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FA Premiership
Sunday, 23rd October 2005

West Ham United 2
Middlesbrough 1

by Gordon Thrower


Strange days indeed. We spent pre-match in the pub watching the Tyne-Wear derby and, having said that Shola Ameobi didn’t score enough goals to justify a place in a Premiership side, he promptly went and scored twice. I though that would be it for the weirdness for the day. How wrong I was!

Team news was that, having gone with a reasonably settled side thus far this season, changes were afoot. Having survived back and thumb injuries Roy Carroll finally succumbed to a knee injury sustained by getting his leg caught in a goal net during training. Next on his list no doubt will be a Spinal Tap “Bizarre Gardening Accident”. Shaka returned between the sticks for his first league start since his return. The other change was not enforced. Having failed to impress during his previous two outings, Young Edward was replaced by the somewhat more sprightly Zamora leaving us with a starting line-up of Hislop, Repka, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Etherington, Harewood, Zamora.

It was a cagey start. The early exchanges were notable mainly for Boro’s habit of going down under the flimsiest of challenges, a habit that ref Bennett seemed all to eager to indulge by awarding free-kicks just outside the box. Thankfully, having left J-F Hasselbaink esq kicking his heels on the bench, Boro were forced to rely on Mendieta whose 25 yard effort went into orbit. Slightly more worrying was the opportunity that fell the way of Maccarone just out of the six yard box. Thankfully the Italian’s header, already a difficult prospect, was made just that little bit more difficult by the attentions of Repka and it went harmlessly over the bar. Bennett hardly endeared himself to the home support by cautioning Ferdinand for a challenge that, although coming from behind, seemed to get more ball than man.

We then had a spell where we saw some of the best of Benayoun. A jinking run down the right saw some marvellous footwork that saw the back of two defenders only for Yossi’s shot to be blocked by Riggott. Shortly after Yossi went closer still. A trademark burst through the middle from skipper NRC found Yossi in some space. The Israeli’s clever chip, made when there seemed to be nothing on, just faded the wrong side of the post. Yossi was also the architect of the half’s best chance when a marvellous through ball found Zamora in space with a trail of defenders in his wake. Unfortunately Bobby’s shot had neither direction nor pace and Schwarzer had one of his easier saves of the day to make.

Shortly after Boro were forced into an enforced changed when former England player Gareth Southgate “tweaked a groin” and was replaced by Frank Queudrue. Southgate left to generous applause and a handshake from his former team-mate A Pardew esq.

Zamora was next on the chance list bringing a save out of Schwarzer with a header before a run through the middle was halted by a crude and cynical hack from Doriva on the edge of the box. There were probably sufficient defenders covering for the yellow card decision to be correct.

On the half hour we thought we had the lead. Some superb work on the right hand side from Harewood saw him square the ball for NRC to finish superbly with a back heel on the turn. Although the ball looked to have been played square the linesman decided that NRC was ahead of the ball at the time it was played and the goal was chalked off. Later viewings on the box suggested that the decision was a bit harsh.

Boro finished off the chances for what had been an interesting first half when Mendietta’s effort from 25 yards saw Shaka scurrying across his goal, though the ball was a lot wider than Shaka’s concern seemed to indicate.

The second half started much in the same way as the first had developed. Some early possession for the visitors saw some shots from distance that were easily dealt with by Hislop. Meanwhile Yossi was still pulling strings setting up Mullins whose shot went wide. Yossi then broke into the box and took the ball around Schwarzer but the angle was a touch on the tight side and Bates was able to clear off the line.

With a little more than an hour gone AP made his first substitution of the game replacing Zamora with Young Edward. It was not a move I personally was in favour of at the time. As I explained to my regular co-inmates in the West Stand, Teddy hadn’t pulled up any trees at Sunderland or Manchester City and I’d have preferred to have seen Zamora’s pace given more of a chance. How very wrong I was! Some good work down the left saw Konchesky pull a clever low cross back. Young Edward had pulled back to find space in an already crowded box and plant his first time shot low into the corner past Schwarzer. I’m not sure if it was Teddy’s first touch – he did go up for a header a few seconds earlier – but it was close to it, coming as it did about a minute after his introduction. First Ameobi now Teddy!

