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Premier League
Saturday, 20th September 2008

West Ham United 3
Newcastle United 1

by Gordon Thrower


That was fun wasn’t it. The fixtures against Newcastle are particular favourites of mine. In the past the Gnome playing career was partly spent playing for a well-known financial institution in a side that consisted of some players many of whom were winding down their own careers, with the addition of a few youngsters (as I was back then) to do all the running around. It was a fine group of reprobates most of whom remain firm friends nearly 30 years later.

One of the other youngsters was Craggsy, a Watford-based Geordie who was actually so slow I had to do his running for him as well. Craggsy brought his young daughter Lucy with him for this one and, as ever, he was late, my arrival at our traditional Whitechapel meeting point being interrupted by a call pointing out that they’d only just left Watford. Lucy’s summing up was harsh but accurate –“he’s a waste of space!” The despair at the absence of Craggsy was tempered by the highly amusing sight of a police car reversing into a bollard at the back of the Royal London Hospital. Some things are funny just because they are.

Thankfully the rest of the Geordie gang had arrived on time and we soon settled into our traditional discussions along the lines of “my team’s worse than yours.” One of their number even suggested that relegation was on the cards. Website tales were swapped with nufc.com’s Biffa who told a hilarious tale of having been asked to publicise an anti-Ashley march last week and, having done so, then receiving annoyed emails from others involved, moaning that he had given away their plans! Apparently the best way to get a lot of people on your march is to keep it secret. Football fans do themselves no favours do they?!

Waste of Space finally arrived and we picked up the team news. There were a number of surprises. At the back Davenport was dropped to the racing car seats, Neil pushed in to the middle to partner Upson and, the biggest surprise possibly, Faubert withdrawn to right back with Behrami taking up the right hand spot in the middle. The middle was a middle three with Etheringon pushing up into a more advanced role and there was a start for Di Michele leaving us with a starting line up of Green, Faubert, Ilungi, Neill, Upson, Parker, Noble, Behrami, Etherington, Di Michele, Cole.

Yes it was a bright start as the team ran out with with kit newly sponsored by the characters of cult sci-fi series “The Prisoner.” (Look it up if you’re too young to remember). As early as the second minute a long ball in from Faubert, caused a bit of panic with the ball falling out to Etherington whose shot was blocked by a desperate lunge from Taylor, though Matty’s preference for his left cost him a touch that delayed the shot and would have had my dad muttering something about “professional footballers only having one foot” had he been present. The corner was, unusually for us this season, fruitless.

As the game settled down our line-up had revealed itself to be a 4-3-2-1 rather than the traditional 4-3-3 with Etherington and DiMichele playing just behind Carlton Cole. Cole was doing well making a nuisance of himself and a promising turn looked dangerous until he hit traffic. Ilungi, who our bit of the ground have hilariously christened “Cheri” then played DiMichele in down the left but, Cole not being in much of a position to support the Italian elected to shoot and Given turned the ball out at his near post. Noble’s corner failed to clear the first man.

We took the lead on 8 minutes. Faubert played a ball inside to Cole who cleverly turned his marker to find DiMichele. The Italian cleverly lost Coloccini and moved inside playing a shot from 20 yards that caught a defender on its way and looped up giving Given no chance. “Own Goal” Craggsy was heard to mutter through gritted teeth but, although he ought to know a thing or two about such matters what with him having scored so many in his career, it was DiMichele’s goal all the way.

Newcastle seemed in disarray. The ball was given away almost immediately to Etherington who burst into the box and saw his shot blocked by Taylor. It may have hit the defender’s arm but was never a penalty in a million years despite the auto-reflex shouts from the Centenary end. Cole was then up-ended on the edge of the box but Noble’s free-kick bothered no-one. Newcastle then had a shout of their own for a penalty, as Dunn’s cross was driven straight at Parker from about two feet. It also was not a penalty despite Dunns waving of arms like some sort of crap mime artist. The clearance reached Cole whose run looked dangerous before running into a blind alley.

