Sunday, 17th September 2006
This game was important to us: could we get over last Thursday’s disappointment and get back on the winning trail in the league? Whoever won was going to end up above the other at the end of the day.
In these days of the new West Ham, you turn up wondering who is going to start. The South American offer we couldn’t refuse is clearly causing real problems for the manager. It used to be so straightforward.
On this occasion it was time for Yossi Benayoun – normally a no-brainer start for the Irons - to sit on the bench to accommodate the Argentineans, with Matty lined up down the left and Bowyer down the right. The back four was the same as for the UEFA Cup game: Mears, Anton, Gabbidon and Konchesky. Zamora, the Premiership’s top scorer also had to start, meaning that Marlon, the understated cog in last year’s West Ham machine was left out, much to my dismay.
The opening signs were hopeful, especially after 8 minutes when Tevez curled a great free kick over the Newcastle wall to hit the cross bar following a hack down of Matty on the left hand edge of the box by Parker. A couple of minutes after that Mears hit a deep cross to the far post but Zamora could only get a weak head on it.
Tevez was really catching the eye as well. He was running around like a man possessed, hungry for the ball and happy to chase lost causes.
The Swede returns
For a moment it looked like the tw*t that had reffed the Palermo game had metamorphosed into Rob Styles on 13 minutes as a Newcastle move saw what looked like a clear foul on Gabbidon and handball from Ameobi, allowing the ball to spin out to new signing Obafemi Martins. He had time to place his shot, but fired wastefully past Carroll’s left hand post.
There was a repeat of the free kick position on the edge of the Newcastle box on 17 minutes after Zamora was fouled. Tevez tried his luck again this time with a lower shot, but Shay Given was equal to it and gathered comfortably low down.
West Ham appeared to have the upper hand at this point, but the performance was still being marred by sloppy passing. Z-man provided the most obvious example of that on 20 minutes as he got into a good position and hit a pass way too hard with Tevez running free down the right.
Newcastle tried a couple of speculative long range shots that came to nothing just after this, but they created a real chance on 23 minutes following a corner where Ameobi nearly slid in to score by Caroll’s right hand post following a rebound of the keeper.
On the half hour, Tevez let fly with a powerful goalbound shot which was blocked. He then managed to lay off a pass to Mears who hit a lamentable cross which should have been hit first time.
Mascherano wasn’t looking too comfortable in the middle of the park and gave the ball away not for the first time on 33 minutes, allowing Ameobi the chance to advance and shoot, but his shot was deflected wide off a defender.
Have a go
Then a minute later we were gifted a chance by a poor clearance by Given which went straight to Bowyer about 50 yards out. Stranded way outside his goal, Bowyer saw his chance and smacked a great shot goalwards. Unfortunately it dropped just the wrong side of the right hand upright with Given a helpless spectator willing it wide.
Lack of width and decent crossing seems to have plagued us recently, but better movement and delivery was achieved by Matty on 36 minutes. Tevez tried to get his head on the cross but was beaten to the ball. Just after this Mears failed again with a cross down the right after another Tevez lay off.
The final minutes to half time were scrappy and there were bookings of Babayaro for a foul on Zamora, while the hapless Mears got a yellow for a messy body check on Duff. The last half chance fell to Newcastle on 42 minutes as a poorly headed clearance by Anton allowed Martins to fire a 30 yard shot well wide.
More of the same
There wasn’t a lot of quality on display from either side during the first 45 and our play was pretty much a continuation of that seen on Thursday. We lacked energy, the ability to cross a decent ball and the creative spark in midfield.
In an attempt to raise our spirits we were then treated to a Hammerette-free interval with a ginger geezer doing some pretty impressive ball juggling in the centre circle. My attitude to this suddenly changed when I recalled when I had last seen a show like this. It was at the Wales v Brazil game at the cradle of filth, London N17. I shall be writing to the board of West Ham indicating that I will not countenance any more lillysh*te inspired so called entertainment at the Boleyn Ground.
Next came a fan challenge where two West Ham fans and tow Newcastle fans were given the chance to show how good they were (or more accurately, the chance to humiliate themselves) at head tennis. The Irons managed 12 over two goes while the Geordies f*cked up and only managed 10. What jolly fun. Not. I was more depressed at the end of half time than I was at the beginning of it.
My spirits were not entirely raised by the replacement of Tevez by Marlon at the re-start. Unlike some, I’m always glad to see Marlon on the pitch, but I’m not sure that Zamora should have been kept on in preference to the Argentinean. This in fact is all part of the ‘tinker time’ that the new signings have brought – I can’t recall a time last season when a striker was changed at half time.
The General loses a battle
Things went from bad to worse just four minutes in when Mascherano came out second best in midfield tackle with Martins, allowing Duff to be sent on his way out left. The Irishman took his goal very well firing in a clinical shot across Carroll from the left hand side of the box. The first time the barcodes had scored away from home this season and it had to be at Upton Park.
The West Ham of last season made a habit of coming back from goal deficits, but the immediate signs after the Duff strike were not encouraging. Our game became a lot of long balls and failure to come out on top in 50/50 tackles. Zamora also seemed to have lost his touch on the edge of the box.
Nothing positive happened for us at all for a full twenty minutes and Pardew came to the inevitable conclusion that a change had to be made. It was a double substitution with the arrival of Yossi and Mullins for Mears and Mascherano.
