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Coca Cola Championship
Tuesday, 19th April 2005

Stoke City 0
West Ham United 1

by East Stand Martin

There’s not a great recent history between West Ham and Stoke, but I do recall as a whipper snapper the never-ending League Cup semi final of 1972 – sh*t, that is 33 years ago - when it took four games to settle who would meet Chelsea in the final. My abiding memory is that Sir Geoff Hurst had a chance to win it in the second game at Upton Park, but the legendary Gordon Banks saved his penalty.

Stoke eventually saw us off and won the cup. Glory days for both teams that seemed somewhat distant on my third trip up the M6 this month, although I was joined by the incomparable Oxford Fred.

A must win

Given the setback against our friends from the wrong side of the river on Saturday, we all knew that this was a must win against a team whose interest in the playoffs had evaporated some weeks ago.

Those that read my Millwall report will know that I thought that the omission of Mullins had been a mistake, and Pardew decided to bring him back in, although Noble wasn’t on the bench and presumably wasn’t in the reckoning through injury. The rest of the starting line up was unchanged from Saturday, although Rufus returned to the subs bench.

Nerves a jangling

There were bound to be nerves, as our season was on the line along with the manager’s job and the future of a number of players. Just like the game against Millwall, we nearly got a major boost in the very first minute, when Shaun Newton beat a defender and went on a rapid run down the right wing. He put over a good cross and Teddy only managed to wave his foot at the ball rather than connect with it. However, there was Marlon waiting to lash out a completely uncontrolled shot which went miles wide to howls of despair from the travelling fans.

This led to the usual berating of Marlon from certain sections of our support, which has become routine and is really f*cking me off big time. Here’s a message to those who persist in this – I have voted for Marlon as Hammer of the Year. Up yours.

Marlon sent Matty off down the wing with a terrific reverse pass on 4 minutes, but the cross was cut out well by the Stoke defence. This was to become somewhat repetitive as the game unfolded and showed that veteran defenders like Duberry and Taggart can still contribute a great deal.

Cancelled out

It then turned very scrappy indeed with the two 4-4-2 formations largely cancelling each other out. We tried to be patient and probe the defence but it was proving difficult to find a way through. When Mullins did find a bit of time and space on the edge of the box on 24 minutes, he sliced his shot horribly wide as the Stoke defence closed him down.

Stoke did cause one or two problems coming forward, and Anton had to be on hand to head a cross behind on 26 minutes. He then ran forward to berate Reo-Coker for failing to close down the Stoke player that supplied the cross. This was not one of Nigel’s more accomplished first half performances and it seemed to be more of the same from the weekend.

Matty broke free again on 29 minutes and hit over a good cross which beat the Stoke defence on this occasion. However, Newton looked totally gobsmacked to find the ball at his feet and miskicked the ball inside the box.

Following a Stoke corner on 32 minutes, Matty went racing off again. This time we outnumbered the Stoke defence and a good ball got put across in front of Marlon to find Anton advancing on goal unmarked. Unfortunately it was a defender’s shot, which got scuffed along the ground. It was probably the best chance we had in the half, although 5 minutes later Marlon won a tackle in a dangerous position and let loose with a wicked shot towards the bottom right hand corner of the goal. Stoke keeper Steve Simonsen made a fine save, tipping the ball around the post.

Immediately after the Marlon effort, Anton gave the ball away but Noel-Williams headed the ball wide of the goal after a cross was put over.

Elliot saves the day

With five minutes of normal time left, Jimmy Walker spilled a cross under a challenge which did not look entirely fair and Elliot Ward had to be very sharp to clear a shot off the line from Kenwyne Jones, the striker on loan from Southampton.

At half time, Fred and I agreed that there was not much inspiring football on display, with the park looking very crowded in the middle. Little had got past the Stoke defence in the air and it was only when we had gone wide that the main chances had emerged. We looked pretty nervy and there were times when we did not have much urgency in our play, leading to one bloke politely enquiring, “Do you want to win this f*cking game?”

Fred was most bemused at half time when he saw what he described as a “turd on legs” emerge on to the pitch. It was in fact somebody in a promotional outfit for Pepperami, although it most certainly did look like a number 2. What followed was a shoot out competition with the mobile excrement in goal. It brought a whole new meaning to the phrase, “You can beat him, he’s sh*t.”

The second half began with Stoke looking threatening. Within the first minute, Noel-Williams only just failed to get his foot on a cross at the far post. Three minutes later, a shot just cleared the West Ham bar after a move down the right.

Acute angles left and right

On 54 minutes, Shaun Newton went on a great run, beating a defender down the right flank. He kept on running in on goal, but his shot from an acute angle inside the box was saved down low by Simonsen. Matty tried something similar from the other side on 58 minutes, but his shot was saved in the same fashion.

