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FA Cup
Sunday, 30th January 2011

West Ham United 3
Nottingham Forest 2

by Gordon Thrower


Transport for London bless ‘em. They only have our interests at heart. They know that week in week out those who make the trip to the Boleyn often face amounts of frustration and anger that are of levels best described as “unhealthy”, particularly for those of us whose blood pressure measurements have a comma in them. So, in their infinite wisdom, TfL like to make it as difficult as possible for us to get to the ground.

I suppose the idea is that we’ll all give up and stay at home with a cup of herbal tea and listen to a Ministry of Sound chillout compilation, thus reducing our systolic and diastolic levels and becoming calm and mellow. Unfortunately, I happen to like going to football more than listening to “At The River” by Groove Armada (the track without which it appears to be illegal to release a chillout album) and (as one or two of my away travelling companions will attest) I hate being late for anything.

So, despite leaving in good time taking into account TfL’s desire to render East London inaccessible, I found myself arriving at the ground only seconds before kick-off thanks to trains breaking down on the Jubilee line and “rail replacement buses” on the District line being rarer than Chillout albums without “At The River” on them.

I’d managed to grab a team sheet on the way in and noted that it was mainly a second string line-up comprised of Green. Jacobsen, Ilunga, Reid, Gabbidon, Noble, Kovac, Barrera, Noble, Sears, Piquionne, Obinna. However, I’d barely had the time to consider the wisdom of this when we had gone 1-0 up.

Sears, who was one of the few who looked lively throughout, got into a promising position in the box but the time he took to control the ball allowed a defender to get the block in for the corner. Parker pulled the ball back outside the box. Noble advanced forward and put in a shot that, as shots go, was fairly lousy. However, as pinpoint passes go it was excellent. Obinna stuck out a leg to send us one up.

I have to say that, following the ball, Obinna looked well offside. However my first look as the ball went in was across to the linesman who made a visual point of indicating that Vic had been onside – a defender in the right back position had moved out with all the speed of a glacier on tranquilisers. Which was a shame for them but rather handy for us.

So a bright start. You’d have thought that this would have been the opportunity for the team to relax and start playing it about wouldn’t you? Actually, if you’re a Hammer reading this you probably wouldn’t have thought that at all what with our ongoing propensity to make life hard for ourselves. So it proved. One side started playing neat incisive football with accurate passes to feet. That side wasn’t us.

It was the usual thing. Go a goal up and sit back and let them come at us. The only surprise was that it took Forest so long to actually make their dominance count.

We had a couple of scares. A couple of free-kicks in dangerous positions caused concern and the visitors’ shoot on sight policy meant that the defence was kept busy putting in last ditch blocks and tackles all over the place. It felt like a goal was coming and on 18 minutes it arrived. McGoldrick got the better of the right hand side of our defence and fed Adebola who poked home just inside Green’s left hand post. It was no more than the visitors deserved.

We nearly blew it right from the restart, Gabbidon was showing all the signs of a player who had been replaced by Sam Beckett in the TV sci-fi series Quantum Leap and picked up a deserved yellow for a foul on McGoldrick. The visitors then forced a few corners – some taken by former Hammer Chris Cohen - prompting more desperate blocking from the likes of Reid.

Most players couldn’t string two consecutive passes together. Kovac was the exception to this – he couldn’t manage one. This was particularly annoying as it was usually him to whom the task of bringing the ball out of defence and finding a team mate fell.

Forest took a deserved lead on 40 minutes and it was a complete shambles of a goal from start to finish. The hapless Ilunga brought down Gunter on the centre-right hand side of midfield. Cohen took the free-kick and found Piquionne whose baffling header had Green scrambling.

Green’s efforts only succeeded in keeping Piquionne’s name off the scoresheet with the letter’s “og” next to it and ‘keeper was powerless to prevent McGoldrick heading home from close range. This prompted a number of people to head for the exits though it’s fair to say that from my vantage point most returned for the second half having taken advantage of the goal to beat the rush to perform half-time bodily functions.

Well all season we’ve been hearing Avram bemoan the lack of good fortune about the place. To be fair to a certain degree he does have a point – though hearing about it week in week out does get a bit grating to be honest. However, he could have no complaints as to what was to follow.

