Sunday, 16th October 2005
A speedy and uneventful trip up the Ms 1& 6 was only slightly delayed by Romford’s navigational skills taking us on a detour the wrong way around the M60. However even this partial glitch was put into shade by the funniest bus journey I’ve ever undertaken in the course of following our club up and down the country. Having parked the car up near the ground we hopped on a bus and asked the driver if he went anywhere near the Printworks centre – a city centre complex of bars and restaurants. The driver’s answer was different to say the least: “I don’t know – it’s my first day”! What then followed was a 20 minute tour around some pretty depressing areas of Manchester whilst an elderly passenger stood at the front of the bus issuing helpful advice such as “next left” and “that’s a shortcut if you want to cut down there”. Somehow we made it to the city centre and, recognising the horrible 60’s architecture of the tower block that forms the Piccadilly Hotel, we elected to leave the bus and continue the walk on foot – despite the driver’s kind offer : “Would you like me to take you to the Printworks – I can run you there if you like!”
We adjourned to partake of an all-day Irish breakfast at Waxy O’Connors bar – one of those so-called Irish theme bars that give you a magical “experience” of what some marketing guy in London thinks an Irish bar is like. This consists of calling the toilets “Fir” & “Mna”, sticking loads of Gaelic writing on the walls and automatically inserting a track of highly irritating “traditional” fiddle music in between every four or five songs playing on the sound system. The most authentic thing about the whole bar was our barmaid Jacinta who at least came from Co.Longford. We were joined by Romford’s niece Keely who, as a student physiotherapist in Manchester, had sportingly interrupted her hectic schedule of watching daytime TV episodes of “Dagnosis Murder” to finally take up Romford’s 8 year-old promise to take her to a match “one day if you’re good”. Keely made us promise that any photographs of the day wouldn’t end up on a website.
A tax dodger, Manchester
Fed and watered we got a cab back through some more parts of Manchester where the major business opportunity would appear to be producing the stuff for boarding up windows. On arrival I was amazed to discover that, far from being just a (very funny) figment of Steve Coogan’s imagination, Paul Calf is alive and well and living in Manchester – and by the looks of things they’ve cloned him – a few hundred times!
The team news was that the line-up was largely as expected, those first choice selections that had been away with their countries having returned relatively unscathed. The starting XI was Carroll, Repka, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Benayoun, Sheringham, Harewood.
Right from the start we didn’t look right to me. It was a fairly accurate copy of the Sunderland match where we seemed unable to find each other with a pass let alone put a proper string together. Though City were fairly comfortable with the ball – mainly I guess because they knew they’d be given it back fairly regularly – Carroll wasn’t the busiest of people and any shots were generally treated as back-passes. More worrying was the form of Tomas on the right who, following his poor match at Sunderland, seemed to have brought the same set of teflon-coated footwear with him. He seemed to slip a couple of times and I’ve rarely seen one individual give the ball away so often.
With 12 minutes on the clock Yossi cleared a header from Mills off the line from a corner but the respite was brief. Five minutes later Vassell went down the left hand side. Though his route forward seemed to be blocked by Anton his clever back-heel found Cole unmarked on the left hand side of the box with the time and space to curl a superb shot into the top right hand corner giving Carroll no chance. The goal was, no doubt, cheered by those City supporters ignorant enough to boo Carroll & Sheringham at every opportunity. Perhaps they forgot about Cole’s previous associations with their neighbours.
A few minutes later another spot of ice-skating from Tomas allowed Musampa to get to the dead-ball line but the dependable figure of Konchesky was able to clear before Cole could add to his tally.
Chances for the away side were few and far between, though Sheringham and Etherington combined well on the half hour but under some suspicious pressure from Onuoha Harewood was unable to make anything of the cross. Back at the other end Konchesky made what must have been his umpteenth header off the line of the season when clearing from Onuoha and the half ended much as it had progressed with City having the lion’s share of both possession and chances and with West Ham struggling to find any sort of form whatsoever.
The second half started with a substitution. Repka was deemed to be having such a rotten time of things that AP decided that he should go for a lie down in a darkened room. Dailly came on and went straight to right back. It was a straight swap in every sense – Dailly’s first contribution being to give away a foul on the touchline.
Things appeared to be looking up when on a breakout Marlon’s clever backheel caught City defending too high and sent Matty through on goal. However by the time he reached the edge of the City box Matty appeared knackered and his shot straight at James lacked any sort of conviction.The next chance went City’s way and it looked like a mirror image of Matty’s effort when Vassell burst through. Carroll made himself look big and Vassell’s shot came back of the ‘keeper.
Five minutes later City doubled their lead. Mullins got caught in possession on the edge of the box and the ball was fed through to Musampa whose shot across goal was parried by Carroll. The ball came off Gabbidon to Cole who couldn’t miss from close range.
