Saturday, 15th January 2005
An early start was required to meet Sicknote in darkest Surrey. The Sickmobile's windscreen had a worrying three feet long crack across it but Sicknote was happy that it didn't interfere with his vision. I expect the tax disc was holding it together somehow. Lunch was taken in a plastic pub on the outskirts of Rugby. Disappointingly for both ourselves and the South African lad who came into the bar just after us wh had found the only bar in the country without Sky so an hour watching the Jo'burg test was out of the question and we had to endure Kev's graphic description of exactly what he'd like to do to Cat Deely. Or perhaps it was Graeme Le Saux – I didn't have custody of the remote control so I can't be sure at what point in the proceedings the channel had changed.
Another hour or so further on and we arrived at the dispiriting “city” of Wolverhampton. It's a place so thouroughly without redeeming feature, the local population seem intent on ending it all by way of suicidal driving. The local manoeuvre of changing lane from lane 3 to lane 2 by way of lane one was something we witnessed on a number of occasions and someone had clearly removed the page referring to the use of indicators from the town's communal Highway Code. I am convinced that the Wolverhampton exists solely for the purpose of giving the people of Birmingham someone to look down on. Imagine a place so devoid of charm and intelligence that the inhabitants actually like Jeff Beck's “Hi Ho Silver Lining” - which is more than Jeff Beck himself does. Team news was that after his impressive display against Norwich, Walker was retained in goal. Illness and injury meant days off for Reo-Coker & Etherington which left us with a starting XI of Walker, Repka, Powell, Ferdinand, Mackay. Noble, Chadwick, Rebrov, Mullins, Harewood, Zamora.
The early exchanges were scrappy if even. Zamora fed Rebrov who found 'keeper Murray in good form. However we were frustrated by a tendency to give the ball away at times. The other frustrating thing was the form of referee. Mr Penton displayed a terrifying ignorance of the laws of the game throughout the match. Typical of this was his dealing with a couple of free-kicks in virtually identical positions for virtually identical fouls by Olofinjaya on Rebrov. The first one, with the wall set and everyone ready, saw Rebrov cleverly play the ball down the line to Chadwick. Inexplicably Mr Penton pulled the ball back. Only he knows why. Actually he probably doesn't have a clue. A few minutes later we received confirmation that the ref simply did not know the laws of the game when Olofinjaya repeated the offence. He escaped punishment for the foul but incurred the official's wrath for a spot of dissent. After issuing the yellow Harewood enquired whether the ref might not apply the law relating to dissent by moving the ball forward ten yards. The ref looked as if he'd been asked to tie his own shoelaces without help. Sadly this was not the last time that he was to seriously ignore the laws.
Wolves took the lead on the half hour. It was a horrible goal, defensively speaking. Quite what Ferdinand expected to connect with with his mistimed leap lord alone knows but it couldn't have been the ball surely. The loose ball bounced around the box before falling to Miller who scored from point blank range. Molineux is one of those irritating places where the locals have to be played a little tune so they know a goal has been scored, though given his overall performance it might have been played for the referee's benefit.
The home fans joy was short lived and the equaliser came about five minutes later. Rebrov's break through midfield ended up with a fine through ball to Zamora who coolly controlled the ball before slotting home past the advancing Murray. The away support sang Tom Hark back at the home supporters as a public service – otherwise they'd never have known it was a goal since the matchday announcer doesn't play the tune when the opposition score.
The remainder of the half was fairly even with neither side being able to quite put the final ball in. Mr Penton did his best to ruin things. On at least two occasions we got into promising positions only for play to be needlessly pulled back by a ref to whom the word “advantage” was a complete mystery, thus ensuring that there was no further goal action.
Half time saw us enduring one of the most (unintentionally) hilarious spots of “entertainment” I've ever seen at a football match. They had a bloke who was appearing on that evening's “Stars In Their Eyes”. We spent a good few minutes speculating whether the rotund gentleman in question would come back as Britney Spears or, perhaps Beyonce, both of whom I understand are singers whose recordings are currently popular in the hit parade. Predictably though, he returned with a wig and some totally unconvincing – and frankly unnecessary – padding as Meat Loaf. The rendition of seemed to be appreciated by the locals – but there again they think “Hi Ho Silver Lining” is a good idea. I bet they like “Build Me Up Buttercup” too.
Once our sides had stopped splitting it was time for the second half. We started the brighter of the two sides and both Rebrov and Zamora had good chances that required intervention from the 'keeper. However, despite not having put together an attack worthy of the name, it was the home side that took the lead. A deep cross from the left was volleyed more in hope than expectation by Miller. Walker made a complete hash of the shot and could only divert the shot into his own net. Cue more confusion amongst the home supporters until the music prompted their Pavlovian response to the goal.
