Saturday, 20th August 2005
Having read the whole saga, I reckon the bloke would never have left his brother, but I can tell you that I would have left mine climbing those stairs to get up to the away support at St James’ Park. There were Irons fans puffing like f*ck as they scaled the north face to get to their seats. “Good job I’m so fit” said one of our number, looking on the verge of a coronary. I only made it as I had crampons on.
The pre-match thinking in this game was that we would be on a high after last week’s win, while the barcodes would still be lacking attacking options with their continuing failed quest to sign a striker (snap!). With Ameobi suspended, Dyer injured (quelle surprise) and classy Turkish midfield star Emre picking up a knock on international duty, we had to have a chance, didn’t we?
The starting line up was the same as against Blackburn, although the returning Repka took the right back spot in place of Daily. The formation was different, though, with Marlon playing as the lone striker up front and Teddy playing in a withdrawn role.
We started pretty much as we left off last Saturday and as early as two minutes, Matty broke free after a great ball was threaded through the legs of a defender by Teddy. The resulting cross was held easily by Given.
Immediately afterwards, Tom was caught napping by a throw, but Roy Carroll was quick to gather the ball and snuff out the danger.
On five minutes, Reo Coker went on another one of those trademark blistering forward runs of his, but the opportunity was wasted as Marlon failed to make the obvious pass out to Matty who was advancing down the left. Yossi had a pot shot instead which was pretty awful. A minute later, Reo Coker won the ball superbly in the centre of midfield but Marlon found himself marooned in an offside position as the ball was passed.
Matty made the next move of note on nine minutes, when he went on a great run and then found Marlon, but his attempted return ball to Matty on the edge of the box was cut out.
As quiet as a Gooner
West Ham were really dictating the opening play and Yossi was next to show with a beautiful slanted pass to feed the advancing Tom, who won a corner. Chaos reigned in the Newcastle box when they failed to clear but no-one could get a killer strike in.
West Ham’s play was all about holding possession and playing the game at their own pace. It was great to watch and see our team playing with so much confidence in front of the Geordie faithful. They had cottoned on to our control of the game as they were as quiet as the Gooners at Highbury.
Despite the early good play, it all nearly went pear-shaped on the quarter hour as there was a near cock up between Gabbers and Caroll as the former tried to shield the ball unsuccessfully. Two corners followed in quick succession but the barcodes could not capitalise on their first real spell of pressure.
On 19 minutes, Carroll was called upon to make a one handed save from N'Zogbia after Celestine Babayaro had made a fine run down the wing.
Denied by Given
We were all up celebrating Yossi’s first goal for the cub three minutes later, but the ball unbelievably hit the keeper somehow and was cleared off the line. The chance resulted from a brilliant exchange of passes between Kondicksy and Marlon and a lovely weighted through ball from Teddy. Yossi slid in to beat Given to the ball and he was desperately unlucky. Everytime I see this Israeli, I like him more and more.
Mullins, incidentally, was really having a stormer. He looked relaxed and just kept making effective passes. I would love to see him play like this every week in the centre of the park. That appalling display as centre back at Reading last season is now erased from the memeory.
Good work by Eterington on 26 minutes created a half chance for Teddy, but he headed over. A minute later, Shearer had the same result down the other end.
Hammer of Year in waiting
Reo Coker, who will be Hammer of the Year if he carries on this way, then went on another incisive run on 32 minutes. For one exciting moment it looked like he would go all the way and score, but he elected to try and lay the ball off, and it was blocked on the edge of the area.
Kondicksy got mugged by Stephen Carr on 33 minutes, but his cross went right across the box and out of danger. Then Mullins gave the ball away, but Newcastle just looked bereft of ideas coming forward.
Marlon surged forward on 35 minutes after a long hoofed ball but he was adjudged to have fouled the defender and his shot was skewed wide in any event.
Reo Coker muscled in again to make an excellent tackle on 37 minutes and he managed to find Marlon with a great pass, but his final ball was poor with Yossi free on the right hand side of the box. If we can get the final ball right, we are going to score plenty of goals this season.
One Alan Pardew
With five minutes left in the half, I could hardly believe my ears as the travelling Irons asked the manager to “give them a wave”. This was swiftly followed by “There’s only one Alan Pardew”. It’s been a long time coming that and the bloke fully deserves that recognition.
The half’s comedy moment then happened, as Marlon chased down a back pass and Given cleared the ball off his chest. It went up a country mile and Marlon had absolutely no idea where the ball was. It was like a pantomime – “It’s behind you!” we all bellowed.
The half ended with Yossi showing what great feet he has. Stick him in a tight space and he seems to nick it out somehow. £2.5 million has bought pure trickery.
Now that was a half of football that should give everybody hope that we are going to survive in the Premiership. True, like Blackburn last week, Newcastle looked uninterested and off colour, but our control, confidence and passing was impressive.
No changes at half time, but three minutes in Shaun Newton came on for Teddy and you have to assume that he had signalled to the bench that he wasn’t going to run off a knock he’d got in the dying moments of the first half.
Reo Coker was giving out more of the same with another run that cut through the Newcastle middle and led to him finding Matty, but his cross was cut out. Newton then cut free down the right on 56 minutes and out over a tantalising cross which had to be put behind by the Newcastle defence.
