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FA Premiership
Saturday, 10th December 2005

Blackburn Rovers 3
West Ham United 2

by East Stand Martin


It almost seems beyond belief but the last time I went to Blackburn was during the 1980/81 season, almost 25 years ago to the day. That’s only just a tad longer than Joey Barton’s brother went down for the other week ...

Like most West Ham fans a trip up to t’ North West hardly always fills me with trepidation, given that the M6 seems to do something very funny to the team. We have an appalling record in the region, and to be honest I was expecting the worst again today.

Led astray

Arriving at Blackburn railway station about 45 minutes before kick off, ESM Jnr and I were led astray by some geezer who said that he knew the way to the ground. Did he f*ck. Don’t that just annoy you when people speak so confidently about the way to get somewhere when in reality they’ve got more chance of flying to Mars.

Anyway we found the ground, nestled amongst the Coronation Streetscape. It wasn’t quite as bad as Burnley, but let’s face it, there ain’t a lot of difference. ESM Jnr was brutal: “It’s Skanksville”, he observed.

The one doubt about this game was whether Yossi would be fit enough to play, but out he trotted with the same team that had lined up against Birmingham. While we’re on the subject of the Brummies can I just say what a joy it was to see Steve Bruce with an expression on his face like he had a six inch dog turd suspended on his top lip? Up yours fatty.

Playing away

The atmosphere at Ewood Park was hardly fever pitch, given that there were huge swathes of empty seats. I was more interested in a scantily clad female Iron with an away shirt that had “Jade’s playing away” on the back of it. Most inventive, I’ll say no more.

We had that jaded playing away look in the opening exchanges of the game. In fact we nearly conceded a goal in the first minute as the ball was sent into the box from the Blackburn left and Gabbidon had to be on hand to clear a Dickov flick. Then a minute later, Mark Noble lost the ball in the centre of midfield, it was passed around Tom and another dangerous cross was sent in which had to be cleared.

Three minutes in and our crossbar was vibrating after a superb free kick was struck by Savage from about 25 yards out after Tom took a poor touch in central defence. Carroll was rooted to the spot and once the ball bounced out my least favourite Premiership ref (yes, I hate him even more than Poll) Mike ‘Rodent’ Riley decided that it should be taken again because of encroachment, with Noble being booked for the offence. Although nothing came from this, it was not to be the last time that the rat-like creature would wind me up in this game.

Brazilian

After hardly having a sniff of the round thing, Z-man went on a mazy run on 12 minutes. After his brilliant goal in the West Midlands, he was clearly brimming with confidence, and a nice 1-2 with Matty saw him taunting the Blackburn defence. It was not quite up to the standard of the buck-toothed one from Brazil and it ended up with a corner rather than a goal.

Konch was not looking his usual assured self and this was largely due to the presence of Brett Emerton who was a real handful throughout the match today. On 13 minutes Emerton went powering down the wing and got over a very dangerous cross which was just glanced past Carroll’s right hand post.

On 15 minutes, Marlon turned up for the first time with a nice ball-winning tackle that allowed him to run down the wing and get a good cross over. Unfortunately only Z-man was in the box and the pass went behind him. A minute later, Marlon had another chance as the defender completely missed the ball, allowing him to advance menacingly into the box. Marlon tried the ball across the six yard but Friedel was equal to it at the near post.

Gabbidon crocked

On 18 minutes disaster struck as a Gabbidon tried to deal with a deflected looping ball in his own box and ended up getting shunted into the advertising hoardings behind the goal at some pace. It was clear that he was not getting up from this and the stretcher had to go over and retrieve him. Dailly was sent on to replace him in central defence.

The prolonged delay while Gabbidon was carried off did little to raise the tempo of the game which was not exactly filled with quality. Matty did get free on 31 minutes and sent in a good cross, but Marlon could not latch on to a Z-man layoff. Three minutes later, Z-man featured again with a well-thought out diagonal run, but his cross was cleared.

