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Premiership
Sunday, 1st October 2006

West Ham United 0
Reading 1

by Nick Bull


God bless the Upton Park entertainment team. In the past we’ve been treated to the Hammerettes, football Jugglers and now, to coincide with a pre-match downpour, weather-related songs over the PA system. Brilliant, a touch of genius from those cultured pop-pickers. Granted, they only played handful of such tracks, but I’m sure it made those caught up in the English Autumn delighted. I ran up a list of such compositions that could have been blasted out, sadly ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ went amiss. With conditions and subsequent football like it was, that would have been even more apt.

There is no doubting now, surely, how hard this second season is going to be. Perhaps that is the wrong way of addressing things. The last campaign was difficult – this one even more so. The whole unpredictability of the team of a year ago has gone; I’ve heard that is why Reading are a tricky side to beat. After seeing their display today, I’m not convinced.

They are definitely worse than Newcastle and Manchester City (two recently sides to defeat the Irons), and were equally as lucky to face this current West Ham struggling for goals, confidence and generally convincing displays. I remain convinced that, had the season not have declined in this last month as it has, their trip back to Berkshire would have been pointless.

In the end, their performance was a typical ‘smash and grab’. They must be pretty enjoyable if it is your side who gambles with such tactics and win, similarly losing to it is a pretty hollow feeling. The winning goal was a sweet shot, but Benayoun’s defending was rather amateurish. The timing was not ideal either; the crowd were deflated heavily for some time after the strike. The travelling supporters were understandably delirious, which is why I am smarting greatly. First Roeder, then Reading win at the Boleyn. Like the Newcastle manager two weeks back, those Royals in the Centenary Lower were enjoying every minute of it.

Unlike the particularly gutless performances against the Geordies and in Manchester last week, the display was nowhere near as lukewarm. For large periods of the game, the battle and determination that everyone has desired to return was present. Going a goal down so early on probably helped its reappearance – and the next two League games will require it greatly. The character of the side (again something debated amongst fans) also seemed to be rising again, though it will take games and goals (a win?) before it is back to where it should be.

My main concern is that we do not have time and are equally short in terms of scoring. I do not have figures, yet I would be happy to say this West Ham team have dominated possession in the last three home League games. That is all very well and good, but not enough chances are being created. Clear-cut opportunities were at a minimum yet again, long-range attempts hardly troubled Reading’s American goalkeeper. I feel quite confident in saying that it will be an own goal, a deflection or a dubious penalty that ends this barren run of not scoring.

The two up-top pairing of Cole and Tevez – a first this season – looked largely like the best pairing thus far. Get them playing together regularly and it could well work; sometimes their novelty factor was a little evident. They both tired in the second half, but Pardew’s changes did not assist much all told. Teddy put through a delightful pass in the team’s best move of the game, this aside his substitute appearance was quiet. Zamora did very little of note, and I felt sorry for Marlon who was never going to be able to do much in his paltry cameo role.

The manager confirmed after the game that his coaching team are trying to adapt Mascherano’s talents into the holding midfield role; I would tell the Argentinean to study how Hayden Mullins performed in the fixture. Seeing as I like the former Crystal Palace player, I am biased, but he was the Man Of The Match if you ask me. The doubters will not agree with me, as I think he benefits the team greatly.

Another player worthy of praise is Christian Dailly; someone else who has his fair share of critics. He read the game brilliantly, he looked good in the tackle and his distribution was generally secure. I do not expect him to continue in the heart of defence when the ‘big names’ return, so at least his performance will live in the memory as an impressive one.

To his right, Jonathon Spector made his home debut, and clearly showed that the Right Back slot isn’t his most comfortable along the back four. (His last appearance at the ground – for Charlton – was rather inauspicious in the same position). I wonder if is fitness is fully within him, knowing how bare the squad is defensively at present. A part of me wonders if he could do a job on the other side, especially with Konchesky playing as poorly as he is at the minute. His form since Eriksson picked him for the England – Argentina game nearly a year ago has been rather hit and miss.

I may be critical of Konch at the moment, yet his fall from grace is nowhere near as bad as Reo-Coker’s. He wasn’t back to his best last week, as Pardew said he was, and today he was un-influential once more. Whether his throwing of his shirt following his substitution was out of either (a)frustration from being removed from the field of play or (b)a sign of passion, my mind drifts to the former.

With no points being taken in the three Premiership games, the next two matches are massive. And anything but easy. Fratton Park is notoriously difficult, White Heart Lane will see a fired-up Tottenham side wanting to get revenge for the LasagneGate affair in May. Points are needed from them, be it one, two, three or even six – goals equally so. The break will hopefully allow minds and bodies to rest, which I feel is necessary after what the past month has thrown up. I just hope this happens, and no more Tabloid speculation comes to the forefront. That really would be a case of a bad moon rising…



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Could do little about the goal, an otherwise quiet afternoon for the Irishman. Harsh booking, his efforts to stop playacting should be commended.


Jonathan Spector
Often found on the wrong side of Reading midfielders. Did not offer an attacking outlet either.


Paul Konchesky
Still lacking form. Distribution very average.


Christian Dailly
Only Mullins outshone him. His experience proved a great help; his reading of the game was superb.


Danny Gabbidon
Did everything he was asked to do.


Hayden Mullins
Mullins doing what Mullins does best.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Hardly a captain’s display. A rest is needed – be it these forthcoming two weeks or the Portsmouth game – to get him back on track.


Yossi Benayoun
Found himself in some great positions, but was all to eager to pass instead of shoot. Unselfish, but not ruthless – at a time when the latter was needed. His attempt in the last minute (cleared off the line) is a great microcosm of how the Israeli an, and his side, played.


Matthew Etherington
Energetic performance, rarely a goal threat.


Carlos Tevez
Some flash touches were the highlight, his shooting was poor and sometimes wanted too long on the ball.


Carlton Cole
Energetic performance, rarely a goal threat.


Substitutes


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Tevez, 71) First appearance in over a month, but rather quiet.


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Cole, 72) Very quiet.


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 85) The last roll of the dice for the Manager, and Marlon had little chance to deliver.


Robert Green
Did not play.


Javier Mascherano
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: U.Rennie.

Attendance: 34,872.

Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Christian Dailly, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Carlton Cole.

Goals: None.

Booked: Carlton Cole 53 Roy Carroll 81 Teddy Sheringham 90 Paul Konchesky 93    .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Reading

Hahnemann, De la Cruz, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Sonko, Convey, Harper, Seol, Sidwell, Doyle, Lita..

Substitutes: Gunnarsson (Convey), Long (Lita), Hunt (Seol)..

Subs not used: .

Goals: Seol (2).

Booked: Seol (67), Long (87)..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Nick Bull's Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins


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