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Saturday, 1st March 2003

West Ham United 2
Tottenham 0

by Gordon Thrower

or Life after Paolo?

Well I'd had a rotten week up to Saturday culminating in the complete failure of my hot water system so the way things had been going I decided to give the match absolutely no thought at all before kick-off lest I somehow jinxed the result with bad vibes. It worked! A very pleasant pre-match was spent in the (real) Wakefield in excellent company, including an all too rare visit from that fine fellow Maltese Hammer. The topics of conversation included just about everything but the game to come.

The team news contained few surprises. Following his, er, conversation, with Roeder last week Paolo was absent with a virus/stomach complaint/trip to Italy (delete as you see fit) so Les Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe formed our strike force. Joey was back from suspension to replace the injured Lomas.

As usual we had the better of the early exchanges. Unusually we were able to capitalise on this without letting in the obligatory daft goal. Defoe had an early shot deflected wide. Another shot from the same source was blocked and fell in front of Bowyer who was thwarted by good work from Keller. The ever improving Sinclair was winning much in the air and, from one of his headers, another Defoe shot found the Keller in good form again. Up the other end Spurs produced very little of note, the only noteworthy effort up to that point being an effort from Carr that was well saved by James. Otherwise, whisper it, our back four actually looked comfortable - there's a sentence I'd never thought I'd have to write this season.

Back up the right end of the pitch we continued to create chances, most notably when Cole fed Bowyer whose shot was superbly pushed onto the post by Keller. During this period we saw 3 bookings, for Johnson, Bowyer and Cole. Of these I thought Bowyer's was possibly the harshest, coming as it did after he appeared to be stretching for a ball that had run away from him.

We took the lead on the half-hour. A ball was played up to Defoe whose control and turn on the half way line were sublime. Having taken 3 players out of the game Defoe fed Ferdinand whose shot from the right hand side of the box was too much for Keller. The replay suggested that the keeper might have got more of his body behind the ball but we weren't complaining.

Shortly after the goal we had a bit of a scare. Johnson, who looks like he's been playing right back forever, went down the right where he came across Taricco who left his foot in on the youngster. Johnson, understandably miffed at this chain of events, proceeded to push the defender to the ground by way of retaliation. Bearing in mind the fact that Johnson had already been booked, I feared the worst when referee Barry walked over to have a word. However, for once refereeing common sense prevailed and both Johnson and Taricco escaped with a quiet lecture.

Spurs failed to respond with any conviction although they missed an excellent chance just before the break when Sheringham headed wide across the goal when a corner eluded everyone. But apart from that and a volley from Anderton that was easily dealt with by James that was it as far as Spurs were concerned.

So half a clean sheet and half way there. The players were sent out a minute or two early and, prompted by "Sarge" Goddard, they repeated their pre-match huddle. Whatever was said in the scrum it worked. Carrick sent a long cross towards Ferdinand who challenged the hesitant Keller. The ball came out to Carrick on the edge of the box and Wor Michael gleefully buried it to put us 2-0 up. For the second time in the match Ferdinand required treatment for what appeared to be a bump on the head but one bump cancelled out the other and he was able to continue.

We could have gone 3-0 up a few minutes later when Pearce got on the end of a Bowyer cross only to see Keller claw his header round the post off the line amidst a couple of appeals that may have crossed the line. Not from my angle I'm afraid. Then a typical run from Joey ended up with a rotten shot that Ferdinand nearly connected with for what would have been a fortunate but deserved goal.

Ferdinand left to generous and merited applause on the hour to be replaced by Hutchison. Doherty, who had been particularly ineffective for the visitors as a makeshift striker (and we know all about those don't we!), was replaced by Freund. I had hoped to see their Japanese import Toda on the pitch instead as I had a cracking one-liner about him playing "in the hole" lined up. I suppose it'll have to wait.

Our domination of the match continued. Hutchison was unfortunate to see a goal-bound shot deflected wide. Defoe latched on to a long ball, turned the defender inside out and shot wide. Somewhere in the middle of all that lot Sheringham gave everyone the biggest laugh of the day by finding the upper tier of the Centenary Stand. (Although Hasslebaink's own goal ran it close in the humour stakes).

The final whistle brought cheers, smiling faces and a poignant moment as James & Repka hugged each other in undisguised glee, as did many in the stands.

