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Saturday, 9th April 2005

West Ham United 3
Coventry City 0

by East Stand Martin

I lasted 45 minutes today. Temporarily exiled to the Dr Martens Stand, I pleaded with a steward to let me return to the East Stand at half time. Fortunately the bloke agreed and I was mightily relieved to return to the understated squalor of my spiritual home.

The reason for being on the wrong side of the ground was that ESM Jnr was part of the Jobserve Kick Off Crew. You may have seen him right at the end of the line to the left of the tunnel. He loved it – especially the bit where he got to have a chat with Chris Cohen.

Anyway, hats off to Jobserve, all the kids had a great time.

Continuity

For the third match in a row, the manager decided to start with the same lineup. Nothing at all wrong with that in principle, although readers of my Burnley report will recall that I said that Matty had really made a difference when he had been introduced. The problem was who to leave out – the obvious choice would have been Mullins, but you could not find too much at fault at all with his recent performances playing in the centre of midfield.

The opening quarter of this game proved to be pretty scrappy with some evidence of good approach play by West Ham but little indication of any quality finishing. Coventry, buoyed by the midweek win over fellow relegation strugglers Forest looked determined to keep it tight.

In fact, it could be said that the Sky Blues had the best of it winning a couple of corners in a row on the 7 minute mark and then troubling Walker with a curling shot which resulted from a free kick. Jimmy – who instils confidence with his positive keeping and assured kicking – had to be alert to turn the ball away. On this form I see little chance of an early return by Bywater.

First chance

On 17 minutes, we had our first real chance as Teddy conjured up a lovely flick to find Marlon, but the ball seemed to get stuck under his foot and he scooped the ball harmlessly over the bar. Three minutes later, Marlon returned the favour with a nice lay off to Teddy following some good work by the lively Newton. Teddy tried to chip Coventry keeper Luke Steele, but he managed to gather the ball without too much difficulty.

Marlon then tried a curler on 26 minutes after he hunted down a long ball forward from the back. His pace normally prevails in these one-on-one situations and Steele did well to dive to his left an turn the shot around the post.

A minute later it was Reo-Coker’s turn to show some pace coming forward as he flew through the middle, shrugged off a tackle and then got a shot away which deflected. The keeper was rooted to the spot and was mightily relieved to see the ball spin wide.

Over-elaborate

On 32 minutes, Mark Noble should have given us the lead after Teddy fired in a great cross from the right across the face of the goal. Noble, who does have a fine array of skills, may have been watching a little too much of Joe Cole, as his attempted back heel went wide of the post with Steele stranded. I really hope he scores soon as his recent performances deserve a goal.

A minute later, Teddy made a superb cushioned header to find Reo-Coker who went off like a train. His cross was good, but he couldn’t have looked up to survey prospects as there was absolutely no-one in the box and the chance went begging.

Coventry had caused few problems in the half, but it was during the two minutes of added time that they had a gilt edged opportunity to nick the lead. Gary McSheffrey, who has a real turn of pace, found some space in the box and got a shot away, but just like at Wigan, seven days previously, Walker had got into exactly the right position to make a fine save.

If we had gone in one down it would have been against the run of play, but Coventry had battled well to break up the West Ham play. On returning to the East Stand, I did remind a few of my neighbours that the last two wins had come from goals in the second half.

Matty for Mullins

At half time, Pardew made the right decision to introduce Matty and withdraw Mullins. Nothing wrong with Hayden’s play, but we were desperate – just like at Burnley – to find some width.

Coventry started well and won a corner which led to another excellent save by Walker from Welsh international Robert Page.

West Ham then seemed to step up a gear. On 50 minutes Marlon made a nice head on to Newton who ran on and then put over a great cross to find Marlon almost free. His header was poor and sailed over the bar. Then three minutes later a corner was won down the left and Matty delivered a great ball over to find Anton’s head. He did everything right, heading downwards, but Steele made a brilliant save. From the corner that followed, Shaun Newton managed to hit a superb volley, which was again saved, and Noble could do no more than lift the loose ball over the bar.

Unbelievable

On 56 minutes, Marlon blasted over a head down by Teddy and then Marlon wasted a great opportunity when he headed a Newton cross very poorly. He couldn’t believe it and we couldn’t believe it.

Elliot Ward, who has brought an incredible solidity to central defence alongside Anton, was booked on 61 minutes for punching a ball away after a free kick had been awarded. This boy has been incredibly impressive since introduced and seems to have all the quality shown earlier in the season by Davenport. I have high hopes for him.

Coventry were trying spoiling tactics and the frustration was building. On 71 minutes, Pardew elected to swap Marlon for Z-man, presumably because the former was still feeling the effects of the knock he had picked up at Burnley. He had not looked at his best today.