Probably the first decent ball in from the right side came on 71 minutes when Yossi sent over a cross which Marlon headed wide. A minute later, new signing Sibierski came on for Ameobi and he almost immediately went on a cross field run which resulted in a powerful shot over the bar from thirty yards.
Gabbs blows it
On 73 minutes, Moore was booked for a cynical tackle and West Ham attempted a quick take which was not to the liking of Styles. Marlon was not impressed by that and he got booked for dissent. The free kick was taken and Yossi tried a shot which looked like it had been beaten down by a Newcastle arm. The ball almost immediately then got passed up the other end where Gabbidon made an awful hash of a tackle allowing Martins to gleefully run forward and get his first goal for his new club.
There was little sign of any hope from this point onwards. There was a decent opportunity with a free kick on the edge of the box after Mullins was brought down by Parker, but Konchesky fired just wide from a ball rolled backwards in his direction. Konch then rounded off a miserable afternoon by getting a booking on 77 minutes after he clumsily took out Milner and then allowing Martins to shrug him off like he wasn’t there two minutes later.
Rob Styles bottled it on 82 minutes after Zamora was fouled from behind in the centre circle by Scott Parker who had already been carded. If that wasn’t a second booking, I don’t know what is.
The final incident of note was a couple of minutes from full time, when Marlon tried to latch onto a ball and ended up sliding straight into Given. While both were getting treatment and for reasons best known to him, Roeder decided to start waving to the Newcastle fans. This was tantamount to a red rag to a bull given the frustrations of the afternoon and it sparked a lot of anger in the crowd. “You’re the reason we went down”, they roared in a collective schoolboy error of mistaken identity.
No, the reason we went down was the result of errors of a man sitting in plush surroundings way above Roeder’s head. Errors which saw no investment in the team during the close season before we went down; the selection of Roeder in the first place; and then the failure to replace him when the world and his dog knew it was time to bring in someone else. And the reward demanded by the man responsible for these errors? Only a cool £100 million, according to today’s press. Sex and travel spring to mind, Terry. F*ck off.
This was a truly depressing game to watch; in fact I can’t remember a worse performance at home since we got back into the top tier. It underlined once again – in case you hadn’t already worked it out - that the windfall from Brazil is no panacea. The ingredients for success from last year – energy, commitment, team spirit and a never say die attitude were all absent. Pardew is being turned into ‘tinkerman’ by default and players that consistently performed well last year: Marlon, Yossi, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Gabbidon and Konchesky look well below par or are wondering where they fit in. We look like a team which is confused and lacking in confidence.
I know that we have the resources and ability to get back on track. It would be very nice to try and turn this around at the Eastlands Stadium next Saturday where Man City are clearly struggling with their form. I really do not want to go up there again and suffer abuse over chips and gravy from my mate Gilo the Manc and his bunch of northern monkey pals. Come on boys, let’s f*cking sort it out.
(Player Ratings by Graeme Howlett)
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Made a couple of important saves in the first half but there are question marks over his cover of the far post for the first goal. There was little he could do about the second though.
A decent effort, especially when taking into consideration the fact that he shouldn't have started due to illness.
Konch is all over the place at the moment. His passing is simply dreadful; George McCartney must be the only Hammer happy with his recent performances. One hopes that class will eventually shine through.
Nothing outstandingly bad but like the rest of the defence he didn't exactly exude confidence.
Another dreadful error that led to the second goal, Gabbs is another woefully out of sorts right now. James Collins must be a close call for Man City.
Clearly a cut above the rest but he seemed to struggle a little today - which is hardly surprising as this was only his second game.
Another desperately disappointing performace from a player who is capable of so much more. Were he not Pardew's captain he could well have spent more time on the bench of late.
Got stuck in against his former team-mates but struggled to make an impact. The 'audacious' attempt at goal was a beautiful thing though.
Something has not been quite right with Matty since he returned to first team action. And why was he mainly playing in the centre of midfield in the final 20 minutes? Strange ...
Despite leading the Premiership goal charts we're yet to see a really decent overall performance from Bob this season. Of course you can't complain when he's baging in the goals - but he didn't today.
Our biggest threat and you could almost feel the relief from the away fans when it was announced that he would not be coming out for the second half.
(Replaced Tevez, 45) A player who is more than capable of changing the game from the bench. Not today though, where his only notable contribution was booting Shay Given in the nether regions.
(Replaced Mascherano, 67) A slight fitness worry prevented the magical Israeli from starting today, and we were all the poorer for it. We miss our only creative force desperately when he's not playing.
(Replaced Mears, 67) Many would shiver at the thought of Mullins playing at right-back again. But to be fair, he didn't really put a foot wrong today.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Javier Mascherano.
West Ham United
Roy Carroll, Tyrone Mears, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Javier Mascherano, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Bobby Zamora, Carlos Tevez.
Booked: Tyrone Mears 45 Marlon Harewood 74 Paul Konchesky 78 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Given, Carr, Moore, Ramage, Babayaro, Milner, Parker, Emre, Duff, Martins, Ameobi.
Substitutes: Sibierski (Ameobi 72), Harper (Given 86), Butt (Emre 90+3).
Subs not used: N'Zogbia, Rossi.
Goals: Duff (50), Martins (75).
Booked: Babayaro (41), Moore (74), Parker (77).
Sent Off: None sent off..