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Sunday, 19th January 2003

Arsenal 3
West Ham United 1

by Gordon Thrower

Do you think anyone will notice I wasn't best keen on the ref?!

I'm sorry. I'm a reasonable easy going chap. However, today I am angry. Very angry. I've paid out good money to watch a football match that has been completely ruined by the actions of one man who, if there is any justice, should face a disrepute charge and never be allowed to referee a match anywhere ever again. Not even Scotland. This won't happen of course. The FA will back up their employee and nothing will be done because every decision went in favour of the Arsenal. This is, of course, the same FA who previously let Bergkamp off with a fine rather than a suspension.

Ok I'll admit I've not had a good week - the death of a good friend's father kind of puts things into perspective. Also, bearing in mind the fact that the previous three visits to the dump that is Highbury have seen us lose out thanks to appalling refereeing, I guess I was almost expecting some sort of stitch up. However the magnitude of this referee's efforts left even most Arsenal supporters looking at their shoes and quietly coughing.

Following a pre-match drink in a local hostelry where the usual suspects met to swap tickets and vodkas we wandered down to the library where we discovered that Michael Carrick would be missing, an omission I later discovered was due to a groin strain. Pearce returned to the starting line up, thankfully in his defensive role playing alongside Breen and Dailly in what was effectively a back 5 including Lomas and Winterburn.

Arsenal's first chance of note came on 10 minutes when an Henry cross from the left eluded Bergkamp who just failed to connect. Having seen Arsenal miss, it took a mere three more minutes before "Mr" (and I don't really feel that he qualifies for the title) Dean stamped his mark on the match. Pires cut across Lomas. Any contact was minimal and the resulting dive was so theatrical it merited a booking all on its own. I have little doubt that this referee would have awarded a free kick to Arsenal had the incident happened up the other end. Instead the referee made two decisions of such breathtaking incompetence that, in any other walk of life I am sure he would have been sacked on the spot. Firstly he gave a penalty. Secondly, despite the fact that Lomas was not the last man, he decided to send Lomas off. This decision was actually in contravention of the laws of the game but this posturing excuse of an official had obviously decided to make his own laws up. Henry slotted the penalty away easily to massed yawns from the Arsenal faithful, whose muted response probably owed much to the fact that the incident had disturbed their afternoon nap.

So 13 minutes gone and we were facing virtually a whole match with 10 men. Against 12. We nearly conceded shortly after when a defensive lapse nearly let in Henry but James, who was to have a superb match saved the day. Mr Dean hadn't been involved for a few minutes so it was about time for another chance for him to show us what he was made of. After a corner was half cleared Sinclair jumped up with van Bronkhorst. The Dutchman lead with an elbow which, according to the laws of the game, warrants a statutory red card for striking an opponent. Again Mr Dean decided that he is bigger than the game and that he had the right to ignore the laws. Although, by some miracle, he actually saw the incident and felt it worthy of a) a free kick, and b) a long chat with van Bronkhorst, he decided to unilaterally ignore the laws of the game and let the assault go unpunished.

Worse was to come a few minutes later. A long ball was played up towards Defoe. Campbell hauled Defoe out of the way for what was a clear penalty. Not to Mr Dean who, by this time had decided to throw the laws out of the window and start refereeing by whim. No penalty. Back up our end James was simply inspirational making saves from Wiltord, Henry and Bergkamp that were, frankly, world class.

Then Mr Dean made what he probably considers to be his only mistake of the game. He allowed us to score, presumably because he couldn't think of a way of disallowing it. Edu came under pressure from the hard-working Cole and decided to pass back to Seaman. The ever-alert Defoe latched on to Edu's inch perfect ball and slotted past Seaman to send us into half time a bit happier, although the view of the penalty shown on the big screen at half time confirmed everyone's opinion that we had been hard done by.

The second half saw us pinned back in our half for long periods as Arsenal sought to make the extra man count. However most attacks seemed to end either with the ball in row Z, with brave blocks from Breen, Dailly or Pearce, or with another fine save from James who may have had his finest match in a Hammers shirt. Meanwhile the midfield was working its socks off with Cisse in particular getting a foot in time after time. One such tackle brought a typically niggly trip from Bergkamp that I expect the noted myopic Wenger missed. Mr Dean, amazingly didn't, and forgetting the FA rule that Bergkamp is innocent and should never be suspended - only fined, produced a yellow card.

I suppose that it was too much to hope for that we could hold on for a point and thus it proved. Spotting that Arsenal were having problems scoring without help, Mr Dean decided to intervene once more. Firstly Bergkamp dived. An outrageous dive that made Pires' earlier effort look subtle. Mr Dean copped out. It was a second bookable offence and, as such, should have produced a red card. It didn't. Once again Mr Dean ignored the laws of the game.

