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Premiership
Saturday, 25th November 2006

West Ham United 1
Sheffield United 0

by East Stand Martin


I witnessed a fellow Eaststander purchase from the stadium ‘catering’ what could only be described as a toxic cup of coffee before the game today. There was something truly disgusting floating on the surface. “Now you know what killed that Russian geezer in the week”, I said as I handed out the number for NHS Direct.

The precious one

Just before kick off we had double eggs as not only the new Chairman arrived to much acclaim, but his grandson as well. The nipper was too far away to see if he also looked like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – that bloke is too ugly to run our club.

Unsurprisingly the manager decided to stick with the same starting lineup as was deployed against Chelsea, but the system was definitely 4-4-2 with Tevez and Z-man up front, Bowyer in the right of midfield, Matty out left and Hayden/Reo-Coker in the middle. The back four was Konch, Anton, Gabs and Spector with the non-stressed out Green in goal.

Waiting in the wings were Kiraly, Yossi, Marlon, McCartney and Teddy.

In the very first minute, Tevez got shrugged off a ball in much the way he described earlier in the week by having his legs “eaten”. This allowed Sheffield to break and win an early corner which came to nothing.

3 minutes in and Z-man won a free kick about 25 yards out. Tevez fancied it, but his shot hit the wall and bounced skywards. Zamora tried to wrap his foot around the ball as it came down, but to no avail.

Duck nearly broken

Just after this, Bowyer struck a nice long pass forward from a free kick which Tevez brought down beautifully. The Argie goal we’ve all been hankering after didn’t come though as he slotted the ball just wide after running into the box.

West Ham’s second gift of the game came on 6 minutes as Bowyer needlessly gave the ball away allowing a Sheffield break down the West Ham right. Fortunately the cross in was overhit.

There was some excellent movement on 10 minutes as Bowyer made an early diagonal run to collect a pass from Konch. He tried to slide a pass back from the edge of the box to Tevez who was lurking by the penalty spot, but this was cut out.

Zamora was maintaining his recent energetic form and he was unfortunate to see his cross cut out on 13 minutes following a nice interchange with Matty. A minute later, Bowyer was guilty again as he gave the ball away and we were lucky not to concede a corner.

Tevez looked to be in an unequal battle with the Shittu-like Davis for a ball down the right flank on 17 minutes and the linesman flagged for a foul on the diminutive striker which the ref inexplicably decided to ignore and award the other way.

Close shave

Sheffield’s second corner came on 18 minutes down the West Ham left and this resulted in a downward header by Claude Davis which was deflected just wide at the foot of the post by Konch.

Bowyer got a Sheffield boot in his chest on 24 minutes and won a free kick on the right hand side of the box, but Matty’s shot was poor and way over the bar.

Konch was looking a bit fragile at the back and not for the first time appeared to panic on 26 minutes with ball at his feet. The result was that his clearance came straight back.

Gillespie was posing the biggest threat and on 27 minutes he dispatched a dangerous cross in from the Sheffield right which Anton did well to clear standing centrally in front of goal. Immediately after this, Montgomery was booked for taking out Reo-Coker in the centre circle.

You go over there for a change

On the half hour, Konch gave the ball away yet again and a bizarre tactical move switched Matty out right with Bowyer taking over down the left. Whether this was a move to try and make the space in front of Konch better defended or simply to confuse the opposition, it was not clear. I didn’t get it myself – and I can’t think of an occasion in the last three seasons when the left-footer has been sent out to the wrong wing.

On 33 minutes Matty got is first chance to try out his unfamiliar right-sided role. He naturally adjusted back onto his left side and the cross was cut out.

Arriving late as an art form

A minute later we created the best chance of the half so far when Zamora tricked Davis down the right and advanced into the box. He seemed to have bags of time and he squared the ball to the waiting Bowyer who was crowded out and his shot deflected for a corner. Our new right winger stepped up to take the corner and this was delivered to the near post where Anton got a flick on. Mullins saw this coming and made a late run in very similar to one he had made against Blackburn. He had a free and easy header into the net for his second of the season.

Konch made his best contribution so far when he managed to send over a half decent cross on 38 minutes. But who was this steaming in at the far post? It was Matty and his header went wide.

Tevez got his foot in superbly on 40 minutes to win a ball, but he then undid his good work by wastefully passing the ball to the opposition. Much better defensive work two minutes later saw Shaun Matty-Phillips pick up the ball down the right and deliver a good cross with Tevez attempting an abortive scissors kick in the box.

