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Wednesday, 23rd August 2000

West Ham United 0
Leicester City 1

by Graeme Howlett

The Hammers were left propping up the Premiership tonight after this demoralising defeat at home to Peter Taylor's Leicester City.

A second half Darren Eadie goal was enough to earn all three points for the visitors.

It was always going to be a strange night once it was announced that Rio Ferdinand would be playing at right wing back, following Trevor Sinclair's failure to recover from a slight groin strain. Frank Lampard was also missing from the side that lost to Chelsea at the weekend.

Despite the strange formation the Hammers took the game to the visitors, and had several chances to take advantage. The attacking trio of Kanoute, Suker and Di Canio were running the Leicester defence ragged - but unable to find the killer touch necessary.

This was the story of the first half - the Hammers dominated possession, but couldn't find the breakthrough. The Foxes were offering very little in return, and were content to mop up the Hammers pressure.

The moment that changed the game arrived on 44 minutes. Igor Stimac, already booked for a minor foul bodychecked Robbie Savage, and referee Styles decreed that the challenge warranted a yellow card - which was the end for Stimac. The fact that neither booking was really warranted is by the by, but undoubtedly Harry Redknapp will have something to say about it.

Savage certainly made the most of it, and celebrated Stimac's dismissal by raising his fists to the Leicester supporters crammed into the centenary stand. Quite what the FA will make of it all remains to be seen; whatever, Savage's behaviour throughout the game was appalling, and he was booed relentlessly by the Upton Park faithful for the duration of the game.

With the advent of half time Harry Redknapp decided to swap Davor Suker for Gary Charles, and the Hammers reverted to a 5-3-1 formation.

The killer goal arrived just 8 minutes later. A seemingly harmless cross was fluffed by Shaka Hislop, and Darren Eadie had the simplest of tasks to knock the ball into the net from just a few yards.

Up against it the Hammers were forced into a further substitution when Freddy Kanoute left the pitch with what looked like a groin strain. Worrying stuff for the Hammers. Paul Kitson was his replacement, but his entry on to the field was probably the most notable contribution he made all night.

With the Hammers still chasing the game Javier Margas was hauled off to be replaced by Joey Cole with just under 30 minutes remaining. Cole tried to weave his magic but apart from one or two notable runs couldn't break down the steadfast Leicester rearguard, who stubbornly refused to give way.

Veteran Stuart Pearce came closest to scoring for the Hammers when his scorching 20 yard free-kick smashed against the bar. Unfortunately for the Hammers it was the wrong side of the bar, and the ball flew up into the Bobby Moore stand, instead of into Tim Flowers' net.

The Foxes were quite happy to sit on their lead and lap up the West Ham advances after their goal. They managed only one shot in the final 30 minutes - not pretty at all for the 25,000 watching Hammers fans, but certainly effective.

Carrick and Di Canio also earned themselves late bookings to add to the dismissal of Stimac; Di Canio can perhaps count himself lucky not to have been shown the red card as he continued to argue with the officials after receiving a caution. In light of the recent directives from the FA concerning abuse of officials Di Canio will certainly have to curb this kind of behaviour.

So all in all a very unhappy night for West Ham. Bottom of the Premiership for the first time in five years - the only club yet to record a point, and facing the relishing prospect of the visit of Manchester United on Saturday.

And Leicester? Well they were 'over the moon', as they had just broken a 34 year duck at Upton Park. Last time they won here was in 1966 - which if memory serves me correctly was a pretty good year for West Ham ...

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