West Ham United 0 Reading 1

Sunday, 1st October 2006
by East Stand Martin

You know, a classical comprehensive education taught me something important in life. I learnt it from Shakespeare. When it thunders and pisses it down something shitty is invariably going to happen.

Driving round to the game as I always do via the North Circular Road, it was f*cking chaos and the old blood pressure was rising as a 2 O'clock arrival was looking increasingly unlikely.

Swerving around the back streets, I had to switch on the radio to catch the first part of the match and f*ck me I nearly drove straight into another car as I heard the commentator describe "a stunning goal" by Seol Ki-Hyeon. Would you Adam and Eve it, here's West Ham desperate to turn the corner and we're down before you even know it. What's more it was the same player that mugged us in a game against Wolves in January 2005. Funny how you have flashbacks when someone pops up and scores like that.

I finally got to my seat at 2.13 pm not at all happy, so the first part of the game I only saw later thanks to my DVD recorder patched into Egyptian channel ART 5.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

Yet again it was all change for the West Ham lineup. The only consistent thing we have had so far this season is the inconsistency of the personnel chosen to start. This time, Mullins was brought back from the wilderness and Mascherano left on the bench. In came Spector and Dailly while the manager concluded, probably rightly, that Tevez was more likely to prosper with a traditional centre forward in the shape of Carlton Cole.

The later playback revealed the horror of the opening goal after just 90 seconds. Doyle won a free kick down the left, and at the second time of asking, the ball was laid off to Seol who was allowed too much space by Yossi who couldn't get near him. He unleashed a peach of a shot which flew into the top right hand corner with Carol not even getting a sniff.

Trying to make amends for his defensive lapse, Yossi showed great skill on 6 minutes as he went one way and then the other, but he couldn't quite wriggle in the box. Two minutes later, Tevez looked very lively as a move down the left allowed him to get a shot away which skidded off the sodden surface straight at Hahnemann who held on well.

Tevez showed another lovely piece of skill on 10 minutes as he back heeled a ball out left. The ball was cleared but only to Spector who hit a nice first time shot 25 yards out which was too central to bother the 'keeper too much.

Wrong decision

On 13 minutes Reo-Coker incensed the crowd in the East Stand and Bobby Moore Stand simultaneously as he took the wrong decision after latching on to a pretty reverse pass from Yossi. Free in the box, he elected to make a telegraphed square pass rather than smack one at the goal. This was probably another manifestation of his uncertain start to the season.

Carroll set everybody's nerves a-jangling on 15 minutes as he failed to come and collect a ball, leaving Dailly with no other option than to head behind for a corner. The long clearance that followed from Konchesky almost saw Tevez get between the defender and the 'keeper, but he just couldn't get his foot on the ball.

Mullins, who was putting himself around in a fashion reminiscent of last season, then tried his luck with a shot on 18 minutes following a long throw. The intention was good but the execution wasn't.

Reading hadn't done a lot for some time, but it was faffing around down the right by the West Ham defence that nearly gifted a second goal. A good cross was sent over, but Konchesky did just enough to put Seol off and he headed wide.

Grease is the word

This game was increasingly looking like we were showing nice touches but the quality kept going missing. The greasy surface didn't help, and a typical example of what was going wrong came on 28 minutes when Tevez laid off a nice ball which Cole could not bring under control on the edge of the box. As the clearance came, then Spector slipped over allowing a counter-attack which Dailly did well to stop by conceding a corner.

Matty and Konchesky combined well on 32 minutes, but the latter's shot was blocked in the box, by the mountain that is Ibrahima Sonko. He proved to be a formidable barrier today.

The crossing from the flanks was not an awful lot better than the last couple of games, and I was none too impressed by a sliced attempt from Spector on 33 minutes, but Cole did very well not to give up on this, getting intimate with the 'keeper to force a corner.

Yossi was on a mission to try and find a way through a packed defence on 38 minutes and he went on a typical twisting run after being sent on his way by a nice through ball from Mullins. He found some space 25 yards out, but his shot went wide.

Then it was normal dire crossing service resumed on 42 minutes after Matty had been put in a decent position following good work by Reo-Coker. Two minutes later, the last action of the half saw Yossi running around with intent again and he set up Reo-Coker for a shot in the D, but once again a Reading foot or shin got in the way and deflected his shot wide.

