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Friday, 1st August 2003

West Ham United 1
PSV Eindhoven 2

by Gordon Thrower

It's official: pre-season friendlies are weird.

Weird and surreal - that just about sums the evening up. To start with the Wakefield was pleasantly empty pre-match save for the regular KUMB contingent. This was matched by the smallest “crowd” I can remember at the Boleyn since the Rio stand opened for business. The emptiness of the stadium provided a strange echoey atmosphere. Even Steve Bacon seemed thinner than usual. The match was preceeded by a minute’s silence in honour of the sadly departed Marc-Vivien Foe, a player who I personally would have loved to have seen back in claret and blue.

The first half itself was a turgid affair in truth. The pattern seemed to be long periods of PSV possession followed by the odd breakaway. Kanoute showed a few nice touches that usually ended up with a bored PSV defender knocking him over. However I’m hard-pressed to remember much of note occurring and it was difficult not to let one’s mind wander onto other matters, such as the gig by the wonderful IQ that I’d missed to be there. During one particularly quiet patch I even caught myself reading the hoardings in front of the Chicken Run. Towards the Centenary Stand there was an ad that simply read “Jack & Sam”. No explanation as to who Jack & Sam actually were. I was half expecting someone to come along with another hoarding bearing the words ”meet me in the pub after the match - Brian” or something.

Back on the pitch the unreality of the first half reached a new peak when we nearly scored from a set piece, Dailly’s header being turned over by the PSV keeper, although I reckoned it was a comfortable height for catching. Then, stranger still, we then scored from a corner. No, really we did. I’d like to say that it had all the hallmarks of training ground preparation. However, in all honesty it was a streaky goal. Joey’s corner was missed by the near defenders and the ball hit Garcia and flew off into the net. Garcia knew about as much about the goal as I did about the identity of Jack and Sam.

Half time saw some substitutions. Connolly replaced Kanoute and Sofiane came on for Pearce. The latter change required a reshuffle with Dailly moving back from midfield to partner Repka and Sofiane taking Dailly’s place on the right side of midfield.

The second half seemed to have a bit more urgency about it, not that that meant much. Sofiane looked willing and able to take players on down the right flank and Anton Ferdinand got forward a few times to put over some dangerous looking crosses as we enjoyed a bit more possession than we had in the first half. Cue the obligatory silly goal to give away. James made a pigs ear of dealing with a woefully short Byrne back-pass to leave a PSV the simple task of shooting into an empty net to level the scores.

Up the other end Cole started to come into the match a bit more and to run things in midfield. A good cut in from Joey ended up with a fierce drive over the bar but both keepers remained largely untested until the closing stages when PSV were able to take whatever cup it was we were playing for. A cross from the PSV left was palmed out by James to Fernandez, whose excellent finish from the edge of the box contained no little welly.

Its difficult to make any real judgements from a match against opposition likely to be thoroughly atypical of that we’re likely to encounter during the coming months, although Cole became more impressive as the match progressed an Sofane did enough on the right to suggest a decent degree of promise for the season.

A final note. Whilst queuing for my half-time diet coke I noticed a sign at the back of the kiosk. The kiosk staff had placed a box of crisps in front of the sign leaving only the following two lines readable. “The Management: We regret we are unable....”. I hope that’s not an omen.

Player ratings
(scores by Gordon Thrower, comments by Kit Robinson)

David James (5) Okay, no f*uck ups, didn't have a great deal to do.

Anton Ferdinand (6) Okay but suffered from us having no winger for the first half and then Sofiane was attacking in the second which left us a little vulnerable on the right flank.

Tomas Repka (7) Excellent. Commanding, covered well, lots of enthusiasm.

Christian Dailly (6) Was played out of position on the right wing in the first half (God knows why as you'll read later), he was totally lost. Second half played centre back and did okay. Got a header in on goal in the first.

Shaun Byrne (5) We need an understudy left back and Shaun isnt it. He gave the ball away for the first PSV goal and was out of his depth throught most of the match.

Richard Garcia (5) Played out of position on the left wing, we need ta proper left winger. Scored the goal (although it was a case of the ball hitting him and going in).

Rob Lee (6) Did what Rob Lee does, pretty solid but unadventurous. The most defensive midfielder.

Joe Cole (7) Spent most of the first half playing deep - I think Roeder was going for damage limitation, what with Dailly in midfield too. Pushed up later in the second and this helped towards getting the goal. Played okay with the odd touch of class.

Ian Pearce (7) Did alright, obviously not match fit yet so was taken off in the second half.

Freddie Kanoute (6) Still guilty of getting ruled offside too many times which he just doesn't need to do. Otherwise I thought he had a good game.

Jermain Defoe (6) Full of running but this partnership with Kanoute still doesn't seem to be gelling that well. Maybe held on to the ball too much at times, but overall he did okay.

Substitutes

Youssef Sofiane (7) An absolute revelation on the right wing - he was excellent. Full of running, good control, enthusiasm and had a couple of pops at goal. Maybe needs to look at the defensive side of his game if he's going to play on the right.

David Connolly (5) Not sure if he's match fit but didn't really get into the game. Saying that he wasn't exactly given any ammunition to work with from the midfield.

Michael Carrick (6) Definately made an impression on the game when he came on, but when both Cole and Carrick play we become more adventurous - but also more vulnerable. If were going to play these two, then we MUST have a defensive midfielder on the pitch too - either Lee or Lomas.

KUMB Match Facts

West Ham United: James, Ferdinand, Repka, Dailly, Byrne, Pearce (Sofiane 45), Lee (Carrick 45), Cole, Garcia, Kanoute (Connolly 45), Defoe.

Goals: Garcia

Attendance: tbc

KUMB Man of the Match: Joe Cole (7)

Runners Up: Youssef Sofiane, Jack & Sam

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