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Saturday, 5th April 2003

Southampton 1
West Ham United 1

by Gordon Thrower

Friday.

I've heard tales of away trips organised by KUMB forum regular Romford. Legendary is the word that normally gets used to describe them. I can now see why!

We assembled during the afternoon at the very pleasant Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst. Bags unpacked we proceeded to a number of pubs in the village where a most pleasant time was spent in the warm sunshine putting the world to rights and, in the case of Bob, displaying his anorak credentials by talking to some holidaymakers all about caravans. At length. However, a few of the locals were, understandably, worried about the sudden appearance of a number of large cockneys in their midst. It was left to Ev to put their minds at rest. "We're undercover police - keeping an eye on all the West Ham fans in the area". This seemed to reassure the older locals. However the under 18 student types from the local 6th form college seemed a bit worried as they nursed their end of term pints.

Moving on through the pubs of Brockenhurst we were joined by Taff who had made a 7 hour journey from some place with not enough vowels in its name in North Wales. A few more pints and a few rolls were followed by a swim, a sauna and a jaccuzzi. These away trips are tough!

An evening trip to Bournemouth was next on the agenda. We assembled at the station where Romford spent several minutes trying to bribe the booking clerk with a tenner to give us the railcard discount. By my reckoning the discount would have been worth about 11 or so between the ten of us present at the time. The clerk remained unimpressed by both Romford's proposal and by the empassioned pleas of The Cuddles Brothers that they both "Had an all-zones travelcard at home, honestly". So, having paid an exchequer-threatening 4.40 each for the journey we hit Bournemouth.

It was at this point things started to go a little wrong for the writer. A lack of food during the day combined with a moderate but not major intake of alcohol started to take its toll on my head. Combined with a spell of major back pain from a bit of a fall last week I felt, frankly, awful. A pizza at the only Italian restaurant in town not owned by Harry Redknapp (allegedly) sadly failed to restore my equilibrium and I retired hurt, sadly missing out (or so I'm told) on an evening of drink, loud music and bared female buttocks. On my return to the room as the pain in my head got worse I started to hear voices. Being a level-headed person generally, this started to concern me so I was most happy to discover that the source of the problem wasn't some sort of major mental disorder after all. My roommate Sicknote had left his pocket radio switched on which meant that the voices urging me to eat certain brands of breakfast cereal were merely radio ads and that I could postpone a trip to the psychiatrist for another week at least.

Saturday.

I awoke feeling ok, the painkillers finally having kicked in sometime during the night. Resisting the strange urge to have Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes for breakfast, I met up with the others in time to "appreciate" the soccerette on Soccer AM and to convince Bob that Kevin Gallagher was in fact a professional footballer rather than "that bloke from the Pulse Ad". My appointment with Southampton's digital radio station meant an early arrival at the ground for me and I left early to meet my Dad and youngest bruvver Geoff both of whom live close to Southampton. On arrival Stuart the presenter took us on to the pitch (which thrilled Geoff no end) and I was to be interviewed after a brief chat with some local kids who were doing some skills training. Best moment came when the presenter asked the kids' coach where they came from. The coach mentioned, Testwood, St Marys and some other local districts but one kid at the back was insistent:- "I'm from India me"!

My own interview was fairly uneventful - the presenter's mock-amazement that David James had made a save for England being easily countered with the statistic that the clean sheet had been his 5th in a row and I wasn't put off getting full marks again in their quiz by little bruvver pointing up at the big screen and shouting "My bruvver's on telly!"

And so to the match. Team news was that Michael Carrick had failed a fitness test on a groin strain sustained on international duty. Bowyer returned in his place. The big surprise (to me anyway) given press comment during the week was the absence of Paolo DiCanio from even the bench. The pre-match presenter who had done the interview came in for some stick for pointing out our defensive record in a vain attempt to get some noise from the home support- my comments about the number of clean sheets kept by our keeper recently obviously not having registered.

The match was a scrappy affair with neither side really creating much in the way of clear-cut chances. Our best chances fell to Ferdinand, who fluffed a shot from Bowyer's pass, and to Sinclair whose diving header wide finished off an excellent move started by two crunching tackles from the ever-impressive Johnson followed by a long ball down the line from Lomas to Ferdinand.

On 43 minutes we fell behind to a goal which summed up the match completely. Scrappy and horrible. A long ball into the box was partially cleared by Repka. The ball fell out to Marsden who appeared to nudge the ball past Johnson using his arm. Marsden's hoisted cross to the far post was mishit by Beattie and took a slight deflection off Brevett past James. This provoked a stream of foul-mouthed abuse from the woman from hell who Dad had the misfortune to be sat near. Dad's withering look was met with a comment of "you got a problem?" from her neanderthal husband. Somehow Dad manfully resisted the urge to say "no mate but I think you have". I shall probably have nightmares about that cropped mullet haircut and mad staring eyes. And that was just the woman. The National result was greeted by major cheers by a bloke in front of us. He was less than happy a few minutes later when he called home to fnd his sister had forgotten to go to the bookies!

The second half started in much the same vein as much of the first had been played. Neither side really produced much in the way of football. Cisse had replaced Lomas during the interval but otherwise it was the same turgid stuff. At one point Southampton managed to string a few passes together prompting chants of "it's just like watching Brazil" from the locals. Well yes, if you mean a Brazil side with eleven hangovers having a really bad off day whilst suffering from toothache, Hong Kong pneumonia and sleeping sickness, otherwise the chant didn't really work - even on an ironic level. The clearer chances probably fell our way but that wasn't saying much. Eventually Kanoute replaced the largely ineffective Ferdinand. Sinclair's shot forced an excellent tip over from Niemi whilst a later scramble found Trev unmarked in the 6 yard box only to completely lose his bearings.

