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Saturday, 6th April 2002

West Ham United 2
Charlton Athletic 0

by Graeme Howlett

The Hammers continued their rich vein of form with a third Premiership win in succession against London neighbours Charlton at the Boleyn this afternoon - a victory which lifts the Hammers into seventh place in the Premiership.

Both goals arrived during a purple patch for the Hammers midway through the first half; Paolo Di Canio opened the scoring with a penalty on 22 minutes, before Freddie Kanoute scored his third in as many games following a brilliant counter-attack started by the excellent David James.

The afternoon kicked off with supporters asked to stand for a minutes silence in memory of the Queen Mother. In typical West Ham fashion, roughly halfway through an impeccably observed silence the unmistakable sound of the ticket office tannoy kindly announced that 'people wishing to buy tickets were advised to head for turnstile etc etc' - farcical, and only at West Ham.

The pattern for the first half was set in the opening minutes - the Hammers created no less than four decent crosses in the opening fifteen minutes which, had someone been hitting the back stick at the right moment, led to the final score being far more comprehensive than it eventually was.

With Charlton providing little by way of return, a Hammers goal was inevitable. It arrived on 22 minutes when Paolo Di Canio was sent tumbling in the box after a clumsy challenge from Graham Stuart - a penalty duly awarded by Mike Riley.

In all fairness it was a tad harsh on the visitors - if anything, it was obstruction, not a clear foul - but Di Canio was in no mood to argue as he confidently struck the ball low to the left of Dean Kiely to give the Hammers the lead.

The second arrived 11 minutes later - and what a beauty it was. David James started a counter attack by hurling the ball to Joe Cole on the left hand touchline. Cole jinxed past one, then two, before laying the ball off to Kanoute, who in turn fed Di Canio. A perfect touch sent Seb Schemmel to the touchline, from where he screwed the ball back into the path of Kanoute who blasted the ball into the roof of the net from close range. The Charlton fans were livid as they claimed Di Canio's pass went out of play - TV replays later confirmed it hadn't.

Dean Kiely, the Charlton keeper was incensed by the decision - much to the amusement of the Chicken Run, who goaded the shaven headed keeper into a petulant outburst which only served to amuse them more.

With the Hammers in full control, Charlton were afforded more space and went close to narrowing the two goal deficit - none more so than when Graham Stuart forced a tremendous save out of David James on the stroke of half time.

The second half began in much the same vein, with the visitors enjoying the majority of possession and peppering the Hammers goals with shots. Bar one strike which hit the post David James was rarely stretched, however.

The Addicks gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Nigel Winterburn was harshly adjudged to have fouled Jonaton Johansson following a scramble in the Hammers box 19 minutes from time, but Paul Koncheski fired the resulting penalty into the stands - much to the delight of the watching Hammers faithful. For Charlton, and Alan Curbishley it was to be one of those days - the kind where nothing goes right.

The only sour note of the afternoon was an injury to captain Paolo Di Canio, who appeared to twist his leg awkwardly following a challenge from Scott Parker. Early diagnosis suggests that Di Canio may have suffered minor knee ligament damage; a scan tomorrow will reveal the extent of the damage - although it isn't thought to be serious.

The three points lifted the Hammers into seventh place - their highest position of the season so far. With just five games to play, the Hammers appear to be hitting their best form of the season at exactly the right time.

Player ratings:

David James (10) Just about the best performance of his brief Hammers career. James was at his very best this afternoon; the highlights being one wonderful save from Graham Stuart on the stroke of half time and the quick throw to Joe Cole which started the counter attack that led to the second goal. According to a newspaper report the England hopeful now employs a personal entourage which includes a psychologist, hairdresser and yoga expert - watch out Jenifer Lopez ...

Nigel Winterburn (6) Dropped last week (or 'rested' as it's called these days) in favour of Vladimir Labant, Nige was back in action and as solid as ever. Safe but unspectacular today, he coped with the best of Charlton's attacking forays on the right with consummate ease.

Sebastien Schemmel (7) Another excellent game for many supporters Hammer of the Year elect. His afternoon was capped with the ball that fed Freddie Kanoute for his goal, even if the Charlton fans (wrongly) thought the ball was out of play. Solid again in defence, Schemmel is proving to be the bargain of the season - if not for many years.

