Saturday, 5th May 2007
Call me old fashioned and possibly sizeist, but I do not believe that a bloke who would not be allowed on most of the rides at Alton Towers should be allowed to manage a Premiership football club.
I admit I’m biased, since every time Mini Sam turns up I have a vision of the ginger oompa loompa lying down in an offside position in front of our goal in the 1981 League Cup Final. Clive f*cking Thomas. F*ck me I’m beginning to sound like that bitter and twisted tw*t Steve Bruce.
Anyway, this was a true West Ham sh*t or bust occasion in the finest traditions and ESM Jnr was marooned halfway up some rain sodden hillside doing his Duke of Edinburgh Award. I know. It all sounds hopelessly middle class, doesn’t it?
Enter Oxford Fred stage left, leaping on the opportunity of the spare ticket and wearing the very badge he had bought at that extraordinary game up at Blackburn which may yet still be the turning point in this crazy season.
Having done the business last Saturday, it was a no-brainer for the manager to run with the same team. Lucas Neill trotting out has the same effect on me as valium and he seems to install a similar calming effect on our defence.
The pre-kick off huddle began and the noise around the Boleyn Ground was notched up several levels. Who knows what Reo-Coker says in his little motivational rap but it seems to work. Tevez, of course, doesn’t know the words but he can hum the tune.
Bolton had the initial say in this match after a set piece on 3 minutes. The offside trap was beaten but it was a poor cross which ended up over the bar. Two minutes later, Tevez stamped his first mark, with a beak down the right wing following a deflection. He got to the byline and put over a dangerous ball which was nervously cleared centrally by Ivan Campo.
A looming disaster was averted immediately after this as a speculative punt forward saw confusion between Collins and Green. The ball spun off the keeper, but fortunately the predatory Anelka was not able pick up the loose ball.
Then a piece of Argie magic on 8 minutes after Tevez was fouled just outside the D. Barely had I muttered to Fred that it was the same spot where Tevez had scored that adrenalin-inducing goal against the Lillysh*tes, than he performed the very same feat. What a glorious goal, but this time he did not choose to go and shake hands with everybody in the Rio Stand, choosing instead to make straight for the technical area. Outstanding technique to get that ball up and down and so precise in the top corner.
Footballing wisdom suggests that you are always at your most vulnerable when you have scored a goal, and we almost immediately conceded a free kick in the position from which Tevez had just scored. But Bolton did not have the guile or ability and the shot went straight at the wall.
Anelka remained a dangerous presence, and he was gliding down the West Ham left. A cross was sent in but the impressive George McCartney was on hand to clear in the box and win a free kick. Our left-sided defender has been a crucial element in the team’s renewed confidence.
If Bolton are to be taken, you have to beat them in the middle of the park, and the central pairing of Noble and Reo Coker were omnipresent, closing down and snapping around the heels of any Bolton player with the ball. It was determination by Nigel on 21 minutes which saw him beat a Bolton player in the centre circle and lay off a pass to Noble. He in turn fed a delicious pass out left to Boa Morte who ran out wide and then squared a great pass across goal to find the waiting Tevez with the goal at his mercy. The result was inevitable.
The team was buzzing and the crowd were ecstatic. 2-0 up already.
Zamora looked high on the atmosphere and he was a real threat up front. It was more of what had been going on the week before with Z-man flying around to try and get something on the ball to lay off to Tevez or Boa Morte. His form has been a real catalyst these past few games and I take my hat off to him for his commitment and endeavour.
If 2-0 seemed more than we could have hoped for, even greater scenes of unbridled jubilation followed on 29 minutes as Zamora won a tackle and sent a pass out left to Tevez. He ran dangerously in and picked out Noble at the far post with an inch perfect cross. Needing no encouragement and with no doubt in his mind, Noble smashed a brilliant volley past the despairing Jaaskelainen. Absolutely fantastic from the talented young West Ham fan.
West Ham scented blood and Bolton were completely overwhelmed. The hattrick that we all craved nearly came just two minutes after the third goal, as more battling play by Zamora saw him win the ball and send Tevez on his way again down the left. He cut in and unleashed a great shot which the keeper had to parry in the centre of the goal.
Just like at The Emirates and the JJB, Lucas Neill sent one of his cultured chips forward to open up the opposition’s defence on 39 minutes. This time it was just too long and Tevez coud not get his outstretched foot on it.
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
Fred was beginning to struggle with what was going on in front of him. He was laughing manically and repeatedly muttering “We are 3-0 up”.
Another dangerous ball over the top of the Bolton defence was sent forward on 41 minutes and Zamora looked half surprised to find himself onside. He had bags of space but took too much time to get a shot away in the box which was blocked.
One of my fellow Eaststanders decided that Bolton’s new manager was a great choice and began a rendition of “There’s only one Sammy Lee”. A geezer to the side of me said, “Well, he’s only a half really”.
A Campo long throw caused pinball in the West Ham box with one minute of ordinary time left. The defending was determined and bodies were flying including that of a revitalised Yossi Benayoun.
The last action of the half saw more excellent play by Tevez who was causing real embarrassment to Campo. He turned and passed to Boa Morte who had a rush of blood to the head, slicing a poor shot well wide.
Beyond your wildest dreams
Let’s face it, that was the most electric joyous 45 minutes of football we have seen at the Boleyn Ground this season. Almost more than even the most optimistic fan could have hoped for. You still wonder how we ended up in such dire straits and then you recall the rubbish that we were serving up for too much of this disorienting season.
Noble was keen to maintain his fantastic work rate as the second half began, and he was shadowing any Bolton player with the ball.
