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FA Premeirship
Saturday, 15th April 2006

West Ham United 1
Manchester City 0

by East Stand Martin


1.30 a.m. in downtown Mumbai and I knew that Gilo the Manc was worried. After bigging up his team’s prospects in the FA Cup and agreeing to watch the game, the northern monkey decided instead to get so wasted that he was poleaxed on his bed. It was his way of dodging the issue as no doubt he had seen the writing on the wall.

Having dished out grief big time after his boys from the running track (or ‘Wastelands’ as I call it) turned us over earlier on in the season and also mercilessly taking the piss after the Citeh youth team saw off our youngsters, I was not to be denied. We found West Ham shirts for a load of people and turned up at the Wankhede (yes, it really is called that) Cricket Stadium the following day to wind the skanky Manc so much that he soon had a face on him like a slapped ar*e.

Fish chops

All the c*nt could say was “f*ck off, eel face”, a term of endearment he developed for me as in his simple northern ways he believes that all West Ham fans live on a diet of jellied eels.

The good thing was that turning up at Upton Park today, I knew that even if the blues pulled off a win, I would still have the upper hand. This glorious superiority had already been underlined by my dispatch of a scan of my FA Cup semi final ticket to his inbox. “Here’s something Running Track FC haven’t seen for a long time”, was the accompanying unprovocative message.

Despite this banter with Gilo, I have to say I have long had a soft spot for his mob and this is heightened by the fact that Pearcey is the manager and Tricky Trev is still doing his stuff for ‘em down the wing. Incidentally, what was the booing of Trev all about that I heard today from some quarters of the ground? That bloke is a legend in my eyes and it was hardly his fault that he had to leave our club.

Spineless

You gotta feel for Pearcey though. This is a bloke who at one point was being touted to take over from the Swede. Look at him now, it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped, and who wasn’t taken aback by his Keegan-like ravings the other week when he called his players “spineless”. Why don’t you tell ‘em how it is, Pearcey?

Five defeats in a row and little sign of a recovery, but let’s face it we’ve hardly been pulling up trees lately. Today was going to be interesting.

Our lineup was clearly dictated by the manager’s fears about burn out over two games in quick succession and that date up at Villa Park next Sunday. The first piece of delight was to see the return of Jimmy Walker – of which more later – it’s almost been a year since he had that cruciate-snapping collision at the Millennium Stadium. Across the back was Scaloni, Gabbers, Ginge and Konch. Newton was down the right midfield, Yossi down the left with Mullins and Reo-Coker in the centre. Z-man got a rare nod to start alongside Deano.

4 minutes in and Yossi managed to get his head on a ball and flick it towards Ashton who found some room down the left. His cross was good but it was cut out well at the near post by the Citeh defence.

10k fluffs it

Shaun Newton then spurned a good opportunity on 8 minutes as he found himself running forward in a 4 v 3 situation. He needed to release the ball and find Z-man who had made a good crossfield run along the back line. He missed his chance at the pass got cut out.

Nigel Reo-Coker was the next to find some space on 10 minutes after Scaloni curled a nice ball forward out of defence. The Argie looks great when he strokes balls like that, it’s just when he has to defend that I get nervous. He ain’t really a full back is he? Doubtful before the game, Nigel didn’t seem to advance quickly forward enough, although I might be doing a disservice to Distin who got back very well.

Just after this incident, I questioned whether I knew the rule about allowing players back on the pitch after injury. Ref Steve Bennett’s approach on this seems to be dictated by how far he can wind the crowd up, before waving a player on. Yossi was left standing there until clearly the baying of the Upton Park faithful became too cacophonous. Someone please explain to me what is supposed to happen here.

Newton’s first

16 minutes and I could hear the distant gnashing of Gilo the Manc’s teeth as Zamora pulled off a piece of sublime football, swivelling on a sixpence, running forward and making a great square pass to Newton who found himself alone just outside the box. For a moment he looked a little hesitant, but he steadied himself and fired a low shot across David James into the right hand corner of the goal. Great finish for his first ever goal in the claret and blue.

