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Premier League
Sunday, 5th October 2008

West Ham United 1
Bolton Wanderers 3

by Gordon Thrower


Let me get this off my chest right from the start. 1.30 on a Sunday is no time to be playing football. It means no lie-in, messing about with engineering works on the trains and tubes and drinking beer while you can still taste the toothpaste. In short it’s a pain. It’s an even bigger pain when it’s started raining at silly o’clock and you know that the game you are about to watch has every chance of being decided by Mike Dean. However, a forthcoming break for some sunshine and much-needed rest meant that even the prospect of having that moron in the middle wasn’t going to spoil my day.

Team news was that the temptation to give Bellamy a start was resisted and the starting line-up remained as it had been for the previous two league outings, namely: Green, Faubert, Ilunga, Neill, Upson, Parker, Noble, Behrami, Etherington, Di Michele, Cole.

There is something about the North West of the country that turns big blokes into really unstable people who you can knock-over just by sneezing in the wrong direction. Steve Gerrard is probably the biggest diver outside Stamford Bridge. However, in Bolton there are a few willing to give the irritating friend of Scouse gangsters a run for his money. Thus it was that we had to wait a full 3 seconds for Gardner to fall over, presumably because I had coughed in the DMU. Dean was all too eager to take part in the charade by giving a free-kick for the non-existent offence and so the die was cast.

The first bit of football of any note involved by the impressive Ilunga, whose cut inside was cynically curtailed by a trip from Davies – a yellow card offence that escaped any more punishment than the free-kick that the moron in the yellow awarded. Faubert went for it at the near post but Jaaskelainen got his body behind it.

Two minutes later Dean booked Noble – it was a late lunge but hardly more deserving of a yellow than the trip on Cheri had been previously. Still with a muppet like Dean in charge we can only be thankful that he managed to identify the right player I suppose. The free-kick looked dangerous but Cahill messed-up the header and Cheri was able to clear.

Bolton were their usual selves – they had clearly come to stifle rather than create and players weren’t allowed time on the ball. Particularly guilty of dwelling was Di Michele and a typical spell of play commenced when Ilunga fed the Italian exile inside only for him to lose the ball. A couple of passes later the ball fell to the feet of Nolan who screwed his shot wide.

Our distribution and inability to get a decent cross in weren’t helping much – though a decent DiMichele run was ended by the linesman’s flag because only two were playing him onside. We did have some moments though. A decent move between Neill and Etherington saw Matty feed Carlton Cole whose curled left-foot effort cleared the bar by a couple of feet.

We survived a scare when Behrami and Faubert indulged in a spot of “after you Claude” and gardner nipped in to feed Elmander whose shot was weak and straight at Green.
Some more decent play saw Matty find Cheri on the left. The full-back pulled the ball back for Cole who was unceremoniously bundled off the ball. Incredibly the moron simply waved play on.

Another Ilunga burst down the left resulted in a shot that was deflected wide by a defender. The ball appeared to run out of play for a corner but nobody was surprised when it wasn’t given.

Given Bolton’s lack of creativity, it was always likely that we would be the creators of our own downfall and we had a few goes. Parker’s ridiculous back pass had Green having to head the ball in to save a corner. Another misplaced pass saw Samuel’s cross cleared out by Neill for a corner. It was the first of a number of corners that kept being put out for corners without ever looking dangerous. Eventually they found Green whose quick throw found Noble who, in turn, found Parker. Parker slipped the ball outside to DiMichele who cut back inside and curled a 20 yard effort just wide.

We hadn’t had a dive for a bit so it came as no surprise when Muamba went down under no challenge whatsoever- Parker being penalised for being in the same postcode area at the time the player went down.

Ilunga was beginning to show some quality and a good spot of link play saw him burst into the box only to see his pull-back cut out, the ball eventually being cleared for a throw. Ilunga’s throw saw Cole unable to challenge for the ball due to his being inconvenienced by a bear-hug from a defender, something that was illegal when last I looked at the laws – something Dean might want to try some day. Eventually Noble fed Behrami, whose shot from distance missed by a yard to the left.

So just before the half hour we went behind – and, as forecast, we were the architects of our own downfall. A long ball from the back (what else?) seemed to have no threat as Green came out to gather. Unfortunately the ‘keeper made a pig’s ear of it and fumbled at the feet of Davies who prodded the ball into the empty net. I neither know nor care whether Dean saw Davies two handed shove on Ilunga – let’s face it, it wouldn’t make any difference with that idiot. Green’s kept us in enough games over the last few seasons so it seems churlish to moan at him but the fact is if he’d gathered the ball safely Davies’ push would have been irrelevant. He didn’t and, at least he acknowledged his role in the cock-up.

We went at them from the restart and Davies brought an Etherington run to an end with yet another cynical trip that yet again escaped an entry into the book. Noble’s free-kick sailed just wide.

We went 2-0 down only a few minutes later. McCann, who must be twice the size of DiMichele, nevertheless managed to somehow be sent flying having jumped into the Italian. Dean gleefully gave it. The resulting free-kick fell to Steinsson whose shot was spilled by Green only for Cahill to give the visitors a bafflingly undeserved 2-0 lead.

We spent a few minutes down to ten men as Ilunga somehow managed to pick up a knock to his hand. The Congolese international thankfully returned a few minutes later sporting a fetching bandage just before the interval. It was Cheri who then combined well with Etherington to force a corner. The ball fell out to Parker who played a superb first time ball back out to Noble who had remained wide. His cross found Upson who couldn’t keep his header down and that was effectively it for the half.

