Tuesday, 22nd August 2006
Chateau ESM has a perfectly formed 80 cm dish on the back of it capable of receiving the Egyptian based ART Sport channels, plus, I confess, some very strange Bulgarian porn channels which naturally are of no interest to me. This splendid yet somewhat foreign addition to the Victorian architecture assures me of live coverage of every West Ham game.
The only problem is that it’s a f*cking lottery trying to work out what ART channel is showing what game when there are several on at the same time. This is rather important if you are relying on setting the DVD recorder because you have to be elsewhere. Take last night. Imagine what kind of a smacked ar*e face I would have had if I came home to watch the mighty Irons only to see Uncle Fester and 90 minutes of coverage from Sh*te Hart Lane instead.
It doesn’t bear thinking about. Happily by some miracle I managed to glean that West Ham were on ART3, but it’s keeping me awake at night. If there are any Arabic-speaking Irons out there, for f*ck’s sake get in touch.
Fortunately the commentary is in English and last night ex-Iron Tony Gale was the summariser. The first thing he said as the teams lined up was “Alan Pardew seems to have gone for an unconventional system tonight”.
Three centre backs
Too right. It looked like 5-3-2 with three centre backs in the shape of Collins, Ferdinand and Gabbidon. Paintsil was preferred over Mears, Konch was down the left, while the three man midfield comprised Mullins, Bowyer and Reo-Coker. The manager kept the faith with Zamora and Marlon up front.
The first move of the game came on three minutes and involved Watford wide left man Bouazza who beak free after Z-man was beaten to the ball. Fortunately his cross was too close to Carroll who gathered safely.
On 11 minutes, the first appalling decision of the night took place as a long speculative ball forward reached Zamora who was ruled offside. A minute later, the increasingly impressive Paintsil chipped a lovely pass forward to Bowyer in the box but he was also flagged offside as he outstretched his foot to control the ball.
Zamora, who seems to be particularly wound up this season - no doubt because of the suspicion that he may not be central to Pardew’s plans - appeared to lose it big time with the ref over standing far enough away from a throw-in. Immediately afterwards on 16 minutes, Marlon won a ball off Chris Powell but then went stumbling off to the right when a pass to his left to Z-man looked the obvious thing to do.
One of the reasons for the five at the back was clearly to add something extra to the defence at set pieces. There were a few, including long throws by Doyley, which were cut out well including a good clearance by Anton after a Watford flick on.
The second appalling decision of the match came on 22 minutes when Lee Bowyer was unceremoniously scythed down coming out of defence. The ref was not interested. Two minutes later Paintsil did well to retrieve a pass and send over a good cross from the right, but Z-man decided to dummy this to let in a non-existent West Ham player.
Watford made their best move of the match on 25 minutes after the dangerous Bouazza broke again down the right. The young Frenchman put a dangerous low cross in and the impressive Marlon King beat Anton to the ball. It looked like he had applied the perfect steer, but only succeeded in hitting the bottom of the left hand post. Anton was first on the scene to clear.
With just over half of the first period gone, it was pretty obvious that the team were finding it difficult to adapt to the unfamiliar system. We were playing too deep, while the central defenders looked reluctant to venture out to the flanks to cut down the wide play.
Bowyer tried a neat back heel in the box on 28 minutes but Reo-Coker seemed slow to react to it and he was closed down. A minute later, another talented Watford player, Ashley Young, attempted an overhead kick which went tantalising close to the left hand post.
Half a head
Konch made a good run four minutes later and delivered a threatening cross which Z-man could only meet with a weak glancing header. He should have got a full head on that one.
The half finished with Anton conceding a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the box, but the resulting shot was blasted straight at the wall.
The half revealed a committed and pacey Watford team who appeared to be encouraged by the West Ham set up. The Hornets certainly had the lion’s share of possession and put a lot of pressure on the depleted West Ham midfield which seemed to be forced backwards on many occasions. You could imagine why West Ham might play that system in an away UEFA Cup leg, but Watford away?
JP is class act
The first West Ham move of note after the restart saw Paintsil place a cultured ball into the box and Marlon controlled this well but was ultimately closed down. Just after this on 51 minutes, Paintsil showed more of his class with some weaving and trickery down the right to find the space for a cross. Konch was steaming in at the far post headed reasonably well but straight at Foster in the Watford goal. Either side would have been a goal.
More Ghanaian magic followed a minute later when a terrific ball was sent over the top of the Watford defence only to find Marlon going too early and getting caught offside.
Francis found some space on the edge of the West Ham box on 54 minutes but he elected to shoot straight at Carroll rather than lay off a pass to his right where there was an overlap.
A minute after this, West Ham generated the best passing move of the match with quick and penetrative passing involving Reo Coker, Zamora and finally Bowyer whose shot along the ground was held easily by the ‘keeper.
Sensational strike cancelled out
Gabbidon gave a foul away on the edge of the box on the hour and this led to dangerous cross in which was headed poorly by Henderson and then ruled offside. Only two minutes later, Watford made the breakthrough with a sensational strike by Marlon King. The move started down the West Ham right and Young laid off a pass into the path of King around 22 yards hit. He hit a sweet, curling shot which Carroll didn’t even get a sniff at.
The bounce back kings of the Premiership then almost immediately corrected the score with a goal from nowhere. A high ball forward appeared to bounce off Marlon’s arm as he challenged in the centre circle. Konch picked up the pieces and ran into space down the flank. An excellent cross was fired in behind the defence but in front of the ‘keeper and there was Zamora waiting to hit a first time volley into the ground and into the net off the underside of the cross bar.
