Saturday, 11th January 2003
And so to the annual visit of my Geordie pals. Our traditional meeting place in Whitechapel meant giving the Wakefield a miss for a change but, as ever, Bathtub, Craggsy, Dale & Doug proved excellent company. Highlights of the session were Bathtub NOT giving us his Rick Astley impersonation (for which much thanks), and the poor taste interlude during which the current appropriateness of the song "Stayin' Alive" was called into question.
Fed & watered we left for Upton Park where I was the victim of a vicious assault outside the chippy by Queens Market. The culprit was a small green bollard which, due to the crowd, I failed to spot until it tripped me up, giving me a superb bruise to my right knee to add to my post-flu cough. I therefore spluttered and limped my way down Green Street. I understand that there was the odd protest or two happening relating to the Bowyer signing but, wherever they were I didn't see them until I watched "The Premiership" on the box later on. The team news was that Sinclair was to partner Defoe up front, with Pearce relegated to the bench. Bowyer was to slot into the right midfield berth vacated by Sinclair. Lomas replaced Schemmel, Archie not even making the bench.
A quick memo Jeremy Nicholas. Please don't come out with statements such as "The Great Escape Starts here" just before kick-off. The words "Tempting" and "Fate" leap to mind. Also, while you're at it could you turn off the machine that displays "Goal Kick" Corner" "You will get a better view if you face the pitch" and other obvious but irrelevant messages. during the match. We know. We've been to matches before you know. Or perhaps those messages are aimed at the producers of "The Premiership" whose coverage continues to plumb new depths.
For the first 10 minutes or so it was Groundhog Day - a bright start followed by an opposition goal against the run of play. Defoe looked lively drawing a save out of Given following a typical twist and turn. However, on 9 minutes, Dailly failed to deal with Ameobi out on our left. Jenas fed Bellamy who had time and space to turn and bury the shot to put us 1-0 down.
Despite the setback we continued to have the better of the possession as Newcastle continued with their main tactic of kicking Cole and Bowyer up in the air. Cole was the victim because they couldn't quite work out how to stop him. The targeting of Bowyer appeared to be a more cynical attempt to wind him up and it was to the new signing's credit that he didn't react. In particular, one shocking challenge from behind on the touchline that went straight through Bowyer was deserving of at least a yellow card. Perhaps Mr Winter wanted to spare himself the hassle of trying to identify the culprit - Newcastle's innovative kit design of having black numbers on a black background making the task from the stands virtually impossible. Further up the pitch the visitors were also fortunate not to concede a penalty when Defoe was unceremoniously shoved to the ground by a defender in an off the ball incident. You'll have waited in vain to see the incident on "The Premiership". Presumably the cameras were concentrating on members of the crowd in the hope of finding some sort of controversial protest occurring.
Newcastle's lead lasted five minutes. A throw from Lomas was nodded across his own area by a defender. Cole latched onto the loose ball, cleverly sidestepped another defender and put away his shot before Given had a chance to react. Cole clearly enjoyed his second goal in as many games cueing the crowd's obligatory Spandau Ballet impersonation.
Following the goal we kept the ball for long spells although we nearly came a cropper when a James save from a shot from distance was cleared by Breen against Ameobi only for the ball to, thankfully, rebound over the bar. However, as the match progressed our midfield began to dominate. Bowyer started to link well with Lomas on the right and it was from one such move that our second goal came. A Bowyer pass was blocked so he tried again feeding Lomas wide on the right. Lomas seemed to be going nowhere with his run but did well to get his cross in where he found Defoe in the box. The youngster twisted one way, turned another and left the Newcastle defenders for dead and put a low shot into the bottom corner to send us 2-1 up. It was, quite simply, a marvellous goal.
Being West Ham we had to endure the usual worrying post goal moment. For the first time Newcastle came at us as if they meant it and it took a fine save from James to keep us ahead at half time. "The Premiership" spotted the save but didn't make much of it, presumably on the grounds that whilst "David James cocks it up" makes good tv, "David James makes excellent save" doesn't.
