Sunday, 2nd April 2006
The main point of interest in the line-up was the inclusion of Anton Ferdinand in an unfamiliar right-back spot , allowing James “Outspan” Collins to continue in the centre of defence following some strong performances in Ferdinand’s recent absence through injury. Len Scaloni was the one to make way, dropping to the bench. Also on the bench was young Edward Sheringham who was celebrating his 40th birthday making him the second player of that age or higher that I’ve seen play for us in my time at the Boleyn – the other being Billy Bonds. The starting line-up: Hislop, Ferdinand, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Collins, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Etherington, Harewood, Ashton.
The opening 45 was a bit quiet. There was something of a Sunday atmosphere about the place. This was typified by a mysteriously sparse away support who followed up the traditional “shall we sing a song for you” chant by doing nothing of the sort and remaining respectfully silent throughout the rest of the game. Well apart from the occasional boo at Konchesky in the first half but even that was half-hearted at best.
You will gather from the fact that I have to comment on the crowd that this was far from the most scintillating match this season. The phrase that was being bandied about our bit of the ground was “the teams are cancelling each other out”. Even this was overstating the case somewhat as neither side seemed able to keep hold of the ball for any significant length of time before giving it away. The half wasn’t entirely devoid of chances though. Ashton’s close range effort went over after a Yossi throw-in had been flicked on and a shot from Ferdinand from the right hand side of the box hit the side netting. The excited crowd reaction was probably more indicative of a lack of anything else occurring to raise the spirit than of a feeling that the shot was really a whisker away. Better still was Harewood’s effort as the half came to a close. Bursting forward Marlon’s low shot was on target inside the post and a good save was required from Myhre low to the ‘keeper’s right to keep the scores level at half time. The only other incidents of note were disciplinary in nature. A deserved yellow for a late challenge by Young on Matty was preceded by a lecture for AP from Styles which owed more to the fact that Styles was refereeing a match that was live on the telly (and therefore had an audience) than to any actual need to stop the game.
As if affected by the general ennui, Styles couldn’t be bothered to add any stoppage time and an unremarkable 45 closed with both defences on top. The Hammerettes having legged it to Hong Kong for the rugby we were forced to make our own entertainment which basically consisted of trying to work out who had most priority points and who was going to be most overdrawn at the end of the month as a result of the ridiculous cost of going to Chelsea.
There was one change at half time. Ashton, who had looked out of sorts to me, didn’t reappear and young Edward, no doubt much to the relief of Sky, came on as his replacement. The first action of the second period saw a long and determined run from Yossi end with a poked shot that went just the wrong side of the near post. Despite an apparent lack of ambition Charlton somehow managed to gain a number of corners in quick succession but Gabbidon and Collins had little trouble in dealing with these and, following a minor scare which arose from Hislop’s spilling of a shot from Bent (D), the visiting posed little in the way of threat.
Up the other end Outspan tried his luck from 30 yards but caught it too well to see the ball fly over by a yard or so. Styles then incurred the wrath of Young Edward by getting the way of a pass. On the hour Young gave away a corner under pressure from Matty, twisting his ankle as he did so. Although off the pitch Young crawled back onto the pitch, sat down in pain for a bit before deciding he was fit to continue after all. However, once the corner had been dealt with he went down once more suggesting that he might have been better off staying off the pitch in the first place rather than trying to delay proceedings.
With 15 left on the clock AP decided to introduce Zamora for NRC in an attempt to liven things up. Presumably having forgotten to buy the senior pro a present on his birthday NRC handed over the skipper’s armband to Edward. The change nearly paid dividends. Good work by Matty down the left forced a corner which Matty took himself. Bobby met the corner well, possibly too well, only to see his header cleared off the line by Kishishev.
We went even closer a few minutes later. A good run from Marlon down the right forced another corner. Matty’s delivery was flicked on by Ferdinand towards Sheringham who had lost his marker in anticipation. Teddy stabbed his shot goalwards only to be denied by a fine reaction save from Myhre.
Shortly after, Marlon was replaced by Katan as we continued to press forward in search of the goal but despite the pressure, and a strangely wayward punch from Myhre the goal wasn’t going to come. The final chance wentto Yossi who perhaps ought to have done a bit better with his injury time free header which failed to trouble the ‘keeeper and the remainder of the stoppage period passed without further ado.
Ultimately, on the balance of play, we probably deserved more out of the game than we got and on another day a little more luck in front of goal might have seen us home. However, it is undeniable that we lacked a certain spark on the day and though the defence coped admirably with the threat of Bent D (England? No thanks) the passing game in midfield wasn’t there leaving Harewood and Ashton isolated, especially in the first half. Things improved in the second half with Teddy’s ability to drop deep and get a bit more involved in the link play but overall we looked a bit knackered. This was later attributed by the boss to a dodgy flight back home after the Manchester United game. Somewhat worryingly AP referred to Manchester as being in the North East and it is to be hoped that he doesn’t take on navigational duties when the players head off for their break – after all it’s a lot warmer in Dubai than Dublin at the moment!
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Barely tested, though not for the first time in recent weeks his handling caused a little concern when dealing with the only shot that tested him.
Comfortable in a right-back position in which, according to AP, he feels less than comfortable. However, there were occasions I felt he could have got forward a bit more.
Improved as the game went on though early on he seemed unable to cut out crosses.
There must be any number of Premiership sides kicking themselves for not nicking him off Cardiff. Tough. Another near faultless performance.
The recent run in the centre alongside his fellow Welshman is paying dividends as he finds his feet at this level.
Consistently did what he does – got his foot in, won the ball and laid it off.
Guilty of wasting the ball a bit too often for my liking, something that undid the good work he often did.
Flitted in and out of the match – some good touches but I wish the free header at the end had gone to someone else.
It was an interesting battle down our left hand side and Young certainly had his hands full.
Tried his best but without decent service it was an uphill struggle.
Looked like he could do with a rest to be honest.
(Replaced Ashton, 45) Early on he was as guilty as everyone else of giving the ball away but he improved and his greater involvement in the link-up play was instrumental in our dominance of the second period. Wish he’d scored though!
(Replaced Reo-Coker 75) Made us look more dangerous at corners and was unlucky to see his header cleared off the line.
(Replaced Harewood, 86) Got stuck in but barely given time to influence proceedings.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.
West Ham United
Shaka Hislop, Anton Ferdinand, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Dean Ashton.
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Myhre, Young, Perry, Hreidarsson, Powell, Rommedahl, Kishishev, Holland, Hughes, M.Bent, D.Bent.
Substitutes: Spector (Young 62), Thomas (Rommedahl 70), Bothroyd (M.Bent 86).
Subs not used: Andersen, Euell.
Sent Off: None sent off.