Pardew had clearly decided to change it after the Watford goal but the equaliser did not revise his move to bring off Marlon and Gabbidon for Teddy and Yossi on 65 minutes. Two minutes later we were very fortunate not to concede a second time after King got clear down the right and put in a cross which Anton did superbly well to clear. A long throw followed with a flick on that Paintsil did well to clear for a corner, stooping rather awkwardly. The corner saw the immensely powerful Shittu – who looks more like a heavyweight boxer than a professional footballer – outjump everybody but put his bullet header over the bar. It is difficult to imagine just how fearsome he looks when he comes muscling in.
There was more panic for the West Ham defence on 69 minutes after the ref waved play on after Anton committed a foul twenty yards out. The rest of the defence hesitated expecting a whistle, while a pass was made to find dangerman King yet again. He fired in a low cross which the desperately returning Anton slid into like a gambling striker. How Carroll kept his shot out almost defied belief.
Back to a more familiar style
The change back to 4-4-2 by West Ham was beginning to pay dividends with slower build up play in midfield and greater holding of the ball. One of these more deliberate passages of play on 70 minutes led to a cross by Konch to the far post which was exquisitely cushioned back to Zamora who made a bit of a snatched shot with is right foot. The effort from just outside of the six yard box went wide of the post.
Watford took Bouazza off for their Hungarian U21 striker, Priskin on 72 minutes in an attempt to find the winner. The threat from the home side was maintained and on 78 minutes Henderson easily outjumped Paintsil and headed over when he should have hit the target.
Zamora was replaced by Carlton Cole on 82 minutes to see if he could repeat his 20 second goal after he came on as a sub against Charlton. His sole real chance came 5 minutes later when a nice switch of play by Teddy allowed Paintsil to deliver an inviting cross. Unfortunately Cole couldn’t get his header on target.
The final move of note came in the three minutes of added time, when another Watford long throw saw the inevitable flick on and a failed overhead kick by Marlon King.
Right or wrong, we didn’t lose
This was one of those games that the West Ham of old would have lost. Whilst the tactics of Pardew could be questioned, it was clear that they had been designed to try and snuff out the Watford set piece plays. To this extent they worked, but also had the baggage of ceding midfield to the opposition. We were fortunate to survive the onslaught.
At the end of the day, we remain unbeaten after two games and you will always take that at the beginning of a new campaign. The sterner test will be up in Mickey Mouserville where we try to end our 44 year record of no wins at Anfield. I’ll take the draw.
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A commanding performance - as it needed to be due to the sheer number of high balls Watford pumped into his six-yard area. Made one fantastic stop to avert Anton Ferdinand's backwards slice; had little chance with the goal.
Once again he looked fantastic driving forward down the right flank - and once again there are question marks over his ability to defend competently. Should Pardew's attempts to land a right-winger prove fruitless, and from what we've witnessed thus far this season, one suspects he could do worse than look at our favourite Ghanaian as a possible solution.
Konch enjoyed the freedom of the left-hand side when playing as a wing-back as he did for the first hour or so. The cross for Zamora's goal was inch-perfect, although he whould have been celebrating a goal for himself had he directed his second-half close-range header more accurately. Defensively? Like our entire back five, he had his wobbly moments.
Anton struggled tonight against Watford's big strikers, and had Roy Carroll to thank for saving his blushes when he made a hash of a clearance late on in the game. Had a hard time of it as a result of being continuously pressured by the opposition. "Worse than your brother" sang the home fans; not the biggest insult really, when you consider that Rio was one of only two England players to escape with any praise from England's recent World Cup debacle.
Danny missed the entire pre-season calender this year, and it shows. He looks a long way from the player we saw last year at present, and his fitness is clearly lacking. Rightly replaced when Pardew changed to a 4-4-2 formation midway through the second period.
Just about the pick of the three centre-halfs on show tonight, Collins - in for his first game of the season - increased his reputation further with a decent display. Earned the biggest (non goal-related) cheer of the night for a diving (and somewhat dramatic) headed clearance in the first-half.
Given little time and space on the ball, Mullins had a tough night as part of a three-man midfield. His distribution was poor at times and he struggled to impose himself on the game.
Like Danny Gabbidon, his lack of a pre-season has affected his early Premiership performances. With Matthew Etherington nearing fitness once again, it will be interesting to see how the captain fares, as he has been the weakest midfield link in the Hammers opening two fixtures.
He was exceptional on Saturday against Charlton but the game seemed to pass him by a little tonight. Like his two fellow midfielders he struggled to cope with the extra man and Watford's quick, incisive passing. Improved a fair bit after he moved to the right when Pardew went 4-4-2.
As on Saturday, if you discount his goal/s there wasn't any major contribution of which to speak. However a striker's job is to hit the back of the net, after all, and Bob has done so more than anyone else in the league so far.
The big man had one of his off nights, and was rarely involved to any great degree. Substituted late in the second half by Teddy Sheringham.
(Replaced Gabbidon, 66) Brought on to exploit the space on the left hand side, Yossi rarely found himself with the ball at his feet during his 25 minutes on the pitch. Made a couple of good runs and was involved in one or two moves but there was little to write home about.
(Replaced Harewood, 66) Played an effective role in several late Hammers attacks, although found himself waiting for the ball for long periods such was Watford's dominance.
(Replaced Zamora, 83) Alan Pardew was perhaps hoping that Cole would repeat his heroics of Saturday when he scored after being on the pitch for less than 30 seconds. Sadly it wasn't to be.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Roy Carroll.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, John Paintsil, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Bobby Zamora 65 .
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Foster, Doyley, DeMerit, Shittu, Powell, Francis, Mahon, Bouazza, Young, King, Henderson.
Substitutes: Spring (Mahon 45), Priskin (Bouazza 73).
Subs not used: Lee, Stewart, Mackay.
Goals: King (63).
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..