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Premiership
Saturday, 13th January 2007

West Ham United 3
Fulham 3

by East Stand Martin


They were all there waiting for me in the East Stand. All looking smug as f*ck. “Look, here comes ESM fresh back from a trip to Australia to watch the cricket. Did you have a nice time?”. Yes, very f*cking funny.

What an unmitigated disaster. Stuck in her Majesty's Penal Colony watching the capitulation of our boys and suffering daily abuse from those Aussie inbreds. Merry F*cking Christmas and a Happy Poxy New Year.

No doubt you can imagine just how much happier I felt waking up one morning to find that we had shipped six goals at Reading. West Ham and England cricket – a lethal cocktail. It was all ESM Jnr could do to stop me making my way to Sydney Harbour Bridge to jump into the Parramatta River to join the eels.

Still, as an Eaststander pointed out, “You could have been here with us, watching this.” That made me feel a lot better. Not.

Racing stripe

Just when you think things can't get any worse, I wrapped the side of my car around a bollard on the way to the match, giving it one hell of a f*cking racing stripe down the passenger side. Still, it couldn't get any worse could it? F*ck me, who’s the ref for the match? It isn't. It can’t be. It's the f*ckwit supremo, Graham Poll.

The team lineup didn't make me feel any better. The defence looked distinctly dodgy with Gabbidon and Collins in central defence, Dailly at right back and McCartney at left back. Caroll was preferred as well over Green, no doubt because the latter had taken a real confidence bashing at the disaster in Berkshire. The midfield was also very unfamiliar, with the addition of the two new signings Boa constrictor and his mate Quasimodo. To cap it all, the pairing up front was something I had never seen before: Tevez and Carlton Cole.

However strange the team looked to me, the fact was that we needed to win this game. Almost as bad as our own hapless away record, Fulham had only managed one win away, and they had drawn their last five games.

The team certainly looked up for it at the start. The first West Ham corner was won with barely 2 minutes gone after a nervous back header from a Fulham defender. Quasimodo was waiting centrally outside of the box for the corner ball, but his chip into the box came to nothing as Collins was caught offside.

Tevez down and then out

Three minutes later and energetic looking Tevez was brought down just outside the box after a nice chip forward by Yossi. Christaval got a yellow for that with the crowd baying for a red. Unfortunately - and this was to be a repeated feature of the day's play - the set piece was wasted as Boa smacked it straight into the wall.

Right after this, Boa won a free kick down the right side in a promising position. Dailly was waiting for the ball in the box, but his header went wide from an offside position.

11 minutes gone and the signs were not encouraging. Firstly, Collins had to be replaced, no doubt because an injury was playing up. Then it was clear that Tevez too would have to go off as his calf looked like it could barely support his weight following the earlier foul. The new entrants were Spector and Zamora respectively, leading to the first rearrangement of the defensive line, with Dailly going central.

Despite the forced changes, West Ham were still looking lively. Virtually the first touch by Spector was a nicely weighted pass down the line to find Yossi. Spector then retrieved the ball near the touchline, and sent over a dangerous cross which beat everybody and caught the waiting Boa by surprise. He just couldn't get a decent foot on it to direct it into the net for a debut goal against his former club.

What do I do now boss?

Then, on 16 minutes, and against the run of play, Fulham scored. McCartney appeared at fault as he looked like he didn't know what to do close to the byline. He chose to concede a corner, and this led to an unchallenged head down towards the right hand post where Radzinski was waiting to flick it in.

Following a late tackle on Quasimodo which led to the booking of Queudrue on 21 minutes, West Ham won a succession of corners, but did not create any real threat from these. We do seem to be lacking somebody who can deliver a deadly set piece. We create the opportunities but then fail to profit from them.

Poll told Boa to calm down on 24 minutes as he was sliced down running down the flank. This was yet another dangerous set piece position that Yossi spurned with a lamentable overhit kick which cleared everybody in went straight into touch.

Welcome back Z-man

Then almost out of nowhere on 27 minutes, Zamora scored a goal after what seems like months without success. It was a bit of a route one build-up as Cole managed to deftly flick on a clearance. Zamora was alert and did very well to steer it away from the defender and slot the ball under the keeper.

A minute later West Ham nearly took the lead following a quick break forward after a Fulham free kick. The pacey Cole sprinted forward and passed out wide to find Yossi. He floated over an excellent ball to find Boa in the box unmarked but off balance. He failed completely to volley goalwards.