We looked to have conceded the lead on 59 minutes, when a shot on goal was put just past the right hand post by a West Ham boot. The Stoke fans were certain that it had gone in.

On 61 minutes, the first offside of the night happened, showing just how much of the game had been fought out in the middle third. Elliot Ward got booked on 66 minutes as he had to pull Brammer back as he got free down the right. A professional foul, but no-one was complaining down our end.

Marlon stepped up a gear on 72 minutes when he went on a brilliant run down the right, beating two defenders. His shot was blocked out though for a corner.

Pardew changes it

With the West Ham away support beginning to wonder if we were ever going to score, Pardew made the right decision with a double change on 75 minutes. Tom and Mullins were brought off for Zamora and Fletch. Z-man went immediately into overdrive with a penetrating run down the right. He cut inside and ran parallel with the edge of the box to find space, but his shot was high and wide.

Marlon looked encouraged by this move, and a minute later he went on a superb run which saw him fox a couple of defenders and find some space on the right hand side of the box. He put over a perfect ball to the far post to fin Z-man waiting completely unmarked for the simplest of tap ins. Zamora has looked sharp when he has come off the bench of late and that might well prove to be one of the most important goals he has scored to date. If you look back at the goals he has scored, they have always been when a game has been already won or lost. This was different and sparked a rendition of that “..he’s better than Jermain…” song that always drives me up the wall.

West Ham then decided to play keep ball, leading to a chorus of cheers with every completed pass. Stoke were not quite finished and Noel-Williams should have done a lot better with a free header on 79 minutes.

Linesman to the rescue

The game looked to be nicely fizzling out, but there was one last moment of sheer terror for the travelling support as Stoke hit the back of the net in the fourth and final minute of added time. I don’t know whether it was Mr Eastwood or Mr Faulkner who was running the line down the right, but let me say this to you: that offside decision may well have saved our season.

This game was not unlike the Burnley away game, where we managed to shade a tight and often scrappy game. Just like at Turf Moor, a tactical substitution changed our fortunes and the manager deserves credit for that. I was glad that the change was made a bit earlier as well.

Time to back the team and the manager

Our fans are still sticking to the “We are West Ham’s Claret and Blue Army” chant, but this is now being more than a little unfair to the manager and his recent contributions. Come on, everybody, credit where credit is due.

This bloke in a red coat walked out earlier in the day in the Vatican and said “Habemus Papum” (“We have a Pope”); someone needs to walk out into the middle of the Bobby Moore Lower and shout “Habemus Procurator” (“We have a manager”) and then start “Alan Pardew’s Claret and Blue Army”. Backing the manager and Marlon for Hammer of the Year all in one report. To quote a TV cook, “Come on, let’s be ‘aving ya”.

(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)

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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
One worrying moment when he spilled a high ball under pressure but otherwise not over-tested.


Tomas Repka
Steady enough defensively but his distribution was a bit wayward on a couple of occasions.


Chris Powell
Another solid enough performance defensively but less of an influence going forward than of late.


Elliott Ward
Got some timely blocks in on shots from the edge of the box.


Anton Ferdinand
Continues to improve but really ought to have scored when put through by Etherington’s break.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Had a couple of runs through the middle but was mainly limited to a defensive role.


Hayden Mullins
Won some good balls in the middle but was another whose passing was not at its best.


Matthew Etherington
Disappointing – a couple of runs including a break from a corner apart he was largely anonymous.


Shaun Newton
A couple of decent runs but I’d like to see him try to dominate more.


Teddy Sheringham
Some nice lay-offs apart he was not much of an attacking threat.


Marlon Harewood
His first touch when playing up along Teddy was lacking. However, he looked more dangerous in the last 15 minutes when moved out to the right and his fine work led to the goal.


Substitutes


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Repka, 76) The introduction of his fresh legs changed the game and, including the goal, he was probably involved in as many chances in the last 15 minutes of the match as the rest of the team had created in the first 75 minutes.


Carl Fletcher
(Replaced Mullins, 76) Got a few decent challenges in towards the end.


Luke Chadwick
(Replaced Harewood, 90) Not on long enough to make an impact.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play.


Rufus Brevett
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: G.Laws.

Attendance: 14534.

Man of the Match: Elliott Ward.

West Ham United

Goals: Bobby Zamora 77                  

Booked: Elliott Ward 50 Jimmy Walker 90        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Stoke City

Simonsen, Buxton, Duberry, Hill, Taggart, Brammer, Clarke, Russell, Greenacre, Jones, Noel-Williams.

Substitutes: Henry (Buxton 74), Neal (Greenacre 83), Ricketts (Jones 83).

Subs not used: de Goey, Clark.

Goals: .

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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