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Premier League
Sunday, 19th May 2013

West Ham United 4
Reading 2

by Gordon Thrower


Blimey, where did that season go?

The last game of the season was preceded by the now traditional boat trip up and down the Thames. Two boats left and two returned, though those of us on the second boat did wonder if we’d ever get ashore, having to wait an age while a berth became clear at North Greenwich, then enjoying a 15 minute docking process while the skipper tried to moor up. I think it was a 28 point turn that we executed but that may be plus or minus a few points.

On our boat we were joined by the Heuerman family who were wisely taking the opportunity to milk a captive audience to add to the thousands they’ve already raised for the Bobby Moore Fund. From our boat the last count was something in the region of £500 and I’d guess that the other boat raised a similar amount. Good effort all round guys. Photos of the trip will, no doubt, be appearing at a website forum near you any day now.

A slightly disturbing drive in the Upton Girliemobile reminded me that the colour of adrenaline is brown though we did get to the ground in one piece somehow. Team news was that Mark Noble was back in to start, taking over from Gary O’Neil who had deputised then stayed in following Noble’s injury. We also mused over the significance or otherwise of the complete absence of Carlton Cole from the bench, tonsillitis being the cause of his absence. No place anywhere for Jarvis though we saw the reappearance of Wellington Paulista to the racing car seats leaving us with a starting line up of JJ, Demel, O’Brien, Reid, Collins, Noble, Diame, Cole (J), Vaz Te, Nolan, Carroll.

It was a quiet opening with neither side really getting to grips with the math, Noble was trying to pull the strings in the middle, as if he were making up for lost time, which, I suppose, he was. However, too many passes from both sides lacked accuracy in the opening exchanges, ours generally going a foot behind the intended recipient, theirs going straight into touch. Shots were generally from long distance and, in our case, invariably from Joe Cole, and in our case, invariably wide. Theirs were similar with the exception of one effort from Progrebnyak which JJ did well to turn away low to his left.

The most notable thing about the opening stages was the away section. Already given the minimum allocation, Reading failed to sell it out. There had been talk of a boycott over ticket prices – though since the prices were on a par with those charged at their soulless dump that seemed to be something of an excuse for the whole “can’t be arsed unless we’re doing well-ed-ness” that typifies their support. They’d also brought along some inflatables, somehow pulling off the unique trick of having more inflatables at the match than fans. The toys made more noise as well.

Things all changed on 22 minutes. Trying to play the ball out from the back Reading found Nolan pressing high up the pitch. With nowhere to go the defender played the ball back to England call-up McCarthy who hit the ball straight at Carroll. Nolan beat the ‘keeper to the loose ball, rounded him and rolled the ball into the empty net. We’ve been a bit short of comedy goals at the Boleyn this season but we’d saved the funniest to last. Somewhere in Premier League headquarters there’s an assist waiting to be claimed by Carroll if he can turn up and stand the embarrassment.

From that point we dominated the match. The skipper (that’s the team’s rather than the bloke on the boat) was unlucky not to double his – and our – tally five minutes later when his effort from inside the box – inevitably after Carroll had nodded across the box - was superbly saved by McCarthy, the ‘keeper getting a reflex hand on the shot to turn it on to the bar. Carroll then headed a corner wide whilst Joe Cole saw another effort from outside the box go wide.

Vaz Te was having an interesting match. He’d spent the first 15 minutes or so misplacing passes rather in the same manner as my Dad misplaces his glasses all the time. They’re never far away but they might as well be in a different country. Vaz Te decided that his boots were to blame and decided that a change was required. This was a process that took an extraordinary length of time. Not as long as a boat skipper trying to manoeuvre a small boat into a large space perhaps, but quite an age nevertheless.

Presumably a different length of stud was involved, otherwise the bright yellow footwear seemed identical. Either way, the effect, psychological or otherwise, was dramatic. RVT started finding teammates, taking on players and beating them. Note to Dad – buy a pair of bright yellow football boots to wear about the house – you’ll never lose your specs again. Note to Mum - don’t carry on so. It’s only carpet.

