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Wednesday, 6th November 2002

West Ham United 0
Oldham Athletic 1

by Gordon Thrower

Awful.

This was bad. Really bad. Think of the baddest thing from planet bad having a bad day. Then add Uriah Rennie's refereeing. That's how bad this match was.

Ok we've all been following the team for years and we're all getting used to cup exits at the hands of opposition from lower leagues. However, the upsets normally result from losing out to an opposition who go for it big time in a do or die bid for glory. This wasn't like that. Oldham weren't very good. The problem was that they simply didn't have to be.

We started brightly enough with Lomas pulling a good save out of the Oldham keeper in the first minute. I thought that this might mean we were going to go all out for a decent win. How stupid of me. Oldham, and forgive me if you've heard this before in previous match reports, simply sat back with eleven men behind the ball and watched as we played the ball about the back and midfield. We lacked movement. Completely.

Every time a player had the ball he would look up and have no options. The ball would invariably end up with James who would adopt plan B of hoofing it in the general direction of the opposition half.

Oldham were content to watch all this without really bothering to
create much up front. When they did make the effort, the move would normally end in them winning a free header. It was therefore very predictable that, on conceding a corner on 43 minutes, Dailly would completely fail to pick up Corazzon whose header was comprehensively buried past James.

The second half started in somewhat bizarre fashion. We'd been
playing with Breen, Dailly and Pearce at the back during the first half. For the first 5 minutes or so of the second it appeared that Cisse and Dailly had swapped positions. They then swapped back. Don't ask me why ? I couldn't work it out either.

It has to be said that we seemed to have a little bit more urgency about us in the second half. Joey had some excellent runs at the defence and Defoe brought a couple of good saves out of Pogliacomi. However for every flurry of activity lasting a minute
or so there seemed to be a good 15 minutes of, well, nothing really.

Then of course we had the substitutions. The normal rule seems to be "lets make a substitution as a last throw of the dice". This usually takes place on or about 85 minutes. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the numbers board in use as early as the 55th minute. Now I've tried to convey the fact that we were bereft of ideas and movement in midfield and up front so you might be forgiven for thinking that any changes might have been made to those departments, especially as Oldham had virtually given up on any ideas of attacking by this point. Wrong. Very wrong indeed.

What we obviously needed in a match where we needed ideas
up front was????..a change in defenders. Off went Breen and Minto and on came Archie and Winterburn. If I'm being charitable I suppose I could concede that the idea might have been that Schemmel and Winterburn might have been brought on to get forward more than the players they replaced. Whatever the reasoning behind the change it had little effect.

And now a few words about Mr Uriah Rennie. Now I am not making excuses for the defeat. We were awful and got what we deserved. However, there is no game so awful that this sorry excuse of a referee cannot make it worse. Rennie strutted and postured his way throughout the match in the mistaken belief that the crowd had paid good money to see him.

A two minute period summed him up. Defoe pushed the ball between two players and went over. Now Mr Rennie was close enough to judge whether or not there had been any contact and adjudged that Defoe had dived. A yellow card was forthcoming. Shortly after, during a rare Oldham attack, a forward (sorry ? not sure of his name) pushed the ball past James. From my clear vantage point the forward had started his dive well before James got anywhere near him and if there was any contact it was extremely minimal.

Rennie, in my opinion correctly, decided that the challenge was not a penalty. Given that the dive was even more spectacular than that of Defoe one might have expected another yellow card. Wrong. Rennie only books big name players ? remember his booking of DiCanio for diving when the victm of a blatant foul a few years ago?

I blame Pierluigi Collina for this sort of thing. Rennie has obviously seen the Italian on the telly and thought ? "I can be like that" The difference is, Mr Rennie, that Collina learned that he is a referee first and a "personality" second. Such was the awfulness of the evening though, that even the crowd insults were terrible. The shout from behind me was (and I swear that I'm not making this up): "Rennie ? your name sounds like a tablet".

Rant over, back at the match, fans of the traditional "last throw" substitution were not to be disappointed. Garcia replaced Cisse on 79 minutes and promptly disappeared. Pearce went up front and put three headers tamely wide, although in fairness he had done well to win them under pressure. James joined the attack for a corner but nothing came of the ensuing scramble. We pushed forward but to little effect and it seemed that we might even get caught on the break - an offside flag sparing the blushes as a useful Oldham break ended up with the ball in the back of the net.

