Saturday, 15th April 2006
Team news was that there were a number of changes from the dive-athon the previous week at Chelsea, partly caused by injury and partly, no doubt, caused by a desire to give one or two a breather over the busy Easter period. The line-up: Walker, Scaloni, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Collins, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Benayoun, Newton, Zamora, Ashton.
It was a bright start with City’s trio of ex-Hammers receiving warm applause from the home support. However, both sides had cause to worry about the somewhat erratic performance of Mr Bennett and his officials. We started the brighter of the two sides and, though it was hardly a feast of goalmouth action, there was some good movement, particularly from Zamora who looked sharp and lively.
The scoring was opened on the quarter hour. We gained a throw in deep in our own territory. Konch launched the ball down the line towards Zamora whose clever turn got the better of (I think) Distin. Despite being tugged back Bobby made good ground down the left and played the ball square across, the ball partially nutmegging Thatcher on the way. The slight deflection was kind for Newton who had made a run up the middle unhindered by anything so inconvenient as a marker. 10K took the ball in his stride and stuck a low powerful shot into the corner past James.
City had shown little up front to this point and there was some entertainment to be gained from Yossi’s “clothing malfunction” in which a strategically-placed tear turned his shorts into a skirt. Less funny was ref Bennett’s insistence that the Israeli should wait until the ball had gone out of play before being allowed back onto the pitch. Whilst referees are allowed to insist on the ball being dead when players have left the field for minor (or feigned), Yossi’s absence was unavoidable and as a result he ought to have been waved on at the earliest opportunity. Common sense ref.
Yossi might have sent us two up on 25 minutes. A decent ball down the left hand touchline was cleverly turned inside by Zamora. Yossi failed to put enough bend on his right-footed effort which went about a yard wide of the far post.
On 35 minutes City had the ball in the back of the net. Following a spell of possession, Riera found Sinclair wide on the edge of the box. Sinclair’s cross/shot wasn’t the cleanest of efforts but it looped in at the far post assisted by a touch from the holder of the coveted no. 45 shirt Micah Richards. However, the linesman had raised his flag as soon as Richards had gone for the ball and the goal was ruled out. Had Richards stood and watched the ball going in the goal would probably have stood but the act of trying to ensure the ball crossed the line rendered him “active” as they say these days so the question of whether he’d got the touch on the ball before it crossed the line was largely irrelevant.
Either way, Jimmy didn’t hang about to find out, taking a quick free-kick that saw a flowing move down the left that ended up with Zamora one on one with James, only for the other lino to raise his flag for offside. James saved the shot anyway. Before the free-kick could be taken Reyna finally caught up with the ref and talked himself into an inevitable yellow card for complaining about the decision up the other end.
The final real chance of the half fell to Collins. Yossi was upended in the centre of the pitch and the ginger one took a 4 mile run up at the ball before hitting it into the wall and seeing his effort go out for what proved to be an unproductive corner.
Reading our programmes during the interval we were highly amused to see that the Hammers ladies U14 team had scored a 7-0 away cup win over a team called Catholic United who, we decided, had clearly failed to find their rhythm and suffered from a lack of protection. We like our schoolyard humour in our part of the ground.
If we had been the better side in the first half we were in for a rude awakening early in the second half. A mix-up in City territory between 10K and NRC saw the ball given away to Sinclair who embarked on a splendid 60 yard run straight down the middle before placing a low shot which brought out a superb save from Walker who got down marvellously low to his left to turn the ball wide for a corner.
We then forced a series of corners, though the series was mainly due to the fact that Yossi kept picking out Sinclair at the near post and the short spell of pressure wasn’t sustained. City enjoyed a good spell of possession as we failed to get the passing game going. In particular the service to the front two dried up and when we did clear forward our tactic seemed to consist of aiming it long and hopeful in Deano’s general direction, something that invariably saw the ball come back pretty sharpish.
On the hour Ashton had a shot from distance that was comfortably dealt with by James and this action was followed shortly after by the replacement of Zamora by the fresh legs of Harewood.
We were then treated to a moment of farce. City were awarded a free-kick which saw them employing the tactic of leaving several players in offside positions as popularised by Bolton a few years back. The idea is that the offside players run away from the goal to be replaced by players moving in from onside positions. Given the events of the first half it was baffling that none of the four players in offside positions straight in front of Jimmy were deemed to have been active despite the various instructions being quite clear on the matter. Thankfully nothing came of the free-kick but that was no thanks to the officials.
City continued to press forward and had the ball in the net once more with 15 minutes left. Riera went down the left and cut in between Scaloni and Mullins who got in a mess that somehow ended up with Mullins landing on Len’s foot whilst Riera bore down on goal. Riera’s cross found Vassell who converted across Jimmy at the near post only to be denied by the lino’s flag. Having now seen the replay it appeared that Vassell had strayed maybe by a foot but there was probably enough of him level with Gabbidon for him to have been given the benefit of the doubt so it was a lucky escape.
The tiring 10K was then replaced by Fletcher, a switch that was followed five minutes later by the arrival of young Edward making his 500th senior appearance. Shortly after that Reyna went off to be replaced by the splendidly-named Willo Flood.
With five left on the clock Richards found himself in space on the right hand side of the box only to find Jimmy in superb form once more as the ‘keeper parried his goalbound effort. That final set back seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and the remainder of the match passed fairly uneventfully to give us the points.
In truth it was a match from which City could claim at least a point should have been theirs and, on another day the rub of the green with the refereeing decisions might have gone their way. However we were the better side in the first half and, for the most part, despite the City possession in the second half, the defence stood firm for the most part. When they were breached Jimmy was in fine form. So another double header coming up – this time against Boro – and still a chance of Europe on two fronts. Just like we all predicted at the start of the season. Didn’t we??
Good luck CJ!
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Didn’t exactly boss the six yard box in the first half but a number of superb saves earned us the points.
Generally solid but got caught out by Reira a few times towards the end.
Another decent run out – some nice passes down the left though the understanding that has developed with Matty wasn’t quite there with Yossi.
Remained firm throughout despite being on the end of a number of strange decisions from ref Bennett. One heart in mouth moment as he misjudged the bounce of a long ball.
Continues to improve though I would question the wisdom of allowing him to take free-kicks from the edge of the box!
We got half a performance from Hayden today. Whilst he got his foot in well the usual lay off wasn’t there and he was occasionally guilty of dallying on the ball.
Not quite at the races today. Seemed to be a yard off the pace.
Another not at his best – had one decent effort in the first half but much of the game passed him by, especially in the second half.
Fine goal and he obviously wanted to make the most of his rare start.
Excellent first half but starved of service in the second half he struggled to make an impression. At least he’s stopped making the same runs as Ashton.
Worked hard but seemed to lack a bit of spark. At least he’s stopped making the same runs as Zamora.
(Replaced Zamora, 65) Caused City a few niggles without ever really dominating the City defence.
(Replaced Newton, 77) Worked hard enough for the few minutes he was on.
(Replaced Ashton, 82) Not really given enough time to make much of an impression.
Did not play.
Did not play.
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. .
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.
Booked: Reyna (35).
Sent Off: None.