FA Premiership
Derby County 0 West Ham United 5

Saturday, 10th November 2007
by Gordon Thrower

I was looking forward to this one. Not for football reasons as such but more for the fact that that, due to work commitments, away matches have been out of the question for the last month and a bit of R&R was called for. It wasn’t a promising start though.

Having parked the Gentmobile in the car park of Derby's "finest fireplace emporium" - a title for which there must be a lot of competition - we ended up in a pub of the Walkabout chain with rubbish beer and even worse "security" staff who had that winning combination of charisma by-pass and attitude problem.

A swift walk along the road found us in a Wetherspoons. I'm not the greatest fans of these places - frankly there are occasions when I'd prefer my bank to still be a bank - but once in a while you find a guest beer that makes the identikit surroundings worthwhile. Ladies and gentlemen I give you 5.1% abv of the pure nectar that is known as Sneck Lifter. Apparently the name is northern dialect for a man's last sixpence. The beer was so good that I was seriously concerned that West Ham were, not for the first time in my life, going to spoil an otherwise perfect afternoon for me. I'm willing to concede that I was wrong.

A 10 minute trip in Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow taxi got us to the ground well in time to discover that just about everyone who was fit was playing, leaving us with a starting line-up of Green, Neill, McCartney, Upson, Gabbidon, Bowyer, Spector, Solanp, Boa Morte, Etherington, Cole.

We started with, yup, you guessed it, an injury. Linda picked up a knock as early as the 2nd minute that required extensive treatment and, though he battled on for another 12 minutes or so it was clear that Linda was going to be due a visit to the 20 storey block that probably forms the annexe to our treatment room at the moment. Paintsil was the replacement and the Ghanaian immediately moved to right back with skipper Neill moving over to the left to take the place of the late Wings keyboardist.

Paintsil had a bit of an uncertain start with his distribution in particular leaving a little to be desired. His first contribution of note was to get himself a deserved yellow for a late challenge, though from his body language it was apparent that the foul had been conceded as part of some retribution for some perceived wrong - presumably Oakley's equally reckless challenge on Etherington being the catalyst.

It was, in all honesty, a poor first half and I'm struggling to remember much of note. There was little in rhythm to the game, something not helped by the fact that the physios had made three significant entries to the field of play before 20 minutes were out. Chances were at a premium. The earliest fell to Boa Morte who got on the end of Cole's excellent headed pass only to delay his shot a bit too long, the rebound falling to Cole whose shot was blocked by Bywater's legs.

The best chance of the half fell to Nobby. Griffin slid through to cut out a pass on the edge of the box using an arm as he did so. Nobby's free-kick came back off the angle of crossbar and post with Bywater stranded.
The deadlock was broken on 42 minutes. Solano played an angled ball up to Cole who killed the ball with a cushioned header into the path of the completely unmarked Bowyer who controlled and finished with ease. Later reports suggested that there may have been an element of hand in Bowyer's control but from the other end we couldn't see it ((C) A Wenger) and there didn't seem to be too much protest from the home defence.

That was it for the half really - other than an unsurprising 4 minutes of stoppage. The interval was spent listening to a pleasant selection of music by the likes of the Buzzcocks, The Jam and The Undertones.

Former Hammer Steven Bywater came out to generous applause from the away support - though I personally stopped clapping half a second early as a protest against the micro heart attack he gave me when it looked for a microsecond like he'd spilled that free-kick against Preston when he came on as sub in the Play-Off final in Cardiff. As he held it in the end I suppose I ought to forgive & forget but I have a cold sweat just thinking about that shot even as I write now.

I think it's fair to say that nothing we'd seen in the first half really prepared us for the second. We started quite strongly. Cole chased down a lost-cause clearance from the back and found LMB in the box. Bywater saved the initial shot and LBM did well to somehow get up and get another effort in that was cleared for a corner. Solano's corner was met first time by Upson whose shot came back off the crossbar. With Bywater stranded. Neill's follow up effort was blocked.

What was to be the home side's only real chance of the match then followed - and it was a bit of a let-off. Lewis kept a ball played across the box alive and crossed the ball back to the unmarked Miller whose header was awful. It was the last chance of note up the other end.

We doubled the lead on 50 minutes. Paintsil, who by now had settled a bit, played an angled pass in towards Etherington who swapped passes with Bowyer before using the acres of space he found himself in to bury a low shot past Bywater in front of gleeful celebrations from the travelling support. Though at this point I did point out to the bloke next to me that I wouldn't join in with the "easy easy" chant until we were 5-0 up with only a minute of injury time left.

We only had to wait a few minutes for the third. Another good Matty run down the left forced a corner, one of those things from which we never score ((C) Me every week). The corner came across and Moor couldn't have nodded it on more perfectly had he been playing for us. In the ensuing scramble, Spector hit a shot goalwards which found Lewis on the line. Lewis blocked the shot at first, but, in the manner of someone who has been on the Sneck Lifter for longer than is strictly recommended, he succeeded only in somehow dragging the ball across the line. Spector will claim it and I don't suppose he'll get much argument from Lewis. Up to that point we had been the only club in the Premier League not to have had an overseas goalscorer.

