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Wednesday, 29th January 2003

West Ham United 2
Blackburn Rovers 1

by Gordon Thrower

At last!

Not sure about this lark. A home win? In the league? Blimey my Dad came with me the last time we managed that!

Pre-match was spent in a packed but understandably subdued Wakefield where there was much discussion as to the possible team line up now that there were actually options. It turned out that Breen, Dailly and Minto were dropped, presumably suffering from shell-shock. Out too were Sinclair and Defoe both of whom were to start on the bench. Home debuts were given to Les Ferdinand and Glen Johnson and up front we were treated to the return of Paolo DiCanio.

The early exchanges were notable only for two bookings. McEvely caught Bowyer with a late one. Referee Wiley correctly allowed play to continue before catching up with the Blackburn youngster once the ball had gone out. The Joey was booked for a trip on (I think) Gillespie. The trip was niggly rather than vicious and I personally think that the yellow was a bit harsh bearing in mind that some more 'robust' challenges from both sides escaped similar punishment. However, the ref did later allow Joey to get away with a late one from behind that might have been more deserving of a yellow so I suppose the law of swings and roundabouts worked out alright.

In truth it was a poor first half. Things livened up on about 20 minutes when the impressive Friedel made a couple of fine saves from Johnson and Paolo and that particular passage of play ended with Lomas sliding the ball just wide. Otherwise it was fairly turgid stuff from both sides. Up the other end James tried to liven things up by racing wide out of his goal and failing to get to the ball first but the resulting cross was easily dealt with. Meanwhile Paolo was chasing things down like he'd never been away and, if nothing else, the body language was entertainment in itself, especially after he'd had a couple of, in my opinion, optimistic, penalty claims turned down.

Since Blackburn had created little it was probably inevitable that they would open the scoring. Winterburn got caught out on our left by Gillespie and brought the winger down. The defending from the resulting free kick was so lax that Yorke had time to take a swing at the ball, miss, and have another go to put Rovers 1-0 up. The silence was deafening amidst a collective feeling of 'here we go again'. As usual, when conceding a goal, all confidence seemed to disappear and the remaining 7 minutes of the first half petered out with nothing of note occurring.

Mr Moon came and went within the space of a few seconds at half time as the bloke behind me ventured his opinion that the team's problems all stemmed from 'That stupid leather coat Roeder wears'. The suggested solution was to burn the offending article, although it wasn't made clear whether he wanted Roeder to take it off first.

The second half was a complete contrast, although for the first few minutes it looked like we had into the 'we've got a big bloke up front so we're gonna use him' trap. KUMB forum regular Andrew had been so concerned that he sent me a text message claiming that there was no way back. He put it a bit more forcefully than that of course but that was the drift. Paolo and Joey however, when we did get the ball on the ground, looked increasingly likely to produce something and so it proved. With about an hour gone Joey went on a typical run past three Rovers players. He appeared to have overrun the ball but managed to get a foot in to divert it wide to Paolo who jinked one way then another before being tripped by Todd. It wasn't as funny as Todd's 'Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Ar*e' assault on Dugarry the other week but I for one was grateful for small mercies. At this point Friedel looked flipping big to me and he seemed to fill the goal. Every time I see Paolo run up for a penalty I'm terrified he's going to try that chip thing and come unstuck. Thankfully for the local cardiac ward, he simply buried the thing to level the scores.

We were then treated to a substitution. Ferdinand was replaced by some chap called Kanoute. There was a picture in the programme of him training on some beach in America. Or it may have been Stamford Bridge. Either way I for one was glad to see his return as it meant that we might start playing through the midfield. For the next few minutes Rovers pressed forward in numbers and, whilst in all honesty they didn't look like scoring, I was concerned that we might start sitting back, a tactic that had cost us dearly in previous matches. However Repka and Pearce were having excellent matches, ably assisted from either end of the age scale by Winterburn and Johnson and Blackburn's threat faded. The only real scare in the second half came from an over-ambitious back header from Carrick that sold James short. James' header fell to Andy 'Andrew' Cole who shot tamely wide.

Up the other end we were more of a threat. DiCanio was thwarted when clear one-on-one with Friedel, the American pulling off another fine save with his legs. Good approach work from DiCanio and Kanoute saw Bowyer shoot straight at the keeper whilst a flick on saw Kanoute bear down on goal only to put his shot high and wide. Somewhere in the middle of this I am told that Blackburn had a penalty appeal turned down. Now any Blackburn fans reading this, I am not trying to be clever here. Nor am I suffering from 'Wenger-itis' but the incident simply didn't register with me at all. I must have seen it but I simply don't remember it occurring and I only found out about it in the pub afterwards when Souness mentioned it. Sorry about that.

