Saturday, 3rd January 2009
The January transfer window, the Club’s continued denials that anyone is actually up for sale unless they are up for sale and the not-unnatural desire for players to keep themselves available for future cup-ties with new clubs all meant that the team news was likely to be interesting as much for those who weren’t anywhere near the squad as for those who were. Of those who the journos insist are likely to be on their way, Scott Parker’s suspension was always going to keep him away. Neill’s injury sustained against Pompey hadn’t repaired itself in time – and he was apparently in Milan anyway. The most worrying absentee was Upson who we were told has ‘flu. I hope so.
Davenport was the most obvious replacement but with rumours being rife of his being a bit miffed at being replaced by Collins following Ginge’s return to fitness it appears that he is out of favour at the moment which saw a return to first-team actions for James Tomkins. Line-up: Green, Faubert, Ilunga, Collins, Tomkins, Collison, Noble, Mullins, Boa-Morte, Cole, Bellamy. Interestingly the bench contained some chap called Dyer- the name rang a vague bell from somewhere or other but the match kicked off before I could quite place it. I was a bit distracted at the time though. Stoke’s time wasting the previous weekend had been so bad that I was convinced that they would still be there when I arrived at the ground for this one.
Well the nerves were calmed fairly early in this one and Ilunga was at the centre of things on the left – if that’s not some sort of contradiction in terms. We’ve lacked width in recent matches and, taking the ball out on the left, Cheri elected to take on the winger role himself and pushed forward down the line, his run being ended by a cynical clip from Odejayi. The foul elicited the first yellow card of the day. Noble’s free-kick found Cheri unmarked at the far post and, although the left-back’s first touch was less than clean the ball fell kindly to enable him to steer a shot past the ‘keeper and the despairing slide of a defender to put us one up.
We continued to press forward rather than sit on the lead and might have doubled the advantage ten minutes later. Another Noble free-kick found Collins who headed down for Collison to pull his shot wide. Barnsley, to their credit, tried to play football throughout, though their efforts on goal tended to consist mainly of long distance forays that failed to trouble Green too much. Colace’s effort must have come from the better part of 40 yards, whilst shots from Campbell-Ryce and Leon came from more sensible range. Green dealt with these fairly comfortably though Leon’s effort was gathered at the second attempt.
The game got a it scrappy at this point. We, in particular, seemed unable to string two passes together and there was a degree of unease about the crowd as promising counter attacking moves broke down through a lack of accuracy. So when the lead was doubled on 39 minutes the goal came as a spot of welcome relief to all the scrappiness that had ensued.
Bellamy, LBM and Cole combined well to feed Noble on the right hand side of the box. Noble found himself confronted by two defenders but wriggled clear only to be tugged back by El Haimour. The tug back was obvious to all and Noble’s fall to the ground was a little bit unnecessary given that the ref had been well-placed to see the 2 square feet of shirt being pulled off the midfielder’s back. There again we’ve been denied so many penalties by poor refereeing this season – this was our first of the season remember – that I suppose Noble can be forgiven for trying to make sure that the ref didn’t miss it. The ref didn’t miss it and neither did Noble whose confident low drive gave Muller no chance sending us 2-0 up.
El Haimour picked up a yellow for his troubles and there was still time for two more yellows before the interval. Mullins picked up his for a trip on a breaking midfielder whilst Faubert went into the book following a terrible kick from Green that played the Frenchman into trouble. You’ve heard the phrase hospital ball – well this was the mother of them all – with the wonderful Hattie Jacques thrown in as matron for good measure. Both bookings were deserved, and this is as good a time as any for me to state that I thought that the ref had a decent match.
I was a tad concerned that the match had been given to a 24 year-old called Michael but he got most things right, tried to play advantage properly and showed a degree of common sense sadly lacking in most of his more senior colleagues. As we all know, bald referees and referees called Mike are incompetent glory-seekers but as long as he persists in calling himself Michael and ignores everything the idiot Hackett tells him he should go far. Especially as, at the age of 24, we should get a few years out of him before his hair starts to thin out.
The half-time interval seemed to take forever. The penalty shoot out between young supporters of both teams was won by Barnsley in case anyone’s interested but the speculation was that the young ref’s Mum had refused to let him out until he’d wrapped up warm.
Barnsley got to a Wembley semi-final last season in a run that hilariously got rid of Chelsea and Liverpool on the way so they were always likely to give it a go early in the second half and so it proved. However, like the first half, their efforts were long-range in nature. Five minutes into the half they can consider themselves a bit unlucky not to have pulled one back though. Leon looks a skilful player and a shot from the left came back off the post before hitting Green to go out for a corner. It was one of those where the rebound might have gone anywhere. It didn’t and the nerves remained intact.
