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Coca Cola Championship
Sunday, 20th February 2005

West Ham United 5
Plymouth Argyle 0

by East Stand Martin

Today we should have been suffering at the hands of a load of cheating Frenchmen, getting robbed like we always do when we visit Highbury.

How I had been looking forward to the Pires pirouette, the Bergkamp elbow in the face or the linesman failing to spot a ball that was at least a foot over the line. Instead, we got the mouth-watering prospect of the visit of Plymouth Argyle, a team that hadn’t won since Boxing Day.

Having made the journey the other way earlier on in the season, I take my hat off to the Argyle fans that embarked on that never-ending journey. Given the way the day panned out, it couldn’t have been a great trip back west.

Unorthodox

West Ham lined up with a complete absence of orthodox wide men following the crocking of Chadwick up north last Sunday. The midfield included Mullins, Sergei, Fletch and Noble with Teddy and Marlon up front, although the latter played a lot of the game down the right wing.

The first real move of the half resulted in a West Ham goal on 8 minutes. Marlon won a ball down the right and managed to put over a cross, but it was slightly under hit, allowing the clearance to be made for a corner. From the set piece Bjarni Gudjonsson inexplicably tried to punch the ball away and this led to the referee pointing at the spot. Up stood Marlon, who had failed in the Sheffield penalty shoot out, but this time he made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Four minutes later, we failed to clear our lines properly allowing a half chance to Plymouth, but the weak shot was easily dealt with by Bywater. A minute later, we had it in the back of the net again after a corner saw Mark Noble pick the ball up outside the box. He hit a great shot which the keeper couldn’t hold, but Teddy was adjudged to be in an offside position.

Noble shines

West Ham were now playing with real fluency and some grit in the middle of the park. Mullins in particular was getting his foot in and Noble was providing some real quality balls. On 15 minutes he hit a fine early ball to find Marlon who in turn whipped in a cross to Teddy, but his flick on found nobody waiting in the box.

On 21 minutes we were 2-0 up following a lovely ball from Sergei out to Marlon out on the right. He put over a good cross which had to be put behind for a corner. Sergei went over to the right to take it and appeared to scuff it as it came in much lower than just about everybody expected, especially the keeper, Luke McCormick. Although the ball did dip viciously, it went straight off him into the goal.

Sergei seemed to find even more inspiration as a result. On 24 minutes he delivered a superb cross which was just nicked off Teddy’s head, and three minutes later he found Teddy again with an inch-perfect pass, but the drag back by the veteran found no-one in the box.

Birthday boy stamps on birth control

Just when it was looking so good for Sergei, he started limping around and had to be replaced by Reo-Coker on the half hour. The problem looked like his left leg and was presumably an aggravation of an existing injury.

On 33 minutes, Malky – 33 years young today - executed a brilliant stamp on what looked like an inflated green condom blowing across the pitch. It could have been one of those fruit flavoured ones, maybe apple or avocado – ladies, you know what I’m talking about.

Noble showed his terrific passing ability yet again on 35 minutes when he slotted a ball through to Marlon, who yet again crossed to ball well, right long the 6 yard box, but there was no-one there to tap in.

Bywater goes insane

The main threat from Plymouth was Blackstock, who was quite a threatening presence down the left wing. Fletch was fortunately on hand to deny him on 36 minutes at the end of a penetrating run. Two minutes later, Bywater seemed to have lost his mind, after he decided to pursue a ball that had gone loose to the far touchline. He kept the ball in, but then cleared the ball to a waiting Plymouth player who put the ball back into the box with the young keeper stranded. Fortunately it came to nothing.

With six minutes left of normal time, Noble put in some more good work and found Chris Powell down the left who in turn fired in a first time cross. A trademark flick then followed from Teddy and there was Malky standing on his own. He brought the ball under control like a seasoned striker and put a lobbed volley over the keeper into the net. There was a hint of offside about it and two Plymouth players raced off to dispute the goal, but the Bobby Moore Lower were ecstatic and sung ‘Happy Birthday’ to Malky.

Noble hadn’t finished what was an excellent first half performance, when he released Reo Coker with another perfect pass on 43 minutes, but his final ball was poor. He did it again a minute later, but this time his target was Marlon, who couldn’t beat the final defender.

SMD

With no wins in eight games, this was a Plymouth team low in confidence, but we totally ran that first half and 3-0 was a fair reflection of the play. Downstairs in the Castle Bar, one West Ham fan was celebrating with a homemade sausage sandwich of immense proportions. This was a Sarnie of Mass Destruction, and not even Sadam would have been able to conceal that monster, which the bloke admired lovingly before stuffing down his throat.

There were three substitutions at half time, Plymouth brought on two new players to try and change it while Steve Lomas came on for Mullins, whom I thought had performed pretty well. He must have taken a knock. It was all change again two minutes later when Noble was taken off for Zamora. This was particularly mystifying as Noble had been excellent, and we had now run out of substitutes with 43 minutes to go. Noble also must have taken a knock; otherwise perhaps someone could explain to me the reason for this tactical replacement.

