Saturday, 19th August 2006
I always have a feeling of dread about turning up to the first home game of the season. Nothing to do with worrying about the team and how the season might unfold; itís all to do with wondering whether youíll find yourself sitting in the vicinity of any new season ticket holders who make it their business to turn talking bollocks into a new art form.
The power of dreams from an electric chair
Taking our seats in the familiar surroundings of the retro accommodation which is the East Stand, I was mortified to find that the club had erected some of those electronic advertising hoardings right in front of us. Clearly we denizens of the oldest yet finest stand at the Boleyn Ground are considered to be so poverty stricken that the glorious animation could only be faced towards the high net worth individuals over the other side of the stadium. All we could see was a load of dodgy wiring making the back of the hoardings look like a bowl of half eaten pasta.
Believe you me, if it pisses down at the next game, I shall be retreating into the bowels of the stand, as it looks to me that the chances of electrocution are high. Iíll do a lot of things for the love of West Ham, but I do draw the line at getting frazzled to f*ck so that some poncey Weststanders can watch a Honda advert.
Given the disaster that beset our star striker in the week, Pardew decided that the next best strikeforce option was Marlon and Z-man. In central midfield were Mullins and Reo-Coker, while Yossi was drafted into the left side due to the absence of Matty. Returning (not so) prodigal son Lee Bowyer was on the right side of midfield with a back four of Konch, Gabbidon, Ferdinand and new boy Tyrone Mears. Roy Carroll, out of the picture for a lot of last season returned in goal. The bench looked quite good as well with Teddy, Collins, Carlton Cole and Paintsil waiting in the wings.
It was one of those high tempo starts that characterised much of our play last season. In the very first minute, Bowyer fired forward a great through ball from inside his own half to find Z-man. He brought the ball down well, but fired a half volley over the bar.
Two minutes later and Konch went on a pacey run down the left flank. He crossed well, but just a little too high for Yossi who could only head over the bar. You felt he should have done better.
The crowd were lapping up this quick, fluent play, and on 4 minutes Marlon found himself in space down the right after some excellent interplay. He hit a good low cross into the corridor of uncertainty in the six yard box, but the ball was just stolen of Zamoraís foot by the keeper Scot Carson.
Charlton looked stunned by the intent of West Ham and Zamora created another chance on 5 minutes with a deep cross from the left to the far post to find Bowyer rising like a fish. He nodded the ball back and created a degree of panic in the Charlton defence who eventually managed to clear.
Darren Bent featured for the first time on 11 minutes as he managed to nod a long ball down to Hasselw*nk, but the Dutchman spanked it way over the crossbar.
Two minutes later our bright start disappeared into the ether as Charlton were awarded a penalty. It happened at the opposite end so it wasnít clear what happened. A speculative ball was floated over from the left and it looked like it had missed everybody, including Gabbidon. Ref Howard Webb appeared to award a corner with Hasselw*nk running around like a man possessed pointing at his arm. He went off to talk to the linesman and the next thing we knew, Webb was pointing at the spot. No action was taken against Gabbers, which was slightly inexplicable if that had been adjudged to be deliberate handball.
Bent stood up and blasted the ball into the right hand corner of the goal with Carroll helpless.
Goals against the run of play invariably shell-shock the team that had previously enjoyed the upper hand and West Ham looked a bit gobsmacked. It took until the 23rd minute for our next chance following the award of a free kick and a booking against ex-Scouse debutant Djimi Traore. A short corner followed and a cross from Konch which was headed over by Zamora.
Two minutes later and the game changed completely again after Traore got a second yellow for deliberately getting in the way of a quick free kick which Bowyer had the presence of mind to take.
Short corners were a feature of our game today and they always seemed to find Charlton half asleep. On 28 minutes a layoff to Bowyer saw an excellent cross to find Z-man unmarked in the box. He did everything right by heading back across the keeper, who made a brilliant reflex save. The ball was bundled in by Marlon, but his effort was ruled out for a push.
Marlon the diver
On 34 minutes, Yossi managed to keep a ball in play close to the corner flag and managed a good cross. There was chaos in the Charlton box and Marlon appeared to go down under a challenge which Howard Webb considered to be simulation leading to a yellow card.