The restart saw a brief rally with Matty’s cross reaching Benayoun at the back stick only for Yossi’s superb attempt at a volley to go narrowly wide. It was one of those that, when they go in they get goal of the month awards.
On 67 minutes young Edward was replaced by Zamora. Sheringham’s apparent reaction to the substitution did him little credit. At best his chucking of the captain’s armband in the general direction of NRC was lazy and disrespectful, at worst it was a petulant and insulting gesture to the travelling support who had taken the time and expense to journey up to Manchester.
The introduction of Zamora livened up the attack a little though his touch and finishing were occasionally lacking, one effort that went high and wide out for a throw-in summing up the extent of his luck. Newton replaced the ineffective Etherington but not before Matty had incurred the wrath of ref Clattenburg. Matty got caught with a high challenge that the ref deemed unworthy of sanction. Following a spell of treatment, Matty’s first action was to run straight on and kick the perpetrator which, although no doubt satisfying to Matty was only ever going to result in a yellow.
The arrival of 10K meant a switch to three at the back and with five minutes on the clock we might have pulled one back. A long ball from Mullins found Yossi in space on the right of the box but his first touch was just a little too strong and James was able to come off his line to make a sharp save. Shortly after Musampa broke free but went down a touch too easily for my liking under minimal pressure from Dailly as the ball ran away from him. Clattenburg correctly decided that no foul had been committed though he gave the City man the benefit of the doubt regarding the dive. Any punishment would have resulted in an early bath for Masumpa who had earlier been cautioned for a cynical hack at Harewood, and it was perhaps for this reason that Stuart Pearce immediately substituted him.
As we went into the three minutes of added time we pulled a goal back. Yossi picked up the ball in central midfield and the excellence of his through ball was matched by the timing of Zamora’s run. Bobby calmly took the ball round the stranded James and coolly slotted home past the covering defender. A fine goal sadly out of keeping with most of the play that we’d had to endure before. There was just time for City to do the traditional messing about by the corner flag as a disappointing afternoon came to a close.
We returned to the car passing a couple of boarded-up buildings that amazingly turned out to be fully functional public houses. I guess the boarding-up was merely a time saving device. Equally surprisingly – to Gent anyway – was the fact that the Gentmobile had survived all afternoon unscathed. A relatively speedy trip down the Ms 6 & 1 was only marginally spoiled by having to endure an hour or so of Romford’s choice of music - after all there’s only so much you can do with a drum machine before it starts to sound horrible (i.e. switch the bloody thing on!)
So two sub-standard performances on the road and, this weekend, the team seemed strangely lethargic. It’s a bit early to be pressing any panic buttons just yet and so far our home form has been encouraging. However, we can’t really afford to have too many players having off-days all at the same time as appeared to be the case in this match. Thanks to Middlesbrough’s UEFA cup progress AP will have an extra day to sort things out and at least we won’t have the disruption of having players away on international duty this week. If nothing else I won’t have to get up at 5.30am to go to a match for which small mercy I’m going to be eternally grateful having seen more than enough of the M1 in recent weeks. Thanks as ever to Gent for the chauffeuring and Romford for the company.
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Dealt with most of what City were able to chuck his way and was in no way at fault for either goal.
Twice in a row now Tomas has appeared out of sorts. Given his early impressive form this is a worrying development as we have few options at right back at the moment. Ought to buy some new boots with a decent set of studs.
Solid at the back, the propensity of others to give the ball away in front of him meant that his usual forays to support the attack were not in view on a day when the England manager was believed to be keeping an eye on him.
Another who seemed a bit tired out there. Needs to sharpen up a bit.
Got stuck in well at the back in his usual dependable manner but got caught out a little for the second goal where he inadvertently set up Cole.
Although he has undoubtedly begun the season well he still has a worrying tendency to dwell on the ball when he has won it. This is something that he needs to work on as when he gets caught the results can be disastrous – as with the second goal in this match.
Ran a lot but seemed bushed and failed to dominate the midfield in the way we know he can.
On a day when the midfield were found wanting Yossi was probably just about the pick of a poor bunch. Unlucky with the volley that went wide and the ball through to Zamora for the goal was a beaut.
A couple of teasing crosses in the first half and the run early in the second that forced a save out of James and that basically was it. May be looking at a rest on current form.
Battled in vain with service that was at best indifferent and at worst non-existent.
Apart from one ball to feed Etherington in the first half his most notable contribution was to throw an Elton John-style tantrum on being substituted.
(Replaced Repka, 45) Was an improvement on Repka but not much – looked slow at times.
(Replaced Sheringham, 67) Injected a bit of pace to the attack which badly needed livening up at that point. Excellent run for the goal but still needs to improve his touch.
(Replaced Etherington, 82) Not really on for long enough to influence matters.
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..