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Tuesday, 1st January 2002

Leeds United 3
West Ham United 0

by Graeme Howlett

After the turmoil and upheaval of last summer, and with our recent unbeaten run of six games firmly in mind it appeared that the club could look forward to 2002 with renewed optimism.

Glenn Roeder, pilloried upon his arrival finally seemed to be showing signs of turning out to be a pretty good manager, to the delight of all Hammers supporters (and, of course, the board, who took the enormous gamble of hiring Roeder in the first place).

That six game run included games against top sides such as Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal - from which we emerged (relatively) unscathed.

So surely, after all that, getting a result on a New Years day visit to Leeds wouldn't be beyond us?

Whoa, stop right there. This is, after all, West Ham United; how many times have we seen our hopes raised and subsequently dashed? Too many to mention, I fear.

So, true to form, the Hammers banished any recent memory of showing real promise to turn in arguably our worst performance of the season. Arguable I know - how can you forget those fateful days at Goodison and Ewood - but this was right up there with the worst of them.

The game was all but lost inside the first seven minutes. Some shambolic defending by the Hammers saw David James picking the ball out of his net on 4 and 7 minutes - both goals coming from big Australian striker Mark Viduka, who gave Tomas Repka a torrid time. Not many have achieved that since the burly Czech's arrival.

In all fairness the Hammers picked up after that - which was good on the one hand as I'm sure I was not alone in thinking another Blackburn was on it's way after Viduka's early brace.

But despite having the lions share of possession we rarely looked like troubling the Leeds rearguard, which was superbly led by former Hammer Rio Ferdinand.

Two down at the break, we were still in with a shout - well, one can always hope.

That was until Robbie Fowler scored a third on 50 minutes, when he capitalised on yet more sloppy defending to lob the stranded David James superbly.

In the end it was James that West Ham had to thank for keeping the scoreline respectable; the big keeper was absolutely tremendous throughout; certainly no blame could be attributed to him for any of the Leeds goals.

The Hammers went into the game minus Paolo Di Canio (injured, insisted Glenn Roeder, and not on his way to Old Trafford) and Michael Carrick, who suffered a knee tweak against Liverpool on Saturday.

Although Di Canio may well have had more success than the ineffective Kanoute or Defoe on the night, it was young Carrick who was even more sorely missed.

His replacement, John Moncur didn't get near the Leeds midfield - a midfield which included a regular striker (Alan Smith) and a left-back (Gary Kelly). Surely Moncs days as a first team player are numbered.

The game was eerily reminiscent of last New Years day's 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford - the only difference being that we failed to score a consolation goal late on this time despite a late surge which left both Moncur and Hutchison kicking the ground in frustration as they missed good chances.

Despite the defeat West Ham remain in 11th spot in the Premiership - but any hopes of Europe will be gone should Roeder's men fail to take all three points against Leicester next week.

Before that comes Sunday's televised visit to the romantically named Moss Rose to tackle third division Macclesfield.

Glenn Roeder has already suffered the lower league jinx once this season, at Reading in the Worthington Cup.

Hammers fans will be praying that it won't happen again - but it could be bad news if we repeat the performance of Elland Road.

Player ratings:

David James (8) It was a funny night for James. Three times he picked the ball out of his net, but on many more occasions he drew applause from the crowd for several top class saves. All in front of the watching Sven Goran Eriksson, who picks his next England squad within weeks. Man of the match.

Sebastien Schemmel (5) A nightmare for Archie, this one. Got lost too often (where was he for the second goal?) and failed to come to terms with Leeds' rampant attacks. Headless chickens would be understandably upset with any comparison.

Nigel Winterburn (5) Outplayed, outclassed and outrun, this was a bad night for Nutty Nige. His panicked clearance led to the second Leeds goal, but it was the ease of which Danny Mills constantly outstripped him on the (Hammers) left flank which worried most. Four games in ten days has taken it's toll on the oldest member of our squad. Here's hoping the brief respite between now and Sunday is enough.

Tomas Repka (4) A shocker. Quite what was wrong with our most recent signing is unknown, but he suffered a nightmare against the rampant Leeds strikers. At fault for one (possibly two) goals, he was at sixes and sevens throughout. Had his bullet header beaten Martyn late on in the first half he might have redeemed himself somewhat, but as it is this was his worst game in the claret and blue.

Christian Dailly (6) Once again just about out best defender on show - but that wasn't too hard, in all honesty. Nearly gifted Leeds a fourth near the end with a hospital ball backpass to David James, but he was better than that on the night.

Don Hutchison (6) A funny night for Don. Coming off the back of some solid performances which have earned rave reviews from the critics, he continued the good work in the first half, being at the heart of the best Hammers moves. But he faded badly after the break, and looked a shadow of the player so effective against Liverpool and Derby.

Trevor Sinclair (7) One of the rare successes for the Hammers on the night. Not his greatest game by far, but he still managed to stand out amongst a sea a dross. Two good chances to add to his two goals from the last two games were well saved by Martyn.

John Moncur (4) Moncs has hardly featured this season, and his lack of current first-team experience was cruelly exposed in front of the live TV cameras. A mark of how bad he was is that he managed to get through an entire 90 minutes without a caution - surely something wrong there Moncs?

Joe Cole (6) Man marked throughout, Joe was as ineffective as he has been at any point this season. One or two fancy touches lifted the (excellent) Hammers support momentarily, but overall he was completely stifled by Batty and Bowyer.

Jermain Defoe (5) Young Jermain never had a look in despite going into the game full of confidence after he had received much praise for his recent efforts. Former Hammer Rio Ferdinand has Jem in his pocket throughout - actually, when you look at the two standing side by side that is probably quite possible. Not a good night, but that's life.

Freddy Kanoute (5) Wildly off the pace against Liverpool, tonight he was little better. Actually he was probably worse in this one; the ball seemed to bounce off Freddy like a pinball table whenever the Hammers looked to him to hold the ball in order to ease the constant pressure. Still looking a long way off full fitness.

Svetoslav Todorov (5) Brought on for Jermain Defoe as the diminutive striker began to struggle, Todorov showed just why he has failed to make any impact whatsoever since joining the club last year. Fifteen minutes to impress, Toddy was probably glad that was all the suffering he had to endure. It was just about all the supporters could take.

Richard Garcia (6) A young Joe Cole made his first team debut at Man Utd three years ago. Former youth team sidekick Garcia has taken rather longer to make his debut (thanks mainly to the injury which kept him out for the whole of last season) and it was a far more low-key affair, but coming on for the disappointing Kanoute as he did at 0-3 there was little to lose. Much is expected of the young Aussie in years to come.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Winterburn, Schemmel, Dailly, Repka, Hutchison, Sinclair, Cole, Moncur, Kanoute, Defoe

Subs: Todorov (Defoe 75), Garcia (Kanoute 83), Hislop, Foxe, Minto

Leeds United: Martyn, Mills, Ferdinand, Woodgate, Harte, Batty, Bowyer, Kelly, Smith, Fowler, Viduka

Subs: Wilcox (Bowyer 87), Robinson, McPhail, Duberry, Singh

Goals: Viduka (4,7), Fowler (50)

Booked: Repka, Kanoute, Mills, Bowyer, Smith

Attendance: 39,322

Referee: Steve Dunn (5)

Man of the Match: David James

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