Monday, 12th September 2005
I guess if asked before the match most of us (sorry Aussie readers) would have settled for an Ashes win followed by three points. However the performance that led to the second part of the win double was better than most of us dared hope for. The team news was that, having agonised over the form of Marlon Harewood, AP decided to give the man with the golden boots a vote of confidence by keeping him in an unchanged starting line-up of Carroll, Repka, Konchesky , Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Benayoun, Mullins, Sheringham, Harewwood. Pre-match – and following the ludicrous handshake with pompous fanfare that the authorities insist on these days – a minute’s silence in honour of the recently departed Noel Cantwell was observed by all inside the ground.
The silence over we settled down to what rapidly turned into one of those old style evenings under lights that those of us of a certain age fondly remember. The usual cliché “we started brightly” applied. The much-criticised of late Harewood started as he meant to go on drawing a desperate but fair tackle from, I think, Mellberg. The shouts for a penalty were wildly optimistic, even allowing for the fact that Rob Styles was the evening’s official. Up the other end Philips might have done better when getting on the end of a long clearance but, lacking the confidence to go forward himself he found himself crowded out by the attentions of Ferdinand.
The opening exchanges saw some fine football with Etherington shooting over from distance and Konchesky’s effort from further out finding Sorenson’s hands somewhat safer than Shane Warne’s had been earlier in the day when dealing with Kevin Pietersen.
Not really being a betting man I have no idea what odds you’d have got on Repka for first scorer but I’d imagine they’d have been similar to those you’d have got on Steve Potts a few years ago. Mind you with Tomas it’s not for the want of trying. He seems to be getting a shot in each week and it’s going to be a race to see if he can get on the scoresheet before he goes at the end of the season. Though this week’s effort ended up high and wide in the Centenary, it was good to see him get forward to augment the attack.
The best move of the early part of the game came on the quarter hour. Breaking out from a rare Villa incursion into home territory, Harewood went down the left and played the ball into the path of Sheringham. Young Edward’s dummy was superb, taking as it did a couple of defenders out of the equation, and the ball ran into the path of Benayoun. Unfortunately, despite excellent work to cut inside the defender, Yossi’s shot was, not for the first time this season, a little too measured and Sorenson was able to deal with it without worry.
Yossi’s next effort was slightly less accomplished. Konchesky’s run down the left ended with a cross that eluded everyone. Seemingly caught by surprise Yossi’s prod corkscrewed wildly across the goal. It had been a fairly frantic start to the match and the goal that our play deserved came on 25 minutes.
A long clearance found Harewood who laid the ball back to Young Edward. Teddy’s clever first time return header caught Villa square and marlon ran on through to calmly side foot home one on one with the keeper.
Clearly somebody has been talking to Marlon about the need to keep a cool head in front of goal. The goal was the sort of chance that we’ve seen him snatch at in recent weeks and I was well pleased for the lad who has, over the past couple of weeks, had to put up with some insane abuse from certain sections of the crowd.
I’m even more pleased to say that, having broken his duck for the season, we didn’t have too long to wait for Marlon to double his tally. It was one of those goals that I maintain is a rarity for us, coming as it did from a corner. Matty’s corner from the right found Ferdinand unmarked at the back post. Anton’s header back towards goal seemed to be heading towards Sorenson before Marlon’s clever if instinctive flick diverted it past the Villa ‘keeper from close range. A poacher’s goal they call it.
At 2-0 up we spent a few minutes sitting back it has to be said and Baros and Barry both tried their luck without success but it has to be said that in the first half the visitors lacked conviction and another ref another day might have given a penalty when Marlon was wrestled back by former Academy pupil Ridgeway. Clearly Marlon had the bit between his teeth though towards the end of the half Milner drew a sharp save out of the otherwise unemployed Carroll, the big screen replay suggesting that Milner’s effort might otherwise just have crept inside the post.
Returning to normal service Mullins shot over from distance whilst Teddy turned the wrong way under pressure in the box and couldn’t get a meaningful effort in leaving the half time score 2-0
The second half started with the clearest possible confirmation that it wasn’t going to be Villa’s day. Three minutes in Milner found himself in space on the right and put what must surely have been a cross. It fooled everyone, carroll included and drifted over to hit the far post, drop along the goal line before hitting the other post and coming out to the hapless Phillips who shot into the side netting with the goal at his mercy. The miss pleased my neighbour, one of my Geordie acquaintances by the name of Doug who, in common with many of his fellow Novocastrians operates on the principle “once a Mackem”.
It was a miss that Villa didn’t have too long to wait to regret. A Reo-Coker run down the right ended with a foul. Matty went over to take the kick. However, at this point there was an element of farce about the proceedings. Roy Carroll appeared to be in some trouble injury-wise in the home penalty area and the physio was waving frantically towards the ref to be allowed on to treat the Irishman. Despite the shouts from the bench, not to mention the whistles from the better part of 30,000 supporters, ref Styles remained totally oblivious to the situation. Matty’s kick saw Sorenson make a suicidal claim for a ball he was never going to get near and the ball fell to Marlon who killed the ball then buried it with undisguised glee to complete a deserved hat-trick. Quite a clever way of putting the ball out of play to get you’re ‘keeper some attention!