The West Ham midfield was not covering itself in glory and Yossi particular was guilty of giving the ball away twice in two minutes. Noble was no better as on 39 minutes he went on a promising run only to make a truly awful pass to the opposition.

Blackburn were really pretty poor and their game was summed up by a supposed shot on goal which went out 10 yards short of the corner flag for a throw in. Konch was still struggling and after he failed again to control a ball, he got booked on 44 minutes for holding onto the ball.

Poached

Five minutes added time was signalled and you could have knocked me down with a feather as West Ham poached a goal a minute in. The ball came loose in our half after a Blackburn move broke down and Marlon picked up a pass from Konch. He burst forward powerfully through the centre and made a beautifully weighted pass through to Z-man who controlled the ball brilliantly to score with aplomb. Cue Sp*ds-like scenes of wild celebration.

Blow me if we nearly didn’t grab a second in the final minute of added time as we won a free kick down the right. The ball was sent over by Tom and Friedel spilt it under hardy any pressure at all. It was a scramble and Yossi only managed a scuffed goalward shot which was blocked by a packed defence.

To be brutally frank, this first half was pretty soporific and short on quality. Blackburn looked uninspiring and seemed to excel in a host of overhit balls forward or passes that just went out of play. It is the counterattack, though, where West Ham has been so effective this year and we took the chance brilliantly when it came. I’ll be honest though and say that I would have taken 0-0 without what looked like a nasty injury to Gabbidon, the rock of our central defence all season.

Wild Rover

The teams came out for the second half to the strains of “The Wild Rover” – and as I was singing along it to I suddenly realised that it is Blackburn’s theme tune. Surely they can come up with something better than an Irish drinking song?

Two minutes in and we engineered a very promising move after Yossi made a lovely square pass to send Matty on his way. His cross was good, but Mark Noble’s free header was high and wide from inside the box. He should have at least got this on target.

A minute after this, we were lucky not to concede after Konch flew in with an ill-advised tackle, allowing Bentley to get a looped shot away which Carroll did well to palm away from the right hand corner. Right after that scare, our defence failed to close down Savage, and he hit a long range shot which only just zipped by the right hand upright. Carroll was running around like a rabid dog berating the defence for that lapse.

Yossi was playing better in the second half and he went on a tantalising run on 53 minutes which ended up with him being bundled to the ground. Unfortunately the free kick was completely wasted.

Riley saves Blackburn

We had certainly started better than we had done in the first half but next on 54 minutes, Mike Riley made a decision which changed the game. Blackburn had a long throw down the left which appeared to just beat the head of one of their players in the box. The ball hit what looked like the upper part of Tom’s arm and Riley pointed straight at the spot. Utter disbelief on and off the pitch and a prolonged row with Rodent Riley which as usual came to nothing.

That little scrote Dickov stood up to take it and he blasted it into the left hand side of the net with Caroll having no chance at all. Up until that point you felt that Blackburn could have played until Saturday week and not scored.

Things then went from bad to worse, as three minutes later Blackburn again picked the ball up down the right and a hard low cross was sent in by Pedersen. Dailly looked like he was in the right position to boot this away, but he either missed it or sliced it towards the back post where Dickov was waiting about three yards out to gleefully put the ball past the helpless Carroll. He probably couldn’t believe his luck, nor could we looking miserably towards our ragged defence.

61 minutes in and Emerton came off for Kuqi, while we replaced the absent and ineffective Mark Noble with David Bellion. Let’s face it, we are really missing Reo Coker.

Never say die

We are the official ‘never say die’ West Ham of Alan Pardew and two minutes after the change, we were on level terms again. Yossi made another excellent run through the centre and fed a ball out to Z-man who did very well today to run into space at exactly the right time. He went wide and then chipped over a great cross to find Marlon at the far post who made a good placed header which neither the keeper nor a defender could keep out. It was a fantastic response and you felt that the game was now for the taking.

On 65 minutes, Tom was booked for jumping all over a Blackburn player on the edge of the box. Anton was not happy about the location chosen and got booked for his trouble. Savage hit another superb free kick which hit the crossbar. The ball came out and Marlon was able to break free and get a one-on-one with the keeper after a poor attempted head back from a Blackburn defender. He failed to get the ball under control and hit a diabolical shot from the edge of the box causing anguished howls amongst my neighbours. You wondered why he didn’t run in further on goal.

