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Coca Cola Championship
Saturday, 16th April 2005

West Ham United 1
Millwall 1

by East Stand Martin

Walking to the ground today, the only people that looked happy were the Old Bill, getting down to some serious East End overtime. It transpired later that there was about one copper to every two Millwall fans. Now that is what I call proper community policing.

Dead cert draw

As long ago as the beginning of March I had looked at our forward fixtures and put this one down as a draw. It just had that look about it. I tried to convince myself otherwise as the teams lined up - there had been three very nice wins in a row, two away from home.

Pardew clearly wanted to put his front foot forward and decided to start with Matty instead of Mullins. Otherwise the team line up was unchanged. There was a clear case for starting with Matty as he had come of the bench in recent matches and made a real difference.

How many times this season have I felt that the manager’s been too negative, but now I’m going to be accused of 20/20 hindsight and say that maybe the better strategy would have been to have started the same team again and kept Matty in reserve if necessary. After all, it had been working, so why change it?

Nigel falls at final hurdle

We were almost thrown into first minute ecstasy as Reo-Coker latched onto a ball and went piling into the area. His nerve seemed to fail him at the last and he only succeeded in pushing the ball far too forward so that Marshall, the Millwall keeper, could collect it. Nigel has made exactly that kind of progressive run on countless occasions this season, but I cannot recall too many times when he has applied the killer finish or the killer pass.

Almost immediately, Millwall responded with Hayles managing to break free down the left. He managed to turn and shoot and his shot went just wide of the far post with Jimmy Walker diving at full stretch.

On 4 minutes, some more of the recent good form of Matty was on display as he picked up a pass from Reo-Coker and got over a fine cross which teddy met at the near post. Unfortunately his header was just too high and ended up on the roof of the net.

Wrong end celebrations

The next move of note led to Millwall taking the lead on 11 minutes. An error by Reo-Coker just inside the Millwall half led to the ball being gifted to Muscat. He put a long ball down the left channel to put Hayles through on goal. Walker tried to get to the ball first, but Hayles was too quick. Although he was forced slightly wide, he finished clinically, passing the ball into the empty net. Cue major celebrations at the wrong end of the ground.

Four minutes after conceding the lead, a game of heading ping pong took place in the Millwall box, but the final nod from Elliot ward was over the bar.

The next 15 minutes of the game was a scrappy affair and we were looking none too accomplished in midfield, either losing out in tackles or passing the ball to the opposition. Mark Noble looked particularly uncomfortable, but Reo-Coker was not much better. Noble always looks better when he is played on the left side of midfield as it allows him to cut inside. We seemed to be lacking a ball winner in the centre to me.

Matty did manage to get free a couple of times during this period, but although his crosses were good, they were cut out by a competent Millwall defence. Similarly, Marlon went on a powerful run to the byline, but his cross was cut out as well.

Matty repeats

If recent games are anything to go by, a goal was likely to feature a Matty run down the wing and a cross. So it proved on 34 minutes as Teddy fed him with a nice angled pass. This time his cross was not cut out and there was Marlon waiting to volley home superbly from close range. It was a great piece of skill to control the ball so well and it rocketed into the roof of the net.

Although this could have set us up for another before half time, very little of note happened before the break. Jimmy Walker had to leap high to grab the ball off the head of Hayles following a mistimed jump by Ward on 43 minutes and then Noble found some space on the stroke of half time, but his ball into the box was cleared eventually.

At half time I rehearsed my argument about us missing Mullins to a Kumber whose name I have forgotten – sorry mate – but he said that views like that were not ones to be mentioned out loud.

Long ball game

Given that our last three victories had been achieved in the second half, I was still optimistic about prospects as the game restarted. However, it all looked pretty rushed again, with a number of speculative long balls. There was the inevitable cry of “Keep it on the ground” from the East Stand purists around me, but no-one seemed to be paying attention.

The first West Ham chance of note came in the 53rd minute, when Chris Powell beat a defender and got over a good cross. This just cleared a defender’s head, but Reo-Coker just looked astonished to find the ball arrive and he headed down awkwardly and wide of the post.

Is he Paolo in disguise?

5 minutes later we were very nearly treated to one of those sublime football moments as a great cross by Shaun Newton from the right saw Marlon perform a brilliant piece of acrobatics to hit an overhead shot. This went right on target, but unfortunately at a nice height for the keeper who turned it over. If it had gone in, there would have been no doubt about the goal of the season.

Hayles went off for Ifill on 62 minutes, but there was no doubt that the 5 foot 4 manager whose missus – according to the Bobby Moore Lower is a member of the world’s oldest profession – had ordered his team to slow the game down and frustrate. There were a couple of comical dives by defenders in the box, which the over-fussy Uriah Rennie bought hook, line and sinker.