It was RVT who increased the lead on 34 minutes. A cross from the left appeared to be over hit but Carroll brought it down brilliantly – and played a clever ball inside for RVT to place home inside the far post with excellent accuracy. Carroll added to his long list of assists with one that he wouldn’t be too embarrassed to claim at the Assist Claims Counter at Premier League HQ – perhaps when he picks that one up they could put the first one in a brown paper bag for him. Vaz Te, meanwhile, concluded his celebrations with a polite bow, much in the manner of a Shakespearean actor after knocking out one of the Bard’s trickier soliloquies.

We could easily have gone in at the interval even further ahead. There was some quality stuff being played. with the passes, by and large, finding their intended recipients. Diame embarked on one of his trademark cut-ins from the left but McCarthy was equal to the near-post shot. RVT then cut in from the other side and his powerful effort beat McCarthy but not the post.

Half time: West Ham United 2 Reading 0


At half time Jeremy interviewed Brian Dear, a veteran of the 1965 Cup Winners Cup side. 48 years ago? Had to laugh at Stag’s comment about imports: “to us Billy Bonds was a foreign player because he came from the other side of the river!”.

Just before the restart Jem implored us to let Andy Carroll know we wanted him to stay. As a request it was slightly cringe-making but, before you all start slagging off our matchday announcer (who is a decent chap), you ought to know that the announcement was made under instruction from above so don’t shoot the messenger ok?

So, with us playing some decent stuff, and Reading looking like second from bottom would represent a major overachievement it would take some major removal of feet from the collective throttle for us to let them back into the match.

This being a West Ham report you can probably guess what happened next. Yup, we removed our feet from the collective throttle.

The visitors forced a couple of corners afte one of which ex-Hammer McAnuff fed McLeary whose shot from the edge of the box was deflected by Noble’s attempted block into the net, the diversion giving JJ no chance.

Worse was to come within a minute of the restart. Sub Blackman went down the left and got a cross in. The usually reliable Reid got his legs in a twist and failed to clear allowing the unmarked sub Le Fondre an easy finish at the far post to level the scores.

Havimg apparently turned their attention from the match to the beach during the interval, the players were now ordering stupidly-named cocktails with colours consisting of some of the more dubious E-numbers and umbrellas sticking out of the top. It took a while for them to snap out of it, during which period Reading continued their quest to take the record for the number of passes played into touch. However, slowly, we began to reassert our earlier authority.

Vaz Te blazed over from promising position. Joe Cole had a shot blocked by Gorkss. Carroll headed narrowly wide as the chances began to increase in frequency. With 73 on the clock we made our first change with Collison replacing Cole (J) and 5 minutes later the lead was restored.

It was a fairly simple goal. Noble’s superb pass through the middle saw Nolan beat the offside trap and keep his composure to slot past McCarthy, who, by now, must have been wondering whether his England call-up papers had been delivered to the correct address.

A couple of minutes after the goal we made our second change with Maiga coming on for Vaz Te. Mike Dean realised that time was running out for him to fill his booking quota for the season, dishing out yellows to both Nolan and Collison in short order for what were pretty innocuous challenges. With five left Taylor replaced a tired looking O’Brien and then we put the match beyond all doubt.

Carroll found himself with some space on the edge of the box and shot. McCarthy, who seemed to be under instruction to have a ‘mare in case anyone was interested in signing him, somehow kept the ball out with his shoulder without ever giving the impression that he had the faintest clue what he was doing. The ball fell out wide to Maiga who had all the time in the world to measure up a cross for Nolan to head past McCarthy without suffering the inconvenience of a challenge. Thus was the skipper’s hat-trick completed.

Dean added an end of season two minutes (4 subs if you don’t count the two Reading made in the interval, 4 goals and the odd injury would normally see a longer spot of stoppage) and the match and season came to an end.