Eight minutes later, determined play by Yossi saw him surge through midfield, but unfortunately his through ball to Z-man was cut out too easily. Almost straight after this, Yossi tried a shot on goal which got deflected and led to a rather comical scramble by James to prevent a corner. A fellow Eaststander exclaimed, “Why did we ever have him in goal?”

Citeh posed their first threat on 27 minutes when a corner led to ball bouncing around the box with the defence finding it difficult to clear. Collins did well in the end to fling himself at the ball to block a shot from Musampa and the move ended with Richard Dunne converting the ball way over the crossbar.

Zamora showed yet another nice touch on 28 minutes to lay off a nice ball to Yossi who ran in on goal menacingly. He unleashed a powerful shot from the left side, but this flashed across the face of the goal.

On 32 minutes, Newton did well in midfield to thread a pass through to Z-man, but although the position looked promising, Distin was very solid to halt his progress on goal.

Pulled this way and that

Three minutes later, it looked certain that Citeh would get on level terms after the West Ham defence was pulled all over the place by a succession of quick passes. A breach was eventually found on the right hand side of the area, and Sincs latched onto a ball which he cleverly chipped towards the far corner of the goal. It looked certain to go into the empty net but Micah Richards decided to slide in to make sure it went into the goal. Up went the linesman’s flag for offside when you wondered if the ball was going in anyway. That is what is known as becoming ‘active’ when you should have remained inactive.

If truth be told, there was little between the teams in the first half, with perhaps Citeh even slightly shading possession. The problem for the visitors was making use of the ball when they had it, and the defensive duo of Gabbidon and Collins always seemed to be on hand to snuff out the threat from the lanky Greek Samaras.

The writing was on the wall

The start of the second half saw a change by Pearce as Sommeil came on for Thatcher. A sign of things to come then came on 50 minutes as Newton made a slack pass which Sinclair snapped up. He tore through the middles with the West Ham defence parting like the Red Sea. Sincs loved that amount of space and let loose with a stinging low shot which Walker saved brilliantly with a strong hand to his left to stop the ball nestling in the bottom corner of the net.

Newton took a bit of pressure off the West Ham defence on 53 minutes as he fed a ball through to Reo-Coker who won a corner. Sinclair had to be alert to head away from the near post.

This proved to be a brief respite, as Citeh held a lot of possession and went probing forward. The only response from West Ham seemed to be largely to hoof the ball back to the opposition.

Gabbers the clanger

Gabbers nearly dropped a clanger on 63 minutes as he allowed a ball forward to bounce over his head. Fortunately Citeh were unable to profit. A minute later, Ashton tried a speculative shot with his first decent sniff of a ball in the second half, but James easily gathered the 35 yard effort.

Z-man was pulled off the park on 65 minutes and Marlon was introduced. It appeared that most of the home crowd thought that Newton should have been swapped and they made that point clear to the manager. At the same time, Sibierski was brought on for Samaras.

Three minutes after these changes, West Ham created a great chance after Yossi made a lovely pass to Ashton down the right. He did everything right, drilling a ball into the corridor of uncertainty in front of goal. It took a fine intervention from Richard Dunne to deny the oncoming Marlon and put the ball over his own bar.

A slice of Yossi

On 72 minutes, there was a nice exchange of passes between Ashton and Marlon and Yossi then found himself in some space. His cross was very disappointing, a horrible slice way over the bar.

As in the first half, there was another moment on 75 minutes when Citeh looked like they were back on terms as Riera penetrated the right side of the West Ham defence and struck what looked like a lethal low cross. Vassell was on the end of it and put the ball in the back of the net, but the linesman saved our bacon again with an offside decision that brought a premature end to the celebrations of the away fans behind the goal.

