Sunday, 16th October 2005
The last time I visited Maine Road, it was pissing down as usual, and what was quite surprising was that the travelling Irons were under cover while the home fans were roofless and provided with these pac-a-mac outfits for the regular downpours. “Stand up if you’re nice and dry”, chortled the away support.
Gilo the Manc
I was met at Piccadilly by Gilo, who’s a big City fan I bumped into in South Africa watching cricket. He’s been everywhere with them and he has a visceral hatred of ManUre that has to be experienced to be believed.
Any little rendezvous with Gilo always has the potential to get messy – Boxing Day last year in Durban springs to mind - and off we went to various pubs, ending up in a place just down the road from the stadium called The Bradford. There were one or two Irons in there but basically this was an aircraft hangar full of Blues fans, a sort of football supporters’ club. Nice bunch of boys as well, who really had nothing against West Ham at all. Perhaps, as they said, there’s a lot of similarity between our two clubs. Kindred spirits and all that.
We proceeded to a very dodgy pub called The Crossroads, where plod and his canine friends were much in evidence but no sign of anybody wearing the claret and blue. F*ck it, I just decided to point towards the Guinness pump rather than open my mouth and reveal that I did not have the Gilo Manc whine.
The anonymous stadium
Emerging unscathed from this khazi, I made off to the ground which looks pretty impressive, apart from the fact that there is nothing on it externally that suggests that it is the home of Man City. Apparently the Council didn’t want any signage which is surely out of order given that the club spent upwards of £20 million converting it from an athletics stadium. There’s also this amazing ‘spiky’ piece of public art near it which seems to defy gravity – it looked like a punk hairdo on a stick.
We lined up pretty much as expected, Carroll in goal (despite broken finger); Tom, Anton, Gabbers and Konch across the back; Hayden, Reo-Coker, Yossi and Matty in midfield; and Teddy and Marlon up front.
It all started a bit frantic, but with little sign of quality on both sides. Tom got stuck in nicely on five minutes to win a ball and three minutes later, Joey Barton got the first shot in on goal, which was comfortably gathered by Carroll. A minute later, Mullins made a great tackle, but his through ball was very poor.
11 minutes in and City won a corner which appeared to cause us real problems. It was difficult to see who unleashed a shot, but a good block was made, stopping a goal-bound ball.
Chipped by Cole
Gabbers was looking pretty commanding in central defence, winning most headers, but a terrific move on 18 minutes saw us concede a goal after Cole was released down the left and sent over a perfect chipped shot into the top left hand corner of Carroll’s goal. The West Ham ‘keeper had no chance.
Tom was looking particularly vulnerable today, and he went blundering in with an awful challenge on 26 minutes which had to count as a wasted opportunity for City as the cross went wide. A minute later Carroll had to be sharp to charge out and collect a ball.
Of the few balls that were knocked forward to Marlon, Distin was immediately on his case, closing down our top scorer with ease. The first real opportunity for the Irons was on 28 minutes, when Matty broke free down the left and sent over a great cross, but Marlon couldn’t get the ball under control just outside the six yard box.
After Tom gave the ball away again, Carroll had to be alert on 32 minutes to gather a 30 yard shot. Then Tom, who was now settled in to a true howler, failed to control the ball and concede a throw.
Pillar to post
We were now getting pulled from pillar to post, with City spraying it out to the flanks. With 11 minutes left in the half, Mills found himself in acres of space and laid the ball off for a shot which Carroll did well to save.
Musampa got booked for a foul on Marlon on 36 minutes and just after this, Matty found some rare space, but his final ball through was awful – completely overhit with Konch advancing down the left wing.
Tom made another misplaced pass showing that today he had the reverse Midas touch – everything he touched turned to sh*t – and then Matty broke free again but once more there was no-one there to get on the end of a decent cross.
After most of the half on the back foot, we finally won a corner with three minutes left, but this was easily gathered by ex-Hammer Calamity James who had hardly needed to be on the pitch.
Matty, our main threat, found some space again on 44 minutes, but Marlon was unable to latch onto his cross from the left.
We were fortunate not to be two down on the stroke of half time as Konch did well to clear off his own line from a Onuoha shot
Not at the races
Half time was a welcome release as we simply had not been at the races. Our main playmaker, Yossi, who I had told the City boys to watch during the pre-match banter, had hardly touched the ball. Tom was having a nightmare and we looked pedestrian against the incisive passing of City. It had to get better in the second half, we hoped.
Mercifully, Tom was substituted at half time for Christian Dailly, but for the opening exchanges, most of the travelling fans near me were distracted by a woman amongst the City supporters with what looked like surgically enhanced breasts of Jordan proportions (yes, the country). Someone observed near me that “F*cking hell, she’s used up all the silicon in Manchester.”
Cole nearly scored again four minutes in, as we looked very disorganised in our own box. Carroll was on hand to gather a shot down low. A minute later, we got our best chance of the game so far as Matty broke free and got a shot in which James saved well. He was out very quickly to narrow the angles – how come he never used to make the right decision when he was in goal for us?
