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Wednesday, 23rd August 2000

West Ham United 0
Leicester City 1

by Sarah Osbourne

After our defeat against Chelsea on Saturday I was looking forward to a home win against Leicester. Leicester have never had a good time at our ground and in fact have not won at Upton Park for 34 years. The ground was heaving for the first home game and the atmosphere was electric; it was good to be back. Our team was Hislop in goal, Pearcy in defence with Stimac and Margas. Ferdinand was playing the role of a wing back with Winterburn on the other side (what a luxury, a defender being able to push up). Lomas, Carrick and Dicky Boy in midfield with Suker and Kanoute up front.

The game started off pretty slowly. It was obvious from the start that Leicester were here for a 0-0 draw and were keen to stop us from playing football. They did this effectively for the first 30 minutes but we started to come back. A couple of free kicks at both ends, but no results; Leicester had Guppy and someone else running circles round the ball before kicking it, which made everyone laugh rather than put us off. Dicky Boy was linking up well with Winterburn and Kanoute and was playing some wonderful football.

Our best chances were definitely coming from midfield. Carrick is a very aware player and was making some excellent passes to Dicky Boy, Suker and Kanoute. Ferdinand had a couple of shots on goal but I've got to admit his shooting ability is as good as mine; but he did get stuck in and he was surprisingly good in his new position. We tore through the Leicester defence so much that we deserved to be a couple of goals up at half time.

However, just as the game started to hot up, unfortunately so did the players. Stimac was booked earlier on in the half for throwing the ball down after reacting to the referee's decision. After that Stimac tackled a Leicester player (quite fairly I thought) but the referee did not think so and sent him off. Savage was also booked. Half time was blown for seconds later and the referee went off to a hail of boos and angry lynch mobs with flaming torches in-hand. Although down to 10 men, Harry would stick rockets up their bums and they would work their socks off and hopefully score second half; at that point I still thought they could win it.

When the players came out I noticed Ferdinand was back in central defence, Gary Charles had come on as substitute for Suker and was in Lomas's position. Lomas was more central midfield and it was now Dicky Boy and Kanoute up front.

When the game started, straightaway Leicester were slowing the game down. Every throw, free kick or goal kick was taken at a snail's pace. They had the time and the extra man. To our credit we came at them and was still tearing through their defence with 10 men and had numerous chances. However that did leave massive gaps at the back and Leicester inevitably scored ten minutes into the second half.

Harry then made some more changes. He swapped Kanoute for Kitson and replaced Margas with Cole. With two lots of fresh legs on we could still do it. Cole was hungry for the ball and made some delightful dribbles and passes. Kits on the other hand, barely seemed to make an effort. Being down to 10 men with twenty minutes to go, he should have been hassling defenders and the goal keeper into making mistakes but he didn't.

Pearcy shot a blinding free kick with 5 minutes to go. Agonisingly it was just went off the bar. At the moment we knew it just wasn't our night. The night ended 1-0 to Leicester. Michael Carrick in my opinion was WH Man of the Match. He cannot not run at players or can dribble like Joe Cole, but he made some excellent passes, his plentiful tackles were well timed and he even had a few shots on goal. Good to see our youngsters coming up.

Gary Charles failed to impress; he seemed very subdued and not willing to take the game to Leicester, more Die Hard spirit please Mr. Charles. Cole should have been brought on at the start of the second half or even be in at the start of the game, tantalising us with some of his extraordinary talent.

On the whole it was game that did not suit us. There were moments of brilliant football but the game kept being stopped for rash tackles and challenges. The referee had a massive impact on the result of this game. Stimac's challenge I don't think merited a second yellow card, yet Eadie did not get booked for sending Cole 50 feet in the air when he had the ball. The referee never played the advantage and often when a decision should have been ours he gave it to Leicester and vice versa. I just did not understand the basis for some of the referee's decisions. You could tell our players were frustrated as well and I thought that Dicky Boy was also going to be sent off as he was obviously telling the ref what he thought. All in all it was a bad night for us.

With a second defeat and no points we are at the bottom of the table and have to play Man U on Saturday at home. Even though this is not a good start for us I don't think we will be a permanent fixture at the bottom and certainly don't think we will be playing Crystal Palace next season. Our team is too good to be at the bottom. This is a blip that Harry must sort out. Hopefully we will have Tricky back on Saturday and Lampard who was obviously holding the camera for Rio (ha ha, that jokes now done to the death). We can show Man U what we're made of. We were fortress at home last year so lets hope we can keep that up.

The last thing I would like to mention is the bitter irony of life. Harry having sold Paulo "I couldn't score in a brothel" Wanchope we heard the amazing news he scored a hat-trick at Man City against Sunderland. I think that just summed up our night!

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