Friday, 29th April 2005
A cursory glance at an earlier one of my match reports may have given the impression that I consider Wolverhampton to be a complete dump populated by inbred simpletons who are so backward they still consider Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining” to be a really good record. After the weekend’s events I am more than happy to set the record straight. Of course things were so much different on Friday, at which the traditional “maybe the last home game of the season, maybe not” celebrations started early. We were joined in the Wakefield at what seemed like the crack of dawn, but was in fact shortly after 3.00pm by Pat from the Dublin Hammers and his two daughters Alison and Hazel (apologies if the names are wrong – I’ve had a long weekend!). The Irish contingent wasted no time in decorating the pub with their flag:
Pat & daughters
The ales were going down a treat and there was a good atmosphere in the pub, the population of which was enhanced by the arrival of a number of visiting supporters. Romford was a late arrival at the proceedings having had an even earlier start in another hostelry. I called him to find out where he was and received the following response: “You remember that pub over at Wanstead Flats where that bloke tried to sell you a camera? Well we’re not there”. I suppose with conversation like that it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that, on arrival, the big fella felt refreshed enough to make a beeline for the karaoke machine. His first choice of tune was Hey Jude. This is a song with a chorus particularly suited to a singalong and the pub were not backward in joining in with the “na na na nanana nas”. Which was a shame really as Romford was still singing the verse.
We therefore arrived at the ground in good spirits. The team news was that Hammer Of The Year Teddy Sheringham’s hamstring problem was severe enough to have ended his (regular) season. It may be my imagination but it always seems to me that the HOTY award seems to end up being presented to someone who is out injured. Mark Noble had recovered sufficiently from his recent knock to claim a place on the bench to give us a starting line-up of Walker, Repka, Powell, Ferdinand, Ward, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Newton, Etherington, Harewood, Zamora.
It was a cracking atmosphere in the ground right from the start and the rendition of “Bubbles” certainly made the hairs on the back of the neck stick up. The players responded and went forward from the start. Repka’s early cross testing Alnwick early on. However, despite the early dominance, it was the visitors who had the ball in the net first. Arca cut in from the left, Walker’s parry fell to Brown who put the rebound away. Unlike Stoke’s late “equaliser” the other week, when I had seen the flag go up immediately, my view of the linesman this time was obscured so my relief was overwhelming on discovering that Brown had strayed offside at the point Arca had shot.
For the remainder of the half we bossed it. Clear cut chances were limited however. The best fell to Harewood. Etherington played a short training-ground routine type ball and Marlon hit the ball on the turn to bring out a superb save from the 18 year-old Alnwick. Then it was our turn to have a goal chalked-off. Zamora challenged the ‘keeper for a cross. The ‘keeper spilled it and Zamora put the ball into the empty net. It was one of those challenges that, as a forward, always gets me muttering that ‘keepers are over protected but, when I’m wearing my goalie’s gloves, I end up agreeing with the ref!
With two minutes of the half remaining we finally got the breakthrough our efforts deserved. Matty burst through the inside right channel and fed Harewood inside the box. Marlon feinted one way then the other as we were treated to the familiar sight of Gary Breen failing to get close enough to a forward. Harewood’s shot didn’t seem to have a major amount of pace but it’s direction was enough for it to go in off the left hand post. The crowd went delirious – well all except the chavs sitting in a certain part of the West Stand upper who seemed more intent on screaming abuse at the Sunderland fans than cheering on the home side. Hilariously, when challenged, the chavs’ defence for their actions centred on their accusing a group of long term season ticket holders of never going to games!
Harewood ended the half hobbling having picked up a late knock as the teams left to generous applause. Our half-time discussions centred around how we were going to explain the absence of £585 season-ticket money from our bank accounts to our other halves in view of the fact that the chavs had exposed the secret that we had never been to the Boleyn. In fact we worked out that it was probably the 28th home match we hadn’t been to this season alone.
For a game I apparently wasn’t at I quite enjoyed the first half and mused that, had I been there the one thing we needed was to not concede an early goal. The first incident of note in the second half was something that, having followed the ball, I didn’t quite catch. However, a eye-witness account from someone sat near me (another season ticket holder so he probably wasn’t there either) suggested that the keeper had pushed Harewood to the ground and that marlon had made a meal of it. If this description was correct, referee Beeby’s decision to book both players and award the free-kick to the visitors was something of a bottle-job. However, having been looking the other way at the time and not having yet seen a replay of the incident I’m probably not best placed to comment.
On 54 minutes it all went pear-shaped. Sunderland broke out and Arca fed Brown. Walker seemed a little slow off the line and Brown got a foot to the ball which rolled agonisingly towards the line. Arca had a slight head start on Ferdinand and won the race to bundle the ball home just inside the post. It was a horrible goal but the crowd reaction was superb – a rousing rendition of Bubbles filled the air – though the chavs preferred to sing more moronic abuse at the visitors. I suppose the lyrics to Bubbles must be really hard to learn when you’re that stupid.
