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Saturday, 12th April 2003

West Ham United 2
Aston Villa 2

by Gordon Thrower

When I were a lad, I remember that every time one of the lower orders got a bit too big for their boots, the old buffers at the FA would issue a charge of "bringing the game into disrepute". This crime was replaced on the FA statute books a few years ago with the more generic charge of "misconduct".

I have no idea why this change took place but Mr Dean of the Wirral ought to be thanking his lucky stars that it did. Instead this nasty little man is probably feeling quite proud of himself for having managed to exert his "influence" on yet another of our matches. In truth we had enough chances to have won at a canter, but the suspicion remains that, with another ref, all three points would have been ours.

Pre-match in the Wakefield saw a bumper KUMB turnout, including debut appearances from Smudge, and all the way from Melbourne, Bomber with his UK-based mate Paul. Enough new faces to keep the digital camera busy. Pre-match at the ground saw a nice touch when "Bubbles" was dedicated to Kelan Turrington, the fellow Hammer who sadly didn't make it back from Iraq. I may be in a minority here but I thought that meant a lot more than a minute's silence would have done. The team was still without the injured Carrick and the missing presumed gone Di Canio. Kanoute started in place of Ferdinand who was on the bench.

We had the better of the early exchanges. Lomas was particularly unlucky to see his 9th minute header somehow bounce safely into Enckelman's arms off both the post and the bar. A few minutes later Defoe latched onto a long clearance but, having taken the ball slightly too wide, he only managed to pull his shot wide of the post. However the deserved lead was only a couple of minutes away. Kanoute went on an excellent run down the right wing and put in a testing cross. The ball flicked off the head of a Villa defender to land at the feet of Sinclair who controlled and buried his shot past Enckelman.

Villa created little, although Hadji put a free header over the bar. Then came the moment that Mr Dean had so obviously been waiting for. The chance to do something controversial and change the course of a match. A lofted ball into the box was met by Repka in a challenge that was identical to numerous others that had taken place all over the pitch without punishment. With fairly minimal contact, Allbeck threw himself to the ground in what would otherwise have been a hilarious piece of overacting. Dean needed no further invitation to point to the spot. if it was a penalty why not punish all the other challenges of that nature? If it wasn't why give it?

Having had the stuffing knocked out of us we battled hard to regain the earlier momentum. A Sinclair cross was diverted behind and, from the resulting corner, Pearce headed narrowly wide. Up the other end, Villa, seemingly encouraged by the discovery of a twelfth man, had a Hitzlsperger shot well saved by James, although the linesman's flag was up anyway. Mr Dean found time to book Lomas for applauding a decision before Defoe hit a shot over the bar.

At half time Dean left the pitch to well-deserved boos. The look on his face was a sickening sight to behold. He was actually proud of himself. Some town somewhere is missing a jobsworth traffic warden. This contrasted sharply with the dignity shown by the Barking & Dagenham Normandy veterans who were received on the pitch at half time with well-deserved and generous applause.

We started the second half in determined mood. Enckleman saved with his legs from point-blank range from Kanoute. However, disaster was to strike shortly afterwards. Vassell came back from an offside position to pick up a ball down the left. The "Premiership" commentary (clearly added after the match) at this point was, quite simply, a lie and it was noticeable that the camera angle which would have shown this quite clearly only showed the action after Vassell had come back onside. Johnson & Repka failed to deal with the threat and Vassell's cross found Leonhardsen unmarked at the back post to mishit his shot past a helpless James.

Our worst spell of the match then followed. An identical run from Vassell found Leonhardsen unmarked only for the Norwegian to thankfully put his shot over. James tipped a low shot from Allbeck around the post and a run from Samuel finished with a poor shot.

On the hour Ferdinand replaced the ineffective Bowyer and we started to regain some composure. Within a few minutes we were level. An excellent ball from Cole found Kanoute's run. Fredi turned his marker and put a fine finish away.

The remainder of the match was one way traffic. Enckelman turned a Johnson drive over then followed up with an even better save from Kanoute's header. Lomas went on a powerful run and squared only for Ferdinand to put his shot over from close range. Hutchison, who had replaced Kanoute with five minutes left, let a ball run for Defoe who shot over from the left hand side. During the frantic last few minutes, a ball was played up to Ferdinand. A defender climbed all over Les, with arms around his neck. Unsurprisingly Mr Dean decided that neither this nor several other identical challenges were penalties, despite their being identical to the one earlier deemed worthy of a spot kick. Our trouble is that we simply don't throw ourselves to the ground when fouled.

The final agony came when Defoe turned brilliantly and surged into the box only for Enckleman to save and gratefully see the rebound bounce back into his hands.

The post match inquest in the Wakefield was subdued despite a further Wakefield debut from Bluebutterfly. We'd lost two points through a combination of bad luck, poor finishing and disgraceful refereeing. Far too much to drink didn't improve the mood although a review of the digital photos seems to suggest we had a good time.

A win up at Bolton next week is now a must. An important match that will require a proper ref. I'd rather have David Blunkett in charge than ever have to sit through a match reffed by the disgraceful Dean again. So I expect the FA will give us Rennie or Poll next week. After all we don't count do we count because our chairman isn't David Dein.

Player Ratings

David James (7) Left woefully exposed for the second goal. Otherwise fairly sound.

Glen Johnson (6) Had a poor spell early in the second half but recoverd his composure in the latter stages.

Rufus Brevett (5) Absent without leave on the back post for the second. Not a great day distribution-wise either.

Ian Pearce (7) Strong performance - kept his head during that dodgy 10 minute spell in the second half.

Tomas Repka (6) Unlucky with the penalty. Deserved the booking but with the ref in that sort of mood he'd probably have picked up a yellow anyway.

Lee Bowyer (4) Another poor game. Won the ball a few times but his passing was shocking.

Steve Lomas (8) This may be a bit controversial but I thought Lomas had a fine game. Never stopped running and, like Pearce, kept his head during the dodgy spell. I wonder what he's done in the past to upset Dean though.

Joe Cole (6) At times inspirational at others anonymous. Excellent ball in for our second.

Trevor Sinclair (6) Full of running thoug during the mad 10 minutes in the second half he swapped sides a couple of times and didn't track back to cover for their second.

Frederic Kanoute (7) One goal, one assist, a few excellent runs and was denied an second goal by a marvellous save.

Jermain Defoe (6) Last week he did nothing and scored. This week he did everything and drew a blank. Frightened the life out of Villa.

Substitutes

Les Ferdinand (5) Not much of an impact. Was wrestled in the box at least twice without reward.

Don Hutchison (5) Only given a few minutes plus stoppage time to make a name.

Referee

Mike Dean (0) Incompetent, inconsistent, inept. Either this man knows the laws of the game or he doesn't. If he does why does he not apply them in a proper and consistent manner? If he doesn't why is he allowed near a professional football match? The FA confirmed his inability to control a top flight match with their decision on Bergkamp. So why was he given another one of ours?

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Johnson, Repka, Pearce, Brevett, Lomas, Cole, Bowyer (Les Ferdinand 62), Sinclair, Kanoute (Hutchison 85), Defoe.

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Dailly, Cisse.

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Edwards, Mellberg, Staunton, Samuel, Hadji (Leonhardsen 52), Hendrie (Gudjonsson 26), Hitzlsperger, Barry, Vassell, Allback (Taylor 90).

Goals: Sinclair, Vassell (p), Leonhardsen, Kanoute

Subs not used: Postma, Moore.

Booked: Barry, Repka, Bowyer, Lomas, Cole.

Attendance: 35,029

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

KUMB Man of the Match: Steve Lomas.

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