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Premier League
Saturday, 2nd October 2010

West Ham United 1
Fulham 1

by Gordon Thrower


A little bit after the Lord Mayor's show this one. After the heroics of the previous week this was always going to be a test of temperament and so it proved to be.

We'd hoped for an unchanged starting line-up but in the end Dyer's illness meant that the cleaners at the Boleyn wouldn't have to deal with the contents of his stomach. Barrera deputised for the sick one otherwise it was as you were with a starting line-up of Green, Jacobsen, Gabbidon, Upson, Da Costa, Parker, Noble, Barrera, Boa Morte, Obinna, Piquionne.

This match was spoilt as a spectacle right from the start by the efforts of referee Andre 'sub' Marriner. The official who had contributed so much to the defeat by Bolton earlier in the season was even worse this time out and, with less than two minutes on the clock, he had booked Gabbidon for a challenge on Dempsey that was mistimed but hardly malicious. Factoring in a wet pitch to the equation made the yellow card even more ludicrous. Sadly Marriner started badly and got worse.

The opening half was a bit of a midfield stalemate really. The visitors had a fair amount of possession but the likes of Noble and Parker worked hard to ensure that nothing came of it. The first real opportunity of the match came our way on six minutes. Gabbidon got up to support the attack well and was played in on the overlap by Parker, forcing a corner off Davies. Noble took the corner and Piquionne, in a carbon copy of his goal against Spurs, nodded goalwards from the centre of the box. Unfortunately, unlike Spurs the previous week, Fulham had installed a man on the far post and Salcido headed clear – though from my angle it may have been going a foot or so wide anyway.

Schwarzer then had to be alert to cut out a nicely weighted through ball from Noble – Piquionne just failing to beat the keeper to the pass. This was followed by a short spell of pressure as Parker fed Jacobsen down the right. The Dane's cross was cut out as far as Noble who embarked on a cross between a run and a spot of keepy-up. Had he got the shot away at the end of his surge into the box we'd have been in wondergoal territory but an alert defender managed to flick the ball away just as the proverbial trigger was about to be pulled..

Marriner was making a nuisance of himself. A cynical trip on Obinna by Hangeland went unpunished either by a free-kick or by the yellow card the challenge deserved. Gabbidon scratched his head quizzically. Fulham broke away from the foul and Johnson had a shot from distance that sailed harmlessly wide. Then a long ball from the back saw the ball saw Johnson get goal side of Jacobsen. Johnson – who had won a number of free-kicks by virtue of his throwing himself up into the air on the merest mention of the word “contact” - went down theatrically. Marriner decided that this was one dive too many though there had been a spot of inadvertent contact. I've seen them given as the saying goes.

Marriner continued to give cause for concern. A fine tackle on Dempsey should have led to a West Ham attack. Instead it was unbelievably punished by a free-kick, and, even more bafflingly, a yellow card for Parker. The yellow may have been for dissent which,given how appallingly bad the decision had been, was understandable. From a promising position we were back on the back foot and the visitors took the lead. Davies and Dempsey combined with Davies' sliced pass falling kindly for the American who gave Green no chance.

The rest of the half descended into farce as the visitors took advantage of Marriner's incompetence and gullibility. I lost count of the number of free-kicks awarded for nothing challenges. Marriner finally got one the right way as Etuhu barged over Parker, though like the previous two yellows the ref had issued, the challenge didn't merit further sanction.

Other than Marriner's brainstorms, there was little of note for the rest of the half – though a very obvious dive by Dempsey went unpunished even though the ref was clearly of the opinion that there had been no contact.

The visitors had the first of the chance of the second half. Gabbidon didn't do enough on the left to stop Johnson pulling a ball back for Dempsey whose shot shaved the top of the bar. Barrera had moved over to the left and combined well with LBM only for his cross to find a defender's head. However, much as we pushed forward the final ball was lacking. So it was strange that the equaliser started out life as a misplaced pass, as Noble's attempted through ball got nowhere near Piquionne. Hangeland gave the ball straight back to the hitherto ineffective Boa-Morte who pushed the ball out wide to Obinna. The Nigerian crossed first time to Piquionne who was unmarked in front of goal and gleefully accepted the chance to level the scores with a powerful downward header that gave the 'keeper no chance.

We wasted another chance shortly after – coming after another two baffling Marriner free-kick awards. The second of these came as Gabbidon won a clean header. Duff's ball into the box was cleared out powerfully by the impressive Da Costa whose header found Obinna in central midfield. Obinna's ball down the line inside the full-back found Barrera who continued his run into the box before going for glory, blazing his shot high and wide with both Parker and Noble screaming for an easy ball that would surely have led to us taking the lead.

Upson then picked up the next of Marriner's yellows, despite making no contact with Dempsey. Johnson got on to the loose ball from the resulting free-kick but volleyed wide. Marriner had completely lost touch with reality by this time, awarding free-kicks for imaginary handballs and corner kicks where no defender had got near the ball.

With about 20 left on the clock Grant made his first change of the match with Cole, who had been waiting for ages to come on, replacing Barrera. Gera replaced Duff for the visitors at the same time. Cole nearly made an immediate impact, getting on to the end of a ball out of defence with Gabbidon. However the striker's cross/shot (take your pick) was scuffed and Schwarzer dealt with it easily.

