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FA Premiership
Saturday, 31st December 2005

Charlton Athletic 2
West Ham United 0

by East Stand Martin


One thing Iíve learnt from watching football over the years is that you sit behind the goal at your own risk. So it proved at the Charlton Conservative Club where a game of tennis football took place on the dance floor near the bar. I managed to avoid the ball in the back of the head, others were not so lucky.

To be honest, I would never have found that particular watering hole were it not for the fact that I got a lift to the game with a Charlton fan of my acquaintance. Good job too, because I always fear a trip to the wrong side of the river as letís face it, itís a f*cking jungle down there.

My Charlton chum was hardly oozing confidence over a pre-match Guinness. Not surprising as his teamís home record has been pretty lamentable Ė only two wins out of nine. In fact, Charlton had lost 7 out of the last 8, and their best player, Danny Murphy was serving a suspension.

Dailly goes right

On the other hand, we had just turned in our worst performance of the season against Wigan and were still looking pretty ravaged by injury. The team lineup underscored that, as Dailly came in at right back and Collins was once again in central defence. Yossi was named on the subs bench, clearly meaning that he was still not 100% fit. Newton came into right midfield and a start was given to Aliadiere up front as Zamora did not make the squad.

We started as if we meant business as in the second minute Marlon latched onto a ball and managed to get away a good shot which was unfortunately blocked. Anton then found Marlon with a terrific 25 yard pass, but the move came to nothing.

Every West Ham fanís favourite ref, Graeme Poll, then gave a foul to Charlton on 6 minutes for an innocuous tackle. The ball was sent dangerously into the penalty box and ended up just wide of Carrollís post.

Matty fires wide

Collins made a shaky clearance on 9 minutes which put the defence under pressure down the right, but we managed to cope with the threat. Two minutes later, it looked like a certain goal for West Ham as Matty picked up a pass just inside the Charlton box. He did the right thing, rifling a shot across the keeper, but Myhre managed to get a good hand on it and turn it around the post.

In these early stages of the game, Aliadiere was looking tricky and dangerous on the ball. 13 minutes gone and we won a corner which was only partially cleared centrally to the oncoming Reo-Coker whose shot had to be cleared off the line by a Charlton defenderís thigh.

Dailly got in on the act of the quarter hour when he directed a header goalwards following a Newton cross. Unfortunately this did not have enough power to trouble Myhre.

Bossing it, but losing it

West Ham must have had about 75%+ possession at this point and Charlton were penned into their own half, conceding a series of corners. They looked very unsure at the back and fiding it difficult to clear their lines effectively.

On 19 minutes, Marlon went on a strong run down the right ahdn managed to get a cross back from the dead ball line which was snatched off the boot of the advancing Aliadiere on the edge of the six yard box.

Despite this clear domination, Charlton got the breakthrough totally against the run of play on 21 minutes. Konchesky got caught out of position by a pass out of midfield which found Bent down the right. Matty tried his hand at defensive duties, but Bent went wide and curled over a deadly cross which evaded a line of three West Ham defenders and found Bartlett sliding in at the far post to put the ball in the roof of the net.

Two minutes after the goal, Charlton nearly made it 2-0 as Rommedahl cut inside down the right and just shot wide of the right hand post. The Charlton players and most of the home fans were adamant that this had been pushed wide by Carroll.

Over the gingerís nut

Collins was not looking too happy on 24 minutes as he misjudged a long ball which nearly ended up in a goalscoring opportunity.

Ex-Addick Shaun Newton had a great chance to equalise on 32 minutes after Matty found him on the right hand side of the box with a good pass. Newton got a good powerful shot away about 8 yards out but it was at a good height for the keeper who made a good save to parry wide.

Newton was involved again a minute later as he put over a looped cross to the far post. Marlon, who looked offside, tried an overhead kick which didnít come off at all. The assistant refís flag stayed down much to everybodyís surprise.

Marlon curls one out

Undeterred by his overhead failure, Marlon immediately found some space using his customary strength on the edge of the box on 34 minutes. He hit a pretty good shot which curled tantalisingly wide of the right hand post.

Charlton proved once again that they are good at getting bodies behind the ball as a good shot by Matty was cleared off the line on 36 minutes. Seconds later, Marlon found himself free on the left hand side of the box but his low half shot was gathered at the foot of the post by Myhre.

In similar fashion to the run up to the goal, Charlton nearly got another against the run of play with 7 minutes of the half left. The ball got deflected out right to the waiting Rommedahl whose shot was saved one handed by Carroll.

The final minute of ordinary time saw us opened up once again down the right and it was amazing that Charlton didnít score as two almost point blank shots were blocked by a frantic West Ham defence.

Despite this final scare, the half ended with many a travelling Iron scratching his head and wondering how we were losing the game. On the three mile hike uphill to the toilets, I concluded that the next goal in the game would be absolutely decisive.

Charlton start better

There were no changes at half time on either side, but it was clear from the opening exchanges that we were nowhere near as good as we were at the start of the game. The first real chance fell to Charlton on 50 minutes as a shot was deflected off Anton and onto the right hand post. The ball came out to Matty Holland who hit a piledriver just wide of the left hand upright.