Two minutes later Tyrone Mears went on a powerful run down the right wing and succeeded in delivering a dangerous cross, but Zamora pushed Luke Young in the back as the ball came over and this was spotted by the ref.
A lot of our movement was down the right and on 38 minutes, Yossi got into a good position and looped in a threatening ball near the penalty spot, but Zamora and Bowyer got in each otherís way and the move fizzled out. A minute later we almost got back on level terms after Marlon powered a shot across the goal which was parried one handed by Carson. This was swiftly followed by a terrific shot by Mears who had latched onto a pass from another corner. He blasted a swerving shot just wide of the right hand upright from a good 25 yards out which left the keeper rooted to the spot.
That was the final noteworthy chance of the half, but just prior to the interval, Luke Young was booked for kicking the ball away.
Iíve heard it all before
Some of the new faces around me at half time were trotting out a rather boring critique of Zamora which contained the usual stuff about him not being up to Premiership standard. The reality was that heíd had a pretty decent half and he would make them eat their words in the second half, although it goes without saying those that are quick to slag players off never admit that they were talking sh*te when a player comes good.
Unlike the pre-Pardew West Ham teams of recent years, there is a resilience and bounce back ability which always seems to come good when we go behind. We were one nil down in the first game of last season and won, and our record of being the come back kings of the Premiership last season was undisputed. Thatís why I wasnít with the doom and gloom merchants at half time.
Get your shirt printed here
Ghanaian World Cup star John Paintsil was brought on at the start of the half for Mears, although the club had failed to spell his name correctly on the back of his shirt. You do wonder whether we have a valid contract with the right back and you can imagine Paul Aldridge running off to check if they got his name right on that rather important piece of paper. Always fills you with confidence the administration of our club.
It took around six minutes for the one man superiority to come good. Once again, Bowyer was at the heart of a move down the right and he managed to play in an excellent low cross form near the corner flag. With play taking place at the far end from us, it looked like the cross evaded everybody except Zamora who was waiting at the far post about two yards out to joyously slot home with his left foot.
El Rocket Ron
It was just the start we needed and it set us up nicely to try and repeat the turnaround against Blackburn of twelve months before. Charlton attempted to respond and nearly got a second goal after El Karkouri rocketed a free kick from the edge of the centre circle. With these lighter balls, it always seems worth a dig and it certainly surprised Carroll who could only parry and then collect at the second time of asking.
On 55 minutes, Paintsil showed the first signs of his undoubted quality when he advanced forward and put over a nice cross which just evaded the head of Z-man. Three minutes later, we won a free kick just outside the box, but Yossi squandered a good opportunity with a shot over the wall which didnít dip as he clearly intended.
Hasselwa*nk, who always seemed to score for fun against us when he was at Chelsea was substituted for Marcus Bent on 63 minutes, and just after this, Konch received a yellow card after a late sliding tackle in the centre circle.
Sure plays a mean pinball
Then on 65 minutes, Z-man got a second pinball goal after Bowyer had been very clever with a turn on the left hand side of the box. He beat his man and then sent over a strange looking cross behind Zamora who somehow managed to kick it back towards goal and onto the left hand upright. It seemed to take an eternity, but the ball ran along and then over the line with a defender desperately trying to clear. Not really a contender for goal of the season but no-one around me seemed too bothered by that.
Two minutes after the goal, the classy Paintsil glided down the right and put through a great pass to find Konch and he fed Marlon running across the right hand edge of the box. He tried a snapshot but wasnít quite balanced and the ball went wide. Then on 70 minutes, Yossi nearly lobbed the keeper in the box as he raced to get there first. Carson did well to stand up and parry the Israeliís effort.
Fatty Reid came on for Hughes on 71 minutes, but this was ust a precursor to the West Ham move of the match as Zamora laid off a ball to Mullins in a central position leading to a sublimely weighted ball to Bowyer who advanced on goal and unleashed a tremendous shot which hit the foot of the left hand post. If that had gone in we would have had an early contender for goal of the season.
Charlton had been penned in their own half for long periods, but on a rare move on 74 minutes, they had the ball in the back of the West Ham net following a challenge in the box on Carroll. The ref decided that the ball had been kicked out of the grasp of Carroll and the goal was disallowed.