Tevez was involved in two further incidents before the whistle was blown for half time. First he did a Ronaldinho-type trick, looking one way and passing another and then he tried a 25 yard shot following nice interplay with Bowyer. Kenny saw it all the way and gathered down low.

Down at their level

We definitely shaded the first half, but it was not a dominant display. We only managed one distant shot on goal in addition to the goal and the lack of real chances from open play was evident. Creative play was definitely lacking, with the emphasis on competing with the northerners at their level. The Blades were certainly combative and there were times when the ball looked too hot to handle for our defence and midfield, leading to misplaced passes or clearances which came straight back. On the plus side, Tevez showed more than last week at Chelsea and Bowyer was putting himself about.

Aaron Etherington returned back out left at the start of the second half as the experiment was abandoned. In the very first minute of the half, Quinn broke down the left after Zamora unnecessarily rushed a free kick. Law fired a shot away which went wide.

Konch was looking suspect defensively again on 51 minutes and was forced to concede a corner. A fluent move a minute later saw Tevez float a lovely cross over to Zamora who laid off a cushioned header to Reo-Coker who poorly scuffed a shot from inside the box.

Tevez was involved again on 56 minutes as industrious work on the edge of the box allowed him to lay off a pass to the waiting Reo-Coker who got a better connection on a shot this time but blasted wide.

Double trouble

A double booking for Hulse and Gillespie was dished out on 57 minutes as both players protested too much after ref Mike Riley decided that there had not been a foul near the byline. This in turn sparked a double substitution for The Blades a minute later with Kabba and Nade coming on for Quinn and Montgomery.

Gabbidon made the tackle of the match on the hour as he made a last ditch intervention to take the ball off Nade inside the box in a goalscoring position.

Zamora gave the ball away awfully on 62 minutes and this led to a break where Gabbs had to challenge Kabba. He made the tackle but went down like he’d been shot. “He’s done his hamstring, that's four to six weeks”, said ESM Jnr as the Welshman was carried away on a stretcher. While we were down to ten men Gillespie broke free down the right and sent in what looked like a devastating cross. Nade was waiting on the edge of the six yard box and slid in, but he somehow contrived to nudge the ball wide of the post.

Lawless

McCartney replaced Gabbidon on 63 minutes and a minute after the change, there was another Sheffield break down the right. It looked a certain goal as the ball came loose to Law inside the box but he spurned the chance and skewed his shot wide. An older head would have buried it.

Bowyer was cynically fouled on 65 minutes by Kozluk who went into Riley’s book. Rather surprisingly Tevez was then replaced by Teddy who got a rousing ovation as he went off.

Hayden Mullins gave away a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the box on 66 minutes but the wall held the shot well. The ball was launched back in and it bounced dangerously as Spector headed upwards rather than out. Davis got his head on it, but Green dived gracefully to his right to grab the ball as it looked to be just sneaking inside the post.

Thunder, lightening, the way you love me is frightening….

At this point the heavens opened with a thunder storm and you wondered whether this might affect the final part of the game. West Ham picked up a corner on 69 minutes and it was almost a repeat of the goal as once again a flick on resulted at the near post. Teddy tried to get a head on it at the far post but this was only weakly on target allowing an easy save.

Marlon replaced Zamora on 71 minutes and two minutes after this change McCartney got a boot in the head following a scramble in the box. He seemed to recover quickly.

Gillespie, probably Sheffield’s greatest threat, was taken off on 75 minutes presumably because he’d run out of steam. Kazim-Richards came on.

Anton had to be alert to make a great saving intervention on 76 minutes as the ball was whipped in from the right following a quick free kick. He expertly diverted the cross over the bar.

There was always the chance of a counter attack and Spector broke free down the right on 77 minutes. He ran into the box and then went down under what looked like a push from behind. The linesman flagged it and Riley, who clearly had no idea what had happened, awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Teddy took it quickly but Bowyer couldn’t take advantage of a good position in the box.

A present for you Reo

Bowyer found himself in a good position again following a quick break down the right on 80 minutes, but he was forced wide and away from goal. A minute later he pursued a ball down the left, beat a defender and shipped over a nice cross which looked gift-wrapped for Reo-Coker in the box, but our captain fluffed his volley.

Mullins was booked for a professional foul in the centre of midfield on 82 minutes.

An opportunity opened up for Leigertwood with six minutes of ordinary time left. It was well worth a try with the extremely greasy conditions, but Green saw the 25 yards shot coming and grasped it to his body.