84 minutes gone and time for a substitution. Defoe replaced the hard-working Bowyer. Surely it was, as usual, too late for any meaningful impact. Nope. Joey spread play out wide to the left where Defoe jinked inside and buried his shot inside the post. Pausing only for a second to confirm that the ball had in fact gone in rather than wide the crowd erupted. This apparently included the sister of one D Beckham Esq who I understand is currently to be seen on the arm of Defoe from time to time. I hope her enjoyment of the moment wasn't spoilt too much by the attentions of KUMB forum regular Chalks who decided that a celebratory hug was in order.

Sinclair, who had replaced the tiring DiCanio just before the goal, might have made it 3 when Lomas, urged on by the crowd, went on a storming run down the right and did well to get a cross in. Tricky managed to get on the end of the cross only to see it diverted away by a despairing tackle for a corner. That was basically it. Cue 'Bubbles' 'The Great Escape' and anything else we could find the strength to sing. The walk back to the Wakefield was full of smiling faces. Once there Romford was so happy that he decided to buy a round. He was even happier still to discover that he'd run out of dosh and so was going to have to use my money to buy it! Somehow I didn't care. Even the wait on a freezing platform for a Docklands train to Lewisham couldn't dampen the spirits. As a text message from the lovely Charlotte put it: 'Hold on to the memory of this rare & wonderful moment'. I intend to!

Player Ratings

David James (6) Had little to do. Had a couple of heart-in-mouth moments, the second of which wasn't really his fault.

Glen Johnson (7) Not the finished article yet by any stretch of the imagination but looks composed in defence and will do for me.

Nigel Winterburn (7) Caught out of position to give away the free-kick that led to the goal but otherwise sound.

Tomas Repka (8) An excellent game. I read somewhere that he'd vowed to shut up when given a rough deal by refs. Was obviously sorely tempted to say something when harshly penalised as he let the ball run out in the second half but wisely opted instead for the safer 'bemused smile and hands on hips' approach. When he concentrates on playing football he can be a fine defender. Keep it up son.

Ian Pearce (8) Back in defence where he belongs and formed an excellent partnership with Repka that kept Yorke and Cole pretty quiet for most of the match.

Steve Lomas (7) Did what he does best - the hard graft and getting up and down that allows the likes of Cole to do his stuff.

Lee Bowyer (5) Some excellent tackling but his distribution wasn't at its best. Might have scored in the second half but hit his shot straight at Friedel.

Michael Carrick (6) Some excellent passing, particularly cross-field to find DiCanio. A couple went astray though and that back pass header could have cost us dearly.

Joe Cole (9) Joey has, in my opinion, been our most consistent player this season and I thought that this was another fine game. With Paolo he was at the heart of most of the good things we were able to produce.

Paolo Di Canio (8) Welcome back sir - how you've been missed. And thanks for not chipping that penalty!

Les Ferdinand (5) Battled hard with little reward - an early tame header was all he really had to show for his efforts.

Substitutes

Frederic Kanoute (6) There's been much talk of 'mental fitness' of late. Well I thought he looked ok mentally but still short of a yard or two in pace.

Jermain Defoe (8) Top stuff from the youngster. And if he wants the address of that bald bloke who was hugging his girlfriend after he scored he only has to ask!

Trevor Sinclair (6) Only on for a minute or two but was unlucky not to score.

Referee

Alan Wiley (6) A few strange decisions but generally ok. I still think Joey's booking was harsh though!


KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Winterburn (Defoe 84), Repka, Pearce, Johnson, Lomas, Cole, Carrick, Bowyer, Les Ferdinand (Kanoute 59), Di Canio (Sinclair 88).

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Schemmel.

Blackburn Rovers: Friedel, McEveley (Jansen 90), Taylor, Todd, Neill, Tugay, Flitcroft, Thompson, Gillespie (Johansson 70), Cole, Yorke (Ostenstad 84).

Subs not used: Robinson, Douglas.

Goals: Yorke (38), Di Canio (58, pen), Defoe (89).

Booked: McEveley, Cole.

Attendance: 34,743

Referee: Alan Wiley.

KUMB Man of the Match: Joe Cole.

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