Lewis was replaced shortly after by Earnshaw in a move best described as re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic . As if to underline the point we went 4-0 up on the hour. A ball from the left found Cole who laid the ball back into the path of Solano before pulling out to the wide right. Solano laid the ball back into the path of Cole who, in turn, played the ball square across the box where Bowyer finished his late run with his second goal of the afternoon. It was my favourite sort of goal - lots of passing and pace.

We weren't finished at that. A ball was played up to LBM who had a defender climbing all over him. There was some minor debate as to who was going to take the free-kick but Nobby was never going to let anyone else have it. Solano's free-kick was sheer perfection as, on 70 minutes it sailed into the top corner and if Spector's effort was to count as an own goal, this was the goal that meant that the UK-only goalscorers record had gone.

At that point we declared really. Bowyer came off to well-deserved applause to be replaced by Collins. The Ginger Pele went to right back with Paintsil pushing up into the middle. Derby spent the last 15 minutes or so bothering row Z and the corner flag with increasingly desperate efforts from 30 yards out. Fagan seemed to have a problem with Neill and after his third little late niggle ref Clattenberg - who had a decent game - finally lost his patience and showed the yellow.

Given the fact that there had been 4 second-half substitutions one can only presume that Clattenburg was feeling a bit sorry for the home side as the one minute of stoppage seemed to have the sole purpose of finishing things off as humanely as possible.

On the way home the combined effects of the Sneck Lifter and the early start meant that I slept through Romford's horrible CD of cheap nasty pre-processed kraft cheese slices of 1980's drum machine sounds. Another reason to love that beer.

There will be much comment over the next few days as to how bad Derby were and, make no mistake they were truly terrible. A fit Ashton and Bellamy would have had a field day - and with that comment I mean absolutely no disrespect to Carlton Cole who had a fine match. This had been my first visit to Pride Park and on this form it may be a good year or two before I'm up that way again. However, they probably fancied their chances pre-match against a team with as many injuries as we had. Given that we had so many first choices out it was pleasing to see so many of those who weren't on the treatment table putting in decent performances - more of which in the player marks section.

The international break will help get a few players back against another lot of relegation candidates. Now if only I could persuade the Wakefield to get in a cask of Sneck Lifter for that one we could be looking at a perfect day!

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Didn't put a foot wrong mainly due to the fact that, easy crosses apart, he had little to do. Probably had time to start a McClaren-out petition - and sign the first 10,000 signatures himself.

Lucas Neill
Another competent performance although he needed to be more clinical in forward positions.

George McCartney
Injured on two minutes, off by 14. Battled gamely in the intervening period before he joined the waiting list outside the treatment room.

Danny Gabbidon
Will take a lot of confidence from a decent run-out in which he easily snuffed out the early threat from the home side.

Matthew Upson
Strong at the back and was unlucky not to score when he probably caught Solano's corner a bit too well. Is it me or with that beard does he look like David Cross from a distance?

Jonathan Spector
If you have Spector playing the centre of your midfield you know you have injury problems. To his credit he did well and this was possibly his best performance in claret and blue to date. I'll give him the goal as well.

Lee Bowyer
A fine performance and his goals from runs from the deep were echoes of his heyday. A performance made even more remarkable following the revelation that he is yet another of the injured with the oh-so-in-fashion groin operation (this season's "metatarsal"?) due this week.

Nobby Solano
A class act. It's nice to see someone who can deliver a dead ball so well - not just the free-kicks but corners too. Now if we can get him out of the habit of needing a sighter first...!

Matthew Etherington
Got kicked early on with a rotten challenge from I think Oakley and he did go a bit quiet for a few minutes. However he stepped things up in the second half and thoroughly deserved his goal. Nice to see him enjoying the game a bit more this season.

Luis Boa Morte
Another who had a better match than of late. Denied a goal only by Bywater's legs in the second half though there were a couple of occasions when the odd pass went astray.

Carlton Cole
Superb. Being the only fit striker in the club has meant him operating as a lone striker out of necessity. This match saw how he has grown into the role in recent weeks. Another Bywater save denied him the goal that his movement and effort deserved.


John Paintsil
(replaced McCartney, 14) A bit of an unsteady start but as the Derby threat faded he was able to settle down a bit and push forward as evidence by his part in Etherington's goal.

James Collins
(replaced Bowyer, 72) On for a few minutes at the end. Good to see him a) play and b) not get injured in the few minutes he was on.

Richard Wright
Did not play.

Freddie Ljungberg
Did not play.

Henri Camara
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Danny Gabbidon, Matthew Upson, Jonathan Spector, Lee Bowyer, Nobby Solano, Matthew Etherington, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Lee Bowyer 42 Matthew Ethehrington 50 Jonathan Spector 54 Lee Bowyer 59 Nobby Solano 69          .

Booked: John Paintsil 24  0 34       .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Derby County: Bywater, Mears, Moore, Edworthy, Griffin, Oakley, Pearson, Teale, Barnes, Lewis, Miller.

Subs not used: Jones, McEveley.

Goals: .

Booked: Oakley (21), Fagan (89).

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Clattenburg.

Attendance: 32,440.

Man of the Match: Lee Bowyer.