FA Premiership
West Ham United 1 Bolton Wanderers 2

Saturday, 27th August 2005
by Gordon Thrower

I always had a sense of foreboding about this one. There’s something about Bolton that always makes me think that we’re going to struggle against them.

This was despite the fact that we hadn't lost at home to them since 1964. So it was just a little disappointing to see us surrender our unbeaten record in a match in which most would concede we'd done enough to merit a share of the points.

The club's midweek appeal against Konchesky's sending off having been successful it was a starting line-up unchanged from that that had commenced the Newcastle match. Shame that Gallagher wasn't big enough to concede his error and overturn the card himself but I suppose we can be grateful for the rare sighting of a burst of common sense at the FA that enabled us to line up: Carroll, Repka, Konchesky, Ferdinand Gabbidon, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Benayoun, Harewood, Sheringham. New loan signing Jeremie "Iron" Aliadiere had been given a spot on the bench.

Firstly a "grumpy old man" rant. Back in the good old days a few minutes before kick-off the players would come out as "Bubbles" would be played and sung. However, this season the powers that be have introduced the preposterous "Premiership Handshake" which comes complete with its own overblown special fanfare and music. This is the sort of meaningless made-up "tradition" that we've come to expect from the likes of FIFA and UEFA but why do we have to have such rubbish here. Oi Premiership stop messing about with our rituals.

It took us less than 30 seconds for us to get our first shot in. Reo-Coker, obviously buoyed by his 25 yard effort in the previous home match, tried his luck from similar distance but pulled his shot harmlessly wide. Shortly after good approach work saw Mullins a shot well only to see it blocked by a brave defender.

It's an oft-repeated truism about Bolton that they are a side heavily reliant on route one and set plays. Whilst this is obviously a bit of a sweeping generalisation, the away side's main efforts did seem to rely on winning free kicks in dangerous areas and we had an early warning when Davies sot on the end of a free-kick but could only divert it wide.

We were then treated to a marvellous spell of play in which a fine interchange of passes saw Yossi played in on the right hand side of the box. Yossi feigned to cross, an action that left the defender somewhere in the Barking Road muttering "where'd he go?" The pull-back gave Yossi a good angle with which to put in a curling shot that was destined for the top corner but for a marvellous save from Jaaskelainen. Jussi foiled Yossi one might say.

We only had to wait a couple of minutes for the next chance. Matty crossed from the left and Harewood got the better of his marker only to get horribly underneath the shot to scoop it over from a few yards out.

Up the other end a deflected cross found Stelios who was making time to play for Bolton in between transfer talks and running Easyjet. The header wasn't too far off the mark. Pushing forward again Repka's angled cross from the right found Yossi in enough space to use the pace of the ball to get a clever head in but Jaaskelainen was well-placed to deal with the Israeli's effort.

We won a series of corners on our left an some clever play between Matty and the increasingly-influential Yossi saw Yossi drive a low shot into the box that Gabbidon flicked with his heel only to see Jaaskelainen pull off another fine save.

As the half closed another ball in from the left saw Harewood balloon another gilt-edged effort over from close range which suggests that his own international break might see him indulging in extra shooting practice.

Meanwhile we were grateful for Davies's weak effort from 12 yards, and the amusing sight of two unmarked Bolton forwards messing things up from 6 yards out and Konchesky's clearance at the far post for ensuring that an entertaining half finished goalless.

The earliest action of the second half involved the obnoxious El-Hadj Diouf who the crowd had clearly not forgiven for the spitting incident a few years back. Having been superbly marshalled throughout the match by the home defence he kicked the ball away in frustration promptly receiving a yellow card. This was to be his last action of the match as Allardyce, obviously concerned at the grip the West Ham midfield were beginning to exert on the match, took him off to be replaced by Campo. Shortly after Repka picked up one of the dafter yellows of his career - and there is a lot of competition in that area - when Dowd cautioned him for exactly the same offence.

Campo's impact on the game was almost immediate as he put in a brilliant drive from about 30 yards that came back off the crossbar. There was a suggestion that Carroll might have got a touch on the ball and if that was the case it was a brilliant save.

Campo's introduction changed the complexion of the game as Bolton the extra player in the middle stifled the home passing game. However when Bolton took the lead it still seemed a little harsh. Unsurprisingly the goal came from a set-piece. A corner from the Bolton left came out to Okocha whose volley from outside the box was cleared off the post by Yossi only for the ball to be played back across goal for Nolan to net from close range.

The crowd reaction was identical to that encountered on the opening day against Blackburn. An initial burst of silence (including the away support who had been quiet throughout the day) was followed by the sound of getting behind the team. A welcome trend and long may it continue.

AP chose to make a change at the restart. Matty, who had had a quiet game came off to be replaced by Aliadiere. It later transpired that Matty had been unwell and had been a doubt to make the starting line up. It wasn't long before Zamora replaced Marlon who'd had a bit of a 'mare.

We pressed forward in search of the equaliser. Yossi played the ball down the left wing for Zamora whose near-post cross found Teddy who couldn't quite get enough angle to get the ball the right side of the post.