The goal changed the tempo of the match and the visitors did well to take the sting out of the game. Etherington, who had been fairly effective in the first half had been noticeably less so in the second period and it transpired that he had picked up an injury which led to his substitution with a little more than 15 to play with Noble coming on to replace him. Sunderland then survived what looked to me to be a good shout for a penalty as Collins seemed to stick his arm out at a shot from Reo-Coker. Then Newton got upended just outside the box to gain a free-kick. This was to be 10K’s last action of the game as he was immediately replaced by Rebrov who was returning from the most recent of his calf injuries. Rebrov’s first action was to take the free-kick which, though goalbound, found a defender. The ball rebounded to Mullins whose low volley went just wide denying him the goal which would have capped a fine performance.
Sunderland came out on the break and Elliott went on a run from right to left that ended with a shot that Walker did well to get a hand to, the save being completed by his quick reactions enabling him to keep the ball from going for a corner. However, only a few minutes later, the season appeared to be over. Elliott again cut across on a diagonal run and Ward failed to close the Sunderland man down, allowing him to get a shot in that went across Walker’s dive and into the far corner.
Despite late pressure we couldn’t produce anything of note – though Noble’s flick again found a defender’s hand. Beeby was not in the mood to give anything other a yellow card to Noble who had the temerity to enquire as to when the law relating to handball had been repealed.
The match ended in disappointment – though the chavs decided to try to make an issue of things with their neighbours. Wisely they retreated they realised that they were severely outnumbered by some quite large gentlemen all of whom were as fed up with their antics as the rest of us.
After the press conference we retreated to the Wakefield which had taken the sensible precaution of getting itself a late licence for the splendid wake which followed. Again we were joined by a number of Mackems for whom the result had meant winning the Championship. Deano in particular seemed keen on cementing East London-Wearside relations, though I’m not so sure he would have been quite as enthusiastic to discuss the match with one or two of the blokes around:
Does your missus know you’re here?!
Lost Hammer’s somewhat effeminate stripey pullover got a lot of admiring glances, but only when he was stood in front of a mirror. He assured us that the ‘camp burglar’ look is in this year reminding me of the joke that you always know when your house has been turned over by camp burglars. You find nothing missing but that your furniture has been rearranged more tastefully.
There was an almost tangible sense of relief in the pub. Partly because Romford had declared himself too “refreshed” to take part in any further karaoke activity, but mainly because we now knew we weren’t going to the play-offs Reading would be boosted by our defeat and would end up going to Wigan with both sides getting what they wanted by playing out a cosy point at the JJB Stadium rendering our efforts at Watford meaningless.
Thus it was I found myself in a pub near Wanstead Flats at 4.40pm the following day risking further damage to a calf muscle injured in an Internet Hammers match by leaping for joy as Paul I*ce’s employers stuck away their second goal to restore the Status Quo and put us back into 6th place.
Wolverhampton? I won’t hear a word against the place!
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A fine save in the second half but he seemed a little late to react to the danger for their first goal.
Good solid performance though with idiots like referee Beeby about he’ll be glad to get away from this country at the end of the season. His booking for what was one of the night’s most innocuous challenges was simply dreadful refereeing.
Got up and down well in the first half when he combined well with Etherington. Less effective second half.
Culpable for the winner he backed away from the man on the ball a little too much for my liking.
Not the best of nights for the youngsters in the middle. Anton was occasionally guilty of getting on the wrong side of his man – notably on the first goal.
Good and strong in the middle. Perhaps the responsibility of wearing the armband does him good.
His best performance in a West Ham shirt for a while. Strong in the tackle and, for once, his distribution was up to scratch. Unlucky not to have scored.
Good first half performance but injury curtailed his participation in the second half.
Got through a prodigious amount of work, much of it off the ball where it doesn’t necessarily catch the eye.
Apart from the challenge on the ‘keeper which was given as a foul, he failed to make any sort of impression.
Good work for the goal and caused a few problems for Sunderland without ever dominating like we know he can.
(Replaced Etherington, 73) Replaced Etherington for the last 15 but didn’t really register.
(Replaced Newton, 81) Not really on long enough to make an impression, though his free-kick almost led to Mullins scoring.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins.
West Ham United
Goals: Marlon Harewood 43
Booked: Tomas Repka 13 Marlon Harewood 49 Mark Noble 90 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Alnwick, Wright, Breen, Caldwell, McCartney, Arca, Whitehead, Robinson, Lawrence, Brown, Stewart.
Substitutes: Collins (Breen 73), Elliott (Stewart 75), Deane (Brown 88).
Subs not used: Welsh, Carson.
Goals: Arca (52), Elliott (87).
Booked: Alnwick (49).
Sent Off: None sent off..