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Coca Cola Championship
Sunday, 8th May 2005

Watford 1
West Ham United 2

by East Stand Martin

The secret to West Ham’s success is now clear to me. All ESM Jnr and I have to do is turn up with our lucky inflatable hammers – you may have seen them today up in the air down the front to the left of the goal.

I ordered them last year a good week before our fateful trip to Cardiff, but they turned up three days after Dowie had outthought Pardew in Wales. This time, they are coming with us all the way to the Principality, I hope.

Luck from the hand of Hod

Quite frankly we got just about as lucky as you can get in football last week when Reading lost at home to Wolves and I decided that I had been to harsh in the past on Glenda ‘the disabled are being punished by God’ Hoddle and Judas Ince. I apologise sincerely to these two gentlemen (do I f*ck).

The fact that Watford had managed to get safe the week before with a great win at Stoke and Wigan and Ipswich were also battling out to the last added to that fortune. In my mind, there was absolutely no way Reading were going to get anything out of that game up at Wigan, but stranger things have happened in football. Like that Reading win up at Sunderland the other week, for example.

Vicarage Road is not the first ground I have been to this season where you get this great feeling of nostalgia for football in the 1970’s. Close your eyes for a minute and you could almost see Pop Robson and Clyde Best running out in front of the antiquated stands.

Same personnel

We lined up the same way we had for the disappointing match against Sunderland. I was pleased that Pardew kept the faith with Elliott and Anton, despite the fact that Christian ‘football genius’ Dailly was available after a long period of injury. I say that as someone who has defended Dailly in the past when he became a favourite scapegoat. I was also happy to see Mullins in the centre of midfield and I think that we will need him some more, getting his foot in.

Matty Etherington was also a key player for us in the final stages of last season, and it was him who broke free with just two minutes gone. Matty found Zamora, but he made a dire fluffed cross.

A minute later, Reo-Coker gave the ball away in a bad position after a poor pass, but Watford failed to profit from his mistake, with a shot going harmlessly wide of Walker’s right hand post.

It took another 14 minutes of play before anything at all of note happened on the pitch, when Reo-Coker won a ball on the edge of the Watford box. He found Marlon with a nice pass and he finished clinically, but the effort was ruled offside.

Come on you pie eaters

You almost got the feeling from the West Ham play that the team was waiting for some news from the JJB Stadium. It came on about 19 minutes when I got a ‘phone call from a rather spangled Oxford Fred informing me through Stella-affected speech that Wigan had scored.

The only reason I took that call was that the crowd was so quiet that I could hear my mobile ringing. The news went round and the travelling support was roused. They were even happier when they heard that Wigan had got a second a couple of minutes later. “2-0 to the Wigan boys”, sang the Irons boys in unison.

Back to the uninspiring and lacklustre spectacle in front of us, and West Ham managed their first decent break on 26 minutes as Reo-Coker won a ball in his own half and burst forward. He found Matty with a good pass, but Marlon was some way away from the cross that was whipped rather sloppily in.

Set piece magic

On 37 minutes, West Ham won a free kick in a useful position on the left hand side and we lined up with two players in front of the wall, exactly the same way before Marlon’s shot was brilliantly saved at Sunderland last week. This time, however, instead of laying the ball sideways for Marlon, the ball went brilliantly the other way to find Matty completely free in the box. He hit what looked like a perfect cross, but Z-man seemed to miss it completely with the goal at his mercy.

Matty was not looking very pacey again to me and he seemed unable or unwilling to chase balls that last season would have been bread and butter for him. It has to be lack of fitness, but we are desperate for a Matty of old performance in the games to come. He was the difference in the 2nd leg of that semi final last year.

Marlon managed to get on the end of a long ball forward on 39 minutes and he shrugged off a challenge from a defender. Advancing on goal, he appeared to hit the shot into the turf. The Watford ‘keeper still had to make a good save at full length, though, as the ball bounced just in front of him.

Shaun “I never give up” Newton

With three minutes of ordinary time to go, a corner was won by the ever-industrious Shaun Newton. That bloke has given 100% in every game I have seen him play since he joined us. Watford failed to clear the corner as well as they should have done, and Matty picked the ball up just outside the box. He made a delicate little reverse pass to find Ward all alone in the box. I have noticed in recent games that Ward likes to chip balls over in these sort of situations and this is what he did, finding Anton on the other side of the goal. He knew he had to take it first time and he volleyed brilliantly well to avoid a player trying to close him down and the outstretched hand of the ‘keeper. Cue delirium amongst the visiting fans.

Nothing much else happened before West Ham fans’ second least favourite ref Andy D’Urso blew up for half time. The football had hardly been spectacular, but Watford had not threatened at all.

The second half began with a great comedy moment as Mullins headed the ball upwards and had absolutely no idea where it had gone until it landed back down on the top of his head.

Watford rally

Watford began to play like a team who had nothing to lose. You can imagine what Adrian Boothroyd had said at half time – “Don’t worry about losing – just get out there and try and test ‘em.” The route to that was clearly down the right side and a quality delivery from that wing on 50 minutes by the lively Ashley Young found Bouazza free in the box. Fortunately, his header was too much of a glance and it went the right side of Jimmy Walker’s right hand post.

Two minutes later, Anton had to execute a difficult stretching half volley to clear another good cross in from the right with a Watford player lurking behind him on the edge of the six yard box.

On 53 minutes, Zamora and Matty had some good interplay to set Matty off on a diagonal run into the box, but Matty’s shot on goal was weak and easily gathered by the ‘keeper.

A minute later, Mullins made a fine pass out to find Newton who raced to the byline and then found Z-man whose control let him down in the box. Zamora did better with a ball launched over the top on 56 minutes, but his second touch let him down and the ball was nicked off his foot as he advanced on goal.