This time the lead lasted for an even shorter period of time. A ball was fed into Harewood on the edge of the box. The striker shielded the ball and did superbly well to turn and get a low cross in to find Zamora unmarked at the far post to score his second with a simple tap-in from close range,
For the next ten minutes we were excellent. A flowing move involving Rebrov, Harewood and Zamora saw Chadwick come in from the left only for Murray to save well again. Then came a disgraceful piece of refereeing that, if the match assessor is doing any sort of a job whatsoever, ought to see Mr Penton sent back to referee school. A long ball was played up towards Zamora who did well to control the ball despite being fouled by the defender, who also got a hand to the ball. Despite this, Zamora managed to lay the ball into the path of Noble who, with support from Chadwick and Rebrov, was clear through on goal. Referee Penton had other ideas and gleefully pulled play back for the free-kick. At this point it may be worth considering what the Laws of The Game actually say on the subject.. The powers and duties of a referee are covered by Law 5 of the laws of the game. Law 5 clearly states that “a referee allows play to continue when the team against which an offence has been committed will benefit from such an advantage and penalises the original offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time”. I'm not sure how clearer that law could be really. Since the same Law starts with the premise that a referee “enforces the Laws of The Game” one can only assume that, since this was the third time in the match that the ref had failed to apply the Law, he was either ignorant of its existence or had some other reason for not applying it. Either way I'm sure the authorities will be swift to address the problem by fearlessly fining anyone who points out the errors made by their official.
This incident was a turning point. Had we gone 3-2 up at this point I have few doubts that we would have gone on to win. Instead, we gave it away. There seemed to be little danger as a Wolves attack broke down. Powell gathered the ball and had ages. However a Wolves midfielder half-heartedly closed the full-back down. Powell panicked. Instead of putting the ball into the stand he tried to play his way out of the situation and got appallingly mixed up with Mackay. The ball was pulled back to the edge of the box to Judas whose drive into the net was, quite literally, the only ball he played all day that went anywhere near on target. I know Wolverhampton is a depressing sort of place but there really was no excuse for committing suicide in this manner. Since the ref clearly hadn't read the basic Laws of the game, clearly FIFA's supplementary “instructions to referees” are also still on Mr Penton's “to read” list. When he does get round to reading that bit he might wish to consider the section on provocative & excessive goal celebrations in relation to the obnoxious Ince.
Mr Penton can also credit himself with an assist for the fourth goal. Harewod won the ball on the touchline. There was no contact with the player. It was a clean, well not even a tackle really, more a nick. Mr Penton, who clearly had been hand picked from a particularly prize crop of village idiots, saw things differently and gave a free-kick. The ball was played down the wing to Seol, who was Wolves' only player of any real note. The Korean's cross was put away by Cort to give the score a totally unrealisitic look.
From that point we went to pieces. The passing had gone and on the one occasion we did put together a move of any promise, referee Penton was on hand to remind us for a fourth time that the word “advantage” was something that only comes after “deuce” in tennis. Williams replaced Noble and late on Chadwick went off to be replaced by Cohen but all to no avail and the combined efforts of our defence and the ref ensured that it was a pointless return back to civilisation down the motorway.
This was a game that really was there for the taking. Wolves had yet to win under Hoddle and, frankly you could see why. It took a gift of three goals – arguably all four if you look at the joke free-kick decision for the last goal, for them to actually get off the mark. As for ourselves we are now in a position where we simply cannot afford defensive lapses like this anymore. In one match we saw enough self-destructive defending to last us a season and the lapses are something that we desperately need to eradicate from our game. After all this was a match during which we were, for the most part, the better side. At the risk of stating the obvious though, there is no point in playing teams off the park if you are going to give the opposition three goals for free. Something that needs to be sorted out before its too late.
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Lacked the confidence that he'd shown in his previous matches in the cups and he really ought to have done a lot better with the second goal.
Needs to eradicate those lapses of concentration sooner rather than later.
A bit of a 'mare really. His part in the third goal beggars belief.
Thankfully Wolves lacked the intelligence to give Soel the instruction to get at Repka, because when the Korean did get down the line he gave the Czech a torrid time.
Another possibly good performance spoilt by lapses.
A fairly tidy game, though like everyone else his passing disappeared completely after the third goal went in.
Got through a lot of hard work though seemed a bit tentative and nervous at times. Distribution needs a bit of work.
One of those games where he had the bit between the teeth. He had the beating of his marker most times and he knew it.
A good game from Sergei. Made Ince look like a posturing arrogant idiot – not the most difficult of tasks admittedly. Excellent ball through to Zamora for the first equaliser.
Played in his dual role of right midfield with a brief to get forward to support Zamora as often as possible. Did well, though personally I prefer to see us with two up. Superb work led to Zamora's second.
The goals did his confidence no end of good. His first touch is still lacking but he clearly got a lift from the match – as evidenced by his running back 60 yards from the opposition penalty box to break down a Wolves break. Hopefully his improved confidence will be the one positive thing to come out of the match.
(Replaced Noble, 79) Not really on for long enough to make an impression.
(Replaced Chadwick, 87) Had even less time to impress.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Luke Chadwick.
West Ham United
Goals: Bobby Zamora 36 Bobby Zamora 57
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Murray, Naylor, Lescott, Craddock, Clyde, Kennedy, Olofinjana, Seol, Ince, Cort, Miller.
Substitutes: Cameron (Olofinjana 67).
Subs not used: Oakes, Newton, Cooper, Clarke.
Goals: Miller (29, 54), Ince (72), Cort (75).
Booked: Olofinjana (34), Ince (90).
Sent Off: None sent off.