Dempsey then got on the end of a Baird cross but put his header wide under pressure Jacobsen before Marriner came up with one of the worst decisions of the game – and there was a lot of competition for that accolade. Baird fell over and brought down Da Costa in the process. As Da Costa went down his forearm landed on the ball. Marriner marked an already sub-standard display by awarding a free-kick to Fulham for the handball. Simply dreadful. Justice was done when Fulham wasted the free-kick. Chants of “one Stevie Wonder” echoed over the ground. Whilst Marriner hasn't unleashed anything quite as horrible as “I Just Called To Say I Love You” on the world, his performance in this match was the footballing equivalent.

With 13 minutes left an almighty cheer was raised as Marriner finally awarded us a free-kick. Piquionne was pulled back but Marriner ignored that in favour of punishing Davies' unsubtle barge on Boa Morte. No yellow card though. Noble found Da Costa with the free-kick but the defencer was unable to get enough on it to test Schwarzer.

Green then had to be alert to turn a shot from Davies round the post. Green – like most of us – was justifiably annoyed with the ref who had allowed Davies to control the ball using both hands but frankly Davies could probably have caught the ball and thrown it goalwards for all Marriner cared at this point. The catalogue of appalling refereeing decisions went on. Piquionne played the ball off a Salcido only to see the throw given the other way. From the throw the ball was fed out to Baird who crossed for Etuhu whose header was brilliantly saved by Green. Sub Kamara then burst through but put a shot well over.

There was just time for Marriner to crown a gloriously terrible day. Boa Morte won a strong tackle and as the ball ran out Salcido flattened the midfielder with a body check. The ball ran free for Noble who bore down on goal. Only Marriner was having none of it, ignoring the advantage law to punish the offence with nothing more than a free kick. If he was going to stop the game the least he could have done was issue a card for the offence but, despite it being one of the few challenges of the day worthy of a yellow, Marriner ignored it, satisfied that a promising move had been brought to an end by his incompetence. Obinna's free-kick came to naught and that was about it.

Marriner got the abuse he deserved as he left the pitch – it had been a shocking performance that ruined the match as a spectacle. The draw was the right result but it still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth that, having paid a king's ransom to attend a football match, we are being short changed by the actions of officials that are clearly not up to the job. If managers point this out they are fined – but nobody seems to consider whether they might have a point. So we end up with performances like this one from Marriner that was so poor you were left wondering if he'd ever undergone any sort of training whatsoever. Frankly, we'd have been better off getting someone off the street – even if guessing the law of averages suggest that a passer-by would have got some decisions right.

Despite the point we were left bottom thanks to results elsewhere. However we are unbeaten in three (four if you count the League Cup) and I believe that the position is a false one. It's worth considering that we have yet to play anyone from the bottom half yet. That will change and the points will come. Just keep the likes of Marriner away from us.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Three really good saves – it'd be nice for us if he told Capello where to stick his England place thus keeping him away from injury.


Lars Jacobsen
A bit like the District Line – you wonder how we ever got by without a proper right-back.


Danny Gabbidon
Beginning to settle in nicely at left-back. Unlucky to be booked for a nothing challenge.


Matthew Upson
We were debating the destination of the MOTM award post-match. Upson got my vote but it was a close run thing.


Manuel Da Costa
His early season absences are baffling – not only did he have a fine game but, as I've mentioned before, he gets the best out of Upson.


Scott Parker
Another decent shift – though the number of bookings he picks up is sometimes a worry. However, you simply can't legislate for refereeing as bad as Marriner's – the yellow card issued in this match was simply a joke.


Mark Noble
Another good steady performance. The rest he managed to get this summer is clearly doing him the power of good.


Luis Boa Morte
After last week's fine effort he failed to impress this time out. An easy short ball to Obinna led to the goal but his passing was poor this week and he failed to register much otherwise.


Pablo Barrera
Some good touches but guilty of wasting a glorious chance when others were better placed.


Victor Obinna
Another who showed some good touches – not least for the goal. However wasted some good opportunities for crosses.


Frederic Piquionne
Good runout, good goal – at last we have a decent threat from corners.


Substitutes


Carlton Cole
(Replaced Barrera, 69 mins) Failed to impress in the 20 minutes or so he was on the pitch.


Marek Stech
Did not play.


Herita Ilunga
Did not play.


James Tomkins
Did not play.


Radoslav Kovac
Did not play.


Junior Stanislas
Did not play.


Benni McCarthy
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Attendance: 34,190.

Man of the Match: Matthew Upson.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Danny Gabbidon, Matthew Upson, Manuel Da Costa, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Luis Boa Morte, Pablo Barrera, Victor Obinna, Frederic Piquionne.

Goals: Frederic Piquionne 51                  .

Booked: Danny Gabbidon 2 Scott Parker 32 Matthew Upson 65      .

Sent off: None.

Fulham

Schwarzer, Baird, Calcido, Hangeland, Hughes, Davies, Etuhu, Murphy, Duff, Johnson, Dempsey.

Substitutes: Gera (Duff 69), Kamara (Johnson 77), Riise (Davies 90+1).

Subs not used: Etheridge, Pantsil, Greening, Halliche.

Goals: Dempsey (33).

Booked: Etuhu (36).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Matthew Upson