Quite frankly, Reading had hardly bothered us in the first half. It was all about a fantastic strike which tends to go for you when you haven't lost in the month of September. The West Ham of last season would surely rally and make a determined high tempo comeback. The West Ham of that struggling season in the Championship would struggle to find a way back after conceding the first goal. Thirty odd thousand Irons were hoping that Pardew could chart a course back.

Posh snack

It could be worse. During the interval, I watched Norwich go 1-4 down at home with Nigel Worthington looking like he was on suicide watch. Delia had apparently given him a final warning in the week and I pointed this out saying that I though the hapless manager was "toast". More like "bruschetta" quipped a fellow Eaststander alive to the culinary irony of the situation.

The signs were encouraging as the half opened. On 47 minutes there was a rapid run down the left by Matty, but he was too quick for the rest of the team and he had to check. The eventual cross from Konchesky was below standard. Clearly not too impressed by the service from the wings, Cole tried his luck a minute later and he succeeded in finding the waiting Dailly who made a half decent header which was held easily by the 'keeper.

Almost immediately afterwards, Matty was charging off again, but he delayed too long to attempt the cross and was forced to the byline. Hahnemann was able to gather his cross at the foot of the post.

Uriah Heap

Yossi's eagerness to bring West Ham out of a four game goal drought saw him turn nicely onto a Cole pass and into the box on 50 minutes, but he lost control of the ball. Two minutes later Cole was booked by arch f*ckwit Uriah Rennie for having his arm up in a challenge. It never looked like a yellow.

Matty was stilly being industrious and on 57 minutes he slipped a nice ball through to Tevez who mysteriously couldn't control it inside the box. Then tow minutes later, Mullins had a pop from over 30 yards out and the 'keeper had to be alert to palm it behind. A minute later a goal looked a nailed on certainty as Tevez either made an exquisite lay off or missed the ball altogether to allow Matty to advance into position A1 for a deadly cross. Once again the ball was blocked with no West Ham player to pick up the pieces.

Seol then had every West Ham fan in the ground foaming at the mouth as he made the slowest ever walk to take a corner. You couldn't blame him as it was the only way for Reading to get some respite from relentless pressure.

Yossi sent Tevez on his way on 63 minutes, but the Argentinean couldn't wrap his foot around the ball as he ran diagonally across the face of goal and the shot went embarrassingly wide.

After Seol got booked for taking Konchesky out on 66 minutes, the anonymous Leroy Lita, who hadn't even had the sniff of a ball, was replaced by Shane Long.

In the following three minutes, Tevez and Yossi tried shots - one went high and wide while the other was blocked on the edge of the box. Spector then got a good cross over on 70 minutes, but this sailed over the head of Cole in the box.

Frustration mounts

It was time to ring the changes for a final assault on the Reading goal and Teddy and Zamora came on for Tevez and Cole. Z-man almost secured the breakthrough within a minute of his arrival after he slotted a nice pass through to Matty who was free on the edge of the box. Unfortunately his shot was weak and straight at the 'keeper. He looked very frustrated by that, but not as much as every Iron in the stadium.

Teddy's first intervention of note came on 73 minutes as he made a sublime reverse pass which foxed the entire Reading defence. Matty broke free and did everything right by rifling a ball to the far post but a desperate slide in by Z-man couldn't get to the ball in front of an open goal. Two minutes later Mullins made a precision pass to find Matty again but his cross was cut out again.

Reading were now trying everything to slow the game down as they were hanging on for dear life. A Reading player shammed injury after West Ham won a free kick down the right and Carroll ran over to pick up the simulating (that's a posh way of saying cheating) player. Tw*tface Rennie was having none of that and booked the 'keeper for having the temerity to tell the bloke to get up off his ar*e.

The final roll of the dice was to replace Reo-Coker with Marlon on 84 minutes, but little more happened in normal time except two bookings: one was Long for throwing the ball away, while the other was Teddy for dissent over an offside decision.

The final kick in the teeth

You just knew however that there would be one more frustrating incident in this game and it came in the first minute of added time when a hopeful punt forward by Spector bounced up over the Reading defence. Yossi was like a greyhound out of a trap and he managed to get his foot on it before the 'keeper. It looped agonisingly and Sidwell was on hand to head over from almost under his own bar.

The game ended with a few customary boos, but any impartial observer would have concluded that we were very unlucky to come out with nothing. West Ham totally dominated possession and it was only the killer strike from Seol which did for us. Carroll was hardly troubled apart from this.