On 32 minutes, Cole looked to have secured a real goalscoring chance after Quasimodo had set him free with a measured pass following a drop ball. The striker maybe took too long to unleash a shot and the ball was taken off his foot by a defender. Quasimodo was involved again a minute later after he got free down the left and sent in a great cross which Zamora maybe should have flung himself at. In the end, it missed everybody.

Reo dicing with red

Reo Coker was booked on 35 minutes for a foul on McBride. It was a clumsy late tackle and fully deserved. Almost unbelievably, a minute after this, he then tugged back Routledge. I was fully expecting Poll to brandish a red card for this professional foul but he chose not to.

It reminded me of the arguments I had a few seasons ago with those who claimed that Defoe was deliberately trying to get himself sent off.

Every match has its comedy moment, and on 41 minutes Dailly duly delivered, after he sliced a ball about a hundred feet into the air and then missed it with his head as it came down.

The final move of note in the half came from Fulham as Routledge went on a dangerous diagonal run. He managed to get a shot away from the edge of the box which just went wide of the right-hand post, although it looked like that Caroll had it covered.

You couldn't really complain too much about the West Ham performance in the first half, as everybody looked committed to the job in hand. The forced changes hadn't helped either. The main complaint had to be that we seemed to be incapable of taking advantage of useful possession, particularly set plays.

Return of the prodigal son

Barely had it been announced that almost 35,000 had turned up to the match, than Yossi reminded us of some of the skills which he readily displayed last season. The second half was only a minute old, when the Israeli found himself with space on the edge of the box following a nice layoff from Zamora. He only needed to look up once and make a sublime chip of pure quality which went into the top corner of the goal.

We appeared to be a fairly comfortable in our lead for ten minutes but were nearly mugged on 56 minutes by a quick free kick down the left. Defenders were left floundering as a cross came in but Caroll bravely dived in at the feet of McBride to collect the ball.

If that was a warning, and we didn't heed it as two minutes later we conceded a second goal after Volz got free down the left side following a clever lay off by Routledge. The cross came over and McBride had a free header into the goal.

A gap and a goal

I was fearful about what would happen next, but this somewhat unpredictable game then delivered a third West Ham goal. It arrived on 63 minutes following total confusion in the Fulham defence as two defenders got in each other's way and allowed Yossi through the middle. The move had resulted from a long ball forward by Spector that had been chested onwards by Zamora. Having got through the gap, Yossi managed to stay on his feet and angle back a pass into the goal for his second of the match. It was marvellous play and the Yossi of old had returned.

A couple of bookings then followed on 65 and 66 minutes. First Zamora was carded after a late lunge on Radzinski. Helguson joined him in Poll’s book after a tangle with Zamora. Both looked deserved.

Just after this, the Italian Montella came on for Helguson.

The crowd were up on their feet again on 68 minutes when it looked like that Zamora had broken free, but a late flag went up from the assistant referee. A minute later McCartney failed to stop a ball going out for a corner when it looked easy to do so. The corner saw the ball run out to the edge of the box to the waiting Brown to shot high and wide.

Zamora loses it

The incident which cost us victory came on 75 minutes when Zamora was sent off following a late tackle. He had done well to push a ball past a defender but in chasing it down he challenged late as another defender arrived to put it out all play. The crowd couldn't believe Poll’s decision, but it looked correct to me. It was actually completely unnecessary for Zamora to pile in like that.

Cole was left out alone on front and he was dragged over on the edge of the box by Bocanegra on 77 minutes, resulting in yet another booking. Quasimodo stood up to take the free kick and he managed to beat the wall with a weakfish curling shot that was easily gathered by the goalkeeper.

To add to our defensive woes, Gabbidon landed awkwardly on 78 minutes after defending a clearance down the West Ham left. It soon became apparent that he couldn't carry on, and Newton was introduced into the game. It was somewhat surprising to me that Mullins was not brought on at this point. A third defensive reshuffle saw Newton go to right back and Spector put into central defence.

In the aftermath of the substitution, we seemed to be coping quite well. First of all, Boa was bodychecked by Routledge on 84 minutes leading to yet another booking. Then a minute later there was more inspirational play by Yossi, weaving around in midfield to find an opening. Boa received his pass in the box and he tried to lay it back centrally but there was no one to latch onto it.

Five minute wonder

As the end of normal time approached we seemed to be doing pretty well winding the clock down. A couple of free kicks were won down the left and a corner. Then came the almost unbelievable signal from the touchline that there was to be five minutes added time. It was hard to see where this had come from.

