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Sunday, 27th October 2002

West Ham United 0
Everton 1

by Gordon Thrower

Tactics? What tactics?

When I was a kid, every Saturday my dad would return from the newsagent with the latest copy of “Tiger” or “Scorcher” which, good bloke that he is, he would kindly let me read once he had finished with it. Over the course of a few years I began to notice that you’d get certain storylines that would get recycled from time to time.

One of these would involve a team, invariably Melchester Rovers, playing a vital European Cup tie away to FC Kylie Minogue, the plucky part timers from Finland. It would always be very windy in Minogue and the plucky part timers, being used to the local conditions, would go in 1-0 up at half time thanks in no small part to the 7ft 6ins tall lumberjack playing at centre half.

At half time the normally placid manager, Ben Galloway, would lambast his players for their poor performannce. Then Roy Race would pop up and say “listen guys I have an idea”. In the second half Melchester would play the ball on the deck, where the lumberjack was more vulnerable to Roy’s pace & skill. Melchester would nick a draw and that “vital away goal” before going on to win the second leg 10-0.

The reason for these sad old ramblings is that Sunday’s match put me very much in mind of those old comics in that, for much of a windy day, our one tactic seemed to cosist of playing the ball up to Defoe, a player who is not my idea of a natural target man. Unfortunately for us, nobody saw fit to put their hand up and say “I have an idea” until it was way too late. The end result was sadly inevitable.

The first half was as poor a half as I have seen for some time at the Boleyn (no doubt Sky described it as “enthralling“). Sinclair started off on the right and, when he got no joy on that side, swapped over to the left to get no joy over there. One of the few chances of the half came to Trev who mis-hit his shot into the ground allowing Wright the time to turn the ball round the post.

Our only other effort of note was a long range effort from Minto that Wright got well behind. At the other end James came out well to save at the feet of (I think) Campbell and was lucky to see the ball played harmlessly across goal after completely missing a punch. Other than that I’m hard pushed to think of anything of note occurring. Merely ball after ball being played high in the general direction of Defoe and coming straight back at the defence.

If we were poor in the first half we were appalling at the start of the second. Everton seemed to sense that, with just a little more ambition, three points might be there for the taking and began to push forward a little more. Our answer seemed to be to hit more balls towards Defoe as if it was all his fault that the ”tactic” wasn’t working.

We had a warning when sub Rooney - of whom I for one was fed up with reading about over the last week- shot over when clean through. The goal came on 70 minutes. A lazy lay-off from DiCanio was snapped up by the Everton midfield and fed out to the left hand side from where former Hammer David Unsworth was able to supply the perfect cross which was gleefully converted by Carsley a the far post.

It must have been at this point that someone finally said “I have an idea” because the last 10-15 minutes or so were probably our best in terms of possession and chances. The Everton defence, for whom Yobo was superb, were able to deal with most of the threats. There were chances that should have been put away though.

Cole created one for himself through a mixture of skill and determination only to see Wright save from point blank range. However an outbreak of mis-hititis hit Cisse, Defoe and DiCanio on various occasions as we were treated to a selection of air shots, slices and miskicks.

So another blank week at home and, at this rate, unless we learn how to break down well organised defences we’ll continue to struggle against teams whose primary objective is to leave East London with a point. Unless, of course, Roy Race becomes available in January on a Bosman. I just hope its not too late by then.

Player Ratings

David James (5) A good save when Campbell was through one on one. Followed this by a ridiculous punch that could have proved embarrassing. Persisted in the long punt up to Defoe despite the ploy’s continued lack of success.

Christian Dailly (5) Doesn’t look like a right back to me. A couple of good blocks but, on occasion, looked unsure of his position.

Scott Minto (6) Seems to be benefiting from the extended run at left back. Competent if unspectacular.

Ian Pearce (7) Probably our best player on the day. I for one am glad he’s now playing in his proper position.

Tomas Repka (6) A better game from Repka. Still gives away too many needless fouls for my liking though.

Trevor Sinclair (5) Switched with Joey 20 minutes in but failed to make much of an impact on either side. Ought to have done a bit better with his first half shot. Maybe the recent new arrival in the Sinclair household has been keeping him up at night.

Steve Lomas (5) Got stuck in a lot in the first half without ever really having much effect on the game.

Michael Carrick (5) Jekyll and Hyde from young Michael. A couple of good balls here, a couple of bad ones there. Often found himself bypassed in the insane rush to play the ball long from the back.

Joe Cole (6) A couple of inspired moments from Joey, notably when pinned down on the goal line from where he managed to escape the attentions of three defenders before drawing a save out of Wright. However, failed to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Paolo Di Canio (6) Created a few of the chances and displayed a sense of urgency sadly lacking in his team mates as evidenced by his chasing down of a “lost cause” ball into the corner. On the down side ought to have scored when clear and alone in the box but tamely hit the ball into the ground.

Jermain Defoe (5) Was done no favours by being employed as a target man. Another player guilty of a miss in the closing stages.

Edouard Cisse (for Lomas) (5) Should have scored. Didn’t.

Titi Camara (for Minto) (5) As usual given far too little time to make an impact. Too short an appearance for a mark really, but the editor doesn’t like players not having marks and as he’s bigger than me....

Referee: Alan Wiley (6) On the plus side didn’t book anyone. On the down side he committed the cardinal sin on a couple of occasions of failing to play advantage and delaying the free kick until the correct blade of grass had been located. Very annoying.

KUMB Stats

West Ham: James, Minto (Camara), Dailly, Pearce, Repka, Cole, Sinclair, Carrick, Lomas (Cisse), Di Canio, Defoe.

Subs not used: Van der Gouw, Winterburn, Breen

Everton: Wright, Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Unsworth, Carsley, Linderoth, Li Tie (Pistone), Pembridge, Radzinski (Rooney), Campbell

Subs not used: Gerrard, Alexandersson, Li Wei Feng

Goals: Carsley (70)

Attendance: 34,117

Referee: Alan Wiley

KUMB Man of the Match: Ian Pearce (7)

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