The second half started in much the same vein as the first had ended. We enjoyed long periods of possession. Cole started to link up well with the new boy and with Defoe and we were a bit unfortunate not to go 3-1 up when Joey failed to find Bowyer with a square ball from the left. "The Premiership" missed that one as well, although, somewhat bizarrely, they failed to remove all the mentions of it in the post match interviews. Shortly after, referee Winter finally remembered what that little yellow thing in his pocket was for as Acuna was finally carded for foul no.42 on Cole. this was shortly followed by our first substitution. Minto replaced Winterburn who had been injured in a particularly brave tackle. Up the other end Bowyer and Carrick both went close but, worryingly we still only had the one-goal lead. And we were starting to tire.
Now over the years I've been playing and watching football I was always told that, unless injuries are involved, you should never make a substitution when defending a set piece. Yes I know it was a throw in but Hutchison and Pearce (replacing Cisse & Sinclair respectively) hadn't got themselves sorted when a clearance on 81 mins found Jenas whose volley screamed into the top corner. Jenas will hit that shot another 100 times in his career and won't score any of them. Unfortunately he lucked out against us. Although Newcastle finished the stronger of the two sides, there was still time for Defoe to pull a good save from Given with one of those trademark cut-in and no-backlift shots. All to no avail as the match finished after a suspiciously short 3 minutes of injury time.
So 2 points lost rather than one gained although it was enough to get us of the bottom for the first time in about 3 months. It was a match that we bossed for long periods only to run out of steam at the end and I found it scary that the fittest player we had was a guy who can have done little training this week having spent most of it commuting between London and Leeds. perhaps it's time that Glenn Roeder stopped going on about "Working Hard In Training" and start to concentrate on making sure that they can do so in matches. In the mean time I'm off to start my own protest against two of the great menaces facing society today. Small green bollards and ITV's coverage of Premiership football. The sooner both are abolished the better as far as I'm concerned.
David James (7) Not at fault for either goal he looked a lot better than of late. Brilliant save just before the interval to ensure we went in 2-1 up
Steve Lomas (7) Did quite well at the back and his storming run set up Defoe for his goal.
Nigel Winterburn (5) Given a difficult time early on by Bellamy (the pick of the opposition) although to his credit he recovered his composure. Injured in making a bone-crunching, but vital' tackle.
Christian Dailly (6) Caught out for the first goal but improved as the match went on.
Gary Breen (6) A lack of alertness nearly caught him out a couple of times but overall not bad.
Joe Cole (8) Deserving of the goal he worked hard throughout despite being on the end of constant "attention" from the opposition.
Lee Bowyer (7) A useful debut which showed promise for the future. Failed to react to some shocking challenges and it is to be hoped that he will carry this attitude on once the media attention has died down a bit.
Edouard Cisse (5) Got stuck in well. However he was let down by his distribution on occasion.
Michael Carrick (6) Another hard worker but, like many others, faded towards the end.
Jermain Defoe (7) Marvellous goal and, with a bit of luck, might have had more.
Trevor Sinclair (5) A lot more effort from Trev in his unaccustomed role up front but not much came off for him.
Scott Minto (6) Had a solid 40 mins as Nutty Nige's replacement.
Don Hutchison (5) Not really on long enough to make a difference.
Ian Pearce (5) See above.
Jeff Winter (7) Overall ok though there were a couple of "interesting" decisions.
West Ham United: James, Lomas, Breen, Dailly, Winterburn (Minto 56), Bowyer, Cisse (Hutchison 80), Carrick, Cole, Defoe, Sinclair (Pearce 81).
Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Moncur.
Newcastle United: Given, Griffin, Caldwell, Hughes, Bernard, Acuna (LuaLua 65), Dyer, Jenas, Robert, Bellamy, Ameobi (Cort 86).
Subs not used: Harper, Solano, Dabizas.
Goals: Bellamy (9), Cole (14), Defoe (45), Jenas (81).
Referee: Jeff Winter.
KUMB Man of the Match: Joe Cole
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