Then we entered a period of pretty scappy play which was characterised by a load of niggly fouls and a few bookings, including one for Zamora following an innocuous tussle down the right flank.
The first proper chance of the half fell to Anelka on 58 minutes as a failed clearance came his way. He smacked a powerful shot along the ground, and Green had to save well to his left.
Marlon came on for the spent-looking Z-man on 63 minutes and just a few minutes after this, we conceded an unnecessary goal as Noble got caught in possession near the halfway line. A pass was sent out left to the veteran Speed who finished clinically to the left of Green, who was doing his pieces at Noble. Justifiable maybe, but given the youngster’s contribution in this game and others of late, no West Ham fan was going to get too upset wit this error – as long as there were no more Bolton goals.
Despite the goal, Bolton still looked off the pace and their frustration led to two consecutive bookings for Nolan and Davies around the 70 minute mark.
Yossi made a lovely chip over the top from inside his own half on 72 minutes, which Tevez picked but he went too wide and the attempted shot was wide and wild.
Spector came on to replace Boa Morte on 78 minutes and five minutes after the change, there was excellent interplay between Yossi, Tevez and then Marlon who cut back well to find space for a shot which Jaaskelainen did well to stop at his near post. A minute later, it could well have been 3-2 as a powerful shot was sent in from the edge of the box, but Yossi got something in the way to prevent what looked like a certain goal.
Mullins came on for Reo Coker on 85 minutes, and three minutes later there was a brilliant piece of anticipation by Yossi to intercept a pass just outside the West Ham box. He drove forward, found te inevitable Tevez with a pass and he slotted which looked like a perfect pass across the six yard box towards Marlon. Somehow he was beaten to the ball by a defender but the myopic Mike Riley unbelievably gave a goal kick.
Four minutes were added on but there was little much of note except for a booking for Noble, which he took to break up a late Bolton attack.
Top day out
The second half was a bit of a damp squib after the sensational first half performance, but Bolton only really got a goal because we gifted it to them. It was a marvellous West Ham day out where there were some fantastic individual performances. However, the real reason why we have managed to get those 6 wins out of 8 is through the collective spirit of the team. It is always a good sign when you see a side working so hard when they don’t have the ball and that was the big difference between the two teams today.
It was celebration time down the Duke of Edinburgh afterwards with some street football going on outside. Chaos ensued as various inebriated and rather overweight fans attempted to show some of the style that they had witnessed on the pitch earlier. Balls in the face, beer swilling all over the place and some rather gay footwork were on display. The day was sealed by a welcome victory by Villa, meaning that The Blades cannot even think about conspiring with Wigan next Sunday to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.
The only downside, of course, was that Fulham beat a depleted Liverpool to take themselves to a much stronger position. You can’t have everything, and we could still take the drop up in Mancsville next week, although the reality is that both Charlton and Wigan have to win their remaining games even if we lose
Against the grain
Don’t ask me to support those beigal-munchers on Monday night because it is beyond me to do so. I may be lenient, though, towards any West Ham fan that applauds the odd Berbatov goal or two. Just this once, mind.
I have also spoken with my mate Glenn, the Sheffield United fan who assures me that they will do the business next week. As I am joining a northern monkey ensemble to see the Hitman in Vegas next month, we are planning a joint Blades/Irons staying up party in some tacky casino. Let’s hope that there is no final, bitter twist to this unbelievable 06/07 season that will prevent that particular knees up.
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One fine save. Unsighted for the goal. Held onto just about every cross but wasn’t really tested.
The vibes from the ground are that he will be staying whatever the outcome of the relegation battle. Hope so. A good solid game.
A decent run as part of a settled defence has done wonders for both his form and his confidence. Much improved and got forward well.
Beginning to build a nice partnership with Ginge and coped surprisingly well with the aerial onslaught. Another beneficiary of the arrival of a settled back four line-up.
Another good strong match from our resident Swan Vesta impersonator who looked like he enjoyed every minute.
Being caught in possession for the Bolton goal was the only real blemish on another fine performance. And what a goal. Hopefully now a fixture in the side.
Another much-improved performance. Got stuck in well and his distribution is beginning to get better as well.
Another who is finally beginning to attain the level of form he reached on occasions last year. Watching him and Tevez in tandem is a delight.
Luis Boa Morte
After an uncertain start in claret & blue he’s now beginning to do the things that he was signed to do. His role in the second goal was similar to that in the third up at Wigan – a short but ideal pass to enable a better placed team-mate to score.
Marvellous. With all the nonsense that been spoken about him over the past few weeks he’s just got on with his job and displays like this a joy to behold. Mind you as Curbishley pointed out it probably helps that he doesn’t speak the language!
Didn’t score but this was a performance full of heart and running. The crowd recognised it too as the generous applause on his departure confirmed.
(Replaced Zamora, 67) Caused all sorts of problems in the half hour he was on. Unlucky not to score.
(Replaced Boa Morte, 79) A solid if unremarkable few minutes.
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 86) Another solid if unremarkable few minutes.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Luis Boa Morte, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Carlos Tevez 10 Carlos Tevez 21 Mark Noble 29 .
Booked: Bobby Zamora 55 Mark Noble 90 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Jaaskelainen, Michalik, Meite, Campo, Gardner, Thompson, Speed, Teymourian, Nolan, David, Anelka.
Substitutes: Sinclair (Thompson 57), Vaz Te (Teymourian 64), Giannakopoulos (Gardner 75).
Subs not used: Walker, Tal.
Goals: Speed (66).
Booked: Thompson (), Gardner (), Nolan (), Davis (), Speed ().
Sent Off: .