Jodi Morris caused real concern on 65 minutes, as he found some space and hit a shot which got deflected. Walker had to be alert and managed to get a hand on it as it bounced wickedly just in front of him.

Forgettable

It’s hard to recall anything of note at all in the last 25 minutes of this disappointing match. Pardew tried Zamora for the last ten minutes, taking off Shaun Newton, and again you wonder if that should have been tried a bit earlier. It was Zamora that probably had the best chance to win it, when a chip over the top found him in a bit of space in the 88th minute. He had to shoot quickly, and although he hit the ball well, it went into the side netting.

With Reading taking all three points later in the day, West Ham are now in a position where it is entirely possible that we could go ten games without defeat and not make the playoffs. I hate to say this, but I am reminded of the season we got relegated, when we ended playing pretty well, but our main opponents raised their games as well and kept on grinding out results. Like the year we took the drop, we are paying for poor performances earlier in the season. That is a lesson we haven’t learnt.

It was a frustrating outcome, but not entirely unexpected for a highly-charged London derby. Millwall came to spoil and for the draw which they knew would cause us play-off heartache. A positive outlook is that any remaining hopes Millwall might have had in getting into the playoffs are now over, while we still have a decent chance. It now looks like a straight fight between us and Reading. All I know is that a win up in the Potteries next Tuesday is an absolute must, while Reading really have to slip up in their remaining games. It would be a supreme piece of irony if Pardew’s old club beats us to it, but I am an eternal optimist and think that they will f*ck up. I’m going up that M6 again with hope in my heart.

(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)

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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
Seemed a little slow to react for Hayles' goal but never troubled after (or prior to) that moment, thanks mainly to the ineffectiveness of Millwall's attack.


Tomas Repka
Another good effort from Tomas, who was almost playing as a right-winger for much of today's game thanks to the space afforded to his by Millwall's defensive outlook. Seemed one of the few to really care about the result.


Chris Powell
Like Tomas, he enjoyed the space gifted on the flank and used it with purpose. One or two thunderous tackles lifted the crowd from its slumber in the second half.


Elliott Ward
A fair game, and he probably just about came out on top against his brother. The only question marks concern his distribution, which seems to be of a 'safety first' mentality at the moment.


Anton Ferdinand
In recent weeks Anton has been something of a revelation, earning rave reviews from many journalists. However today he had what can only be described as a 'stinker'; culpable to some degree for the Millwall goal he struggled throughout - and his distribution was woeful. Hopefully just one of those off-days.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Our best midfielder on the day - and amazingly not booked despite having at least ten fouls given against him (and several words in the ear from referee Rennie). He broke with purpose and his passing was of a much higher standard than in recent games.


Mark Noble
Didn't really get into the game despite looking busy as usual. Passing a little loose at times.


Matthew Etherington
Possibly the single-most disappointing performance from a West Ham player this year. Given back his first team spot after a good effort against Coventry this week, Etherington was way off the pace, slow to react, and some of his challenges (especially the 'attempt' at the far post header in the second half) were laughable. Quite simply needs a good kick up the arse (and maybe a few early nights).


Shaun Newton
Tried hard, put in plenty of effort, but didn't really make any impact apart from the odd success on the flank late on. Just doesn't seem to know the best ball to play at times.


Teddy Sheringham
Teddy was showing his age today. At least, that's the only explanation I can come up with for a completely innefectual performance. Only had the odd chance to silence the barracking from the supporters of his former employers but when he did they were only half-heated efforts.


Marlon Harewood
Like Anton, this was one of Marlon's off days. However unlike Anton this was also due to a percieved lack of effort (chasing down defenders, apparent lost causes etc). Marlon has been unfairly labelled 'lazy' at times this season - although it's hard to argue with that summary based on today's poor effort. Nice goal though.


Substitutes


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Newton, 80) Gave us a bit more when he came on, and was involved in a couple of late forays although you're never going to make much of an impact given ten minutes.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.


Carl Fletcher
Did not play.


Luke Chadwick
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: U.Rennie.

Attendance: 28221.

Man of the Match: Tomas Repka.

West Ham United

Goals: Marlon Harewood 35                  

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Millwall

Marshall, Muscat, Phillips, Lawrence, D.Ward, Livermore, Sweeney, Morris, Elliott, Dichio, Hayles.

Substitutes: Ifill (Hayles 63), Simpson (Morris 78).

Subs not used: May, Wise, Craig.

Goals: Hayles (12).

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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