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FA Cup
Saturday, 27th January 2007

West Ham United 0
Watford 1

by Gordon Thrower


Oh well that’s that over for another year. Whilst last year we went out with a bang having outplayed the then reigning European champions (albeit the streakiest team ever to hold that somewhat devalued title), this year we left the FA Cup with hardly a whimper.

Pre-match news was that three of the first four names one would expect to see challenging for places in the central defensive slots were unavailable through injury. The fourth name on that list was ineligible. New boy Neill came in. Harewood was also absent through suspension leaving us with a starting line-up of Carroll, Neill, McCartney, Spector, Dailly, Newton, Reo-Coker, Quashie, Boa-Morte, Zamora, Cole.

We should have taken the lead very early on. An early corner was met by free header from Zamora who failed to get over the ball which clipped the bar. The game settled down with us, if anything, looking the better side. Dailly had a header cleared off the line. Newton brought a decent save out of Foster, though admittedly the shot was at a nice height for the ‘keeper.

Watford hadn’t really created much. They did have the ball in the net but the effort from, I think Francis, was rightly ruled out for offside. Their best effort came from a set piece – there’s a surprise – when a header was cleared off the line via the top of Cole’s shoulder. Such forays were few and far between though. So, given the state of our season so far, it should have come as no real surprise that we went behind, and even by our standards the goal was a shocker. A long cross from the deep was meat and drink for Dailly. Or rather it should have been but for Carroll’s decision to go walkabout and come 18 yards for a ball he was never going to get near in a million years. The ball fell to McNamee who hooked the ball over his shoulder, the bounce beating Spector’s despairing lunge.

The half petered out. Neill had an awkward landing from an aerial challenge and picked up a deserved yellow for a wild kick at Bouazza. The Watford support came up with the “you’ve only got one song” chant seemingly oblivious to the fact that one is clearly more than none (unless you count the rather sad ‘yellow army’ chant which I don’t) and we went into the KitKat break one down.

Still, it was only one down against a poor side. Clearly the second half was there for the taking and surely we would be able to make the possession tell. Er, no. Where a spot of creativity was required there was none. Without the likes of Benayoun and Tevez to run at players we were reduced to humping it long towards Cole and Zamora.

The first thing to happen after the break was the departure of Neill who had failed to recover from turning his ankle over. Another defender bites the dust. Great. Paintsil replaced.

Tellingly the better chances that were created came when the ball was on the floor. Cole picked up a ball on the left and got the better of the defender and danced into the area. There was certainly contact from Mackay’s challenge but ref Webb saw it as a dive and cautioned the striker. Webb has always struck me as one of the more honest officials on the circuit and if he saw it as a dive then he was correct to issue the caution. However, I have seen those decisions given as a penalties – usually against us – and I wonder how quick the yellow would have been to appear had the forward been Drogba and the defender been Dailly. Still if they’re cracking down at last on this sort of thing I look forward to Tuesday’s official having a field day what with Liverpool being quite fond of the odd theatrical tumble.

Zamora then earned some space but his shot from the edge of the box was little more than catching practice for Foster. Another promising run into the box ended up with Zamora being pulled back but the ref missed the offence and allowed play to continue. On the rare occasions that the long ball worked we couldn’t finish – Zamora’s placing of another free header over the bar being a prime example.

I could try to list the occasions we got into promising positions only to shoot ourselves in the foot but really it would be too depressing to write – and probably even more depressing to read. Watford for their part created only one effort of any note – a cross from the left that eluded everyone.

Sheringham replaced Newton, Etherington did the same for Boa Morte but really we were looking at re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. It was horribly reminiscent of all those matches in the Championship we had to endure against non-footballing sides who would come with little ambition other than to nick a 1-0 win – and often get it.

The Watford supporters amused themselves by hanging on to the ball a few times. Any hopes that the time might be added on at the end were dashed as, unlike the loathsome and corrupt Poll the other week when the same thing happened, Webb saw no need to add on two minutes for every one of actual time lost. Frankly he could probably have added on half an hour and we’d never have hit the target.

So there goes the cup. I’d like to have seen us put up more of a fight to stay in it, especially against a side as poor as Watford. On the bright side the prospect of seeing a Tevez and Benayoun against them if they’re both fit gives me hope for the three points in a couple of weeks time and at the moment, much as I love the Cup, that would be more important to me. I saw enough games like that in the Championship and I’ve no desire to join Watford back there next season for some more.

Blessing in disguise anyone?



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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
The difference between the sides. In any other career (other than that of Home Office Civil Servant possibly) a mistake that bad would see the perpetrator demoted. I hope the boss is as quick to replace Carroll with Green as he was to make the corresponding decision after Reading.


Lucas Neill
Some promising stuff marred by a silly yellow card and of course the injury that means we won’t be seeing too much of him for a bit.


George McCartney
Did ok – though I’d like to see more work on building up some sort of partnership with Boa Morte on the left – like the one between Konchesky and Etherington that used to work well once upon a time.


Christian Dailly
Battling performance from the old war horse against the sort of side who he usually does well against.


Jonathan Spector
Considering the relative lack of threat from the opposition he looked very uncomfortable.


Nigel Quashie
Didn’t bring much to the table that Mullins might otherwise have provided in my opinion.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Felt a little sorry for him as he made a number of decent runs only to be ignored by team-mates. However, when he was given the ball he failed to make much of an impression.


Shaun Newton
Got into one promising position and really should have scored. Otherwise looked worth about as much as his original transfer fee.


Luis Boa Morte
You want your left winger to take people on, get crosses in, create. One burst through the middle that fed Newton apart, he didn’t really do that.


Carlton Cole
Lots of running and chasing lost causes, though often this was as a result of him having lost the ball himself.


Bobby Zamora
Poor finishing when in good positions. Not for the first time this season.


Substitutes


John Paintsil
(Replaced Neill, 48) Okay going forward, not really tested defensively - though he was well out of position in the build-up to Watford’s only effort of the second half.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Newton, 65) No real influence on the game but the die had been cast by the time he arrived.


Matthew Etherington
(Replaced Boa Morte, 77) Looked a bit lively but there was little substance to his contribution for the few minutes he was on.


Robert Green
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: H.Webb.

Attendance: 31,168.

Man of the Match: Christian Dailly.

West Ham United

Roy Carroll, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Christian Dailly, Jonathan Spector, Nigel Quashie, Nigel Reo-Coker, Shaun Newton, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: None.

Booked: Lucas Neill 44 Carlton Cole 55        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Watford

Foster, Mariappa, Stewart, Demerit, Mackay, McNamee, Bangura, Bouazza, Francis, Smith, Henderson.

Substitutes: Powell (McNamee 72).

Subs not used: Chamberlain, Kabbam Doyley, Baltacha.

Goals: McNamee (42).

Booked: None booked..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Christian Dailly


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