Saturday, 4th January 2003
Thanks for asking but no the flu isn't really any better. I woke up at 10am and really didn't feel like getting out of my nice warm bed to go out in the freezing cold to watch West Ham. However, I had this nagging feeling that, if I didn't go, I'd miss our first home win of the season. So, armed with the thickest hooded sweatshirt I could find coupled with my heavy ski-jacket and dosed up with an amount of Sudafed generally described by most licensed medical practitioners as described as "far too much" I braved the Arctic temperatures and went to the match.
The start was standard home fare - we commenced brightly. Early chances fell to Sinclair, who drove wide from the edge of the box, and to the lively Defoe, whose shot from outside the box was only narrowly wide. However, the script says that, no matter how much we dominate the early stages of a match someone somewhere will cock-up and concede us a goal. It was David James' turn again this week. A harmless shot was spilled to Harewood who really couldn't miss. An awful mistake by the keeper which provided boos, followed by ironic cheers from the crowd each time he touched the ball for the rest of the half.
1-0 down and, for much of the next few minutes, the confidence had visibly disappeared from the side. Sinclair in particular was having a 'mare. Absolutely nothing he tried came off and his first touch at times was appalling. However, Cole and Defoe were honourable exceptions to the malaise that seemed to affect the side and the two combined to provide the equaliser. The finish from Jermain was simply class as he cut in and curled a shot inside the far post. Defoe nearly added to his tally late in the first half when meeting a long cross from Cole with a diving header that was comfortably dealt with by Ward in the Forest goal. The remainder of the half was fairly even, unlike my temperature which, by this time had reached thermonuclear levels as I started to shiver alarmingly, much to the concern of those around me. Sorry everyone but I was just too ill to explain the difference between flu and ebola.
Forest started the brighter of the two sides during the second half and we survived a couple of early scares before they took a deserved lead. Harewood found some space on the right and crossed to the back post where Reid was unmarked. I'm sure Ron Manager would say that the chance was "dispatched with aplomb". I'll just say that he thumped in a superb volley. With aplomb.
For the next 15 minutes or so Forest looked the likelier to score. Although Breen had a header tipped over, at the other end it took a magnificent last ditch tackle from Winterburn to stop the lively Harewood from scoring after he found himself on the end of a long clearance. So, since we didn't look like scoring, we did. Some good work from Defoe found Cole who cleverly skipped past Dawson before sticking a fine shot across the keeper into the far corner to make it 2-2.
Obviously West Ham's capacity for self-destruction knows no bounds and it was shortly after the equaliser that we found ourselves looking down the barrel. Before I'd had the chance to swallow more Sudafed, Forest attacked down the left and Harewood's cross was diverted by Dailly onto his own crossbar. As the ball came back Dailly hauled down Johnson for a penalty to be correctly awarded by Mr Durkin. Johnson got up to take the penalty himself and, thankfully, contrived to put it a foot wide possibly put off by the major earth tremors that seemed to be affecting the ground - although I have since had it confirmed that it was merely my teeth chattering as I continued to fight my losing battle against the flu.
We started to create the odd chance up the other end and Defoe had a shot turned around the post before Camara came on to replace Pearce with 15 to play. Titi spurned his best chance shortly after coming on when, unmarked and only a few yards out, he somehow contrived to play an air shot. Shortly after that a Sinclair shot took a wicked deflection which left the keeper stranded only for the ball to dribble agonizingly wide. Then, with a replay up by the Trent seemingly the best we could hope for, we scored. The ball found Defoe wide on the left hand side of the box. He skipped one way, then another, cut back, took another touch and put in a low shot that took a deflection into the bottom corner of the net. Cue wild celebrations and an increase in my body temperature to such a degree that I started getting letters from Greenpeace moaning about my effect on the Global Warming problem.
Of course this is West Ham and we couldn't simply play out time could we. Repka replaced the tiring Winterburn to a loud chorus of boos. Now I'm not a fan of Repka but I felt the booing at this point was wrong, especially coming as it did at such a crucial stage of the match. At the death a ball was played off Repka to force a corner. The ball came over and was missed by James. As the ball went up in the air Harewood clearly pushed Breen out of the way before heading into the unguarded net. However, the infringement was not spotted by Mr Durkin who pointed to the centre circle for the goal. Thankfully the linesman was alert and following a brief period of consultation Mr Durkin gave the free-kick that Harewood's challenge merited.
So there we are - a first home win. In truth a draw would have been the right result from what I thought was a fine game of football. I certainly didn't think we ought to have lost the match, although I have to say that we've played better at home this season for less result.
Of course the whole day may have been some sort of fever-induced hallucination caused by my flu bug. In which case please don't tell me - I quite like he idea of winning at home and I would also be particularly upset if either the bit about Sp*rs getting thumped 4-0 or the bit where that Samantha Janus off the telly comes over to nurse me better turned out to be just a dream.
David James (3) A shocking blunder for the goal and his kicking often left a lot to be desired.
Sebastien Schemmel (5) You know what I'm going to say here don't you. Ok going forward. Got found out defensively.
Nigel Winterburn (8) Made up for his aging legs with his excellent reading of the game. Knew when to step off his man and when to go in close. Archie please note.
Christian Dailly (5) Ok when the ball was played up to the Forest strikers with their backs to goal. Backed off a little too much for my liking though when ran at.
Gary Breen (5) Same comments as for Dailly apply - only more so.
Edouard Cisse (5) Got his foot in well a couple of times in the first half but otherwise didn't register on my personal radar.
Michael Carrick (6) A quieter game than of late, although still a vast improvement on the start of the season.
Joe Cole (8) The goal was reward for one hellofa lot of hard work, much of it off the ball.
Trevor Sinclair (3) I think that it's unfair to suggest, as some did to me in the pub, that he wasn't trying. However, it was a poor game from Trev who, given a choice of options, somehow contrived to pick the wrong one every time.
Jermain Defoe (9) Best game from Jermain in a while. The finish for the first was sublime and he earned the bit of luck he got for the second.
Ian Pearce (5) Won a few in the air but didn't really register.
Titi Camara (5) On for Pearce, missed a glorious chance when he kicked fresh air. One solid run ended up with a goal-bound shot being blocked.
Tomas Repka (5) Only on for a few mins. Long enough to give away a corner though.
Paul Durkin (7)
West Ham United: James, Schemmel, Breen, Dailly, Winterburn (Repka 85), Pearce (Camara 74), Carrick, Sinclair, Cisse, Cole, Defoe.
Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Moncur, Sofiane.
Nottingham Forest: Ward, Louis-Jean, Doig, Dawson, Brennan, Scimeca, Thompson, Prutton, Reid, Johnson, Harewood.
Subs not used: Roche, Williams, Bopp, Jess, Westcarr.
Referee: Paul Durkin.
KUMB Man of the Match: Jermain Defoe
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