Meanwhile we had the Marsden v Bowyer bout. Marsden had been left out of Southampton's last two matches in order to avoid picking up a booking that would keep him out of the FA Cup semi. It was easy to see why. A crude hack at Bowyer went strangely unpunished by anything other than a free kick. This prompted a spell of niggle and counter niggle between the two that ended up with a spate of handbags and two yellow cards. Had referee Massias done his job earlier the whole incident might have been avoided.

Southampton's best chance came on 70 minutes when an unmarked Svenson headed over from six yards. This prompted our best spell of the match as we started to push forward. Kanoute started to run at the home defence which seemed to unnerve the home side. Pearce pressed on and had a flick with his back to goal cleared off the line by a defender and Kanoute had a shot blocked after a good run.

The equaliser came from Defoe who had hitherto done nothing all day. a long throw from Johnson caused panic in the home defence. One defender climbed all over Pearce whilst another appeared to be preoccupied with holding Sinclair off. Thankfully neither appeared too worried about the ball which bounced over to Jermain who hooked past Niemi. Litle bruv jumped up to hug big bruv causing more damage to the sore back but somehow I didn't care. Even mad mullet woman seemed, well lets just say slightly less unhappy with life.

To say we held on for the remaining 7 minutes plus stoppage would be slightly misleading. We pushed forward with a fair degree of urgency and forced a corner or two and it was probably the home side who were more relieved to hear the full time whistle. The draw, however was, in my opinion the right result.

We returned to our New Forest hideaway having said goodbye to sibling and parent. Sicknote's bloody radio provided all the bad news from other grounds. And we retired for a pint in what used to be Romford's favourite Brockenhurst pub. A pint in a really filthy glass soon saw the pub lose its title. However the beer garden afforded fine views of the main road where Romford could display and impress us with his encyclopaedic knowledge of coaches. Ok I lied about the "impress" bit.

The evening was spent in a pub with clean glasses where spicy bloody marys became the drink of choice. This was followed by a curry, the local Chinese restaurant apparently having closed for dinner. It was about this point we started to notice that Sicknote had caught the sun during what had been a glorious day. So we sat him next to the thing that heats the plates just to warm him up even more. Deano found out exactly how hotplates got their name in a strange hand-to-hot-metal experiment- I'm sure the blistered hand will heal up in time. Deano's pain was, I'm sure, more than tempered by the news that he and Kath had become grandparents for the first time. I certainly enjoyed the champagne anyway!

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the way back. The cab didn't turn up. I decided against pointing out the rather splendid meteor shower that was occurring to the north on the grounds that a coach spotter and someone who knows about astronomy in the same group was probably one anorak too many. Anyhow Tracy had at this point admitted feeling a bit sick and I reckoned that staring up in the air whilst trying to negotiate those tricky cattle grids might prove a bit much for the poor girl.

We were let back into the hotel by a Manuel lookalike who seemed strangely dishevelled when he eventually opened the door. Funnily enough the young lady who emerged from reception muttering something about receiving a fax shortly after also looked dishevelled. Strange that!

Sunday.

Got up to be greeted by a strange orange glowing apparition. Sicknote's "tan" had really taken (beet)root. Since he had left the bloody radio turned off I had absolutely no urge to eat any cereals at all in the morning and made do with some grapefruit in a clean glass once we had sorted out the hotel bill. At one stage Ev appeared to be owed 106 by every guest in the hotel and by several of the staff. Once the maths had been sorted out (and believe me it got complicated) and the good people at American Express had done their bit I left having spent an excellent weekend in great company. Thanks to all concerned: Deano & Kathy (congrats),Everard (and his brick), Willmott Fish, Bob, Tony (3 Times), Taff, The Cuddle Brothers...Nick & Chris (aka Matt & Luke out of Bros, aka The Procaimers), Tracy and Sicknote and his bloody radio. The major award goes to Chas for organising it all. Cheers mate - was that a Van Hool coach you spotted?!!

Player Ratings

David James (7) Didn't have much to do. Unlucky with the goal.

Glen Johnson (7) A few distribution errors but he continues to improve.

Rufus Brevett (7) Another good solid performance.

Thomas Repka (8) Man of the Match. The partnership with Pearce continues to flourish. Most improved player anyone?

Ian Pearce (8) Good no-nonsense defending in the words of my Dad. I wouldn't disagree.

Lee Bowyer (4) Not a good day. Failed to make much of an impact and allowed himself to get wound up by Marsden.

Joe Cole (5) A few good runs gained free-kicks in potentially useful place but otherwise Joey faile to stamp his authority on the match.

Trevor Sinclair (6) Good in parts average in others.

Steve Lomas (6) Solid and strong in the tackle.

Les Ferdinand (5) Lacked enough subtlety to break down the Southampton defence. Good in defence though.

Jermain Defoe (6) Dontcha just love the lad whose sole meaningful touch was the equaliser. Pray he keeps fit.

Substitutes

Edouard Cisse (6) Some good runs were spoilt by a frustrating habit of picking the wrong pass.

Frederic Kanoute (7) Once he got going he caused the home defence more than a few problems.

Match Facts

West Ham United: James, Johnson, Pearce, Repka, Brevett, Sinclair, Bowyer, Cole, Lomas (Cisse 45), L.Ferdinand (Kanoute 58), Defoe.

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

Southampton: Niemi, Telfer, Lundekvam, M.Svensson, Bridge, Fernandes (A.Svensson 77), Oakley, Prutton, Marsden, Beattie, Ormerod (Davies 67).

Subs not used: Jones, Higginbotham, Tessem.

Goals: Beattie (44), Defoe (82).

Booked: Fernandes, Marsden, M.Svensson, Bowyer, Cole.

Attendance: 31941.

Referee: M.Messias (York).

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