The generosity of Poll was gratefully received by Fulham in hunt of an equaliser. The first minute saw Yossi make a tremendous goal-line clearance after a corner resulted in a free header. Immediately after this Caroll had to make a great point blank save after a ball from a free kick came loose in the box and arrived at Christaval’s feet.

The West Ham goal was now under total and utter siege as the Fulham keeper joined the party. You could see a goal coming as the ball rebounded around the box. When Dailly couldn't get his head on a looped ball, Caroll didn’t even see the volley that went whistling past him and into the net.

It was indeed fortunate that the equaliser had come so late, as a few more minutes may well have seen us come away with nothing at all. In the event, we had one last chance as Quasimodo made a great pass to Cole who shot wide of the post trying to find some space in the box. He looked totally spent and was limping as the final whistle blew.

The ref did not cost us the game

It's always terribly demoralising when you put so much into a match see it stolen away right at the death. Unfortunately, when you're in the sh*t, sh*t happens. Although this was a typically fussy display by Poll, I do not share the view of many West Ham fans I heard on the radio on the way back who were adamantly claiming that it was the ref that cost us the game.

In fact, Reo Coker had been lucky to stay on the pitch and the Zamora red card was the correct decision. The real complaint was probably about the five additional minutes, but in reality we were guilty of poor defending and failing in many instances of taking advantage of good positions. We didn't have the best of luck either with the injuries, and you do worry about how the defence is going to lineup over the next few games. If I were Eggy, I would be looking to spend my money on some solidity at the back.

(Player Ratings by Jacob Steinberg)



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
I'm not sure why he plays ahead of Green- I'd assumed last week was just a run out, and I remain unconvinced about Carroll, although anyone would given what was playing in front of him. But his distribution is poor, he doesn't really command the area and even his shot stopping is fairly average.


Christian Dailly
I thought he had a good game, although he's always on the brink of disaster. Realistically he is not good enough, and it's always worrying when he looks better than others.


George McCartney
I thought he was abysmal. From the needless first corner, to simply his hesitancy in defence... I prefer Konchesky, and that's saying something!


James Collins
Clearly not fit. A centre half appears a must after today.


Danny Gabbidon
A good game, yet these injuries are so frustrating.


Nigel Quashie
He couldn't trap a bag of cement and his set pieces are poor. But he has energy, gets stuck in and is a driving force. Again, I'd like to see one more signing here, but for £1.5m, he was ok.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Now I know we all hate him, and so do I, but his attitude was spot on today and I thought he battled hard. Personally I think he lacks ability and did today, but credit where credit's due, he did the simple things. I still don't want to see him in the side though.


Yossi Benayoun
That was his best game of the season. He oozed class - shame it's come in January.


Luis Boa Morte
Should have scored twice. I like his battling qualities, but feel that Fulham more or less kicked him out of the game. I haven't mentioned how much I hate them, their horrible tactics, Michael Brown, that French left back, their manager, Michael Brown and their fan. It's A LOT.


Carlton Cole
Lacks quality and vision- but he's awkward, set up a goal and tries hard. I think he was holding his hamstring as the lone striker, perhaps explaining the less than 100% effort then though...


Carlos Tevez
Terrified them once, then got injured in the same move. Oh well.


Substitutes


Jonathan Spector
(Replaced Collins, 11) Abysmal. He had no positional sense, couldn't handle their attack at all and his heading was atrocious.


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Tevez, 13) Cup your ear to the fans will you? Why I oughta... Clearly a legend in his own mind, although he took his goal well. One of his better games, but really, with Poll on the pitch he should have known better.


Shaun Newton
(Replaced Gabbidon, 81) Please join me in a prayer for him never ever to play right back again.


Robert Green
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: G.Poll.

Attendance: 34,977.

Man of the Match: Yossi Benayoun.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, Christian Dailly, George McCartney, James Collins, Danny Gabbidon, Nigel Quashie, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, Carlos Tevez.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 28 Yossi Benayoun 46 Yossi Benayoun 64              .

Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 35 Carlton Cole 90        .

Sent Off: Bobby Zamora 76    .

Fulham

Lastuvka, Volz, Rosenior, Christanval, Bocanegra, Queudrue, Brown, Routledge, Helguson, McBride, Radzinski.

Substitutes: Montella (Helguson 67).

Subs not used: Warner, Pearce, Omuzusi, Runstrom.

Goals: Radzinski (17), McBride (59), Christanval (90).

Booked: Christanval (6), Queudrue (22), Rosenior (38), Helguson (67), Bocanegra (77), Routledge (84).

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
East Stand Martin's Man of the Match: Yossi Benayoun