D’Urso bottles it

Matty was cynically scythed down on the hour and a nicely executed free kick found Tom waiting down the right. Tom elected to put in a first time ball of real quality with Ward rising at the far post. We all had a great view of Elliot getting tugged backwards – he looked like he had walked into a washing line – and D’Urso was ideally placed to see it. He was having nothing of it and waved play on, only to book Ward for a late challenge as he came steaming back to try and defend.

Anton was showing Rio-like quality when running back to retrieve and shield balls put forward by Watford. A couple of times he dummied to create space for a clearance. He just seems to get better to me and has improved significantly this season.

It was then that we all saw Christian Dailly warming up down the touchline, sporting one helluva Afro hairdo. It looks like he hasn’t had his haircut during his injury lay-off and older readers of this piece will know what I mean when I say that Leo Sayer and Christian Dailly were separated at birth.

Elliot Ward had to show similar positional sense to Anton on 64 minutes, when he had to be on hand to half volley away yet another cross from the right.

Hand to ball

Our presence in the playoffs was effectively assured on 72 minutes when Matty chipped in a ball to the centre of the Watford box. Marlon chested the ball down and then tried to flick the ball forward. It found an outstretched Watford hand and although it was one of those debatable “ball to hand” or “hand to ball” decisions, D’Urso amazingly gave it.

At this point the away support decided that they wanted Tom to take it and were clamouring for him to step up. He gave a rather embarrassed wave and then Marlon took responsibility as expected. He looked confident and hit a nice sidefooted spot kick into the right hand corner. I still wish we had someone with the Julian Dicks approach – just hit it as hard as you f*cking can.

With ten minutes left Noble was brought on for Matty and Marlon then had a half chance as he picked up a poor clearance with the keeper out of position. He lashed the shot high and wide.

Tom loses plot part 57

Pardew was tactically running the clock down with another substitution on 83 minutes as Sergei came on for Newton. Three minutes later, Tom got booked for a push in the back, although the Watford player went down like a squealing pig. A minute later, Tom got it wrong again as it seemed to take out Helguson for no apparent reason as Walker was about to tidy up a ball knocked forward. The only thing that surprised me was that Tom wasn’t sent off. It was yet another one of those moments of indiscipline resulting from an incident that was clearly still playing on his mind. We were hoping for some Jimmy magic, but Helguson took a clinical penalty, slotting home into the right hand corner. I doubt if he’ll be at Watford next season.

In the 90th minute, Sergei managed a shot on goal as he picked up a ball centrally some 25 yards out and then it was panic stations during the three minutes of added time. Sergei gave away a free kick and got booked for his trouble. From a good 25 yards out, Walker had to make a top drawer save to tip the ball out from his top right hand corner. Then from the resulting corner, Jimmy was at full stretch again to the left hand side to put a shot just over the bar.

Leo Sayer came on for a short cameo role and then it all ended with confirmation that we were down for a reprise of last year’s semi final against the carrot crunchers.

Tough game ahead

Even though Ipswich will be somewhat demoralised after they threw away what appeared to be a certain automatic place, it is by no means certain that we can repeat what we did last year. First of all, they have the advantage in playing their home leg second this time and I think that we all know they are going to play a tight defensive game next Saturday. Secondly, our finishing and creativity look somewhat second best without Teddy and I am fearful that we are not going to get what we need from Matty. Thirdly, let’s face it, we have had more than a bit of good fortune lately, turning in rather average performances.

On the other hand, let’s all be encouraged by the ongoing good play of our youthful central defence and the industry of Newton and Reo-Coker. Mullins should definitely start in front of Noble, because we do need that grit in midfield. Let’s hope that both Marlon and Z-man can really raise their game and stick a couple away.

Back the team AND the manager

It’s down to us fans, too, to really raise the rafters just like last year and back the team and the manager to the hilt. There was a rather unenthusiastic rendition of “Pardew, Pardew, give us a wave” today, although some ungrateful geezer behind me said, “Yeah, give us a wave on your way out.” I reckon we should all set the scene right at the beginning of the Ipswich game with the loudest chorus heard this season of “Alan Pardew’s Claret and Blue Army”. Who’s f*cking with me on this one? I’ll go on the pitch with a microphone like Delia if they’ll let me, although you can be rest assured I won’t be saying “Let’s be having ya”. More like, “Look we all know Brown’s a c*nt, but the manager deserves some support.” Jeremy, you know where to find me.

Oh and one final thought. “Oh Wisey, whoaooooo. Oh Wisey, whooooaoooo. He couldn’t score a goal. And now he’s on the dole.” F*cking love it.

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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
Comments to follow.


Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.


Chris Powell
Comments to follow.


Elliott Ward
Comments to follow.


Anton Ferdinand
Comments to follow.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Comments to follow.


Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.


Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.


Shaun Newton
Comments to follow.


Bobby Zamora
Comments to follow.


Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Mark Noble
(Replaced Etherington, 73) Comments to follow.


Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Newton, 82) Comments to follow.


Christian Dailly
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 82) Comments to follow.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play.


Carl Fletcher
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.D'Urso.

Attendance: 19673.

Man of the Match: tbc.

West Ham United

Goals: Anton Ferdinand 42 Marlon Harewood 70                

Booked: Hayden Mullins 29 Nigel Reo-Coker 59 Elliott Ward 61 Tomas Repka 86 Nigel Reo-Coker 90  .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Watford

Chamberlain; Doyley, Cullip, DeMerit, Chambers; Bouazza, Bangura, Blizzard, McNamee; Young, Helguson.

Substitutes: Osborne (Bouazza 79).

Subs not used: Kirk, Mayo, Mariappa, Grant.

Goals: Helguson (pen 89).

Booked: Helguson.

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
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