Saturday, 18th August 2007
A middle of August jaunt up to the West Midlands and it was like a monsoon. I was wetter than an otter’s pocket hanging around the Guantanamo Bay type compound that was the away supporters’ entrance awaiting the arrival of Oxford Fred.
You fat b*stard
While we are on our sponsors, am I alone in thinking that there’s something not quite right about the logo on the front of the hallowed colours? The first time I saw it, I thought that there had been a cock up in the factory in Shanghai. Call me old fashioned but I prefer my shirt size kept discretely hidden in a label on the inside, not where everybody can see it . Yes, I am a fat b*stard, but do I really have to flaunt it?
After last week’s non-event, we all knew we needed something out of this game. On paper, it looked tricky as the Brummies had done quite well in their first two games, scoring four goals. We were also beset with injuries, with Neil and Ljungberg not available for selection, although the compensation was the debut of Lee Bowyer’s sparring chum, Kieron Dyer.
I was personally very pleased to see Matty start as well down the left, as he certainly looked one of the better players last week. Until , of course, the bizarre decision of the manager to send him to left back.
The game started with a bit of fun as the travelling Irons spotted some truly horrible Brumette bouncing around giving it large. “Who’s the slapper in the white?” we all naturally inquired. And while we’re on the subject of unattractive people, step forward the bent-nosed Geordie freak, Mr Steve Bruce. Thanks to the creative spirit of the East End, the Birmingham manager now has his own cover version of that old Pet Shop Boys’ classic, ‘Go West’ - “Steve Bruce is a ugly c*nt”. Tell the f*cker how it is, boys.
Anyway, enough of that fat tw*t. The early exchanges were influenced by the soggy conditions as players on both sides struggled to control the ball and make effective passes. Anton got caught in possession badly in the centre circle and then Mullins, who was preferred over Bowyer, got a yellow card on 6 minutes for crudely dragging back an opposition player.
A minute after the booking, Kieron Dyer was fit to be tied after he had a penalty claim turned down after Bellamy fed a nice pass to him on the edge of the box. It was up the other end, but it did look like he’d been bundled over.
13 minutes in and we saw the first attempt on goal by the home side, but the shot was woefully wide. It was a scrappy affair and not improved by a poor cross by Spector from the right after some space had been found.
Anton steadied his shaky start with a good interception in the box as Birmingham made a threatening break on 19 minutes. A minute later a thirty yard free kick was awarded following what looked like a decent challenge by Upson. We had a scare as the free kick appeared to be headed into the back of a Birmingham player, spinning just wide of the post.
Our first decent move came on 24 minutes as Bellamy made a fine lay off to send Zamora off on a run out right, but he was forced wide and seemed to run out of steam and ideas. This move was shortly followed by the award of a West Ham free kick in a central position 30 yards out. Noble stood up to take it and blasted a shot through the wall to hit the foot of the right hand post.
Forsell was gifted a ball by Upson on 26 minutes, but he sliced a shop hopelessly wide. Just after this we won a couple of free kicks in succession. First, from a spot just right of the D about 30 yards out, we worked a training ground move with Noble running over the ball and breaking right. Zamora laid off a good pass to find the waiting Noble, but he could only win a corner. The move broke down after Anton hooked a snap shot high and wide. Second, on the half hour we got a set piece in a more central position but still about 30 yards out. Noble’s shot was deflected out to Spector but the ball ended up being taken by Doyle in the Birmingham goal.
Next there was a dangerous melee in the West Ham box which led to a partial clearance. Fabrice Muamba was waiting on the edge of the box, but he hesitated and was effectively closed down. Noble was still in the thick of it and he attempted a speculative half volley on 33 minutes as he got hold of a bouncing ball, but his shot went over the bar.
Lost and won
Dyer had not been much in evidence and he gave the ball away terribly in his own half on 37 minutes, but did well to run back and retrieve the situation which could have been costly.
Birmingham won their first corner with four minutes of ordinary time left, but this was cleared from the far post and then hooked away . A second corner followed almost immediately and this time, Robert Green collected and then sent Zamora on his way. He fed a good ball out to Bellamy who cut into the box tight to the dead ball line, but his way was blocked.
Two minutes left and mild mannered Spector was doing his nut with the linesman after a foul was awarded against him. The dissent led to him receiving a yellow card. Then in the one minute added time, we conceded a free kick left of centre about 35 yards yard. The ball in was flicked on and it fell loose to Jaidi who got a good strike away, but Green was equal to it, making a fine save diving to his left.
It could have been the sucker punch, but thanks to England’s No. 1, we kept them out at a crucial stage. West Ham probably just shaded a half in which neither side showed a great deal of quality.
There were no changes when the teams came out for the second half, but we immediately took the initiative. The spark was Matty on 47 minutes who found real penetration after he was sent on his way by Bellamy. A pass was laid off centrally to Noble who tried to size up a shot but Jaidi did well to fling himself in the way.
A minute later, Matty won a corner and Upson managed to head the ball towards Zamora but he was off balance and could only slice a shot wide.
