Saturday, 17th September 2005
This was, bizarrely, my first ever visit to Craven Cottage. For some reason, whenever we’ve played there in the past something’s conspired to keep me away. A broken ankle one year, family commitments another. So I wasn’t about to let a three-figure temperature and tonsils the size of melons stop me from paying my inaugural visit to the home of “Diddy” David Hamilton.
The Team news was that, as hinted during the week, Young Edward Sheringham was moved to the bench with Bobby Zamora coming in for his first start of the season. Monday’s hero Marlon Harewood dropped back into midfield on the right leaving us with a line-up of Carroll, Repka, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Etherington, Harewood, Zamora.
Well I thought it was an excellent first half. End to end stuff that even the best (or should that be worst) efforts of referee Poll couldn’t ruin – though he and his officials certainly gave it a go.
The home side had the first chance when Anton was caught on the wrong foot by Jensen. However Carroll was on good form and saved well with his legs and the ball rebounded to safety. About 10 minutes later Carroll pulled off an even better save. Boa-Morte’s cross to the back post found McBride whose header down would have crept in but for Carroll’s excellent dive down to his left.
Up the other end Benayoun’s run found us short in the box with the ball being turned behind for a corner which eventually fell to Zamora on the edge of the box. Bobby’s shot on the turn kept low and forced Warner into an, admittedly fairly comfortable save.
Shortly before the half-hour mark we all thought we’d taken the lead. Etherington hit a volley that Warner couldn’t hang onto and the ball came out to Yossi who fed Harewood who played the ball into the empty net. The linesman on the right hand side had got a number of fairly basic decisions wrong but from the other end it wasn’t possible to confirm whether this had been another of them.
In keeping with the ebb and flow of the game Carroll had to be on his toes to tip over a shot from outside the box from McBride before our best chance of the game fell to Marlon whose volley came back off the bar too sharply for the following-up NRC to deal with and his effort went wide.
A further corner a bit later on was met by Zamora but Bobby could only angle his header wide whilst on the break Boa-Morte found himself well-placed but could only hit his shot into the side netting – though Carroll almost certainly had it covered had it been more on target.
Poll being Poll then managed to make a hash of things which could have seen us down to ten men. Reo-Coker, who had been knocked about a bit with Poll giving maybe 4 or 5 free-kicks for fouls on him, found himself in the book for an innocuous challenge. The foul was not nearly as bad as those that had been perpetrated on NRC but Poll didn’t see it that way and showed the yellow with his usual scarcely-disguised glee. The problem was that, shortly after, NRC brought down, I think it was Bocanegra, with a late challenge. This caused Poll a problem as he realised that a sending off, whilst possibly technically correct, would represent the sort of travesty that even he might have a problem justifying. Possibly working on the “two wrongs make a right” principle, Poll elected to give NRC a stiff talking to before going on to further anger the home side by cautioning Bocanegra for a crude lunge on Harewood as Marlon broke down the right as an entertaining 45 ended goalless.
Following the somewhat suspicious spectacle of “Diddy” handing over first and second prizes in the raffle to members of the same family, and the slightly more amusing spectacle of AP trying to get across the pitch without spilling too much of his half-time cuppa we were treated another storming start to a second half.
With barely a minute on the clock a clearance from the back was flicked on by Zamora towards Harewood. Marlon flicked the ball over Knight and coolly lobbed past the advancing Warner picking up a knock in the process as he did so. It was an excellent finish and, if proof were needed after last Monday that Marlon has listened to calls for a steadier head in front of goal then this was it.
As if to confirm his renewed confidence, Marlon added a second about six minutes later. Well sort of. Konchesky went down the left and got a low cross in. The Ball found its way to Marlon who turned and got in a shot that beat the dive of Warner, came back off the post hit the ‘keeper and went in. Marlon celebrated like it was his goal. We celebrated like it was his goal so I’m giving it to him – though whether the say-so of KUMB outranks that of the FA I’m not quite sure. Under other circumstances I might have felt sorry for Warner – when I play in goal it’s the sort of thing that happens to me all the time. My excuse however is that I’m rubbish – and I certainly don’t get paid the sort of money Warner does!
We sat back a bit for a while and Papa Bouba Diop, the only player named after a Cleo Laine vocal, headed wide a few minutes later. I admit I get nervous when we sit back on a lead. If the worst happens and the opposition score it’s difficult to regain the momentum. Whether this was a function of the 64th minute substitution of Zamora by 10K or maybe just a small bit of complacency creeping in I don’t know but, either way, two minutes later Fulham pulled one back. A ball from the left found its way over to Boa-Morte. Konchesky failed to close the Fulham skipper down and he was able to curl a fine effort into the corner from the edge of the box. One of my pet hates in football is when clubs play some crappy tune when they score. Sadly Fulham are one such club though I couldn’t make out what the tune was. This was partly because the PA was a trifle on the tinny side but mainly because the travelling support drowned out any prospect of the home supporters awaking from their silence.
With about 15 minutes left Young Edward replaced Yossi, presumably in an attempt to stop the ball coming straight back from clearances. The West Ham subtitiutions were completed with three minutes remaining when Aliadiere replaced Harewood who left to generous applause. Though the impressive Gabbidon had to hook clear from a late Volz effort near the end of the 90, the remaining 4 minutes of stoppage time passed without too much worry and another three points – and our first win “on the road”- were in the bag.
Premiership – easy. Well maybe. It might be more prudent to think of our start as being a quarter of the way to survival. At the end of the day though, we’re playing some decent stuff and it’s bringing in the points and we can’t ask for much more than that can we?!
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A fine game. Some important saves – especially early on.
Another fine performance. Wasn’t able to get forward as much as he has recently but he kept his cool defensively.
Not one of his better days, he got caught out of position a few times, notably for Boa-Morte’s goal.
Fairly solid, thoughhis early failure to get a challenge in on Jensen might have proved costly on another day.
Excellent performance – strong in the air and his late clearance off the line secured the points at the end.
His strong start continues. Some fine long passes out to the wings were on display today.
Another tireless performance from NRC who was given the armband in Sheringham’s absence. A tad lucky to survive the latest in a long series of Graham Poll mental aberrations maybe but justice was done in the end. MOTM.
Some nice touches but not as influential as of late.
Occasionally good going forward he seemed reluctant to take players on and he left Konchesky exposed on a number of occasions.
Looked infinitely more dangerous getting into the box than he did as a midfielder. Fine work for both goals – whether both were his or not.
A lot of hard work in the lone ranger slot but without much reward. Nice flick on for the first goal.
(Replaced Zamora, 64) A fair bit of running but got caught irritatingly offside from short balls where he ought to have been able to see across the line.
(Replaced Benayoun, 74) Some excellent link up play in the time he was on.
(Replaced Harewood, 87) Some nice touches but not really on for long enough to have too much of a say in matters.
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, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Marlon Harewood 46 Tony Warner og 51 .
Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 41 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Warner, Volz, N.Jensen, Bocanegra, Knight, Diop, Malbranque, C.Jensen, Boa Morte, McBride, Radzinski.
Substitutes: Collins (Radzinski 66), Christanval (Knight 79).
Subs not used: Batista, Elrich, Helguson.
Goals: Boa-Morte (65).
Booked: Bocanegra (44).
Sent Off: None sent off..