The weather made it all a bit frantic and Bowyer was booked on 85 minutes for a professional foul after he slipped over and lost the ball. Three minutes later, we all held our breath as a ricochet off Anton left Kazim-Richards in acres of space on the right side of the box. He had time to measure up a shot and tried to curl the ball inside the far post. Fortunately his technique was lacking.

In the final minute of ordinary time, Mullins nearly got a second as a pass was threaded through to him in the box. He couldn’t quite get his balance right and he scudded in a shot which was dealt with easily by Kenny.

Raining down

A nervy four minutes of added time followed where balls were raining into our box. A great chance fell to Marlon in the 92nd minute after Teddy made a slide-rule pass to set him onto a one-on-one with the keeper. Paddy Kenny came and was never going to make it, but Marlon’s little jink agonisingly evaded the post with the whole of Boleyn Ground thinking that he had scored.

The final incident of the game was controversial. It resulted from a foul by Reo-Coker in the centre circle. The free kick was taken a second time as Riley was unhappy for some reason. The ball in was only partially cleared and as another spiralling ball was delivered in, Green came to punch but appeared to get only half a fist on it. The ball spun out to a waiting Blade who stuck it in the back of the net only for the goal to be disallowed, presumably for the challenge on Green. It was a goal which would have stood when football was still considered to be a contact sport, but we were hardly complaining.

A minger you wish you hadn’t woke up with

We did well to hold our own in the second half and in many respects a draw would not have been an unfair result. This was not the beautiful game, more like its ugly sister. The difference was that we had a little more in the final third, and The Blades are clearly suffering form the loss of their key finisher, Danny Webber.

We learnt afterwards that Tevez had been none too impressed with his substitution and as a result had decided to run off home like a spoilt brat before the end of the game. The point of his change for Teddy was surely that he would be better placed to help defend set pieces and is the master of the hold-up play to wind down the clock. It was a tactical move rather than a judgement of the Argentinean’s performance which had been encouraging but hardly outstanding.

Despite the noises to the contrary, it really does look like the crystallisation of the takeover by Gollum has led to Tevez making his own conclusions about his future at Upton Park. It will be very interesting to see how Pardew handles this one. To me, the whole Argentinean experiment was a dodgy deal linked to a takeover that didn’t happen. A funny deal is always a funny deal. Although I do believe that these two South Americans are special talents, I am now at the point where there is logic in drawing a line under something which has unfortunately been an artificial and disruptive distortion of our team. We need to move on and Gollum needs to be un-Brown like in being decisive on this one in consultation with the manager.

(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
One good save, a few less testing ones but might be a tad lucky to have got away with the disallowed goal.


Jonathan Spector
Continues to impress on the right.


Paul Konchesky
Ok on the ground but lost out a lot in the air where he was targeted by the opposition.


Anton Ferdinand
Battled well and dealt with the route one stuff admirably.


Danny Gabbidon
Was playing well up to his untimely finish. Hopefully his hamstring problem isn’t as bad as it looks.


Hayden Mullins
Another excellent performance capped with a deserved goal. harshly booked.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Got into promising positions on a number of occasions only to muff the shot.


Lee Bowyer
Seemed a yard off the pace and slipped over a lot – I know it was wet but other players didn’t seem to have the same problem.


Matthew Etherington
A lot of hard work on both wings. Nice corner for the goal.


Carlos Tevez
Continues to improve and can consider himself unlucky to be sacrificed towards the end. May be a few grand out of pocket on Monday though.


Bobby Zamora
A lot of running and hard work but the time is approaching when that won’t be enough – never really looked like scoring.


Substitutes


George McCartney
(Replaced Gabbidon, 64) Coped alright once he’d settled down alongside Anton.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Tevez, 66) Some good touches and nearly set up Harewood.


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Zamora, 73) Put himself about a bit but ought to have nicked the second when through on goal.


Gabor Kiraly
Did not play.


Yossi Benayoun
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: A.Riley.

Attendance: 34,454.

Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Hayden Mullin 36                  .

Booked: Hayden Mulins 83 Lee Bowyer 86        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Sheffield United

Kenny, Kozluk, Jagielka, Geary, Leigertwood, Davis, Law, Quinn, Montgomery, Gillespie, Hulse.

Substitutes: Nade (Quinn 59), Kabba (Montgomery 59), Kazim-Richards (Gillespie 76).

Subs not used: Morgan, Bromby.

Goals: .

Booked: Montgomery (29), Hulse (58), Gillespie (58), Kozluk (66).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Hayden Mullins


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