Noble then came up with the creative move of the game on 51 minutes as he made a teasing Di Canio-like run into the left side of the box. He foxed two defenders, and passed to Bellamy who only got half a boot on it, hitting Dyer on the back. Bellamy seemed brighter and responded to the raised tempo with a great run down the left, but unfortunately his whipped-in cross was just over the head of Zamora.
Matty was now looking really up for it with a couple of excellent runs on 56 and 61 minutes, but his endeavours came to nothing. There was then more than the suspicion of a handball as Kelly was sprawling in the box trying to stop an advancing Zamora.
On 63 minutes, Zamora probably had the best chance to break the deadlock after Anton floated in a ball from the right. He trapped the ball on the edge of the six yard box but chipped at it rather than putting his foot through it. A minute later Matty created another chance for Zamora after he made a superb run into the box. Zamora had a snap at the loose ball but it went spinning across the face of goal.
Three minutes later, the mounting pressure from West Ham resulted in a goal after Bellamy went haring after a ball sent into the right side of the box by Dyer. Doyle came steaming out and Bellamy nicked the ball away from him. Although the ball was heading for a goal kick, the keeper didn’t make it and caught the Welshman.
Birmingham protested to the linesman, but ref Mike Halsey was clear about the penalty decision. Up stood an unfamiliar penalty taker in the shape of Mark Noble, who’d showed that he could deal with the pressure of spot kicks at this year’s U21 European Championship. The opposition tried to put him off, but he was exceptionally unfazed , coolly sending Doyle the wrong way.
The lead was deserved and Birmingham went backwards from that point onwards. Their play was disjointed and the passing poor, although they did have a large shout for a penalty after Zamora clashed with the substitute Gary McSheffrey. There was also one final scare on 83 minutes after the McSheffrey hit a stinging free kick which Green did well to parry at full stretch to his right.
Gabbidon came on for the struggling Spector with five minutes left and the remaining action of the half should have seen the West Ham lead extended. Firstly, a speculative ball over the top allowed Bellamy to swivel and shoot in one movement, but it was straight at the keeper. However, it was Dyer that had a golden opportunity to open his account with one minute of ordinary time left following a rapid break from a cleared Birmingham corner. He got into a one-on-one but his first touch was poor leading to a weak shot. The final move was with Bellamy who shot off on a great run and got away a decent shot which was saved well.
This was an encouraging and welcome reaction to last week’s flaccid home performance. It was particularly sweet to turn over Steve Bruce and on this evidence, you can see Birmingham struggling this season. It would break my heart to see Bruce’s bent-nosed smacked ar*e face if they took the drop.
Dyer looks like he's lacking match fitness, but the pace offered by the combination of Matty and Bellamy will worry many a Premiership defence. Noble was back at his confident best, after a lacklustre performance last week and Mullins did a much better job than Bowyer. The back four looked solid as well, with Anton recovering from a shaky start. McCartney was particularly good in his link-up play with Matty and Upson was solid in the face of cat-calls from the home support. In the event, Ashton was not needed as we ran the game.
The noisy Irons’ support was gleeful and why not? The joy was capped by the sudden appearance of Eggy himself, emerging out of nowhere from the opposition stand punching the air. He has had a lot on his plate with the litigious McCabe, but he is indestructible. What I really like about him is that he looks even happier than I do when we win a game. Can you believe that it’s not been a year since we’ve seen the back of Brown & co? It all just seems like a distant nightmare.
Player ratings by Gordon Thrower
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Robinson, James and Carson are in the England squad. No, really.
Much better than last week though he still must be considered as a stand-in until Neill is fit again.
Solid – though one misplaced pass put Mullins in a position where he had no option to pick up a yellow.
Another much better performance – one early lapse in concentration apart he focussed on getting there and getting rid.
Solid enough but distribution was a bit suspect on a day when the passing was much improved.
At the heart of much that was good. Did the right thing at the right time and kept a cool head for the penalty.
Solid and unspectacular. Got his foot in and laid it off.
Did enough to suggest he might be a useful acquisition but lack of time with his new team-mates was all-too apparent.
Continued on from the promising spell last week which was strangely curtailed by his shift to left-back.
Full of running and a constant threat to the home defence. A goal or two is next on the agenda.
Time for shooting practice methinks. Got into a number of promising positions only to finish poorly.
(Replaced Spector, 86) Only on for a few minutes but got a good block in.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Luis Boa Morte
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Mark Noble.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Mark Noble, Hayden Mullins, Kieron Dyer, Matthew Etherington, Craig Bellamy, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Mark Noble 70 .
Booked: Hayden Mullins 6 Jonathan Spector 44 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Doyle, Parnaby, Jaidi, Ridgewell, Kelly, Larsson, Muamba, Nafti, Kapo, O'Connor, Forssell.
Substitutes: McSheffrey (Forssell 65), Jerome (Nafti 75), Sadler (Muamba 80).
Subs not used: Vine, Taylor.
Booked: Parnaby (35), Nafti (55), Ridgewell (69), Kapo (73).
Sent Off: .