The problem is that although we deserved something, it was no cigar once again. When you're down on your luck and can't apparently buy a goal, this is what happens. In reality, you have to say that we performed much better than in the last two league performances when there wasn't even a shot on target.

Tevez looked sharp, especially in the first half, there were the flickerings of a return to form for Matty in the second half, Yossi looked dangerous consistently and Mullins had a very sound game. On the downside, Reo-Coker is still not anywhere near form and I wasn't greatly impressed by Spector who seemed to need too much time on the ball and was frequently wasteful in his distribution. I do think that the Cole/Tevez combination should be pursued as it looks like a much more natural partnership. If you don't like that, then surely you have to revert to Harewood/Z-man. What we all want to see, of course, is the Deano/Tevez set up. I'm still rueing that f*cking injury on England duty.

Things are not good and the break for the international games has not come too soon. We need to regroup, try to rediscover the intensity of last year and prepare for two difficult away games at Pompey and the cradle of filth, London N17. I am contemplating going down Chadwell Heath to tell everybody that I will have to leave the country if we lose to those Lillysh*te w*nkers. Come on boys, I'm sure that my ability to walk my local streets free from abuse is now at the front of your minds.

(Player Ratings by Graeme Howlett)

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
A quiet game for the big keeper who had little chance with the goal. Handled well despite the adverse consitions.

Jonathan Spector
You had to feel a little bit sorry for the American full-back who was making his home debut. On the numerous occasions he found himself in space on the right he had virtually no support further afield on the flank. Defensively he performed okay.

Paul Konchesky
Disappointing thus far this season, Konch did a good job in defence although his distribution was poor at times. Lucky to stay on the field when he performed what could have been viewed as a professional foul in the final minute to prevent Reading breaking away for a second goal, with Roy Carroll stranded upfield.

Christian Dailly
A solid performance from the Scottish international, making his first start of the season at centre-half.

Danny Gabbidon
His best showing of the season so far. Gabbs kept the dangerous Leroy Lita in his pocket although again, once Reading had taken the lead they rarely threatened to add a second as they chose to concentrate on their defensive duties.

Hayden Mullins
Back in the side in place of Javi Mascherano the former Palace man put in a decent performance, winning plenty of ball and showing the kind of urgency that Mascherano is perhaps yet to indicate he has come to terms with.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Desepite numerous calls for the captain to be dropped ahead of today's game Pardew once again kept faith in him. His performance was better than in recent weeks but he continues to fail to offer anything in the attacking third of the pitch - which he needs to, as the more attacking of the two central midfielders.

Yossi Benayoun
Desepite numerous calls for the captain to be dropped ahead of today's game Pardew once again kept faith in him. His performance was better than in recent weeks but he continues to fail to offer anything in the attacking third of the pitch - which he needs to, as the more attacking of the two central midfielders.

Matthew Etherington
Although he found himself in several good positions throughout the game too often his delivery was poor. Twice in the first half he spooned crosses beyond the back post when a low drive across the rain-drenched pitch may have been a better option.

Carlos Tevez
Carlos appeared to be under instruction to play higher up the pitch than in recent weeks although too often he dropped back in order to receive the ball into what should have been a midfielder's position (so much so that on more than one occasion he was a good 15 yards behind Nigel Reo-Coker). Another whose body language indicated that all is far from well.

Carlton Cole
The big man was rewarded for a decent showing in Palermo by being handed the chance to partner Carlos Tevez in the classic 'little and large' front line. Although he held the ball up well from Roy Carroll's bombs he struggled to become involved to any degree.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Tevez, 71) Some delightful touches from Teddy and his introduction certainly appeared to lift the team in the closing stages.

Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Cole, 72) Fairly anonymous for the few minutes in which he played.

Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 85) Not enough time to make an impact.

Robert Green
Did not play.

Javier Mascherano
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Roy Carroll, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Christian Dailly, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Carlton Cole.

Goals: None.

Booked: Carlton Cole 53 Roy Carroll 81 Teddy Sheringham 90 Paul Konchesky 93    .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Reading: Hahnemann, De la Cruz, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Sonko, Convey, Harper, Seol, Sidwell, Doyle, Lita..

Subs not used: .

Goals: Seol (2).

Booked: Seol (67), Long (87)..

Sent off: None.

Referee: U.Rennie.

Attendance: 34,872.

Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.