Filed: Saturday, 9th August 2003
By: Graeme Howlett
West Ham kicked off the Football League season in the best possible way, with goals from Jermain Defoe and David Connolly securing a vital three points at Deepdale this afternoon.
Although far from pretty at times, the Hammers managed to grind out a vital morale-boosting victory against a busy Preston side, buoyed by a noisy home crowd full of expectation for the new season.
It would perhaps have been a little too much to expect a contest full of flowing football, what with the players having to endure stadium temperatures well in excess of 100°.
Despite the overbearing heat both sides looked nervous; the Hammers rearguard particularly so, with certain errors reminiscent of those dreadful performances in the first half of last season.
Some of those nerves could be put down to players making debut appearances; Anton Ferdinand - watched from the stands by brother Rio - in defence; Rob Lee, Matt Etherington and Youssef Sofiane in midfield. David Connolly and Neil Mellor up front.
The match was interspersed by calls for the resignation of Chairman Terry Brown, who watched from the stands after returning from his much-criticised break in Isle of Wight.
Chants of 'Brown Out' were regularly sang throughout the match; quite what Brown made of it all was hard to tell as he sat stony faced and motionless.
The game started off in the worst possible way for West Ham; less than 2 minutes into the game and they found themselves a goal behind after some ball-watching from Anton Ferdinand allowed Eddie Lewis to sneak in at the back post to head home a Graham Alexander cross.
However the response was swift; on 5 minutes Matt Etherington swung a cross into the box, which Don Hutchison nodded into the path of the swivelling Defoe. The young striker - whose future at West Ham remains shrouded in uncertainly - prodded the ball home to level the scores. A timely reminder to anybody at the club who may be wondering whether to accept Manchester United's latest offer for the England under-21.
The breakthrough for the Hammers came after they had spent much of the second half on the backfoot. Glenn Roeder initiated two changes to the side, replacing the disappointing Richard Garcia with Youssef Sofiane, and the equally ineffective Neil Mellor with David Connolly.
And it was the Irish striker who capped his debut with a memorable goal midway through the second period; a measured through ball from Matt Etherington saw Connolly behind the defence. Picking up the ball on the half-way line the Irishman drove on, twisted past a final defender on the edge of the box before sending keeper Gould the wrong way as he slid the ball into the bottom left corner.
His celebrations with the away fans earned him a yellow card, although it will be Connolly's post match comments that will be making all the headlines in tomorrow's papers. See our news page for more on this.
So the Hammers are off to the best possible start as they attempt to return to the Premiership at the first hurdle. However of the last fifteen clubs to suffer relegation only three have regained their top-flight status at the first attempt - and it is clear from today's display that there is still much work for Glenn Roeder to do if he is to add the Hammers to that statistic, none more so than in defence where his side looked extremely shaky at times.
Click here to read KUMB's full in-depth match report ...
*You can listen to the BBC's post-match interview with Glenn Roeder by clicking here.
West Ham United: James, Ferdinand, Repka, Dailly, Brevett, Garcia (Sofiane), Lee, Hutchison, Etherington, Mellor (Connolly), Defoe.
Subs not used: Bywater, Byrne, Noble.
Preston North End: Gould, Alexander, Jackson, Lucketti, Edwards, Healy, Etuhu (Skora), O'Neil, Lewis, Cresswell, Fuller.
Subs not used: Lucas, Abbott, Keane, Lynch.
Goals: Lewis (2), Defoe (6), Connolly (69)
Booked: Connolly (70, celebrating goal); Ferdinand (72, foul); Brevett (timewasting, incorrectly!)
KUMB Man of the Match: Christian Dailly
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