Given that we had as much chance of scoring as a member of the West Midlands Constabulary has of getting a daytime tv quiz question right (you know the ones: “Who is the current Queen of England? Is it a) Elizabeth II b) Central Heating or c) Pop Idol) we probably needed a fluke to get back on level terms. And boy did we get one.

A rare promising break out of defence saw the ball fed to Obinna on the right. With Sears and Piquionne pushing towards the edge of the box Obinna put in a cross that, as crosses go, was lousy. However, ‘keeper Camp like the rest of us was expecting something a little, well, less lousy and found himself stuck on the edge of the six yard box unable to keep the ball from flying in to level the scores.

Any thoughts that the “shot” might have been in any way deliberate were quickly dispelled by Obinna himself, who at least had the good grace to look embarrassed at his good fortune. Think Paul Konchesky (from the other side of the pitch) in the Cup Final and you won’t be far out if you need a pointer.

Well it’s little things like that that can change a season – in all honesty if that hadn’t gone in I couldn’t see us getting back into the match so poorly were we playing. However, from that point on we seemed to recover our composure and started to boss things. We had the better of the last few minutes of the half though we couldn’t convert that into goals and the interval came with us level pegging in a game that for 35 of the 45 minutes during which we’d looked third best in a field of two.

Over the course of the season our Jekyll and Hyde performances have often prompted the question: “What exactly is it that Avram says to them at half-time?” and more pertinently “Couldn’t he give it a miss this week?”. Well whether or not it was something the boss said or didn’t say, the second half was a vast improvement on the first. Unless you were a Forest fan of course.

A tentative start to the second period saw us slowly start to establish the grip on midfield that had been worryingly absent from the first 45 and we started to push forwards with pace and purpose. However, the third goal still required an element of luck. We forced a corner which was cleared to midfield but hooked back in to the box by way of a trip to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Now whether or not Reid would have actually been able to get a meaningful shot away we will never know. Certainly the ball was on trajectory to land nearest to him (assuming it didn’t burn up on re-entry). However, we were spared the worry by Forest’s Lynch who, it’s fair to say, hit the panic button big time by hauling the Kiwi back for a clear, if probably unnecessary, penalty.

Now me I’m an old fashioned type of guy. For me you only give the ball to a player on a hat-trick when the result isn’t in doubt – Alvin Martin v Newcastle 1986 is a good example of that. When you are at 2-2 in a cup tie against a team that played well in the first 45 you leave it to your regular penalty taker as far as I’m concerned. That would, presumably, have been Noble in this case. However, Vic’s two goals outranked any claims that any other player might have had.

In truth it wasn’t the best of spot kicks but Camp had committed himself to his left and Vic rolled the ball in just the other side of centre to give us the lead and give him the match ball. This prompted the gymnastic display of multiple Obinna-flips that (based on recent events) technically might have been worth a yellow card although thankfully common sense prevailed on this occasion.

The goal settled us – and unsettled them. Where passes had found their man with monotonous regularity in the first half, Forest found that whatever we had been suffering from in the first 45 was contagious. Unfortunately for us they had one player that revelled in the pressure – and that was their ‘keeper. Largely unemployed in the first 45 minutes Camp pulled off a number of saves that later had his manager wondering out loud if the visiting Fabio Capello might have made a few notes for his next squad.

Just after the hour Piquionne found a bit of space in the box and shot powerfully. Camp’s parried save was superb and fully merited the applause it received from all sides of the ground. Only moments later Barrera bore down on goal and shot with the outside of his right boot. Again Camp got down well to turn the shot round the post.

Piquionne then found himself one on one with Camp but, having drifted a bit wide of goal, he saw his effort well saved by Camp with the added insult to injury of having the ball rebound off his own leg to go out for a goal kick.

Forest had a few moments – mainly from corners, one of which came from Jacobsen trying to let the ball run out in that manner that we seem to be so bad at (though in Lurpak’s defence it did look like he was fouled by his opponent in the process). Gabbidon cleared the first corner with a defensive header and Green dealt with the second with a punch.

With 20 left Sears – who probably deserved a goal for his efforts over the day – found Camp in continued fine fettle (whatever a fettle is) and another decent effort was met with yet another excellent save, Camp turning Fred’s shot round for another corner.