Doug, who is one person I’d have as my “phone a friend” if I ever get on a certain TV quiz programme, pointed out to me at this point that Harewood’s hat-trick was the first in the premiership this season and, since Doug probably sees more football in a week than Sven & Motty do in a month, I had no reason to doubt him.
For the next few minutes we sat back again and Carroll was clearly not 100%, a fact reflected in Anton and Gabbidon’s reluctance to trust him for a few minutes. However, worries were banished when Carroll twice went down sharply to his right to keep out efforts from Milner and Baros who was reminded by the home support of his error in choosing the wrong team in claret and blue following his departure from Liverpool.
With 20 minutes to go Etherington appeared to pick up a knock and was immediately replaced by Shaun “10K” Newton and a few minutes later Harewood came off to a deserved standing ovation – not to mention an almost violent word of congratulation from Repka - to be replaced by Zamora. Somewhere in the proceedings the ex-Sunderland men Phillips and McCann went off in a move referred to by Doug as the “cleansing” of the Villa side – though “substitution” is the more accepted term.
A couple of long distance efforts aside, Villa were beaten and we dominated the last few minutes as we went in search of the fourth goal. Zamora bent his run superbly to stay onside and his ball in on goal might have been more effective had the advancing player not been 39 years old. Reo-Coker then tried to emulate his screamer against Blackburn when Zamora must have been screaming to be played in. However, when the fourth finally came it was a beaut.
Young Edward found Yossi just inside the box. Yossi twisted one way then another completely fooling Hughes who is probably still out on the pitch trying to work out where the Israeli went. Yossi’s shot went past Sorenson’s despairing dive and into the bottom right hand corner. A fine goal to cap another impressive performance.
Dailly came on to replace the industrious Mullins for the three minutes of stoppage which were seen out comfortably and it was smiles all round as the manager acknowledged the use of his name in the “claret & blue army” chant.
So four games in and a creditable seven points under our belt. Just as importantly we’re playing some decent football and, even allowing for the fact that two of our three home matches have been against such exponents of “total football” as Blackburn and Bolton, I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to suggest we’ve seen more entertainment in three matches than we did in two seasons in the second tier. There’s a smile about the place at the moment and long may it continue.
Now does anyone know any Aussie Villa supporters?
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Had a couple of shaky moments – Milner’s cross against the post for one – and he didn’t look comfortable for a good few minutes after receiving treatment for injury. However he made up for the shaky moments with a couple of excellent stops.
A stormer. Kept his head in the light of some heavy challenges, put over some dangerous looking crosses and, had he kept the ball down early on, might even have netted himself.
Got caught out of position once or twice but otherwise stuck to the task of keeping out the potentially tricky Milner.
Another one who seems to have made the transition between Championship and Premiership with few problems. Seems to relish the battle more and more each week.
Dare we whisper it but we seem to have a genuine centre-half partnership on our hands here. Another strong game.
Has a lot of detractors, possibly because the job that he does is not one that immediately catches the eye. However he got through a prodigious amount of work and when one watches the flair of those such as Yossi one should remember the efforts of those like Mullins who allow them to perform.
Pre-season AP said he would be interested to see if NRC could adapt to the top flight as well as he himself said he would. He’s certainly giving it a go. Decision-making a bit suspect when trying to emulate his Blackburn goal late on when others – notably Zamora – were better placed.
Having praised Mullins for his work-rate one then has to consider this chap. Quite apart from his undoubted skills, which were a constant threat, I lost count of the number of times he tracked back to win the ball back. The marvellous goal capped off a fine performance. If the editor will permit I’ll name him as joint MOTM.
Drifted in and out a bit but looked dangerous every time he was in the game. Was apparently disappointed to have been replaced following a minor knock.
Against Blackburn and Newcastle he had put in a hard-working efforts. Against Bolton he had an off-day that led to him getting slaughtered – so much so that AP thought long and hard about picking him for this one. Has obviously spent the international break working on his finishing as, where he might previously have snatched at a shot, he displayed a composure hitherto lacking. Pleased as punch for the lad and he is the other recipient of the joint MOTM award.
Although not the greatest of threats on goal his link-up play was a joy to behold. A whole 90 minutes as well – maybe AP feared another tantrum if young Edward was subbed!
(Replaced Etherington, 70) Came on for Matty and enjoyed the run out.
(Replaced Harewood, 76) Looked lively and got into some good positions – he ought to have a quiet word with NRC about that shot.
(Replaced Mullins, 90) Came on towards the end to give Mullins a well-earned rest.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.
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.
Goals: Marlon Harewood 25 Marlon Harewood 29 Marlon Harewood 50 Yossi Benayoun 89 .
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Sorensen, Hughes, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Bouma, Barry, Davis, McCann, Milner, Phillips, Baros.
Substitutes: Angel (Phillips 57), Berger (Barry 62), Hendrie (McCann 81).
Subs not used: Taylor, Cahill.
Booked: Barry (21).
Sent Off: None sent off..