Dailly did not look at all comfortable and on 72 minutes he had to thigh a ball away for a corner. This was whipped in viciously and Carroll had to make a reflex save to keep it out near the left hand post. It was difficult to see if anybody had got a touch on it – it looked to me that it had come in direct from the corner.

Dickov was given a chance he wasn’t quite expecting after a long clearance flicked off the top of the head of Mullins. He ran forward dangerously, but hit a poor shot over the bar.

Ball watching masterclass

It was defensive uncertainties again which sunk us on 75 minutes after Dailly headed a ball upwards and both he, Anton and Konch failed to deal with it, allowing Kuqi to get the ball and score at almost point blank range. Ball watching. No-one took responsibility and you cannot afford to do that.

Just after the goal, Z-man came off for Aliadiere and on 78 minutes it looked like we might drag the game back again after Matty found some room down the left and put over a good ball which ended up at the feet of Yossi in the box. He couldn’t apply the killer touch and Friedel was able to save down low,

It was all getting a bit frantic and Riley lost the plot again as Marlon got booked for what looked like an entirely reasonable challenge in the box as the ball came in from the left. The sixth West Ham booking then followed farcically in the 89th minute after the whistle had been blown for a foul on Tom. The ball was kicked forward and Carroll came out to get it, but he seemed to either miss or only slightly clip the advancing Blackburn player. Riley went off to the line to consult and then pulled out the yellow card.

Although four minutes were added on we ran out of steam and ended up being denied the share of the points we probably deserved.

Turned by two incidents

The result was disappointing, but really the game turned on two incidents: when Gabbidon piled into the hoarding; and when Riley blew up for the penalty. Up until the spot kick we looked comfortable and the team that had not scored for over three games looked unlikely to break us down. After that, it was poor defending which let us down, and although Dailly was at fault, so were Konch and Anton.

Up until today we were riding high in the fair play league. Mike Riley decided to go on a one ref crusade to send us spiralling down that particular league with his ready use of the yellow card. I hope we don’t get the rat again this season.

On the more positive side, we still look very good in the final third and our counterattacking play looks quick, crisp and pretty devastating. The main worry is the loss of Gabbidon, as strength at the back has been crucial for us so far during this campaign. We also look lightweight in the centre of the park without Reo Coker.

There’s still no need to panic at all, and let’s hope that we repeat what we have done so far this season – bounced back after defeat. I only wish we weren’t up in the dreaded North West again to try and achieve this.



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Comments to follow.


Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.


Paul Konchesky
Comments to follow.


Danny Gabbidon
Comments to follow.


Anton Ferdinand
Comments to follow.


Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.


Mark Noble
Comments to follow.


Yossi Benayoun
Comments to follow.


Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.


Bobby Zamora
Comments to follow.


Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Christian Dailly
(Replaced Gabbidon, 21) Comments to follow.


David Bellion
(Replaced Noble, 61) Comments to follow.


Jeremie Aliadiere
(Replaced Zamora, 76) Comments to follow.


Shaka Hislop
Did not play.


Sean Newton
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: M.Riley.

Attendance: 20,370.

Man of the Match: Roy Carroll.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, Tomas Repka, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 45 Marlon Harewood 62                .

Booked: Mark Noble 5 Paul Konchesky 44 Tomas Repka 66 Anton Ferdinand 68 Marlon Harewood 86 Roy Carroll 89.

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Blackburn Rovers

Friedel, Neill, Khizanishvili, Gray, Reid, Emerton, Savage, Tugay, Pedersen, Bentley, Dickov.

Substitutes: Kuqi (Emerton 61), Mokoena (Tugay 79),.

Subs not used: Enckelman, Thompson, Jansen.

Goals: Dickov (55 pen, 57), Kuqi (76).

Booked: Tugay (78), Gray (87).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Roy Carroll


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