On 50 minutes, Fletch sent in a dangerous ball from a free kick, which was deflected just wide of the post. From the resulting corner, Malky managed to get a header in on target but this was comfortably saved.


Marlon fluffs it

Zamora looked lively following his introduction, and he managed to chase down a lost cause and retrieve the ball at the dead ball line. He fired in a great cross to find Marlon advancing in on goal, but he made a right mess of it with a comical sliced volley.

Plymouth had not given up the ghost and on 56 minutes it was difficult to see how they failed to score from a goalmouth scramble. Bywater made a good point blank save from Blackstock but delivered the ball to an oncoming Plymouth player who seemed to get something on it, but the ball spun wide of the post.

Tom went a bit mental on 58 minutes when he scythed down a Plymouth player from behind and got a merited yellow card. This was a pity as he had played well up until that point.

On 67 minutes, Teddy saw his centrally located free kick saved after Zamora had been fouled just outside the box.

Down the other end on 72 minutes, a free kick led to another goalmouth melee and a reflex save by Bywater to deny Plymouth yet again. The power of the shot meant that it could only be parried, but Bywater recovered really well to push the ball away from danger.

Teddy gets two in ten

Marlon was still looking dangerous and he delivered a dangerous cross from the right on 74 minutes which a Plymouth defender somehow managed to hoof over his own bar. A minute later we were 4-0 up as a magnificent crossfield pass from Zamora found Fletch running down the right. His ball in was excellent, finding Teddy who made a perfect glanced header to beat McCormick.

Zamora featured again on 81 minutes as he made a great run and a powerful half shot, half cross which the keeper had to push away. Two minutes later, a great afternoon was complete when Reo Coker was brought down from behind when he was clear through on goal. Doumbe got his marching orders for that. Another penalty culprit stood up – Teddy – to try and make amends in the same way as Marlon had earlier. The first time he tried, McCormick stuck his arm up and the ball hit the bar. However, the linesman was flagging, presumably because the keeper had come off the line, and the elder statesman did not fail a second time.

Bywater rounded off a good performance with a fine one handed save on 86 minutes. There were a couple of half chances for Teddy and Marlon, but then the ref blew up to put the West Country outfit out of their misery.

Blessing in disguise?

Although this was a convincing win over a team whose performance has dropped significantly since we played them last, the Bobby More Lower still can’t bring itself to reinstate the manager, maintaining that “We are West Ham’s claret and blue army”.

A couple more performances like that away at Gillingham and Leeds and maybe we will recognise his existence again. The problem is that winning runs have been very evasive under Pardew, and we really do need such a run now, given the congestion at the top of the table. It’s tighter than a camel’s ar*e in a sandstorm up there, but maybe that Cup loss was a blessing in disguise after all.

We shall see.

(Player ratings by Dodger)

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Possibly his best performance for us. Made three terrific saves - and his kicking wasn't too bad either.


Tomas Repka
A few slips - especially in the first half - but got forward well.


Chris Powell
Possibly our most consistent player.


Anton Ferdinand
Had a few really good performances recently ... Rio-esque at times today .


Malky Mackay
Solid, well taken goal too. Happy birthday mate!


Carl Fletcher
Excellent. The cross for the Teddy goal was top draw. A few Gerrard-type passes thrown in for good measure too.


Mark Noble
Good again...was he injured?


Sergei Rebrov
Pretty good but another injury, sadly. His corners set up two goals.


Hayden Mullins
Better. Passing still iffy though.


Teddy Sheringham
Classy as always, although his passing was a tad wayward at times.


Marlon Harewood
Dangerous throughout.


Substitutes


Nigel Reo-Coker
(Replaced Rebrov, 31) Played very well after coming on. Would've scored but hacked from behind.


Steve Lomas
(Replaced Mullins, 45) Very positive after coming on.


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Noble, 48) Good pace, but his passing/crossing is pretty awful.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Matthew Etherington
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: K.Friend.

Attendance: 25490.

Man of the Match: Stephen Bywater.

West Ham United

Goals: Marlon Harewood 8 Luke McCormick og 23 Malky Mackay 41 Teddy Sheringham 76 Teddy Sheringham 84          

Booked: Tomas Repka 63          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Plymouth Argyle

McCormick, Doumbe, Worrell, Coughlan, Aljofree, Adams, Lasley, Gudjonsson, Buzsaky, Chadwick, Blackstock.

Substitutes: Capaldi (Gudjonsson 45), Norris (Lasley 45).

Subs not used: Evans, Taylor, Gilbert.

Goals: .

Booked: Capaldi (76), Chadwick (84).

Sent Off: Doumbe (82).

 
Match Report


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