Saturday, 22nd March 2003
Another Saturday, another clean sheet. There's something I didn't think I'd be writing this season. Yet there remains the nagging feeling that it could have been so much better. A beautiful spring day started, as ever, in the Wakefield where there was a bumper turnout in what is rapidly becoming KUMB corner. We were also joined by a young Sunderland supporter named Ned (whose name I'm amazed I can remember) who sportingly posed for a photo with Rio B Junior for inclusion in the Rogue's Gallery hopefully appearing elsewhere on the site.
The team was as expected with Ferdinand being preferred to the available again Kanoute who was on the bench. Right from the start we were by far the brighter side. Lots of hard work and running was the order of the day from all quarters. An early chance fell to Ferdinand following an overhit cross from Sinclair that had been returned into the danger area by Lomas. Sorensen coming out to save at Les's feet. However, our normal ineptitude at set pieces showed itself when the otherwise excellent Defoe put a free-kick well over from just outside the box. Up the other end James will have been thankful for the fine weather as he spent long periods of the match largely unemployed. I can only really recall one chance for the visitors in this period, a header which Flo, who it has to be said had a woeful match, managed to head over from about 10 yards.
Immediately after this, well "scare" is probably putting it too strongly but you know what I mean, we took the lead. A clearance from James was well won in the air by Ferdinand whose header found Defoe on the left hand side of the box. Jermain's control, turn & shot into the net was, quite simply, a thing of beauty. A superb finish.
We continued to dominate the rest of the half without creating numerous chances, although the industrious Cole did create space for himself only to shoot weakly wide.
At half-time Ferdinand, who had picked up a knock, was replaced by Kanoute. We started the second half very sharply with Lomas, Defoe and Kanoute all going close. Back in defence Repka and Pearce were quietly able to polish up their suntans, the one blemish being Johnson's picking up of a (deserved) booking for a late challenge on McCartney, possibly in revenge for "Mull of bloody Kintyre".
We continued to create the better of the chances, although Sunderland did have a shot from Butler easily saved by James. Carrick found Defoe who took the ball past Sorensen only to square the ball in front of goal with nobody following-up. A further period of mayhem ended with appeals from the crowd (if not the players) for a penalty as Johnson was upended by a last ditch tackle. Shortly after we went 2-0 up. Carrick won the ball from (I think) Kilbane and fed through a perfectly-weighted through ball to Kanoute who coolly finished in the bottom right hand corner.
For the next few minutes it looked like we would run riot. Good work from Kanoute found Defoe who cut inside from the left and, having left Sorensen stranded, was unlucky to see his shot deflected, Defoe went closer from the corner after Sinclair had flicked on only to see Sorensen claw his effort away. However, despite this flurry, we started to coast a little and the remainder of the match petered out without us ever looking threatened. The general relaxed air was enlivened only by Cole who felt laid back enough to show us a fair chunk of his repertoire of tricks - probably enough to fill a Showboat special on next Saturday's Soccer AM on Sky. The only other incidents of note in the last 15 minutes were the late substitutions of Cole, who was replaced by Cisse, and Lomas who was replaced by Hutchison.
So the feeling was that, with a very poor Sunderland side there for the taking, we perhaps should have gone for the jugular, especially in view of our poor goal difference. However, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that only a few months ago we'd have cut our right arms off for a home win of any sort. Hard to please aren't we!
A final word about the Sunderland supporters who gave everything until the bitter end, unlike those of another side to recently lose 2-0 at the Boleyn. I thought the Mackems were superb and deserved a lot more from their players, some of whom would have had me doing my nut if they'd played like that in claret & blue.
Right I'm off to somehow bring myself to support S*urs on Monday. It's a crap job but somebody has to do it!
David James (7) Had little to do but commanded the area well.
Glen Johnson (8) The youngster continues to impress. I'd prefer him to stop picking up the odd booking though.
Rufus Brevett (8) Now looks to be a shrewd signing on Roeder's part. Another solid performance.
Tomas Repka (7) The big man continues to improve, although in truth he wasn't really tested by the Sunderland attack.
Ian Pearce (7) A nice easy day. The partnership with Repka is blossoming nicely at the moment.
Steve Lomas (7) A typical Lomas game. Solid and steady his hard work allowed others to shine. A nice touch near the end when he handed Defoe the armband once Joe had been substituted.
Michael Carrick (7) A fine game only occasionally let down by the odd stray pass. His ball for the second goal was perfect.
Joe Cole (9) We might have to rework the "he's here, he's there" chant for Joey. Was full of tireless running and, as Captain, led by example throughout. Man of the Match.
Trevor Sinclair (7) Worked hard for the team and is beginning to look like his old self. Our current good run has coincided with Trev's return to form.
Jermain Defoe (8) Caused Sunderland all sorts of problems and, on another day, might have had 3 or 4 to show for his efforts.
Les Ferdinand (7) Held the ball up well and is working well with Defoe for whom he set up the first.
Frederic Kanoute (7) Brought more subtlety to the attack in the second half. Took his goal well.
Edouard Cisse (6) On for the last few minutes - didn't do anything of note right or wrong.
Don Hutchison (6) On for too short a time to make any sort of impact.
Rob Styles (7) Like our defence had little to do.
West Ham United: James, Johnson, Repka, Pearce, Brevett, Sinclair, Carrick, Lomas (Hutchison 87), Cole (Cisse 84), Les Ferdinand (Kanoute 45), Defoe.
Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Dailly.
Sunderland: Sorensen, Williams, El Karkouri, Bjorklund, McCartney (Proctor 64), Butler (Stewart 80), Thornton, Kilbane, Gray, Phillips, Flo (Kyle 57).
Subs not used: Poom, Babb.
Goals: Defoe (24), Kanoute (65).
Referee: Rob Styles.
KUMB Man of the Match: Joe Cole.
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