That was that – save for the post match lap of appreciation during which we all did our heads in trying to work out who would be staying and who would be leaving based only on observations of how they were carrying their toddlers about.

Tenth spot is a fine reward for the first season back – no complaints here. The challenge for next year is to see how far we can progress from the base set by this term. Over the years we seem to have been able to play well at home or away but never both in the same season, That’s the challenge for next term but in the meantime I’d say that was a job well done.

This being the last one of these until next term I’m going to go all self indulgent and spend a few column inches acknowledging some people without whom you’d probably have much better match reports. In what has been a trying year hereabouts UTJ, the lovely Sam (promote that woman to Headmistress immediately!), the lovely Charlotte and the not-particularly-lovely but still a great mate Craggsy have all taken the concept of friendship well beyond the usually accepted limits.

To Kathryn, Tomas, Nan, Dan, Ann, Joe and the lads, thanks for making our bit of the ground such a great place to be every other week. To Trevor and the Smith family I hope we helped you get through the season ok. To Romford cheers for the beers and the boats and finally to Mum, Dad, Derek, Geoff, Anne and the two tigers. Trust me anyone with a family half as good as mine is very lucky indeed.

Have a good summer!

* Dedicated to the memory of Alan Smith of Row N Seat 215.



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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
One good save in the first half. No chance with the goals. Otherwise not over-employed.


Guy Demel
Went a bit AWOL early in the second half but otherwise a steady 90 minutes.


Joey O Brien
Looked exhausted towards the end – not surprised he was replaced by Taylor for the last few minutes.


James Collins
Another battling run out for the defender still known as “Ginge” despite the almost complete absence of barnet.


Winston Reid
I guess we can allow him the odd slip up such as that which led to their second goal given that he was excellent for the rest of the match.


Momo Diame
Some good stuff in there but had a tendency to overcomplicate things on occasion.


Mark Noble
Ran the show in the first half. Less influential in the second half though it was his fine through ball that set-up Nolan’s second.


Ricardo Vaz Te
The change of boots and the goal boosted his confidence no end after an uncertain start.


Joe Cole
Flitted in and out of a game that he would have dominated not so long ago.


Kevin Nolan
Three good finishes for a player who is more important to the team than some would care to admit. MOTM.


Andy Carroll
'Unplayable' according to the Reading boss. Better teams than Reading will have problems with him next season. Let’s hope we’re not one of them.


Substitutes


Jack Collison
(Replaced Joe Cole, 74)
Quiet leg-stretcher for the Welsh lad.


Modibo Maiga
(Replaced Ricardo Vaz Te, 81)
Looked lively during his spell off the bench. Set up Nolan's third.


Matt Taylor
(Replaced Joey O'Brien, 86)
Not much sticks in the mind for his cameo at the end.


Stephen Henderson
Did not play.


Emanuel Pogatetz
Did not play.


Matt Taylor
Did not play.


Carlton Cole
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mike Dean.

Attendance: 34,973.

Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan.

West Ham United

Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Joey O Brien, James Collins, Winston Reid, Momo Diame, Mark Noble, Ricardo Vaz Te, Joe Cole, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll.

Goals: Kevin Nolan 23 Ricardo Vaz Te 34 Kevin Nolan 79 Kevin Nolan 87            .

Booked: Kevin Nolan 84 Jack Collison 85        .

Sent off: None.

Reading

Alex McCarthy, Chris Gunter, Sean Morrison, Kaspars Gorkss, Stephen Kelly, Garath McCleary, Jem Karacan, Danny Guthrie, Jobi McAnuff, Pavel, Hal Robson-Kanu.

Substitutes: Adam Le Fondre (Pavel Pogrebnyak 46), Nick Blackman (Hal Robson-Kanu 46).

Subs not used: Stuart Taylor, Alex Pearce, Adrian Mariappa, Hope Akpan, Daniel Carrico.

Goals: Garath McCleary (53), Adam Le Fondre (55).

Booked: Jobi McAnuff (64).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Kevin Nolan