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Saturday, 5th October 2002

West Ham United 1
Birmingham City 2

by Gordon Thrower

It’s just like deja vu all over again.

I think it was Sam Goldwyn who coined that phrase (I expect someone will correct me if not). What is definitely true is that writing match reports for our home matches is beginning to take on a depressingly familiar format. It’s a simple recipe. Take one inferior opposition, let them get very organised, let in a stupid goal or two then sit back and watch the crowd simmer. It seems all I have to do is change the name of the opposition.

The latest journeymen to depart from the Boleyn with 3 points were Birmingham who were fresh from their 3-2 win up the road at Leyton Orient, albeit with a vastly different side to the one put out against us. We started to lose the plot as early as the 3rd minute. A long and, frankly, speculative ball from Savage was played into the box. Breen allowed himself to be bundled off the ball far too easily by John. John’s shot was straight at James but the England no.1 made a poor effort as the ball went straight through him to put us 1-0 down.

We enjoyed a bit more possession over the next few minutes without creating much in the way of clear cut chances - is this beginning to sound familiar at all? However, unusually, we managed an equaliser on 17 min. A clearance was nodded on to Di Canio who ran at the Birmingham defence before laying a ball into the path of Cole who finished (as Ron Manager would say) with aplomb. That was it for the first half as far as we were concerned. Possession a-plenty across the midfield but little creativity.

Things got worse before the break. A Lazaridis snap shot from the left went narrowly wide. Then Breen and Repka let John get in between them and gave him enough time and space to turn and slot home past James for his second of the match. Although John’s turn was neat and the finish cool he was given an ridiculous amount of time and space to play in.

The second half was worse. We lacked urgency, invention, guile or any sense of passion. (No you're not reading the West Brom report!). We created only two chances of note. Some clever footwork from Di Canio put Sinclair through only for him to shoot at the near post rather than pull the ball back for the better placed Carrick or Defoe. Then a volley from Lomas was clearly handled by Purse who conned the referee by clutching his face in the style of Rivaldo. A later free kick outside the box was flicked up for Di Canio to volley. It was the sort of shot that either has you gasp in admiration or makes you groan with frustration as the ball is returned from the upper tier of the Centenary stand. Suffice to say we groaned rather than gasped. At the other end, the lessons of the first half went unheeded as John was left alone once more to miss what appeared to be a simple header that would have given him his second hat-trick of the week.

So, given that the match was following a predictable pattern, it was soon time for an “interesting” substitution. This time it occurred on 71 minutes, admittedly slightly earlier than the 10 minutes left that we were becoming used to. Pearce and Camara replaced Schemmel and Cole. Now Cole’s substitution was not, as you can imagine, greeted with universal acclaim. Personally I thought Defoe would have been the man to go, as he had had no impact on the game whatsoever up to that point. Roeder later claimed that Cole had been injured, although those nearer to the pitch than I was are adamant that Cole’s reaction was one of disgust at being subbed. Unfortunately the substitutions had little effect. Camara huffed and puffed to little avail whilst the swapping of Pearce for Archie changed. nothing at all as far as I could see.

The game petered out tamely as both sides seemed content to run down the clock. Hammers left to a chorus of boos. Memo to Mr Brown, the boos were not directed at any one individual but towards the whole team for a performance that was simply lacking in, well, everything.

It’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what is wrong with a side so crammed full of talent it can go to Chelsea and play so well one week and perform so abjectly the following week. At least we were spared the usual “we had all the possession and were unlucky” speech post match. Roeder finally admitted that the performance was “unacceptable”. Whatever your views on the current manager it is clear that he is being let down big time by the players at the moment. The big question is does Roeder have any idea what is he going to do about it? I hope he sorts it out soon because I’m now out of adjectives to use to describe our home performance and, if things don’t improve, I really will have to recycle these match reports.

Player ratings

David James (5) Had little in the way of saves to make but was partly at fault for the first goal when he failed to get everything behind the ball.

Sebastien Schemmel (4)You know in soap operas when another actor replaces a character and nobody appears to notice. I’m sure that’s what has happened to the role of Archie. Last year’s player of the season disappeared for an operation and has been replaced by a vastly inferior actor with a completely different haircut. Well have you got a better explanation for his alarming loss of form?

Scott Minto (6) An unspectacular match. Nothing good or bad sticks in the memory at the moment so gets the top mark for the defence by default really.

Tomas Repka (3) Poor positional sense for the second goal. Was fortunate that John was adjudged to have backed in earlier on for one challenge which another referee might have adjudged to have been a penalty.

Gary Breen (3) Very poor. Culpable over both goals. Tried to be too clever over the first and was not nearly close enough to John for the second.

Trevor Sinclair (5) Needs the ball to be played out early to him while he has the space on the right. Carrick appeared to be the only one who realised this. Sadly he failed to make best use of it. Shot at the near post in the second half when Defoe and Carrick would have equalised.

Michael Carrick (7) Given the stick he’s had from some quarters, and bearing in mind how poor the overall team performance was, I felt that Carrick actually played quite well. Some excellent passing which deserved better from his team mates.

Steve Lomas (6) Can consider himself slightly unlucky not to have notched the equaliser thanks to Purse’s “save”. Otherwise, as with Minto, nothing else springs to mind over the 90 minutes.

Joe Cole (5) Failed to grab the game by the scruff of the neck in any way shape or form. Saved from a lower mark by his splendid finish from Di Canio’s pass.

Paolo Di Canio (6) Some nice touches set up the goal and put Sinclair through in the second half. Unfortunately the flashes of inspiration were few and far between,

Jermain Defoe (4) Made one run and shot narrowly wide in the first half. Otherwise was completely anonymous.

Ian Pearce (5) Didn’t register on the radar at all.

Titi Camara (5) Came on with a point to prove but given little opportunity given the lack of service from our midfield.

Ref: P.Dowd (5) Gave mystifying free kicks for innocuous aerial challenges whilst missing more obvious stuff. Didn’t help the flow of an already scrappy the match one bit.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Schemmel (Pearce 72), Breen, Repka, Minto, Cole (Camara 72), Carrick, Lomas, Sinclair, Defoe, Di Canio.

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, E.Cisse, Winterburn.

Birmingham City: Vaesen, Kenna, Cunningham, Purse, Damien Johnson, Devlin, A.Cisse, Savage, Lazaridis (Powell 84), John (Horsfield 83), Morrison.

Subs not used: Bennett, Vickers, Kirovski.

Goals: John (3, 43), Cole (16)

Booked: Minto, Carrick, A.Cisse

Attendance: 35,010

Referee: P.Dowd (5).

KUMB Man of the Match: Michael Carrick (7)

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