Burst a Vassell
It was Carroll’s turn to make a great save next as Vassell burst forward and unleashed a shot which hit the Irishman’s chest. He appeared to know little about this, but his positioning was absolutely right.
Musampa, who was looking pretty rampant down the left was the provider again for Vassell on 53 minutes, but Carroll was equal to his shot.
Four minutes later and the game looked over as the West Ham defence got torn to shreds and Cole was on hand to side foot in his second after Carroll did well to block a Musampa shot. On the evidence of the first 57 minutes, there appeared to be no way back, although almost immediately after we had gone 2-0 down, Matty put over a good high cross to find the waiting Yossi, whose volley hit the side netting.
Konch was not covering himself in glory, and his poor header set up another chance for City on 66 minutes, with Vassell storming forward. He made a good pass to the waiting Musampa, but his shot hit the side netting with the City fans celebrating a goal.
Z-man replaced the ineffectual Teddy who left to much derision and we managed our first shot on goal from Marlon on 72 minutes – a half hearted affair which caused no problems for James. A minute later Zamora sliced an awful shot wide, after he had found some space in the right hand side of the box.
Cole nearly got his hat-trick on 75 minutes as he fired a curling shot just wide of the left hand upright after what looked like a foul on Matty. We were trying to improve with some half decent approach play, but Zamora hit an absolutely dire cross.
Shaun Newton replaced Matty for the last 8 minutes or so, but this was a tactical change that promised little in the way of hope. Musampa then had another great opportunity on 83 minutes as a ball was sent over to him at the far post, but Carroll made yet another fine save due to perfect positioning.
Yossi showed his class again with five minutes left by bringing a ball down in a dangerous position, but James capped a controlled performance by closing him down quickly and blocking a shot.
Musampa then broke free on 86 minutes with West Ham committed in advanced positions and then took a theatrical dive over a perfectly good Dailly tackle which ref Mr Clattenburg rightly ignored.
Out of nowhere we then got a goal in added time as Yossi weaved around and released Z-man with a fine reverse pass into the box. He did really well to take the ball around James and slot home. It was unfortunately too little too late, and quite frankly it would have been a travesty if wee had taken anything out of this game.
I met up with Gilo after the game for a pint or two and we arrived in some dodgy place called Mary D’s, opposite the ground. They were f*cking delighted in there, dancing around in true northern fashion victim style. There was little that could be said apart from conceding that we had been well below par. Disappointing stuff from us, but let’s not forget that we are half way through October and that was our first away defeat. Bollocks, it was a fun day out, and we will bounce back, mark my words.
(Player ratings by Graeme Howlett)
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Despite the dodgy digit Carroll made several important saves to keep the Hammers within touching distance. There was little he could have done about either of the goals.
Poor at Sunderland, very poor today. Despite seeming on top of his game in the opening matches of the season his form has hit rock bottom. He was wildly out of position for the first goal and an impetuous sliding tackle when last man almost let in City for another. Hauled off for the second time in a row by a no doubt hugely disappointed Pardew.
Watched again - amongst others - by Sven Goran Eriksson and a fair game to boot. Always up against it however and offered little assistance on the left side by Matthew Etherington. Two goal-line clearances - one with the boot, the other with the head - were his most notable contributions.
A better game than at the Stadium of Light a fortnight ago, although there still appeared to be little defensive cohesion between the back four.
Made some decent interceptions and tackles but seemed to lack a little understanding with his team mates. Left horribly stranded by Repka for the first City goal and unable to stop the second despite a valiant attempt.
Not really at the races and definitely not comfortable being put under pressure in his own half. Dallied on a clearance which led to City's second goal.
Busted a gut but for little reward. Not his most notable performance in a game in which he would have wanted to impress, taking into consideration the presence of the England manager.
Yossi worked hard as always but failed to deliver the killer ball until the 90th minute when a sublime reverse pass found Zamora who netted with aplomb. Missed a couple of good opportunities in the first half to notch his third of the season.
Off par all season and despite one or two glimpses of his pace and crossing prowess, today was little different. A spell on the bench may beckon should he not buck up his ideas.
Another who put in a lot of effort for scant reward, although had the referee seen Onuoha's challenge on him differently things could have turned out much better. His two best chances came in the first half from Etherington crosses but they were both wasted.
Not in the game at all, and will do well to see off the challenge of Bobby Zamora come next weekend.
(Replaced Repka, 45) Replaced Tomas Repka but rarely got forward to support the attack as the Czech is capable of. Clearly not entirely comfortable at right-back.
(Replaced Sheringham, 67) Showed a bit of zip and blasted a couple of shots high and wide before taking the best opportunity that came to him.
(Replaced Etherington, 82) Gave the Hammers a fresh turn of pace as they sought to come back from a two goal deficit. They half made it.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Roy Carroll.
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: Yossi Benayoun 70 .
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
James, Mills, Onuoha, Jordan, Distin; Reyna, Ireland, Barton, Musampa; Vassell, Cole.
Substitutes: Croft (Ireland 81), Sun Jihai (Musampa 87).
Subs not used: de Vlieger, Sommeil, Sibierski.
Goals: Cole (18, 56).
Booked: Musampa (34), Jordan (71).
Sent Off: None sent off..