With one minute of ordinary time left, the ref awarded a foul against Yossi down the right and then gave a free kick to Charlton after consulting with his linesman. This incensed the West Ham crowd and it led to the best Charlton chance of the half as Sorondo got his head on it with Carroll in no-manís land. Fortunately he got too much head on it and it sailed high and over.
Plenty of time to score
4 minutes additional time was announced and in what had to be a move to run the clock down, Carlton Cole was brought on for Marlon. A throw in followed and Bowyer skilfully lifted a pass over the top of the Charlton defence to send Cole away on his virgin run down the right wing. He took one touch, powered into the box and smashed a shot under Carson into the net. That had to be a sub twenty second debut goal.
The remaining couple of minutes passed without incident and we had repeated the feat of last yearís season opener with a 3-1 win.
Charlton, like Blackburn last year looked well below par and for large parts of the game, we were in control. The sending off was important, but there were signs that even if that hadnít have happened, we still would have prevailed. Bowyer was ever-present and involved in all the key moments of the match. He was quite a revelation.
If he can keep this up, he will convince the sceptics. It was also encouraging that we showed that we have the strength in depth up front to shrug off the major blow of losing a first choice striker. I also have to say that I like the look of Paintsil, although it was not possible to get a clear picture of his defending abilities. I would also say that Mullins had an effective game in the middle. He was in hunting mode, closing players down, getting his foot in at the right moment and playing through some very nice passes.
All very encouraging and letís hope that this seasonís start will prove to be as good an omen as last seasonís. Three more points at Watford midweek and we will all start believing that we are set for further progress under Pardew.
There was one final surreal moment for me on the way home as I saw a fan in a replica shirt with ĎDefoeí on the back of it. As much as I have argued in the past that it was a mistake to sell the diminutive striker when we did, even I would admit that itís time for that guy to leave that particular shirt at the bottom of the laundry basket.
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A fair start for Carroll who was rarely challenged due to West Ham's domination. Guessed correctly for Bent's penalty but didn't stand a chance.
A decent debut for the former Preston man.
Good performance against his former club. Seemed to enjoy going head to head with former team-mate Luke Young, who to all intents and purposes should have been playing alongside Konch this season.
Both of West Ham's centre halfs suffered a nervy start but soon got into the groove.
On another day he might have seen red for the handbasll which led to Charlton's penalty. As per last week against Olympiakos, he struggled to come to terms with the pace of the game.
Another great effort in the hole. He also cropped up in vital positions further forward, such as when his interception began the move which led to the first goal.
Buzzed about and looked a little more settled that last weekend.
Had a major hand in all three goals and hit the post himself. Rode out some harsh treatment from one or two Charlton players - a great start to his second spell at the club.
Although stationed on the left he found plenty of opportunity to come inside - which he did. Could have scored the first goal of the season had he been a couple of inches taller.
Not his greatest game but nobody will be complaining. His two goals turned the game around completely - even if the second has more than a touch of fortune to it.
Worked hard again and was slightly unlucky to have had his header disallowed for what appeared to be the slightest of pushes.
(Replaced Mears, 45) Brought on for Tye Mears in order to give the Hammers more options going forward - which he did. Although he doesn't look the strongest of full-backs he's certainly quick.
(Replaced Zamora, 82) Teddy became the oldest player to play in the Premiership today.
(Replaced Harewood, 90+2) 24 seconds after coming on he had scored his first goal for the club. Not a bad record.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Lee Bowyer.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Tyrone Mears, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Yossi Benayoun, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Bobby Zamora 52 Bobby Zamora 66 Carlton Cole 90 .
Booked: Marlon Harewood 35 Paul Konchesky 65 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Carson, Young, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traore, Ambrose, Holland, Faye, Hughes, Hasselbaink, D.Bent..
Substitutes: Sorondo (Ambrose 29), M.Bent (Hasselbaink 64), Reid (Hughes 71).
Subs not used: Myhre, Rommedahl.
Goals: D.Bent (15 pen).
Booked: Traore (23), Young (47)..
Sent Off: Traore (26)..