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Saturday, 3rd November 2001

West Ham United 0
Fulham 2

by Graeme Howlett

West Ham slipped to their first home defeat of the season at the hands of Jean Tigana's Fulham in a game which will be remembered most for an appalling display from the officials.

The woefully substandard referee Graham Barber and his equally poor assistants contrived to make a mockery of a game billed as a promising London derby between two exponents of flowing football.

Time after time they baffled the watching supporters with curious, bizarre, and downright awful decisions which marred a game which in truth never managed to live up to it's pre-match billing.

Fulham won the contest courtesy of two simple goals either side of the break; the first arriving in the 44th minute when the unmarked Sylvain Legwinski was able to convert a corner from five yards, and the second 18 minutes into the second half when Steed Malbranque clinically finished a Fulham counter attack which should never been allowed to happen as Paolo Di Canio was fouled at the other end immediately prior to the move.

Fulham could have won the game by a wider margin had the inefficient Barber spotted either of two blatant infringements by Hammers defenders inside the box.

But at least the inept man in black couldn't be blamed for an inexplicably poor performance by the Hammers who lacked any of the commitment, resolve or creativity which had led them to concurrent victories in their previous three games.

Despite missing influencial players such as the suspended Tomas Repka and the injured Joe Cole the Hammers should have had more than enough quality to test the visitors today.

But with several players performing way below par - including England hopeful Michael Carrick in front of the watching Sven Goran Eriksson - Fulham found it relatively easy to chalk up their first away win of the season.

The Hammers only really created one clear chance throughout the game, when Freddy Kanoute beat Van Der Sar (but not the post) after just 12 minutes. That was just about as good as it got for Glenn Roeder's men.

Fulham, in all fairness, weren't much better. Barry Hayles, doing a workable impression of Iain Dowie in front of goal missed at least three gilt-edged opportunities to put the game beyond the Hammers' way before Malbranque's killer second.

Plus points for the Hammers were few and far between, but Hayden Foxe did his chances of ousting Christian Dailly as the returning Tomas Repka's central defensive partner no harm at all with a solid display at the heart of the Hammers defence - including two sliding goal-line clearances to deny the opposition certain goals.

So to sum up - crap game, crap referee and crap atmosphere. It's saying something when the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Frank MacAvennie, dragged on at the interval to pick competition winners.

One final point - whatever happened to the ball boys at the Boleyn?

Player ratings:

Hislop (6) Can be held partly responsible for both goals; failed to come off his line in order to challenge the cross for the first goal, and committed the cardinal goalkeeping sin for the second by being beaten at his near post. David James has nothing to fear judging by this.

Schemmel (6) Lots of energy and commitment from Archie today (as always) but failed to make a real impression. Caught in posession once or twice in vital positions and possibly his most ineffective performance of the season so far. Needs to work on his crossing in training a little more.

Winterburn (6) Caught for pace once or twice Nigel never really managed to get forward as much as he likes to. Struggled at times and far from his best.

Foxe (8) Just about the best performance for Foxe in a claret and blue shirt. Two fantastic goal-line clearances aside he is beginning to look a little like the player who was so hyped ahead of his signing last year. Did the number six proud today.

Dailly (6) Is this the end of the line for Christian? Escaped with a blatant hand-ball to deny Hayles in the first half too, just as he did against Newcastle here last month. Just lacking the confidence required to be a success at the moment, a spell in the reserves beckons.

Sinclair (7) A fighting performance from Sinclair. Whatever your views on his situation you cannot deny that he continues to give it his all whist still a Hammer. Inventive on the flank and industrious throughout.

Courtois (5) Not in it at all today, and definitely not the answer to our problems on the left going by this. Definitely has some talent - but then so did Stan Lazaridis.

Hutchison (6) I've slated Hutchison of late for his ineffective performances, and sadly today I see no reason to alter my views. Still clearly struggling to adapt to the role set out for him by Glenn Roeder, and just not getting into the kind of positions that have seen him score regularly for previous clubs.

Carrick (5) Carrick's worst performance this season - and in front of the watching Eriksson too. Too many stray passes and still a long way off his sparkling form of last season.

Di Canio (6) After a few dodgy refereeing decisions the head went down again, after which point he is generally useless. Guilty again of over-elaborating on the ball and no signs of the magic that we were so badly lacking today.

Kanoute (5) The complete opposite of recent weeks; disinterested and lazy on the whole. Should have scored when one on one with Van Der Sar; had he done so the game would probably have taken a much different complexion.

Defoe (6) Introduced in a tactical switch early in the second half Jem was limited to one good opportunity today, and a repeat of last weeks goal against Ipswich was neevr really on the cards.

West Ham United: Hislop, Schemmel, Winterburn, Foxe, Dailly, Sinclair, Courtois, Hutchison, Carrick, Di Canio, Kanoute

Subs: Defoe (Courtois 60), James, Song, Moncur, Kitson

Fulham: Van Der Sar, Brevette, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Collins, Legwinski, Malbranque, Boa Morte, Hayles, Saha

Subs: Davis (Saha 74), Golsbaek (Collins 82), Stolcers (Malbranque 89), Taylor, Knight

Goals: Legwinski (44), Malbranque (63)

Booked: Hayles (handbags, 19), Foxe (retalliation, 19), Boa Morte (rash challenge, 37), Melville (foul, 73)

Attendance: 26,217

Referee: Graham Barber (2)

Man of the Match: Hayden Foxe

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