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Saturday, 25th November 2000

Southampton 2
West Ham United 3

by Martine Gibbs

I went. Against my better judgement I decided that despite our appalling record at The Dell, it was worth going as now the stadium has been condemned it was going to be the last time such an opportunity presented itself.

When Saturday morning arrived I was surprisingly optimistic of getting a win. I think the shock result at Elland Road last week had something to do with it, but my mood in comparison with my two travelling companions (Dodge & Peacey) was definitely on the buoyant side.

The rain was torrential and when we arrived at the ground at 2pm they hadn't yet opened the gates! Everyone huddled outside the turnstiles, victim to the sadistic car drivers who had curbs full of puddles with which to dampen the spirits. Having been soaked by one such driver we figured that we couldn't get any wetter so we wandered up to get a mud coloured cup of tea and a four pound burger (and that's the price, not the weight).

We bumped into a couple of friends mad enough to have made the journey without tickets (who subsequently got tickets 5 minutes after kick-off) and then made our way into the ground. If you haven't been to The Dell then you've missed an experience. It truly is a dump of a ground and the stands are bizarre, sloping in shape and the old East stand sill have wooden floorboards. That said, it reminds me a lot of what football used to be about.

The Archers Road Stand has a capacity of no more than a couple of thousand and the atmosphere in there looked fantastic. Lots of banter was had between the two teams with 'Where's you Rio gone' being very popular with them and 'Where's your paedophile' and 'you're just a small town in Portsmouth' being favourites with us.

One for the Soccer AM Third Eye was Stephen Bywater warming up (anyone got their e-mail address?). He was taking shots from Les et al and the Soton mascot came up to have a go. The Dog bounded over with those enormous boots on and Stevie flung himself out of the area and brought him down on the edge of the area. I like Bywater, he strikes me as a lad with great character.

So, kick off. We started strongly I thought, even though the team sheet lacked a defender of real quality (sob, Rio I miss you so much). Anyway, we were looking pretty good. The pitch was absolutely appalling with the surface looking at least a foot underwater and there was a lot of sliding about while the players found there balance but that said the football was played to feet and the quality was better than I had expected from this fixture.

We played with a 4-4-2 formation with this really working for us and I thought Diawara did a great job playing what I thought was out of position on the left of midfield (did he play here for his last club?) I don't know if it was the string of recent results or the boys wanting to show their strength post-Ferdinand but every member of the team pulled their weight and did well. Yes, even Frank.

Oakley scored on about 18 minutes. A strong shot 25 yards out. That sinking feeling returned and the Saints fans went wild. West Ham carried on battling though and were rewarded with a goal through Freddie Kanoute on about 35 minutes. Nigel Winterburn showed what a complete nutter he is by the most emphatic goal celebration I've ever seen, sliding down the touchline with his hand cupped to his ear and his fist in the air - and he didn't even score. We capitalised on this position to score our second through a Psycho blast from the edge of the box. And the crowd went wild.

Half time and everyone knew we had more goals to come. This game had them written all over it.

We came out fired up and were unlucky when Beattie (I think) equalised. I felt that immediate 'oh shit, we've thrown this away feeling' but it was replaced very quickly by this conviction that we were going to win here. We continued to play well and Lomas pulled off some great work in the middle of the park and Trevor Sinclair was like a man possessed, superb and back to his old self. When Di Canio released him with a blinding pass into open space he let rip and flew down the pitch to beat 3 defenders and the goal keeper.

Lampard was injured in a nasty tackle on 77 minutes from Rossler (not even a yellow) and Johnny Moncs was subbed on. And if there was any doubt that today was a blessed one then this confirmed it, 10 minutes on the pitch, drenched and brought on after an unpunished foul and Johnny didn't even get booked.

Three minutes of frantic extra time and we'd had the three points. It was a great result and West Ham were singing Christmas Carols:

"Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to see
The West Ham win away, hey.."

We're on a roll and not even the lack of Rio stopped us. Merry Christmas :-)

Match Facts

West Ham United: Hislop, Winterburn, S Pearce, Stimac, Lomas, Sinclair, Lampard, Carrick, Di Canio, Diawara, Kanoute

Subs: Bywater, Potts, Moncur, Cole, Suker

Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Lundekvam, Richards, Oakley, Tessem, Kachloul, Pahars, Bridge, Beattie, El Khalej.

Subs: Draper, Moss, Marsden, Rosler, Davies.

Goals: Oakley (20), Kanoute (41), S Pearce (43), Beattie (50), Sinclair (69)

Booked: El Khalej, Stimac, Winterburn

Sent Off: None

Referee: S Bennett

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