Fletch was introduced for the goalscorer Shaun Newton on 77 minutes, in an obvious move to try and add a bit of solidity in midfield.

The missing master of the one on one

A misjudgment in the Citeh defence on 80 minutes allowed Ashton to pick the ball up in a good position but he decided to run wide into space rather than take on the early shot and the move broke down. It is situations like that when you wistfully reminisce about Paolo Di Canio and his ability to fox defenders.

We looked sunk again on 81 minutes when a route one ball allowed Vassell to surge forward and make what looked like a goal-bound chip over Jimmy Walker. Fortunately Konch was on hand to recover his ground and turn the ball away.

After Teddy came on for Ashton on 82 minutes and Flood for Raina on 86 minutes, a Citeh free kick down the left saw a flick on by Richard Dunne which allowed Micah Richards to swing his boot at the ball. It looked like he didn’t quite a clean strike on it, but Walker still had to make a fine save to his left.

Jimmy saves us again

West Ham were now under siege, and an 89th minute free kick almost led to disaster as we tried an attempt to catch the opposition offside by tearing out of the box. Sinclair was having nothing of it and a better touch of the ball over the top would have surely resulted in what would have been a deserved equalizer on the balance of the second half’s play.

Three minutes of added time did not do much for the nerves of the home supporters, but the best chance probably came Marlon’s way after a superb flick on by Teddy. He either stumbled on the edge of the box or had his legs clipped, whatever it was he lost control of the ball.

The Midas touch

This was undoubtedly one of those games where we were fortunate to emerge with three points. On a different day, we could have lost that by one or two clear goals. The possession (or lack of it) certainly would suggest that. It looks like Pardew has the Midas touch at the moment; I just hope it lasts long enough to see us through next Sunday’s big game. I can't wait to get up there and find out.

Incidentally, St George's Day is a double semi final day as ESM Jnr's team get their chance to qualify for their U14 final and a day of glory at the MK Dons stadium. Fortunately this game is at 1030 and allows us plenty of time to get to Villa Park It's either gonna be double joy, half joy half despair or double despair. No pressure then.

(Player ratings by Dodger)



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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
Made two top-class saves, the one from Sinclair was a contender for save-of-the-season.


Lionel Scaloni
A really 'Jekyll and Hyde' performance. Sometimes dreadful, but made a goal-saving block from Samaras.


Paul Konchesky
Not bad but first touch, crossing and free-kicks all still poor.


Danny Gabbidon
Very imprressive, our best defender on the day.


James Collins
Did well, won a lot of headers.


Hayden Mullins
Excellent first half, faded a little in the second but played well.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Solid game, made some good runs as well.


Yossi Benayoun
Much better Yossi, dangerous throughout.


Shaun Newton
Very good effort - and a very well taken goal. Am I the only one wondering why we haven't used him when resting players earlier in the season?


Bobby Zamora
Great movement, and did brilliantly in setting up the only goal.


Dean Ashton
Really very poor today, should have been brought off at half time.


Substitutes


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Zamora, 65) Did well but didn't make a major contribution.


Carl Fletcher
(Replaced Newton, 77) Not enough time to register.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Ashton, 82) Not enough time to register.


Shaka Hislop
Did not play.


Yaniv Katan
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: S.Bennett.

Attendance: 34,305.

Man of the Match: Jimmy Walker.

West Ham United

Jimmy Walker, Lionel Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Shaun Newton, Bobby Zamora, Dean Ashton.

Goals: Shaun Newton 15                  .

Booked: None.           .

Sent Off: None.     .

Manchester City

James, Richards, Distin, Dunne, Thatcher, Reyna, Musampa, Riera, Sinclair, Samaras, Vassell.

Substitutes: Sommeil (Thatcher 45), Sibierski (Samaras 66), Flood (Reyna 86).

Subs not used: Weaver, Wright-Phillips.

Goals: .

Booked: Reyna (35).

Sent Off: None.

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Jimmy Walker