We were treated to a couple of promising runs from Aliadiere one of which ended unceremoniously with Speed's cynical intervention, an action that brought the Welshman a deserved yellow. Once the wall had been put back Teddy's shot was almost perfect but came back off the post with Jaaskaleinen, for once stranded. Boltoned seemed a bit panicky and the resulting scramble saw the award of another free-kick from which young Edward could only find the wall. Jaaskaleinen then added to his ever-increasing total of saves when turning an NRC effort around the post.

With 7 minutes of normal time on the clock Gabbidon came off to be replaced by Elliott Ward, shortly after which the game was effectively put out of our reach. Mullins played a horrible ball across the middle leaving Ward exposed. The ball was cleverly played inside Ward for Campo to have the easiest task of beating Carroll in a one-on-one. If 1-0 had seemed harsh, then it has to be said that 2-0 positively flattered Bolton.

Still to our credit the heads didn't go down and Jaaskaleinen made yet another terrific save from Konchesky's top-corner piledriver. I don't mind opposition 'keepers playing a blinder against us but if I have to mention them half a dozen times in a match report I really do prefer them to be called Smith or Jones.

Shortly after we pulled one back. A cross from the left was played in and was blocked by a defender using both hands in a manoeuvre of which Smith or Jones in the Bolton goal would have been proud. Ref Dowd turned down the penalty appeal and allowed play to go on whereupon Mullins clever turn drew a clumsy challenge from "Please call me Nicky" Hunt which was too blatant to ignore. Young Edward thumped the penalty past Smith or Jones who promptly kicked the ball away in an example of "delaying the restart" that Dowd somehow failed to note.

We sat back and waited to see how long would be added on for stoppages. Now I know that refs have a hard job - I've done it myself so I'm well aware it's not easy. However sometimes these gentlemen who, let's not forget, are paid for their efforts, baffle me. We'd had a second half in which there had been no fewer than six substitutions, a fairly lengthy stoppage for an injury to Anton, the penalty delay and any number of blatant time-wasting ploys from the visitors - most of which were met with the time-honoured watch-tapping signal from the ref. So quite from where got a mere three minutes only he will know. Perhaps he had a bus to catch or something. Either way we were unable to force the equaliser that the performance merited and the premature final whistle ended all hopes of a comeback.

So after 3 games we've had one of each result. It's an encouraging start which, but for some wasteful finishing might have been even better. Certainly the other two promoted sides would swap places with us at the moment. The two things that have pleased me most so far this season have been the performances and the crowd. On the performance side of things we've played some decent stuff in all three games. The crowd seem to have recaptured the concepts of appreciating performances and getting behind the team that have been lost in recent years. This was in evidence by the generous applause given to the team as they came off after a defeat. We'll not have to face a Smith or Jones in goal every week and we'll no doubt play worse than that this season and get results. There are certainly worse sides than us in the Premiership so staying up is definitely not out of the question. Let's hope that the 16 day gap between matches doesn't spoil the momentum.

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
The tip onto the bar from Campo's rocket was superb. Needs to get a better understanding with Gabbidon though.

Tomas Repka
Footballing-wise fine. Spent a lot of the match being provoked by little pushes and niggles and reacted well. Then went and spoiled it by getting booked for kicking the ball away.

Paul Konchesky
A fine game. Desperately unlucky to find the Bolton 'keeper in great form towards the end of the match.

Anton Ferdinand
Another superb outing. Apparently he has an elder brother playing for some minor team up north. I wonder if he's any good? My MOTM.

Danny Gabbidon
Fairly solid but there was the occasional concentration lapse. Needs to sit down and have a chat with Carroll.

Hayden Mullins
Got his foot in well, had one goalbound shot blocked and won the penalty. On the debit side his shocking ball led directly to the second goal.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Some good spells but not as dominant as he has been in recent weeks.

Yossi Benayoun
As he comes to terms with the pace of the Premiership he is becoming more and more influential. Bolton's tactics should have brought home to him that he chose the right club to join.

Matthew Etherington
I described him as being "out of sorts" to my neighbour at half time. This was a more accurate description than I realised at the time as he was, apparently, ill. It showed.

Marlon Harewood
If you look up the definition of "One Of Those Days" in a dictionary you'll probably see a description of Marlon's match v Bolton. Really ought to have done better with the chances he had. He will be wondering about his place in the starting line-up over the next 16 days.

Teddy Sheringham
The usual clever performance from young Edward who can look forward to a couple of weeks with his feet up.


Jeremie Aliadiere
(Replaced Etherington, 60) Came on in an unfamiliar right midfield spot for Etherington and his pace and skill suggested that he might be an important acquisition.

Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Harewood, 65) On for the hapless Harewood he nearly provided Sheringham a goal from his near post cross.

Elliott Ward
(Replaced Harewood, 65) Came on to add some height but his first action was to find himself horriby exposed by Mullins' horror pass.

Shaka Hislop
Did not play.

Christian Dailly
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Teddy Sheringham.

Goals: None.

Booked: Tomas Repka 55          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Bolton Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Pedersen, N'Gotty, Ben Haim, Nolan, Speed, Giannakopoulos, Okocha, Diouf, Davis.

Subs not used: Walker, Nakata.

Goals: Nolan (59), Campo (85).

Booked: Diouf (51), Davis (56), Giannakopoulos (62), Speed (76).

Sent off: None.

Referee: P.Dowd.

Attendance: 31,629.

Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.