On 73 minutes Noble went off to be replaced by Luis Boa Morte who received his usual mixed response from the crowd. No doubt those booing him will have been moaning at others to “get behind the team” at some stage during the match before going on to answer c) “Pop Idol” in the earlier daytime quiz.

Forest did have one fine chance to level the scores on 82 minutes. Yet again it was a corner that caused the problem, McGoldrick getting across his marker at the near post. However, his header lacked direction and went thankfully wide.

With four minutes left on the clock Piquionne, who hadn’t had the best of days, was replaced by Nouble. In fact whilst the change was being announced, the automated security announcement kicked-in leading our Jem to interrupt himself and cause thousands of non-regulars to believe that Mr Moon had come on to play up front. Zavon Hines completed the changes right on the stroke of normal time, replacing Barrera.

We survived four minutes of stoppage time without much ado – proving only one thing in the process. This being that, much like shepherding loose balls out for corners, we can’t do that holding the ball down by the corner flag thing either. Thankfully our inability to waste time in that manner counted for nothing and we were through to the next round.

Difficult really to read anything into this one. A win is a win and given the general awfulness of much of the first half I'd have been more than happy with that. However the team selection of both sides gave it away really – both sides having bigger midweek fish to fry. After the disaster at St Andrews it was nice to progress in what is, after all, THE cup. Just pray that in the (admittedly unlikely) event of our actually getting to Wembley, Transport For London finally get their backsides in gear. The final's in May and I don't want to have to set out on my way just yet.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Busier in the first half than the second when he was less troubled. Might have done a tiny bit better for their second perhaps.


Lars Jacobsen
Improved after a shaky start during which period their first goal came from his side.


Herita Ilunga
Given that he's now been left out of the 25 this may just have been his final match for us. Never looked like the player we had on loan.


Winston Reid
Still not convinced by this one. Still he was fairly steady throughout and his presence in the opposition penalty area forced the penalty that turned out to be the winner.


Danny Gabbidon
Appalling in the first half – his control was all over the shop. Much, much better in the second half.


Radoslav Kovac
Awful.


Mark Noble
Ok in patches but looked a bit leggy towards the end. Wisely withdrawn to give him a break.


Pablo Barrera
Like Reid I'm still unconvinced. At this level he looked ok in patches, but every decent run was followed by a disappearing act for ten minutes or so.


Fred Sears
Looked lively throughout and was unfortunate not to get his name on the scoresheet.


Frederic Piquionne
But for both 'keepers he could have had his name on both sides of the goals ledger. Otherwise promised little and delivered it.


Victor Obinna
But for both 'keepers he could have had his name on both sides of the goals ledger. Otherwise promised little and delivered it.


Substitutes


Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Noble, 74 mins) But for both 'keepers he could have had his name on both sides of the goals ledger. Otherwise promised little and delivered it.


Frank Nouble
(Replaced Piquionne, 87 mins) Introduced to run the clock down a bit. Succeeded in that aim I suppose. Off to Barnsley for a bit.


Zavon Hines
(Replaced Barrera, 90 mins) Another with little time to influence matters.


Ruud Boffin
Did not play.


Wayne Bridge
Did not play.


James Tomkins
Did not play.


Scott Parker
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Attendance: 29,287.

Man of the Match: Victor Obinna.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Herita Ilunga, Winston Reid, Danny Gabbidon, Radoslav Kovac, Mark Noble, Pablo Barrera, Fred Sears, Frederic Piquionne, Victor Obinna.

Goals: Victor Obinna 4 Victor Obinna 42 Victor Obinna 52              .

Booked: Danny Gabbidon 19          .

Sent off: None.

Nottingham Forest

Camp, Gunter, Morgan, Chambers, Lynch, McKenna, Majewski, Cohen, McGugan, Adebola, McGoldrick.

Substitutes: Earnshaw (Adebola 66), Tyson (Majewski 68), McLeary (McKenna 78).

Subs not used: Smith, Moussi, Maloney, Rodney.

Goals: Adebola (18), McGoldrick (40).

Booked: Lynch (51), Gunter (65).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Victor Obinna


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