Aston Villa 1 West Ham United 2

Saturday, 14th January 2006
by East Stand Martin

Birmingham. It always sends a shiver down my spine as it was here that I picked up the dreaded chicken pox off some diseased Brummie after carrying out some job interviews for my employer at the time.

The pox in your twenties, for those that haven't had the joy of experiencing it, is f*cking awful. My GP paid a home visit and burst out laughing when I revealed that I was covered from head to foot in eruptions. Thanks a bundle, tw*tface. The worse thing was, it was Xmas as well, and yours truly spent most of the holiday in a cold bath, wondering if my d*ck was going to fall off. I was only able to venture out to a party on New Year's Eve where everybody recoiled in horror wondering who had invited the leper with the Party 7.

Down before arrival

Villa Park is also a place that I don't like visiting due the fact that West Ham never seem to do any good there. The last time we went, we got caught in traffic, arrived in the stadium half an hour late to find that we were already 1-0 down. We ended up losing 4-1.

To be honest, what was really worrying me was our recent form. Three successive defeats in the league and we needed to turn our fortunes around. Travelling away to face a team on a good run did not augur well. Hardly surprising then, that I was not in the most positive frames of mind, despite the best attempts of Oxford Fred and ESM Jnr to raise my spirits.

The arrival of the team on the pitch saw the return of Anton and Carroll, with Yossi still on the bench as apparently he hadn't quite shrugged off his injury. For their part, Villa had Baros back, although Angel and Hendrie were left on the bench.

Z-man misses it

The first action of the game on two minutes saw Tom get free overlapping down the right and he was found with a good pass by Marlon. A really good near post ball was whipped in low and hard and Zamora either tried to unsuccessfully backheel it or dummy, but whatever his intention was he missed it and allowed the ball to go across the face of goal. Waiting at the far post was Matty who appeared to have an open goal at his mercy, but under challenge he scooped his shot back to the keeper Thomas Sorensen.

Five minutes in and Villa won a free kick down the right. A dangerous ball was sent into the box and an opposition player got to it first but looped it over the bar. From the clearance, Milner was first to the ball and he ran rapidly forward. He tried a 30 yard shot which was blasted way over.

The tenth minute saw Baros beginning to cause real problems as Konch was bypassed with a through ball. He swayed into the box menacingly but Anton was in the perfect position to block his goal bound shot. Almost immediately afterwards, Baros was at it again, running towards goal with the defence backing off. Once again Anton was on hand to parry his shot away.

Eirik Bakke was clearly not able to carry on and he was replaced by Hendrie just 12 minutes in. Two minutes after the change, McCann found some room to manoeuvre outside the box after a good lay off in a central position. He tried to curl a shot into Carroll's right hand corner, but it went about three feet wide.

West Ham won a corner on 20 minutes after a good run down the right by Marlon. A good ball was sent in and Mulins rose to meet it, but he headed the ball about a foot over the bar.

The sub scores

We fell behind on 27 minutes after Milner made a clever reverse pass down the Villa left to set Samuel free. Tom could get nowhere near him and a very good cross was met at the near post by Hendrie who glanced it over Caroll and into the left hand corner.

West Ham tried to respond to the goal on the half hour with Zamora laying off a sweet pass out to Matty who made for the dead ball line. He angled a cross along the ground to Marlon outside the box, but he looked off balance and the shot was skewed wide.

Melberg was booked on 35 minutes for scything down Matty coming out of defence.

The main threat in the first half was down the left with Matty and his combination with Z-man on 42 minutes saw the ball come out to Mullins looking for a repeat of his goal against Norwich, but his shot was blocked.

The final action of the half came on 44 minutes when there was a scramble in the Villa box, but Zamora appeared to want too long with the ball at the right hand post and could not get a shot away.

Villa looked certainly brighter in the first half and we seemed to be lacking something in the centre of the park. Reo-Coker was pretty absent and we were looking vainly for a creative spark. We needed to show a bit more desire and raise the tempo of our game.

New look West Ham

As soon as the second half started, we looked like we meant to turn things around. In the 48th minute we won two corners in quick succession following good pressure. The second of these saw the ball beat everybody and land on Anton's thigh and behind for a goal kick at the right hand post.

Further sustained pressure down the left resulted in a free kick on 51 minutes after Hendrie handled a cross from Konch. The left back took the free kick and whipped in an excellent ball which curled away from the keeper allowing Zamora to beat a static Villa defence and head easily past Sorensen. It was no more than West Ham deserved from a determined and spirited re-start.

As the Villa fans had been giving it large with the "Easy, Easy" after their goal, they were paid back in the same coin by the travelling Irons.

A minute after the West Ham goal, Carroll was called upon to make a good save from a Hendrie header after a cross came in from the left. He took it pretty comfortably making a two handed save.

