Saturday, 4th March 2006
We started with a line up that you would expect. Shaka in goal, Scaloni, Konch, Anton and Gabbers bringing up the rear. The usual bank of four stretched across the middle; Ethers and Yossi out wide with Mullins and Nige holding the centre. Up front the drooling expectancy of our two in form strikers Marlon and Ashton.
The first half from a neutral stand point was one of the best games I have seen in a long time. The ball flowed freely, we were attacking, they were attacking, crunching tackles flying in, no prisoners taken; it
was a joy to watch.
Ethers and Konch simply owned the left side of the field. Sven was there, no doubt admiring some totty in the crowd or a Hammerette rather than admiring the silky skills and awesome play along our left flank. As a minor digression, I read the other day that Ethers was a good option for the left wing, he chases back, is naturally left footed, but they are worried about his pace?!? LOL - where do they find these idiots?
From the off, Osman, McFadden and Beattie were causing mayhem up front. Beattie was Anton's man and lil Ferdinand didn't like it one bit. We started producing basic errors at the back, not sticking a foot through the bobbling balls in the 18 yard box. Headers were not directed properly and there was an unease throughout the back line.
This was compounded by the gap that was starting to appear in front of the back line. Our central midfielders were too slow to react and not as committed as their counterparts in the challenge.
Our first goal was a gorgeous interplay between the attackers. Close control and passing, with Marlon taking one touch, spinning 180 degrees and spanking the ball into the bottom right.
Westerveld the ex Liverpool goalie was very commanding and I have never seen a 'keeper kick so well. All his kicks found the awesome Cahill or Beattie on the edge of our penalty area, even from goal kicks. Of course Beattie would have a 5 yard head start which would never be picked up by the linesman with the white stick.
Their goal came from a beautiful piece of flowing football befitting the half. A forward sweep down our right hand side drew our entire squad out of shape and our of contention. The finish was superb, I even clapped albeit quietly, the g1ts.
Then Ashton got away, not an abundance of pace but got in front of 3 defenders Shearer style. Took the ball to the left hand side of the six yard box and with his left foot finished in what can only be described as world class style. Many had thought that his chance had past and with Westerveld on fine form the acute angle too narrow, but none of it.
The remainder of the first half flowed on at a fantastic pace. Ashton picked up a knock and was clearly struggling with his clipped ankle.
Everton came out early for the second half clearly fired up and looking to make up the one goal deficit. We came out with the same team members but not the same side, if that makes sense.
It all started to go horribly wrong. Everton had realised that Yossi and Scaloni could not cope down our right hand side against Osman and McFadden, which was where their solitary goal had come from.
Wave after wave was hitting the right hand side. We couldn't get out of our half. Mullins hung back in the back four instead of just in front. Reo was up with the strikers for some reason (told to?) leaving the largest gap in front of our back four.
Anton had to cover for Scaloni who had lost the plot. His positioning was wrong, his tackles off and was just not making any impression down the right. Anton clobbered a player in the chops chasing after him. An obvious foul but his remonstrations weren't good. He was dangerously on the fine line of being shown a second yellow.
Mike Riley was frustrating both teams, managers and fans alike by his bizarre cautions. Good challenges saw the game brought back, often with the advantage being given the wrong way. Yellow cards flew out of his pocket for nothing challenges. Riley had lost the plot.
It was yet another basic defensive error that cost us the second goal. Yes the ball bobbled round, yes it was in our 18 yard box, yes Beattie was there to poach the goal.
Amazingly Everton did not take all three points which if the second half was based on they thoroughly deserved. A noticeable cross from Scaloni's unguarded zone saw the ball miss from a diving header just yards out.
The whistle went and we were just relieved. A close shave, but if the worst is to come out with a point, I'll take it!
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Not much wrong, not helped by the guys in front.
Did nothing right today.
Sven would have been proud, if he was watching him.
Lost his rag and his composure. He'll learn a lot today.
Get in there Muggins!
Ghost in the second half
Seemed upset to come off, but was not in the game.
(Replaced Benayoun, 76) Did well with what he saw of the ball.
(Replaced Ashton, 84) Touched the ball once.
(Replaced Etherington, 87) Touched the ball less than Teddy.
Man of the Match: Paul Konchesky.
West Ham United
Shaka Hislop, Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Matthew Etherington, Yossi Benayoun, Dean Ashton, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Marlon Harewood 10 Dean Ashton 23 .
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Westerveld, Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Nuno Valente, Osman, Arteta, Neville, Cahill, McFadden, Beattie.
Substitutes: Davies (McFadden 85), Kilbane (Arteta 89).
Subs not used: Turner, Naysmith, Carsley.
Goals: Osman (18), Beattie (71).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..