As the game wore on we looked more comfortable and Muller had to be alert to keep out a Collison drive from distance. Then Cole embarked on a mazy run that found him almost clear on goal despite never quite appearing to have the ball under control at any stage of the proceedings.
With 65 minutes on the clock Zola decided to switch things about a bit. Luis Boa Morte, whose presence in the side seemed to be partly designed to give the boo boys someone other than Carlton Cole to boo at, was replaced by Etherington who has been missing for a while and we were treated to the sight of Etherington sporting a shirt bearing the logo of an internet betting company. Funny old game innit.
Within a minute or so of Matty’s arrival we were 3-0 up and the sub was involved in a fine passing move that saw Cole neatly glance his header from Ilunga’s cross past Muller’s despairing dive. It was an excellent goal that the crowd would love to have seen again but, unfortunately, the screens weren’t working for some unexplained and unknown reason. Which was a shame really as it was the sort of goal that I was brought up on in the 1960’s as being a “West Ham-type of goal”.
Straight after the goal we saw the welcome return to action of Kieron Dyer after an absence that was so long, Rory Delap had actually completed two throw-ins for Stoke. Collison made way. Football occasionally throws up those wonderful “Roy Of The Rovers” (ask your Dad) moments where, after a tough battle against injury the returning player comes off the bench to score a comeback goal. We nearly got one such moment as Dyer picked up a stray ball and hit a 30 yard effort that wasn’t all that far away.
Five minutes further on Tristan replaced Cole before Campbell-Ryce produced a spectacular looking save from Green, though the save looked a bit better than I suspect it needed have done. Dyer nearly iced the gateau in stoppage time with a 30 yard dipping effort that Muller appeared to have got a finger on before it clipped the bar though the ref gave a goal-kick. It was another moment that would have been good to see again on the screens had the things been working. The final whistle went shortly after to confirm the safe passage into the next round whilst the crowd tried to read what they could into the post-match celebrations or lack of them form the players
3-0 sounds like a rout but Barnsley played their part in the match, even if they did lack a certain cutting edge in the last third of the pitch and that, ultimately, was the big difference between the sides. It’s nice to be able to say that for a change. Next up we’ll have Hartlepool – a particular favourite haunt of our away crew – just as long as Stoke have finished up there. One to look forward to as long as the TV people don’t get their hands on it and make us play at 2am on a Saturday morning so that someone in the Maldives can watch the game over their breakfast croissants!
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Dealt with what Barnsley had to provide fairly comfortably. Distribution wasn’t quite right once or twice and he probably owes Faubert a pint over the latter’s caution.
Not really given much to do down his wing defensively speaking. However his passing and crossing going forward still leave a lot to be desired.
Another good run-out for the chap from the Congo. Nice to see him on the score-sheet having threatened a few times this season.
Solid – though it has to be said that his pairing with Tomkins didn’t quite look like a partnership in the same way as his pairing with Upson does.
A good run out for the youngster though the communication with his senior partner at the back sometimes seemed lacking.
Straight out of the book marked “basic Mullins performances”. Including the booking picked up for getting caught wrong side.
A busy afternoon. Scored one, made one and was at the heart of things in the centre.
Continues to mature – better finishing might have seen him add to the tally as well.
Luis Boa Morte
Not a great game but not nearly as bad as some were prepared to make out. Battled gamely without ever quite seeming to be in control.
Caused constant awkwardness to the Barnsley defence and the glancing header was well taken for the goal.
His pace was a threat throughout though final balls played both to and by him were often tantalisingly a few feet off target.
(replaced) Brought some width to the match and played a part in the best of the three goals.
(replaced) Good to see him back even if he did appear to be limping a bit at the end of his 20 minutes or so. Nearly scored too.
(replaced) Failed to influence matters much in the few moments he was on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
David Di Michele
Did not play.
Referee: Michael Jones.
Man of the Match: Carlton Cole.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Julien Faubert, Herita Ilunga, James Collins, James Tomkins, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, Jack Collison, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, Craig Bellamy.
Goals: Herita Ilunga 10 Mark Noble 39 Carlton Cole 68 .
Booked: Julien Faubert 41 Hayden Mullins 44 .
Sent off: None.
Muller, Hassell, Foster, Guedes, Van Homoet, Campbell-Ryce, Colace, Leon, El Haimour, Odejayi, Rigters.
Substitutes: Adam (Rigters 86), Coulson (Odejayi 86), Butterfield (Leon 89).
Subs not used: Muller, Hassell, Foster, Guedes, Van Homoet, Campbell-Ryce, Colace, Leon, El Haimour, Odejayi, Rigters.
Booked: Odejayi, El Haimour, Colace.
Sent Off: .