Newton puts it about

A dangerous counterattack by West Ham was set up on 58 minutes by Marlon running powerfully out of his own half. He made a nice pass out to Newton - who ran around magnificently today - creating a similar one on one opportunity to the one he had at Charlton on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately the outcome was the same, with his shot being held well down low by the keeper.

On the hour more industry by West Ham led to a corner down the left. The cross sent in was headed back by Gabbidon and Mullins managed to get a half volley away which appeared to hit the arm of a Villa defender. Ref Phil Dowd had no doubt and pointed at the spot.

Up stepped Marlon to take the penalty, despite the pleas of some near me to allow Tom to take it. Our leading goalscorer was coolness personified as he ran up and sent the keeper the wrong way. Even if Sorensen had chosen to go the right way, it was unlikely that he would have saved it, so perfect was the placing in the corner.

What the f*ck does he say in there?

What a fantastic turnaround and once again you wondered what Pardew had said at the interval to achieve such a reversal. Whatever he says, he's making a habit of it this season as the Hammers have made a habit of coming back from a one goal first half deficit.

The goal saw O'Dreary make an immediate change with the introduction of Angel. ON 66 minutes this looked to have paid dividends with Angel involved in a number of 1-2's in the West Ham box. Fortunately Tom was on hand to cut out a Baros shot that might have caused Carroll some problems.

Newton was on another of his never say die missions on 69 minutes and he managed to force a save out of Sorensen at the bottom of the left hand post after just retrieving the ball from the dead ball line. He clattered into the hoarding, Gabbidon-style and had to be substituted for Yossi almost immediately afterwards.

There was a bit of a fracas about whether the ball should have been put out for the Newton injury and this dispute was inflamed by the ref's refusal to allow treatment for the injured player. Mullins was incensed by this and ended up getting booked for dissent.

Katan on

Pardew made another tactical substitution on 73 minutes when Katan was given his first Premiership start in place of Zamora. Three minutes later, the Israeli was booked for a professional foul, to be followed just after by Marlon.

The football genius known as Christian Dailly came on for Matty on 82 minutes to strengthen or defensive capability. A minute later, Konch fouled Milner on the left hand edge of the box and the subsequent free kick led to a free header by McCann which was wastefully but thankfully put wide.

West Ham were trying to run the clock down and with two minutes of ordinary time left, Marlon did well to win a free kick in a central position about 30 yards out. Katan stepped up to take it and he hit a nice curling shot over the wall which Sorensen held well in the top right hand corner. This was promising, considering we have not done particularly well with similar opportunities of late.

The last real chance for a Villa equalizer came in the 88th minute after Tom was adjudged to have committed a foul in a central position about 30 yards out. Milner tried to get a shot on target after the ball was laid off to him but it spun weakly wide.

We managed to navigate the three minutes of added time without too much difficulty as Villa only seemed able to give away free kicks every time they challenged for the ball.

Stupid stewards

Naturally, the large contingent of West Ham fans were really delighted at the end, and one youngster ran onto the pitch to ask Tom for his shirt. He came back clutching his trophy to find his dad who then appeared to get a right earful from a load of stewards. There was no risk to safety here and it all looked like an overreaction.

We discovered a jubilant Fred outside - he'd been in the Doug Ellis overspill part of the ground - who had seen his 2-1 correct result prediction come in at 12-1. He was also most amused to have heard an inebriated fan singing some incoherent song about Katan which involved the new purchase buying a coat at Matalan. F*ck knows where that idea came from.

Anyway, 29 points on the board and safety is coming up over the horizon. Let's see if we can add the double scalp of Fulham to Villa by getting back to winning ways at Upton Park on Monday week. I reckon we will do it.

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Comments to follow.

Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.

Paul Konchesky
Comments to follow.

Anton Ferdinand
Comments to follow.

Danny Gabbidon
Comments to follow.

Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Comments to follow.

Shaun Newton
Comments to follow.

Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.

Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.

Bobby Zamora
Comments to follow.


Yossi Benayoun
(Replaced Newton, 71) Comments to follow.

Yaniv Katan
(Replaced Zamora, 74) Comments to follow.

Christian Dailly
(Replaced Etherington, 81) Comments to follow.

Shaka Hislop
Did not play.

Clive Clarke
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Shaun Newton, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 51 Marlon Harewood 60                .

Booked: Hayden Mullins 72 Yaniv Katan 77 Marlon Harewood 79      .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Aston Villa: Sorensen, Delaney, Hughes, Mellberg, Samuel, Davis, Bakke, McCann, Milner, Moore, Baros.

Subs not used: Taylor, Ridgewell, Gasdner.

Goals: Hendrie (27).

Booked: Mellberg (36).

Sent off: None.

Referee: P.Dowd.

Attendance: 36,700.

Man of the Match: tbc.