So, two on the trot. In truth I've had to think long and hard as to how good a victory this actually was. I don't want to get carried away especially as Spurs were so woeful and presented us with few problems and any victory against them always carries an extra sweetness. However there was something different about us today. There was commitment, passion and, above all, a willingness to work as a team. Rarely this season have I seen so many occasions when the player on the ball had genuine options. Rarely have I seen us work so hard to win the ball back after we lost it. All that "working hard in training" seems, at last, to have been brought onto the pitch. Long may it continue.

The final word has to go to the bloke I bumped into on the corner of the Chicken Run & Bobby Moore stands who was walking along in silence with his mate when the following exchange took place:

Bloke 1: "Bloody Hell"!

Bloke 2: "What's up?"

Bloke 1: "I haven't got anything to moan about tonight!"

Player Ratings

David James (7) Difficult to mark him really when he had so little to do really. However, one first-half corner apart he did everything asked of him.

Glen Johnson (8) Another fine performance from Johnson. Maybe a little fortunate to stay on after his spat with Taricco but he must be a shoe-in for young Hammer of the Year. I don't know what sort of contract he's on but get it extended ASAP!

Rufus Brevett (7) A good solid performance from the left back. Got up and down very well all game.

Tomas Repka (8) Excellent. As I've said on several occasions the guy can play when he concentrates on playing instead of pursuing little vendettas. Keep it up sir!

Ian Pearce (8) With Repka, kept Sheringham and Doherty very quiet and even had time to nearly score up the other end.

Lee Bowyer (7) Worked hard and, with his colleagues, was able to effectively run the midfield. Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet but his harsh booking will mean a suspension.

Joe Cole (8) A fine and, on the whole mature performance from Joey today who grafted and ran his legs off. One passage epitomised his game, where, having lost the ball he made 3 challenges in quick succession culminating with a header to win the ball back.

Michael Carrick (8) Quietly effective. Rarely wasted the ball and fought to win it back. Nice finish for the goal.

Trevor Sinclair (7) After some recent horror shows Trev is beginning to recapture some of that World Cup form. A welcome sight.

Les Ferdinand (9) Quite simply this was his best match since he joined us. He led the line superbly, got stuck in - painfully so on occasion - and benefited from the new tactic of playing the ball for him to hold rather than flick on. Man of the Match.

Jermain Defoe (8) A constant thorn in the side of the Spurs defence. Set up Ferdinand's goal and deserved one himself.

Substitutes

Don Hutchison (6) Unlucky not to score but might have held the ball up a bit better and he seemed to lack Ferdinand's habit of chasing and harrying.

Referee

Neale Barry (7) A little too quick to produce the yellow for Bowyer, though nobody could argue with the bookings for Cole & Johnson. Gave himself a few seconds thinking time to deal with the Johnson-Taricco incident resulting in sensible conclusion.

This report is dedicated to the memory of Bobby Moore OBE.

Player Ratings

David James (7) Not much to do today for the England keeper but when he was called into action he dealt with it.

Rufus Brevett (8) An excellent, solid performance by our new signing.

Ian Pearce (7) Good solid game from the centre back.

Tomas Repka (9) An excellent performance from the Czech which we want to see more of.

Glen Johnson (6) Almost got sent off but other than that no problems.

Trevor Sinclair (10) Another fantastic performance during which he destroyed Tottenhamís 'star' Carr. He was winning everything and played very, very well. Man of the Match.

Joe Cole (8) A bit quiet but really came out of his shell later on, getting stuck into their midfield.

Michael Carrick (7) Better today than he was against WBA.

Lee Bowyer (6) Again a little subdued, we still havenít seen the best of him.

Les Ferdinand (9) Excellent presence and a constant aeriel threat.

Jermain Defoe (9) Ran rings round the Tottenham defence.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Johnson, Repka, Pearce, Brevett, Sinclair, Bowyer, Carrick, Cole, L.Ferdinand (Hutchison 62), Defoe.

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Breen, Moncur, Cisse.

Tottenham: Keller, Bunjevcevic (Thatcher 45), King, Richards, Carr, Davies, Anderton, Etherington (Acimovic 76), Taricco, Sheringham, Doherty (Freund 66).

Subs not used: Sullivan, Toda.

Goals: Ferdinand (31), Carrick (47)

Booked: Johnson, Bowyer, Cole, Taricco, Davies.

Attendance: 35,049.

Referee: Neale Barry.

KUMB Man of the Match: Les Ferdinand.

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