It won't happen of course – both courses of action would require common sense. This ref though should really go away and not referee a professional game again until he's been able to demonstrate that his knowledge of the laws of the game is adequate and that he is strong enough to apply them. On last night's showing about 20 years of retraining should do it.
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Handling was sound tonight but really, really needs to work on that kicking.
A confident match, though the way he left his leg out for the penalty incident was worrying. Hopefully that's another lesson learned.
Fairly solid performance though his normal presence going forward was hindered by Etheringon's continued tendency to drift inside.
I thought he had a fine match – and look out for him on Soccer AM next week – after all Sky can hardly claim they missed it can they.
A busy evening. Whilst he dealt fairly comfortably with Deane, he gave the ball away too much for my liking and the backpass that nearly let Deane in the first half was suicidal.
Became the victim of another terrible penalty decision following the shocker the other year at Arsenal. Thankfully this time Mike Dean wasn't present or there'd have been a red card as well. Solid but should really have done better with the burst into the box from Harewood's lay-off.
Got through a lot of hard work but, as is his habit, he began to fade before injury curtailed his evening.
A tidy performance and sent over an excellent free-kick from which Sheringham was unlucky not to score in the second half. Guilty on occasion of giving the ball away – but he was not alone in that respect.
Given the MOTM bubbly by Sky, a decision I found somewhat strange. In a game that lacked width he was often to be found playing inside, which was a shame because when he did move out to the wing he had some effective moments, mixing wide play with the occasional cut inside.
Had a much better second half once he had a partner to play with, but failed to do his usual defence-frightening job.
Got one excellent effort away to pull a fine save out of Sullivan, but the first half midfield battle saw him getting less and less service. As he came deeper this left Harewood on his own and he was replaced at half time.
(Replaced Rebrov, 45) Provided much needed balance up front and was unfortunate to find Sullivan in good form.
(Replaced Chadwick, 67) Seemed to have a problem judging the pace of the game at first but still managed to put together a couple of those runs out of defence.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Tomas Repka.
West Ham United
Goals: Luke Chadwick 50
Booked: Darren Powell 90 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Sullivan, Butler, Kelly, Kilgallon, Pugh, Richardson, Gregan, Oster, Wright, Deane, Healy.
Substitutes: Joachim (Deane 80), McMaster (Oster 87), Walton (Wright 90).
Subs not used: Carson, Spring.
Goals: Healy (90).
Booked: Kelly (76).
Sent Off: None sent off.