Sunday, 7th May 2006
On arrival at the Wakefield for the usual pre-match cocktails I was greeted by the news that our opponents for the day might not turn up. Apparently one or two of the luvvies had come down with a dodgy tummy. Apparently some of them had, to quote Monty Python, had the sluices open up at both ends. Just shows how pampered these players are these days. In my regular playing days such behaviour the night before a game was almost compulsory. Having received a text from the lovely girlfriend that “the match is on – and Spuds will be in the dark shorts” and that we should “expect youth team and reserve players” we were a little surprised to see a team not dissimilar to that they would probably have picked anyway. For our part we were as strong as one might have expected with the possible exception of Harewood’s appearance on the bench to give a line-up of Hislop, Scaloni, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Newton, Fletcher, Sheringham, Zamora. Pre-kick-off Defoe was given the traditional welcome afforded to ungrateful little so and so's who hand in transfer requests thirty seconds after relegation. Carrick, however was greeted with generous applause as was Davenport.
Yes, we started brightly. Our first effort coming as early as the first minute. Dawson, who apparently had suffered more than most from the dodgy buffet at the Marriott, upended Zamora. Young Edward took the resulting free kick which took a deflection. The resulting corner fell to NRC whose shot took a slight deflection, I think from Fletch, to send it just wide.
Yossi was then fed in on the left but seemed caught between two minds – whether to square the ball or whether to try to curl one towards the far post. In the end his shot was neither. However the goal our early play was not long in coming.
A few seconds after the news that some other team from that bit of London had gone one up against Wigan, Fletch won the ball superbly on the left and moved forward. And forward. And Forward. Being unbothered by so much as the merest hint of a challenge Fletch unleashed a low shot that swerved, dipped and positively flew into the bottom right hand corner past Robinson to send an already hyper crowd delirious. Fletch was fairly pleased himself – especially with a Cardiff space in the middle up for grabs. Three minutes later we nearly doubled the lead when a young Edward shot from distance drifted wide from the left.
What of our opponents? Well they did have a couple of free headers from the (very) occasional corner but rarely threatened and Shaka was largely unemployed. Then, on the half hour, came a moment of pure farce. The ball was played back to Robinson having taken a slight deflection off Zamora. Robinson picked the ball up but ref Foy hadn’t seen Bobby’s touch and awarded an indirect free-kick against the somewhat miffed ‘keeper. When the kick was eventually taken it took it came to naught and five minutes later we were pegged back to level terms.
There seemed to be little danger as a ball was played into Defoe but Anton gave him a foot too much space and the turn and shot were superb and must leave him wondering what life might be like if he were to leave for a really good club. Or even if he’d stayed with one.
Half time came and went with the news that the other match in which some were interested was level at 2-2. Before the days of mobile phones of course we’d have just made up our own scores and watch the rumours fly around. Nowadays, since everyone has the internet in their pocket of course half the fun has gone. (Well except for Romford of course who couldn’t get the internet on his ‘phone if you paid him).
We started the second half well and, six minutes in we ought to have regained the lead. The impressive Newton seemed to have overhit a cross. However young Edward feigned to shoot but cleverly played the ball inside to Bobby who was unceremoniously clattered for a penalty.
One for the conspiracy theorists now. Up stepped Young Edward only to hit a weak penalty straight into the arms of Robinson. “Your Sp*rs and you know you are” chanted the hitherto silent away support. This seemed to upset Teddy - let’s face it it’s right up there with being accused of being Gary Glitter’s best mate in terms of insults – and Teddy struggled to find a claret and blue shirt thereafter.
Benayoun then fed Zamora. The first part of the run was superb. The second saw Bobby turn back into traffic and allow Lee to get back to rob him. Up the other end Defoe got into a good position but thankfully volleyed high into the crowd. Keane also got into a good spot and was slightly more accurate with his effort but Shaka was more than equal to it, turning the ball round for a corner.
Attacks from the visitors were the exception rather than the rule though and as news that the other match was not going well for the visitors arrived on everyone’s mobile phone (with the exception of Romford’s obviously). We continued to press forward.
Young Edward was replaced to popular acclaim by Marlon and Bobby had a 30 yard right-footer turned around the post by Robinson as we went in search of the winner. It was going to come and, when it did, it was a beaut. A long ball was played out to the right. 10K did superbly well to keep the ball in and embarked on a run towards the goal. 10K slipped the ball in to Reo-Coker whose clever back heel found Yossi in space. Yossi showed “good feet” as they say and turned inside Dawson before butting an unstoppable shot past Robinson to send the crowd even more delirious than they had been before.
Shortly after Yossi was replaced by Kyel Reid. There was just time for an hilarious free kick from Keane who spent ages moaning about the wall before sticking the ball into the legendary row Z. 4 minutes of stoppage were seen out comfortably before the final whistle put the opposition out of their misery.
Dodgy prawns or no this was a fine performance. It’s hard to imagine that only a year ago we were seeing some awful football at the Boleyn – often from both sides. I was hopeful that we’d do enough to ensure safety early on but the results and, just as importantly, the performances have been little more than a revelation – and that’s not even taking the cup into consideration. As for Spurs? Well whatever they might say they were simply outclassed for most of the match and they ought to remember that, tactically, they lost out to our tea lady – who won the right to give the team talk in a bet with the boss.
Errr Extraordinary one might say! See you in Cardiff & good luck CJ.
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No chance with the goal. Otherwise a fairly quiet game.
A decent match for Len, though he will probably not be first choice for Cardiff.
Showed he can link up as well with Yossi as he can with his normal oppo, Matty.
I must admit that, as well as Ginge has done when he’s played I do like the Anton and Gabbidon pairing in the middle. I expect nton wil be back on the right by Cardiff though.
Got my vote for HOTY and Kept Keane fairly quiet.
Told to play his own game and he did. Whether he gets the nod next week remains to be seen but he did his cause no harm at all.
More defensively-minded than usual – a function of having Fletch alongside him. Good solid performance though.
Best outing in ages. Linked up well with Konch and the goal was a work of art.
A fine game – 10K must be knackered. Well I certainly can’t remember when he last played 90. Cardiff slot will depend on Matty’s fitness I suspect.
A bit of a mare, though not as bad as some were making out.
Sharp. Twice the player than the one who left Sp*rs a couple of years ago.
(Replaced Sheringham, 67) Made a nuisance when he came on for Teddy.
(Replaced Benayoun, 80) Showed a couple of good touches in the few minutes he was on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.
West Ham United
Shaka Hislop, Lionel Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Carl Fletcher, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Shaun Newton, Teddy Sheringham, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Carl Fletcher 10 Yossi Benayoun 80 .
Booked: Shaun Newton 45 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Robinson, Kelly, Dawson, Gardner, Lee, Lennon, Tainio, Carrick, Davids, Keane, Defoe.
Substitutes: Hyypia (Finnan 63), Garcia (Fowler 79).
Subs not used: Reid (Carrick 63), Barnard (Lee 77), Davenport (Tainio 86).
Goals: Defoe (35).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..