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Wednesday, 23rd August 2000

West Ham United 0
Leicester City 1

by Damian Muncaster

There wasn't really much more that could of gone wrong at Upton park tonight, I'm not sure if its the loss of three points, the inept refereeing performance culminating in the Stimac dismissal or an injury to the brilliant Freddie Kanoute that provided me with my biggest disappointment.

But it definitely hit home what a shit night we were all having when in the pub after the game the rest of the evening results came through. Paulo F@*!ing Wanchope had scored a hat-trick and none other than Dusty Bin himself managed to get on the score sheet and finally to compound everything we were rock bottom of the table.

The performance on the pitch was again one of promise that ultimately failed to deliver, which in all fairness to Harry and the boys did have a lot to do with our smiling, happy go lucky, w@*%!r of a referee.

With Sinclair failing to recover from his groin strain and Rio passed fit, Harry gave the right wing back role to Rio, Lomas dropped into the centre of midfield and Lampard was dropped ( probably due to injury). And it all started rather well. Rio was looking assured going forward and managing to force the recalled Guppy back into his own penalty area, in fact Rio had our best two chances of the first half, a mistimed volley from six yards that went wide and the best chance of the whole 90 minutes when he was unmarked at the far post, again six yards out, only for Flowers to some how get a touch on Rio's stretching attempt.

Suker, Di Canio and Kanoute were causing loads of problems, with Suker almost breaking the deadlock with a low shot that was well saved by Flowers at his near post. By this point Stimac had received his first dubious yellow card, that many observers including Harry couldn't even believe was even a free kick.

The half ended with the Hammers well and truly on the front foot and it only seemed a matter of time before the goal arrived but then came the incident that would change the face of the game and ultimately lead to our defeat.

Savage picked the ball up just inside his own half and cleverly evaded a Margas challenge ,Stimac then attempted to tackle him and a collision ensued and as Stimac got to his feet and looked up he saw in disbelief the ref reaching for his pocket, at this point Savage ,who must also have been shot by a sniper from the flats above the East Stand, was writhing in agony. The predictable melee ensued with yes you've guessed it Paolo at the centre of it. Amazingly at this point Savage made a recovery and at this point for me the game was secondary as I had suddenly witnessed something akin to a modern day resurrection. I was truly moved, as it seemed were the other 25,000 Hammers. The Leicester physio apparently is a part time evangelist/faith healer. As things calmed down the ref blew for half time and was greeted with a less than generous chorus of disapproval.

Now Harry is not known for his tactical substitutions and I have been one of his biggest critics in this department but tonight I couldn't fault him. How ever well Suker was playing to keep a bit of shape to the side Rio dropped into centre back and Charles was brought on to fill the right wing back slot. but we started the second half defending too deep and gradually Leicester got themselves in to the game and scored. A long cross from the Leicester right was misjudged by Shaka who came for the cross trying to climb over Rio and Freddy and the ball fell to the unmarked Eadie who smashed home from six yards. Oh dear.

So things were going from bad to worse and continued to disastrous. Kanoute who had been a threat all night with his pace, aerial presence and the ability to receive the ball with his back to goal, turn and power away from the defender had now picked up an injury. Kitson was his less than adequate replacement.

Leicester were dominating the game and the midfield three of Lennon, Izzet and Savage were over running Lomas and Carrick in midfield. So to his credit Harry made yet another tactical substitution. He reverted to a flat back four, took off Margas and threw on Cole to bolster our midfield and it worked. Cole with a couple of surging runs lifted the crowd and his team mates and managed to get himself into shooting positions on a couple of occasions, Carrick also spurned a couple of half chances from the edge of the box and Pearce was unlucky as his 20 yard thunderbolt clipped the top of the cross bar. And that as they say was that.

Probably man of the match over the full 90mins was Steve Lomas who kept his distribution simple and was quietly effective in everything he did. Carrick unfortunately is far from the finished article, he needs to improve his upper body strength, he is extremely light weight although he is willing to get stuck in. His shooting is wayward and I never thought I would say this but we missed Frank for all his faults I think he would have scored tonight.

Carrick needs at least another year. Freddy and Davor really look the business but as for the rest 6 out of tens.

Well where do we go from here? Man Utd on Saturday and a trip to the Stadium of Light after that. Its difficult too see where our first points are coming from. 4 games played, no points, rock bottom - pass me the rope.

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