Some good work between Ilungi and DiMichele saw the Italian feed Etherington down the left. Matty’s cross just eluded Cole in the middle. Ilungi then joined the attack and pulled the ball back for DiMichele who delayed the shot and forced himself wide leaving himself with a cross to nobody in particular.

The visitors had produced little though Geremi’s dangerous-looking cross forced Faubert into conceding a corner from which nothing came. Noble then tried his luck with a curling effort from the left hand side of the box that didn’t curl anywhere near enough to trouble the ‘keeper.

The lead was doubled on 36 minutes. Noble’s excellent through ball found Di Michele one on one with Given. The Italian’s shot hit the ‘keeper on the head and rebounded out to the right. Taylor elected not to attack the ball and DiMichele cleverly flicked the ball over the defender before burying a low shot in at the near post. Fine persistence and skill from the striker but, it has to be said, awful defending. An entertaining half came to an end after one minute of stoppage with the hapless Coloccini receiving chants of “are you Keegan in disguise?” Even more cruel were the “One Mike Ashley” chants which did nothing to improve “Waste Of Space’s” mood.

The purveyor of half-time confectionery being away, we endured a Kit-Kat-less interval after which there were no changes. Faubert started proceedings with a fine ball down the right into the path of DiMichele with the Italian failing to win a corner or keep the ball in. Up the other end another dangerous looking cross from Geremi had hearts in mouth for a spit second. Green, however was confident of it’s trajectory and, as usual, he was right as the ball sailed harmlessly past his right hand post.
Cole then headed over from a Faubert cross, Faubert having done brilliantly to get the cross in over the first place.

Neill became the first to receive a yellow for a mis-timed but hardly malicious challenge on Owen. A smidgeon harsh perhaps. From the free-kick the ball hit Taylor on the back and rebounded to a four-yard offside Owen who headed straight at Green. It might have been interesting had the ball gone in as the linesman had let his ref down badly by failing to flag the offside. In the end it mattered naught.

Butt fouled Behrami. Faubert quickly fed Cole who turned and played a sublime ball inside the full back for DiMichele. DiMichele played the ball across to the far post where Etherington gleefully buried the simplest of tap-ins to send us 3-0 up. DiMichele’s effort, on a hat-trick, was probably a shot rather than a pass but, frankly, who cares! It was a proper footballing move and worthy of the ovation it received.

Faubert then slid in a superb ball in the direction of Cole but Taylor was always favourite and was able to shepherd the ball clear as the “Down With The Tottenham” chants started to rub it in even more.

Newcstle did force a corner from which Coloccini hit the bar with a header but ref Dowd had long since blown for an infringement. DiMichele should then have got his hat-trick. A marvellous flowing move down the left saw Parker combine with Ilungi and Cheri’s pull-back sat there and begged to be buried. Unfortunately DiMichele suffered the proverbial “sudden rush of blood” and got underneath the shot putting it high and wide.

Cole then got in down the right, held the ball up before playing it into the centre. Noble’s dummy fooled everyone, including, unfortunately, DiMichele and the ball was cleared.

We were then treated to the statutory goal from Michael Owen. Seemingly fed up with the total lack of service he was receiving from his team-mates he received a ball on the edge of the box, shimmied inside, leaving Neill on the floor before curling a superb effort inside Green’s far post. As goals go, it was a bit of a waste really.

Being West Ham, even under new management, the goal brought an element of nervousness to proceedings and the visitors had a couple of chances to score a goal that might have made the last 25 minutes a little more interesting. The defence failed to clear a corner from N’Zogbia and the bell eventually fell to Cacapa, whose tame effort was easily dealt with by Green. N’zogbia then played a dangerous ball in from the left that fell out to Duff but again the shot lacked menace and green saved well to his right.