Matty is our saviour

Matty was beginning to cause real problems down the left, although the response from the Coventry defence was to foul him a couple of times. It was one of these fouls that led to the breakthrough on 75 minutes. Matty sent in one of those balls to the near post that always creates nightmares for defenders and there was veteran Richard Shaw to head the ball past his own keeper.

The goal was a mighty relief and it gave us new impetus. Matty was rampaging down the left and on 86 minutes he was brought down advancing on goal. The ref immediately pointed at the spot and as Marlon was off the pitch, we didn’t have to try and remember whether it was his turn or Teddy’s to take the penalty. Teddy stood up and tried one of those audacious Di Canio-like chips which the keeper saved with an outstretched hand. The ball still ended up in the net as Teddy pounced, but the ref decided it should be taken again for reasons which weren’t entirely apparent. A bloke near me said “For f*ck’s sake just hit it!” and that is exactly what he did to get his 21st goal of the season.

Three minutes later, Matty caped one of the best halves I have seen him play for some time when he went on another run down the left and chipped over a perfect cross to find the grateful Z-man who headed past Steele.

Coventry had one last attack I added time, but who was on hand to defend what would have been a certain goal – Matty Etherington. Surely he must start against Millwall next Saturday.

Brown sit down

Just before the end of the game, there was a loud chorus of “3-0 and we want Brown out” and this was the precursor to the planned anti-Brown sit in. This looked like it involved a couple of thousand fans, with a banner in the lower part of the Centenary Stand.

As much as I have distaste for the parasitical regime that runs our club, I have to say that the timing of this protest is wrong. I won’t join in the uncritical adoration of Tony Cottee either as I happen to think his intervention – regardless who may have leaked the news out – was ill judged and premature. I say that with a heavy heart because that bloke is a legend and was my idol in the 1980’s. He’s also West Ham through and through, but that does not make him infallible in the tricky business of corporate takeovers.

The reality is that nothing will change at the top until our future is known for next season. Fail to get promotion and there is a high probability of a new Chairman. Succeed and Brown might hang it out or certainly get a better payday. You can call me old fashioned but my overwhelming desire is to see our club go to Cardiff and win. I will not join in with those that want us to fail to achieve regime change. The sweet taste of victory in Cardiff would be tempered, of course, by the recognition that Brown’s bacon might have been saved or that he will get more cash than he deserves. That is where we are, we might not like it, but we have to accept it.

(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)

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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
Two world class saves kept the scores level until we managed to make the breakthrough late on. Couldn't fault his distribution either.


Tomas Repka
Did a job, but not his busiest day at the office. Crossing was vastly improved.


Chris Powell
Good performance, solid in defence and supported the attacks well.


Elliott Ward
Beginning to look more confident as each game passes. Had a real battle against Goater but came through admirably.


Anton Ferdinand
His partnership with Ward is reaping great dividends. His efforts only spoiled by some occasional poor distribution.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Still not quite the same NRC that has a huge imoact at the start of the season but encouraging signs nonetheless. Did well to get back up after being smacked in the face by the ball from close range in the first-half.


Hayden Mullins
Hayden has looked a far better player since reverting to his more natural central midfield berth. Replaced in a half-time reshuffle that saw the introduction of Matthew Etherington.


Mark Noble
Worked hard as always, looked better in the second half when moved from the wing into the centre, his more natural position.


Shaun Newton
A fair game, worked hard on the right flank and was unlucky not to score with a tremendous shot which was well saved by Luke Steele.


Teddy Sheringham
Not one of Teddy's more influential performances but he'll be pleased to increase his goal count with the penalty.


Marlon Harewood
Despite the presence of the odd boo-boy who still stupidly lambast his efforts Marlon worked hard although he had one of those off days which strikers love to forget.


Substitutes


Matthew Etherington
(Replaced Mullins, 45) Took a while to get into the game but his contribution to all three goals will not have gone unnoticed.


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Harewood, 72) His only real impression was with the goal which he took well.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play.


Carl Fletcher
Did not play.


Luke Chadwick
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: I.Williamson.

Attendance: 26839.

Man of the Match: Jimmy Walker.

West Ham United

Goals: Richard Shaw og 76 Teddy Sheringham 89 Bobby Zamora 90              

Booked: Elliott Ward 62          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Coventry City

Steele, Duffy, Page, Shaw, Hall, Osbourne, Doyle, McSheffrey, Dyer, Adebola, Goater.

Substitutes: Staunton (Osbourne 30), John (Goater 68), Morrell (Adebola 80).

Subs not used: Pressman, Benjamin.

Goals: .

Booked: Duffy (48), Page (56), Hall (66), McSheffrey (73).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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