At the other end, West Ham engineered a half chance on 54 minutes after a free kick was awarded about 35 yards out after Marlon was fouled. The kick was taken quickly to release Matty and the Charlton defence did very well to clear a dangerous low cross.

Five minutes later, Marlon won a corner which was sent in dangerously. The ball came loose to Anton whose shot was blocked at the left hand post. A minute later Matty tried a speculative shot from outside the box, but this was held easily by the keeper.

Despite the pleadings from a geezer behind me, the West Ham defence failed to pick up Hreidarsson at a corner on 61 minutes, but luckily his header looped over the bar.

Tactical substitution for Charlton?

Immediately afterwards Dailly was taken off for Yossi in an attempt to inject some much needed creativity into the West Ham play which was looking distinctly one dimensional in the long ball.

The change seemed to do Charlton more good than us as a minute after the Israeli arrived, Bent broke free down the right and despite being forced wide, got a shot away which went right across the face of the goal. Immediately afterwards on 63 minutes, there was some indecision in central defence after Charlton broke down the left. Ex-Hammer and happiest man at Cardiff last May, Chris Powell took the ball to the dead ball line and whipped over an inch perfect cross which Bent expertly dispatched with his head into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.

Collins was now really struggling with Bent who was a continual threat today. The big striker was able to shield the ball and Collins seemed to lack the strength to deal with him.

First creative move of the half

Yossi had his first real chance to create something on 71 minutes as he ran forward with the ball and put over a square pass to Matty who won a corner. From the corner there was heading ping pong in the box and a half clearance came out to the waiting Yossi who volleyed wastefully over from about ten yards out.

Charlton were awarded a rather dodgy corner on 74 minutes and once again the geezer behind me was warning about the aerial threat of Hreidarsson. The warning went unheeded as he got in an almost unchallenged header which led to an exceptional one-handed save from Carroll right under the cross bar.

Immediately after this incident the anonymous Aliadiere was taken off and replaced by Bellion who was to become equally uninvolved in what was left of the game.

Hope drained away

There was little in the West Ham play which suggested that there was any hope of a final rally in the game. Anton headed over with six minutes left from a free kick and then a minute after this, the Charlton back four stood still and watched as Yossi latched onto a ball in a central position just outside the box. He ran forward, cut to the right and then squandered a superb opportunity by firing across the goal instead of into it.

The game ended with yet another disappointing Yuletide result, making it one point from twelve and the Russian money launderersí mob to come on Monday. Whatís gone wrong? To me it really comes down to injuries and the loss of the consistent XI which had been performing so well. We also looked jaded in the second half today and Charlton had an advantage here as they didnít play midweek.

Iím afraid that James Collins looks vulnerable to me at this level. I have said this before, but I really do prefer Elliott Ward alongside Anton if Gabbidon is not around. Ward has rarely put in a bad performance in a West Ham shirt. These loan signings are not working for me, both of them have offered very little. It leaves us really exposed upfront if, like today, we have injuries to Zamora and Teddy (who you have to expect to be more out than in). West Ham without Yossi also looks bereft of creative ideas.

Better than expected but not out of the woods

At the end of the year, though, letís all admit that we are definitely doing better than expected. However, thereís a long way to go yet and we could still get sucked down into the relegation struggle. We really do need to strengthen the squad and I am fearful if Tom goes and we do not add to options up front. We need Gabbidon in the team and I am still trying to work out why he was rushed back when his injury obviously hadnít healed.

One final thought, apart from wishing everybody a Happy New Year Ė Chris Powell is a top man. He was making that crossed hammers signal with his wrists to the travelling support at the end of the game, just like he did when we won in Cardiff last May. It was a nice gesture after a sh*tty trip away, cheers matey.



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Comments to follow.


Christian Dailly
Comments to follow.


Paul Konchesky
Comments to follow.


James Collins
Comments to follow.


Anton Ferdinand
Comments to follow.


Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Comments to follow.


Shaun Newton
Comments to follow.


Matthew Etherington
Comments to follow.


Jeremie Aliadiere
Comments to follow.


Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.


Substitutes


Yossi Benayoun
(Replaced Dailly, 61) Comments to follow.


David Bellion
(Replaced Aliadiere, 74) Comments to follow.


Shaka Hislop
Did not play.


Clive Clarke
Did not play.


Carl Fletcher
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: G.Poll.

Attendance: 25,952.

Man of the Match: Shaun Newton.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, Christian Dailly, Paul Konchesky, James Collins, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Shaun Newton, Matthew Etherington, Jeremie Aliadiere, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: None.

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Charlton Athletic

Myhre, Young, Hreidarsson, Kishishev, Holland, Bent, Bartlett, Hughes, Powell, Fortune.

Substitutes: Lisbie (Bartlett 76).

Subs not used: Andersen, Perry, Ambrose, Spector.

Goals: Bartlett (21), Bent (63).

Booked: Hreidarsson (64).

Sent Off: None sent off.

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Shaun Newton


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