On 71 Mullins replaced the impressive Parker who may have been suffering from the effects of a brave block of a full-blooded shot and, shortly after, Boa-Morte took over from Etherington. The trio of substitutions was completed when Sears replaced Cole who had had a fine game. Sears’ first action was to go down under a sly challenge from Coloccini – very sly indeed. It was unsurprisingly missed by Mr Dowd who had an otherwise decent match.

DiMichele then had an infuriating couple of minutes, firstly by failing to play in either Sears or Boa-Morte when either was well-placed. Then shortly after the Italian then tried to play in Sears when really he ought to have taken the ball on himself. The infuriation continued. Boa-Morte ruined a three v three break by going for goal and putting the ball into row z. Then, as the three minutes of injury time were running out, he missed an even better chance when one-on-one with Given, sidefooting the ball a yard wide when he really ought to have scored.

That was the last meaningful action of the game as an entertaining match came to a close. It was a good performance – though I suppose it has to be said that Zola and Clarke couldn’t have wished for more accommodating opponents to start off their first jobs at a proper club. According to my Geordie chums, the squad they had for this match is just about it in terms of talent and they’ll need to sort out the background stuff sooner rather than later if it is not to be a long cold winter for them.

As for us, the new formation served us well. Having two smaller guys playing off Cole sees us playing the ball quickly and on the deck, the way we all like to see. There were a number of decent performances, not least from Parker and Cole, who held the ball up marvellously well. If Heskey is deemed worthy of international honours, surely a player who can do all that he does with the added advantage of being infinitely more mobile and stable must be worth a look? In defence Faubert looked twice the player at right back and Neill and Upson played well together. Yes it’s the honeymoon period I know but early signs are encouraging and I’ll settle for leaving the Boleyn with a smug grin on my face every week if I have to!



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Barely tested, made two comfortable saves just after they scored but they weren’t the most testing of shots.


Julien Faubert
A fine game. Not given the hardest of days but looks much better in this position.


Herita Ilunga
Continued on from where he left off at West Brom. Solid defensively and played some fine balls down the line.


Lucas Neill
Mugged by Owen for the goal but otherwise comfortable.


Matthew Upson
Kept Xisco very quiet. A fairly easy afternoon really.


Scott Parker
Best game in ages for the midfielder. Hopefully the knock that saw him withdrawn is nothing serious.


Mark Noble
Revelled in the extra responsibility that a 3-man midfield brought him. Some decent passes too.


Valon Behrami
A lot of hard work – much of it un-noticed by most.


Matthew Etherington
Another who enjoyed a new role. It suited him and the goal was deserved.


David Di Michele
A typical West Ham player in that he delights and infuriates in equal amounts. Spot of luck for the first. Good work for the second. Should have had a third.


Carlton Cole
Held the ball up superbly and, whilst he didn’t score, he worked his socks off throughout.


Substitutes


Hayden Mullins
(replaced Parker, 72) Replaced the impressive Parker but slotted in well and even found time to play some decent passes.


Luis Boa Morte
(replaced Etherington, 73) Ought to have scored but his confidence is clearly at a low ebb at the moment.


Fred Sears
(replaced Cole, 87) Full of running and might have got a penalty had the ref spotted Coloccini’s sneaky trip.


Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.


Calum Davenport
Did not play.


Walter Lopez
Did not play.


Kyel Reid
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Phil Dowd.

Attendance: 34,743.

Man of the Match: Carlton Cole.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, Lucas Neill, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Valon Behrami, Matthew Etherington, David Di Michele, Carlton Cole.

Goals: David Di Michele 9 David Di Michele 37 Matthew Etherington 53              .

Booked: Lucas Neill 51          .

Sent off: None.

Newcastle United

Given, Edgar, Taylor, N'Zogbia, Coloccini, Geremi, Cacapa, Butt, Duff, Owen, Xisco.

Substitutes: Bassong (Edgar 59), Gonzalez (Cacapa 81).

Subs not used: Harper, Tozer, Doninger, Donaldson, Ameobi.

Goals: Owen (67).

Booked: Kim (71).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Carlton Cole


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