Tomas Repka (6) A fair game for Tommy, although there were one or two uncharacteristic wobbles - none more so than when he tried to dribble around two Charlton attackers in our box, before just about managing to hack the ball away to safety. It's taken a little while for the burly Czech to settle - and his English is still very limited - but we're beginning to see why he was rated as one of the most consistent defenders in Serie A whilst with former club Fiorentina.

Christian Dailly (6) Another contender for Hammer of the Year, Dailly - like Repka - looked distinctly uneasy at points during the game. Yet there will be no complaints about another clean sheet at the Boleyn from Glenn Roeder, his team mates or the supporters. Looking a bargain at the 1.7m Harry Redknapp shelled out for him a year or so ago, and far more like the sort of player Blackburn paid Derby 5.2m for three years ago.

Joe Cole (8) Moved back to the left side of midfield Joe was excellent this afternoon. The confidence which he has looked short of in recent weeks appeared to have returned overnight, and he tormented the Charlton defence constantly with an array of tricky runs, short bursts, and spectacular tricks - none more so than the outrageous back flick to Paolo Di Canio performed with the ball some three feet off the ground. When he is on this kind of form he is worth the admission money alone to watch.

Trevor Sinclair (8) Tricky Trev revealed the day before the game that he remains unsettled at Upton Park; a brave admission considering the reception he got last time he said as much. But his performance today was far from one of a player disinterested in his game; he teased the Charlton defence all afternoon and had a vital hand in the second goal. It will be a major surprise if he doesn't go to Japan this summer.

Michael Carrick (6) The young England prospect started the game brightly enough, but too often his passes failed to find their intended destination. His most notable contribution was the superb 60 yard run righ throught the centre of the visitors defence which deserved better than to be snubbed out by the flailing leg of Richard Rufus.

Steve Lomas (7) Having been reinstalled in the centre of midfield at the expense of Joe Cole, Lomas has something of a point to prove. But any doubts have been dispelled in the last three games where he has been solid alongside Michael Carrick. Today was no exception; Lomas gave the Charlton midfield a torrid time, and is recapturing the form which earned him many plaudits four years ago when he first moved to Upton Park.

Paolo Di Canio (7) Following his comments earlier in the week criticising both Glenn Roeder and Freddy Kanoute many were wondering what sort of performance we'd get from the captain today. As it turned out it was DI Canio's best game for many weeks, and there was the freshly shaven barnet to go with it. Sadly his game - and perhaps his season - was brought to an abrupt end twenty minutes from time after he fell awkwardly. A shame, because he had already has a hand in both goals - including earning and scoring the penalty which opened our account.

Frederic Kanoute (8) Another excellent performance from the temperamental Frenchman. Having been criticised by Di Canio earlier in the week it looked like our Fred was on a mission to prove his doubters wrong - and there have been many of those in recent weeks. He hustled and bustled throughout the game, and fully deserved the applause from the fans at the end of the game. On this form he is unstoppable - that's now three goals in three games, one only hopes he keeps his foot on the gas for the rest of the season.

Jermain Defoe (6) On for the injured Di Canio with 20 minutes or so to play, the stage was set for the supersub to notch his regular goal. But not today - in fact, he didn't even get a sniff against his former club. However in Di Canio's enforced absence there will be plenty of opportunities for Defoe to impress before the season is out.

John Moncur (6) Apparently on for just four seconds as a last minute replacement for Joe Cole. I wonder why the club don't sack the Hammerettes and hire Moncur as our half time entertainment - he entertains the crowd throughout the afternoon during his warm ups and raises more laughs on the touchline than anyone ever has - like, for example when he pretended to 'cop a feel' of referee's assistant Wendy Toms today.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Schemmel, Winterburn, Repka, Dailly, Lomas, Sinclair, Carrick, Cole, Kanoute, Di Canio

Subs: Defoe (Di Canio 70), Moncur (Cole 89), Hislop, Pearce, Garcia

Charlton Athletic: Kiely, Young, Costa, Rufus, Fortune, Stuart, Kinsella, Parker, Konchesky, Johansson, Euell

Subs: Ilic, Bart-Williams, Robinson, Brown, Svensson

Goals: Di Canio (pen 22), Kanoute (33)

Booked: Fortune (28), Kiely (33), Lomas (38), Kinsella (39), Costa (58)

Attendance: 32,389

Referee: Mike Riley (5)

Man of the Match: David James

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