The interval was brightened up by the news that Spurs were losing and the return of the Kit-Kats. The feeling that we’d have enough to get something out of the game was still there too. There were no changes at half-time – our hopes that Dean might have irreparably damaged something to be replaced by the fourth official were dashed.

Well the problem we had in the second half boiled down to passing. Accuracy. Lack of. You could see what some players were trying to do but pass after pass went astray. Bolton were satisfied with their tactic of lumping it at Davies and hoping Dean would ignore the backing in. We nearly equalised five minutes in though. Etherington’s clever touch fed Cole whose equally clever turn bought him the space to shoot goalwards with Jaaskelainen unconvincingly clawing wide for the corner.

Boltobn broke from the corner and a long ball was played to a clearly offside Davies. No flag was forthcoming and, as Behrami got close, davies threw himself to the ground. The free-kick was too much for Faubert who talked his way into Dean’s book. Ridiculous when you consider the cynical trips that Davies had got away with but that’s Dean for you.

Zola had seen enough and replaced DiMichele with Bellamy on 53 minutes. However, it was frustrating stuff. Parker, for example beat three players with a cleverly paced run before overhitting a pass out wide. Noble fed Bellamy whose dangerous cross was put out for a corner. Cole flicked the corner on but nobody was following up behind. Behrami was then flattened by Nolan and, eventually, reminded by the crowd Dean finally remembered that he was allowed to book Bolton players and a much belated yellow was shown. Sadly Faubert’s delivery from a good position was awful.

Again we were the only side that looked like creating a goal. Sadly that included both ends. On 62 minutes a cross from the Bolton left didn’t look too dangerous. Unfortunately Upson, of all people, decided to pass it back to Green from all of two yards. The shot that eventually came was well high thankfully.

We then won a free-kick. I felt like celebrating, so unlikely had this appeared. Parker shot and Jaaskelainen spilled it. Sadly nobody had thought to do anything useful like following the shot in and a chance went begging. Faubert continued to have a rough time – getting into good positions time and time again before wasting the cross.

With a quarter of the match to play we gained hope. Etherington won a corner which he took himself. Upson headed back across goal and Cole buried the header off the crossbar. Suddenly the score had a more meaningful look about it and the crowd woke up. Faubert messed up another cross but won another corner. A defender’s hand went up but it was difficult to see whether contact had been made but Faubert’s shot was high and wide anyway.

Bellamy cut in from the left and fed Behrami whose shot was a couple wide. Bellamy and Etherington combined to force another corner but faubert failed to keep it in. On 77 minutes Sears replaced Etherington. Noble took another corner but had not got back onside following Ilunga’s deflected shot.

Of course since we looked like coming back into it Mike Dean saved his worst for last. Ilunga or Behrami – take your pick because I’m damned if I know, was punished for a non-existent foul. Even by Dean’s standards – and they are dreadful at the best of times – it was an appalling decision. The next time a Bolton fan moans about Rob Styles just mention Mike Dean to them because he effectively closed this match out for them. Taylor’s free-kick was superb, it was just a complete and utter travesty that it had been awarded to them. The Wanderers fans – silent for most of the game started chanting Taylor’s name – presumably because Dean’s doesn’t fit the chant.

That was it really – just as we should have been looking at going for broke we had all chance robbed by the stupidity of one idiot who, suspiciously, does this to us time and time again – especially when the cameras are about. Respect for referees? When they earn it maybe but whilst Hackett and his cronies continue to defend the idiocy of morons like this they’ll just get deserved contempt from me.

I would like to close with some (in the words of Ian Dury) reasons to be cheerful:

• At least I don’t have to watch Bolton every week;
• Tottenham are still bottom;
• I’m now on holiday; and
• When I get back Spurs will still be bottom!



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Two goals were his I’m afraid.


Julien Faubert
Pass after pass and cross after cross went astray today.


Herita Ilunga
Pick of the bunch for me.


Lucas Neill
I thought he was the better of the central pair today.


Matthew Upson
Had trouble coping with Davies – though Dean’s ignorance of the laws didn’t help much.


Scott Parker
Did that circular thing like he’s drilling for oil too much.


Mark Noble
Failed to spot passes when they were on.


Valon Behrami
Must have had a frustrating day – got through loads of work but came away with nothing to show from it.


Matthew Etherington
I know he likes the new free role but sometimes he does still need to be out wide and he needs to remember that.


David Di Michele
One shot and that was about it.


Carlton Cole
Took the goal well but lacked support.


Substitutes


Craig Bellamy
(replaced Di Michele, 54) Better than the player he replaced – just.


Fred Sears
(replaced Etherington, 79) No significant impact.


Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.


Walter Lopez
Did not play.


Calum Davenport
Did not play.


Hayden Mullins
Did not play.


Luis Boa Morte
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mike Dean.

Attendance: 33,715.

Man of the Match: Herita Ilunga.

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: Carlton Cole 69                  .

Booked: Mark Noble 5 Julien Faubert 52 Craig Bellamy 88 Scott Parker 89    .

Sent off: None.

Bolton Wanderers

Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, O'Brien, Cahill, Samuel, Davies, Nolan, McCann, Muamba, Gardner, Elmander.

Substitutes: Taylor (Elmander 73), O'Brien (Muamba 80).

Subs not used: Al Habsi, Hunt, Shittu, Smolarek, Riga.

Goals: Davies (30), Cahill (34), Taylor (86).

Booked: Nolan (60), Taylor (87), O'Brien (90).

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Herita Ilunga