About ten minutes later it was two, though it has to be said it was one of the strangest goals ever given at the Boleyn. Matty beat a defender to the ball only for the defender to leave his boot in a bit high on the no 11. Once Matty had recovered from the foul it was left to Konchesky to take the free-kick. Drilled low into the box, the ball came off Riggott and was saved low down to Schwarzer’s right. Had the Aussie ‘keeper gathered the shot cleanly nothing more would have been said. However Schwarzer made a bit of a mess of it and the shot squirmed up to be gathered at the second attempt. I’ll admit that I leapt up – more in hope than expectation – as the ball looked as if it might squeeze in but I was still somewhat amazed to see the linesman’ pointing towards the halfway line. By now I expect you’ve all seen the tv replays so further comment is superfluous other than to mention the fact that I’ve now put 23 October 2005 in the diary as the day an incorrect refereeing decision finally helped us win a game. I’d like to tell you the last time that that happened but my diaries don’t go back that far. It certainly pre-dates the referees’ embargo on giving us any decisions which followed our signing of a certain P Di Canio esq. It took a few minutes to sort out with Boateng receiving a yellow for his protests and Marlon intervening as an unlikely peacekeeper.

We continued to press forward and Harewood shot over following good work from Newton who had replaced Etherington in the traditional substitution before the restart following the goal. Then neither Yossi nor Teddy could quite manage to get on the end of Repka’s fine cross.

A slightly nervy last few minutes were guaranteed by the visitors’ late goal. Again there was a large degree of refereeing inspiration behind it. Repka and I think it was sub Hasselbaink chased a long ball from the back. The Boro’ man clearly got the last touch of the ball but, not for the first time that afternoon, ref Bennett gave a corner where a goal kick was due. From the resulting corner Quedudrue rose unmarked to head home, his header appearing to come off Konchesky on its way in. I don’t know about video replays for goal line incidents I reckon we should have had it for corners in this match!

The final whistle went in the fifth of the four added minutes and another home victory was complete. The controversy surrounding the second goal will obviously grab the headlines over the next few days but that shouldn’t take the gloss off the fact that the victory was well deserved. A point for Boro would have flattered them somewhat given that we had by far the better of the play and by far and away the better chances, though according to some idiot who sent a text message in to 606 on the radio we had been “out thought, out coached, outplayed and outclassed” over the full 90 minutes. I’ll be happy with performances that poor for the rest of the year please!



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Player Ratings

Shaka Hislop
One excellent save in the first half apart, Shaka’s return to League duty was a fairly gentle one.


Tomas Repka
A welcome return to form for the Czech who was described by the boss as having “Big Balls”. I wouldn’t know about that but he was assured in defence and played a number of superb passes down the line, especially in the first half.


Paul Konchesky
Another fine performance. Milly the press room tea lady told me that Sven was in to see it. Hope he was paying attention and not just there for the Hammerettes.


Anton Ferdinand
The partnership with Gabbidon continues to inspire. Saw off Maccarone and even at the end when ‘Boro threw three up he looked comfortable. Harshly booked.


Danny Gabbidon
Looks to be enjoying every minute in the premiership. Even the introduction of Hasselbaink and the fat Aussie Viduka didn’t worry him.


Hayden Mullins
A couple of half chances and did the usual tidy job in the middle that we’ve come to expect from him this season, though another side might have punished his occasional tendency to dwell on the ball.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Another fine match and maybe another that Sven might have had an eye on. Somewhat frustrated by some of ref Bennett’s eccentricities, he might need to keep an eye on the visible expressions of dissent.


Yossi Benayoun
During the first half he seemed to be the instigator of everything good we did. Maybe slightly less influential in the second half but still the main provider of those moments that we referred to in the pre-match discussions as “worth the entrance money”.


Matthew Etherington
When he was good he was excellent but he did seem to disappear for long stretches at a time and he displayed an occasional tendency to let things happen around him rather than getting involved.


Marlon Harewood
A lot of mostly unrewarded hard work – should have been given an assist when NRC’s goal was harshly disallowed. Caused problems for the Boro defence most of the afternoon.


Bobby Zamora
His pace caused a few problems but his touch let him down from time to time though it does seem to be improving.


Substitutes


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Zamora, 65) Fine finish and his introduction gave a different look to the attack that Boro had difficulty in coming to terms with.


Shaun Newton
(Replaced Etherington 76) Usual solid cameo from 10K following his now ritual replacement of Etherington.


Christian Dailly
(Replaced Benayoun 90) Brought on during stoppage time to run a few seconds off the clock. Successful in that aim but otherwise no memorable contribution made.


Stephen Bywater
Did not play.


David Bellion
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: S.Bennett.

Attendance: 34,612.

Man of the Match: Yossi Benayoun.

West Ham United

Shaka Hislop, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 66 Mark Schwarzer og 74                .

Booked: Anton Ferdinand 17          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Middlesbrough

Schwarzer, Bates, Pogatetz, Riggott, Southgate, Doriva, Boateng, Rochemback, Mendieta, Maccarone, Yakubu.

Substitutes: Queudrue (Southgate 25), Hasselbaink (Maccarone 60), Viduka (Doriva 78).

Subs not used: Jones, Morrison.

Goals: Queudrue (87).

Booked: Doriva (29), Boateng (77).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Yossi Benayoun