No flag means red
A minute later, Nigel then uncharacteristically gave the ball away in a central position inside the Newcastle half. The ball was quickly put forward by Milner and Jenas was one on one with Kondicksy who made a last ditch tackle. The play stopped with ref Dermot Gallagher looking like he would penalise the defender, but there was no flag at all from the assistant. Gallagher decided to ask for his opinion, but the quick conflab led to him brandishing a red card. It was impossible to see from our end whether it was a foul or not.
The free kick was in a dangerous position and Shearer beat the wall to left, but Carroll was there to save down low.
West Ham did not look unduly affected by the sending off, and Yossi, Reo Coker and Newton were immediately involved in some nice midfield interplay. In fact, we seemed to look even more determined, leading to the travelling Hammers taunting Newcastle with “Easy, easy, easy”.
Carroll in control
It looked like a certain Newcastle goal on 69 minutes after Babayaro set up Lee Clark, but Caroll’s outstretched hand saved the day again, and Gabbers was able to clear our lines. The resulting corner saw the ball come loose on the edge of the box, and Carroll had to be alert to push over a dipping half volley from Lee Bowyer.
The sending off had certainly raised the temperature and Jenas was booked on 70 minutes after a cynical foul on Marlon. Then a minute later it was handbags in the centre circle as Hayden Mullins did not take kindly to a tackle.
With twelve minutes left, Dailly was brought on for Yossi who’d had a quieter second half. Matty still had some energy left and on 82 minutes he won a free kick after a run forward. Dailly was on the end of the cross but could only head over the crossbar.
From then on the Newcastle fans decided to leave in droves, as they had worked out that there was little prospect of a goal from their team. This sparked a rousing chorus directed at Souness of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” from the away support.
With three minutes of normal time left, Marlon got booked after he got a bit fruity after having been denied a free kick. A corner followed for Newcastle which led to a bit of a goalmouth scramble after thrown in with bodies flying in from everywhere. West Ham were just tenacious in defence of goal and Gabbers was at the heart of it, snuffing out Shearer.
Zamora was introduced on 88 minutes for Marlon who got a warm round of applause. It was Z man who had the last chance for West Ham after Reo Coker flew forward and got a ball to him in the box. For a second it looked like Zamora might unleash a shot in the box, but he passed it back to Nigel who couldn’t get a shot away.
Newcastle managed one last move after Tom got sucked out of position, allowing a move down the left. The cross came in but the shot from Parker that followed was wild and wide.
The final whistle heralded the standing ovation which West Ham fully merited. If last week’s game was very encouraging, then this was a notch above. We went up to that Geordie cauldron and played with absolutely no fear at all. We silenced one of the most passionate crowds in Europe. What’s more, when we went down to 10 men with fully 35 minutes left, we fought even harder. You would have taken 4 points after two games, and if we can make that 7 after next week’s home game against Bolton, we will all be very happy indeed.
One final point, it was absolutely right that the manager was getting the plaudits from the West Ham fans. It’s been long overdue. How ironic that the manager under pressure tonight is not Pardew but his dour Scottish counterpart. That’s football for you.
(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)
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Made some important saves and generally inspired confidence in all around him. Looking more at ease since leaving Old Trafford.
A solid first game of the season for the much-maligned Czech. His passing was a little errant at times but that is a minor criticism.
Possible the most ridiculous red card ever? Konch clearly took the ball but Gallagher was having none of it. Will miss the home game with Bolton should the normally affable referee decide to ignore common sense.
Anton has come of age in the last two games, and has proved that he can play on the main stage - just months after some people were questioning his ability to do it at Championship level. Good stuff.
Alan Pardew said prior to the start of the season that Gabbidon would be a contender for Player of the Year. That's looking a good bet on this showing.
A huge performance in front of the back four. Another who was oft-criticised last season sticking two fingers up to his critics. More of the same please.
Having an incorrectly spelt name on the back of his shirt didn't seem to hinder Reo-Coker in any way; this was a classy performance that has already moved some pundits to spark mention of England call-ups.
Worked very hard on the flank and could have nicked a winner in the first half had Sheringham's through ball had a little bit less on it. Beginning to find his feet in the hustle and bustle of the Premiership.
Quiter than last week but always a useful outlet for the likes of Konchesky to use. Still looking tricky despite having made the step up to the big league.
Frustrating - as is often the case with Marlon. Some glimpses of class but lacking the killer touch at present. A goal would no doubt help to settle the nerves.
Teddy was the glue that held the midfield and attack together - unfortunately replaced early on in the second half after suffering a knock. Doubtful for Saturday's clash with Bolton.
(Replaced Sheringham, 48) Mr Versatile came on to replace Sheringham as part of a five man midfield before reverting to left back after the dismissal of Konchesky. A real little diamond.
(Replaced Benayoun, 78) Brought in to shore up the defence a la Preston in the play-off final. Did a sterling job for the 15 minutes or so he was let loose.
(Replaced Harewood, 90) You can't help feeling a little sorry for Bobby. Despite scoring the goals that took us back to the big time he's barely featured thus far in the Prem. Came on, had one chance, final whistle.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Teddy Sheringham.
Booked: Marlon Harewood 88 .
Sent Off: Paul Konchesky 55 .
Given, Carr, babayaro, Boumsong, Taylor, Parker, Jenas, Bowyer, N'Zogbia, Milner, Shearer.
Substitutes: Clark (N'Zogbia 63).
Subs not used: Harper, Elliott, Faye, Brittain.
Booked: Jenas (71).
Sent Off: None sent off..