The last minute provided some entertainment in the form of a bit of a scrap. Pogliacomi claimed a corner under pressure from Pearce. The next minute or so saw players pulling each other away from each other. I suppose we should have been grateful that, at last, someone was showing a bit of fight, but even this seemed half-hearted. Even Rennie couldn't be bothered to send anyone off by this point, although the theatrical delay in dealing with Pearce made us think that a red would be forthcoming.

The final whistle went to the delight of the previously silent Oldham fans and the players left the field to a chorus of boos. Roeder barely paused to shake Dowie's hand as he disappeared up the tunnel like a rat up an aqueduct. Frankly, the players are letting him and us down at the moment and I am not sure whether or not he has the ability to turn it around.

All I know is that something has to be done and whatever it takes to kick start the season it has to be done now. When I got home I caught the interview in which Roeder gave his usual statement about working hard putting things right on the training pitch. I suppose it was only fair that he gave the same interview yet again as the performance was identical to most of the others we've been "treated" to this season.

Finally, if I might be a little self-indulgent for a moment, a couple of personal words about crowd issues. Firstly, to the spotty 14 year old sat in front of me. Nice aftershave but did you have to bathe in it before you came out? Secondly, to all potential "streakers", especially fat balding ones. Don't. Things are bad enough already.

The one bright spot in the evening was the news that I'd won a tenner on the lottery. Since it was "Kids for a quid" night, I reckon that I may donate the winnings to "Childline". I reckon that they may be needing extra phone lines as hundreds of kids ring up saying "My dad made me go to West Ham the other night ? please tell him don't make me go again".

Player Ratings

David James (6) Had little to do. Maybe fortunate that the penalty decision went his way ? I've seen better refs than Rennie give them.

Gary Breen (5) Average defensively and showed poor distribution going forward. Not that there were many options open to him.

Christian Dailly (4) Same as Breen with the added penalty of losing Corazzon for the goal.

Ian Pearce (6) Coped ok at the back and at least caused some sort of bother up front towards the end.

Scott Minto (5) Mr Anonymous. I really can't think of anything that he did good or bad.

Michael Carrick (6) Opinion was divided on Michael after the match. For my money he didn't have that bad a match considering the general lack of movement around him.

Edouard Cisse (5) Got some good defensive challenges in but seemed at a loss as to what to do next.

Joe Cole (6) When we needed something different he provided some good incisive runs that led to what few chances we created.

Steve Lomas (5) Playing wide out right he often got into some good positions only for his final ball into the box to let him (and us) down.

Titi Camara (5) Disappointing. With all his comments about being desperate to play one would have thought that he would have tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Had a few good runs but would then follow them up by periods when his first touch would let him down badly. Unlucky not to get a penalty when upended in the box.

Jermain Defoe (5) In recent weeks we have had to endure "Defoe the Target Man". For this match we had "Defoe the winger". Could we have "Defoe the goalscorer" back please? Had some good chances but failed to make anything of them.

Nigel Winterburn (5) Some good defensive challenges but failed to provide much in the way of attacking impetus.

Sebastien Schemmel (5) Winterburn in reverse really? Looked better going forward than in defending. Still can't cross a ball.

Richard Garcia (1) Unless I missed something he failed to contribute anything at all for the 10 minutes or so he was on.

Referee - Uriah Rennie (3) His relegation to the Nationwide for a season seems to have taught him nothing.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Dailly, Breen (Winterburn 55), Pearce, Minto (Schemmel 55), Cole, Lomas, Carrick, Cisse (Garcia 80), Camara, Defoe.

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Sofiane.

Oldham: Pogliacomi, Hall, Hill, Armstrong, Beharall, Murray, Eyre, Low, Corazzin, Andrews (Killen 73), Eyres.

Subs not used: Miskelly, Holden, Da Silva, Vernon.

Booked: Dailly, Defoe, Pearce, Camara, Murray, Hall, Hill.

Goals: Corazzin (42)

Attendance: 21,919

Referee: Uriah Rennie.

KUMB Man of the Match: Joe Cole

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