Up the other end we had a rare opportunity when, following good work from Bowyer and Cisse, an unmarked Sinclair shot high and wide when he had the time to do so much better. From the resulting goal kick the ball ended up wide on the left with Bergkamp. Now Bowyer has been called a lot of names in recent weeks, amongst them "thug" and I'm sure the usual papers had the "Bowyer in elbow storm" headline all ready and waiting. So there was some irony in the fact that it was Bowyer who was the victim of an unprovoked assault from the Dutch thug. A forearm into the face left Bowyer on the floor. This was another straight red card offence (in addition to the two yellow card offences that had already been committed). Again Mr Dean, who had a perfect view of the incident, applied his own warped law and allowed the thug to cross for Henry to head home at the far post to send the Arsenal supporters, well not exactly wild, but one or two of them shuffled about a bit.

That was basically it. Henry completed his hat-trick with a sharply taken goal on the break and our only hope was that Moncur, who had replaced Cisse, might lose his rag enough to actually show Pires and Bergkamp exactly how it felt to really be fouled, but it was not to be.

We set off after the match on what seemed like a 20 mile hike to a pub near Highbury & Islington tube where the majority of the Gooners we spoke with had the good grace to be embarrassed by the fact that the man of the match wore a black shirt. Then came, what was for me the bright spot of the day. My local hostelry is frequented by a large gentleman who supports Arsenal. When I say "support" I mean that he owns a shirt and watches them on the box. When they get a hammering - like at Man Utd the other year, he covers his shirt up and pretends to be "cold". This person somehow got hold of my mobile number a while back and started texting me after each defeat with brain dead comments along the lines of "you're sh*t and you're going down", not realising that I had found out who it was that was responsible. On receipt of the inevitable mindless drivel, I put a military plan into operation that was simple but devious. I simply sent the number to a large number of friends, including KUMB regulars and the very wonderful & sexy El. Once I'd arrived back at my local I was able to witness out and out confusion on the face of our "gooner" as he received message after message from unidentified numbers! I let it run for about an hour as the value of his pay as you go card dwindled into nothingness until finally I came clean to handshakes and a round of applause all round.

Now if anyone has Mr Dean's mobile number I could have some real fun!

Player Ratings

David James (9) Save after save after save after save. A fine game and my personal man of the match.

Steve Lomas (6) Harshly done by. As far as I can make out he was sent off for having ginger hair. I look forward to seeing Scholes go for the same offence some time.

Nigel Winterburn (7) Kept busy but did ok on his Highbury farewell..

Gary Breen (6) Some early slip-ups but recovered to have a strong match.

Ian Pearce (8) Back to his best position in the heart of defence. Had me worried when he required lengthy treatment on an injury in the second half.

Christian Dailly (8) Another who gave his all with numerous timely blocks.

Trevor Sinclair (5) Trev is currently giving the ball away too much for my liking but popped up well in defence to win some vital defensive headers.

Joe Cole (7) His tireless running led to the goal and he never stopped trying.

Edouard Cisse (7) You couldn't knock the work-rate in the side today and Cisse got his foot in well from time to time.

Lee Bowyer (5) Still settling in - the nature of the game following Mr Dean's aberration made it difficult for him to, er, stamp any authority on the match. Expect Bergkamp to sue for his vicious attack on his forearm.

Jermain Defoe (6) On a hiding to nothing on his own up front, especially once we went down to 10 men. Took the goal well though.

Subs

Scott Minto (5) Came on for Winterburn. Did ok generally but I think it was him that was at fault for their one legitimate goal when losing the ball going forward.

John Moncur (5) On too short a time for any reasonable assessment.

Referee

Mike Dean (0) If there's any justice Henry will send his win bonus to Mr Dean who should never be allowed to referee a professional match again. Mr Dean you owe me 27 for my ticket and I'll be willing to talk about the aggravated damages for the ruined afternoon once Thierry's cheque has cleared.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Breen, Pearce, Dailly, Winterburn (Minto 82), Bowyer, Lomas, Cisse (Moncur 85), Sinclair, Cole, Defoe.

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Johnson, Hutchison.

Arsenal: Seaman, Lauren, Keown, Campbell, van Bronckhorst, Wiltord (Jeffers 87), Silva, Edu (Parlour 68), Pires, Henry, Bergkamp (Luzhny 87).

Subs not used: Taylor, Toure.

Booked: Breen, Bergkamp, Lauren, Parlour.

Sent Off: Lomas (professional foul).

Attendance: 38,053

Referee: Mike Dean

KUMB Man of the Match: David James

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