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Monday, 2nd December 2002

West Ham United 0
Southampton 1

by Gordon Thrower

Gutted. Again.

Another home match and another defeat. I've long since given up approaching any match with optimism these days but I was in reasonable spirits during the pre-match session in the Wakefield. I'd had a smashing weekend at the wedding of two good friends and both families and the vicar had forgiven me for my part in the candle-lighting incident that nearly burnt the church down so things were looking up.

The first shock of the evening came with the news that Kanoute was nowhere to be seen on the team sheet. This was despite earlier statements to the effect that Fredi was a definite starter. This bombshell was followed by the news that Ian Pearce was to play up front alongside Defoe with DiCanio dropping back to play just behind the front two. Pearce's elevation to striker meant a return for Repka, whose last appearance had been during the first half of the Leeds match.

We started brightly enough, once Southampton had actually turned up. Apparently nobody realised that there might be a bit of traffic about during the rush hour on a Monday in London so Southampton only arrived at 7.30pm. Which was fair enough as far as I'm concerned - I only arrived at 7.45 myself. We dominated the first half-hour with several good chances going begging. Defoe hooked a volley wide when unmarked from six yards. Sinclair headed wide from a DiCanio free-kick whilst Carrick, who had an excellent first half, produced a good, if comfortable save from keeper Niemi.

And what of stand-in striker Pearce? Well he did win a few in the air but he looked a lot like a player who hasn't played regularly up front for 10 years. His chance when one on one with Niemi was probably the most clear cut that we had. in the first half and I couldn't help feeling that had it fallen to a proper striker we might have gone in 1-0 up.

Up the other end we seemed to be a little less jittery than normal. Repka, who had been awful against Leeds, was having what was for me one of his best matches in a West Ham shirt. He even managed to keep his temper despite being cynically targeted by Marsden who left his foot in on several occasions. However, James was giving cause for concern., coming for crosses he should have left and leaving those he should have come for and Beattie could have scored when his header went across the face of the goal.

For me, however, the most worrying aspect of the first half was DiCanio. Paolo spent much of the first half hobbling and I now understand that the source of the injury was a troublesome cartilage which may keep him out for a while. Very worrying.

We didn't start the second half too badly. DiCanio was particularly unlucky when, following tidy approach work from Cole, his shot was deflected wide for a corner. Defoe and Cole also missed chances. However, as the match wore on, we created fewer and fewer chances and Southampton began to create the occasional one of their own. Repka appeared fortunate not to have given away a penalty when "colliding" with (I think) Beattie, although the Southampton forward did not appear to complain too much. James then tried to be too clever in dealing with Repka's back pass and was very lucky to get the ball clear under pressure from Delap.

Repka was then unlucky to pick up a yellow card for what was his first real foul of the match, a sliding tackle which made minimal contact with the Southampton player. The ever niggly Marsden also picked up a yellow in the "debate" that ensued.

DiCanio finally succumbed to the knee problem with about 15 minutes to go to be replaced by Moncur, and the game appeared to be heading for a disappointing draw until, in the second minute of injury time, it was disaster time again. Schemmel got caught out of position on the right and his weak tackle played Ormerod in and the Southampton sub had ages to measure up his cross to give Beattie a tap-in from a couple of yards. It was too late to come back and another game we should have won was gone.

It would be amiss of me to finish without mentioning the various protests and demonstrations that took place. From my vantage point in the Upper West several "Brown Out" banners were clearly visible. Since my view is similar to that of the main cameras when our matches are televised I would imagine that Sky would have found it very difficult not to pass comment. However, depending on how you look at it, the most hilarious/pathetic sight I saw was in the Centenary lower in the corner by the West stand. A banner had been unfurled and, presumably acting under orders from Mr Moon, a number of stewards promptly got up and stood in front of it in what appeared to be a rather sad attempt to prevent either the crowd or the Sky touchline cameras seeing it.

On my way home I took a detour back via the ground to see what was happening. A few hundred (my estimate - sorry if it's wrong I'm just rubbish at estimating crowds) people were hanging around outside the main entrance. Thick curtains were drawn over the windows of the main entrance although whether this was to protect Brown from the sight of the protestors or vice versa I didn't quite work out. I was also a bit mystified by the "one Harry Potter" chants, although I presume that there may have been a lookalike involved.

So another disappointing night came to a close. We've got few points and no money and, for the first time this season I'm thinking relegation. The only way out as far as I can see would be for someone to invite me to a wedding in the Chicken Run. If I'm allowed to light the candles I reckon the resulting conflagration ought to be worth a few bob in insurance..............

Player Ratings

David James (4) A nervous night. Beaten to several crosses and was lucky to get away with a howler from Repka's back pass.

Sebastien Schemmell (5) Ok going forward but was at fault for the goal when caught out of position.

Nigel Winterburn (5) Again ok going forward but, like Archie, went missing a couple of times.

Christian Dailly (6) Not bad. Seems to play better if his defensive partner is on form.

Tomas Repka (7) So different from his nightmare against Leeds. Plays so much better when he concentrates on the ball rather than the player.

Michael Carrick (6) Had a fine first half but faded as the match went on.

Joe Cole (6) Caused a few problems to the Southampton defence but, like Carrick, his influence waned as the night drew on.

Trevor Sinclair (4) His early header apart, Trev was largely anonymous and repeatedly failed to lose his marker.

Paolo Di Canio (5) Clearly hampered by his injury he was still at the heart of some of our better moments.

Jermain Defoe (5) Excellent workrate but let down by his finishing.

Ian Pearce (4) A fish out of water. Missed our best chance. Camera must be wondering what he has to do to get a match.

Sub: John Moncur (5) On for DiCanio on 77 minutes. his most memorable feat was to last 13 minutes without being booked. A record?

Referee: Mike Riley (6) An ok match. Not helped one bit by his assistants and the Repka booking seemed harsh to me.

KUMB Match stats

West Ham United: James, Repka, Winterburn, Schemmel, Dailly, Cole, Sinclair, Carrick, Di Canio (Moncur 77), Pearce, Defoe.

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Minto, Breen, Camara.

Southampton: Niemi, Dodd, Lundekvam, Bridge, Michael Svensson, Oakley (Ormerod 66), Marsden, Delap, Fernandes (Williams 90), Delgado (Anders Svensson 45), Beattie.

Subs not used: Jones, Telfer.

Goals: Beattie (89)

Booked: Beattie, Repka.

Attendance: 28,844

Referee: Mike Riley

KUMB Man of the Match: Tomas Repka

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