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Wednesday, 26th December 2001

West Ham United 4
Derby County 0

by Graeme Howlett

If you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas, you couldn't have asked for more than to be a Hammers supporter today. In short, we played poorly for 90% of the game, yet managed to hit the net four times to record a scoreline which, in the end, more than flattered.

Boxing Day matches are strange affairs; today's was by no means an exception to the rule. A less than capacity crowd (too many shandies for some last night?) seemed to be filled with 'day-trippers', eager for their annual festive fix of top-class football. The nonexistent atmosphere, helped none by the dismal away support was back after a brief respite for the Arsenal game ten days ago.

In the end West Ham duly delivered, but if this game were a woman in labour an emergency caesarian would have been called for long before Graham Poll blew the final whistle.

Glenn Roeder, resplendent in a shiny new tracksuit top (which looked like a present from the missus) couldn't have asked for a better start - and neither could Sebastien Schemmel. The 23-year-old Frenchman, a 500,000 steal from Metz in the summer recorded his first goal for the club after just four minutes.

Don Hutchison's free-kick (yes, Paolo relinquished responsibility for a change) received a deflection somewhere in the box, and Schemmel was on hand to tap in from six yards. To his obvious delight; Schemmel span away to celebrate with the Bobby Moore Stand many of whom were still half asleep following the previous night's celebrations.

Derby came into the game having taken just one point from their previous nine away fixtures, scoring just three times in the process. That, and Schemmell's early strike should have given the Hammers licence to go on a scoring spree, and that's what the majority of the crowd expected. In the end we got there, but it was certainly not as straightforward as the final score suggests.

Michael Carrick and Joe Cole had probably their roughest ride since being paired in the heart of the Hammers midfield. Up against a three man Derby midfield they struggled to make an impact for large periods; Derby were winning most balls in the air to the frustration of the home crowd.

Despite their dominance in possession during the first half Derby failed to make an impact where it counts. David James had just one save of note to make during the first 45 minutes thanks in main to Fabrizio Ravanelli's preference of Row Z over James' net.

Chances for both sides were few and far between; Freddie Kanoute hit the post on the verge of the break but a foul had already been called by the over-enthusiastic Graham Poll. A couple of halfhearted penalty shouts were the only other topics of conversation for supporters queueing up for a half-time Balti Pie - apart from the newly laid turf in front of the West Stand, and, naturally, what you got for Christmas.

The second half, for the most, was more of the same. Derby still had the lions share of possession but failed to make any impact where it counts. The only difference being that they played much of the half with only ten men.

Benito Carbone was the villain of the piece for the Rams. Three minutes after being booked for diving he earned a second yellow after going through the back of Tomas Repka, much to the delight of the home fans. In years gone by a free kick would have been awarded and no further thought given, but in this day and age of 'no contact' official Poll didn't think twice about brandishing a red card to the obviously distraught Carbone.

A second goal for the Hammers was clearly inevitable; the only surprise was that it took so long in arriving. It came from a trademark Di Canio finish in the 75th minute; sent through on goal by Michael Carrick he coolly slotted the ball beyond the despairing dive of Mart Poom to put the game beyond the reaches of the visitors. He literally jumped for joy in front of the Centenary Stand by way of celebration.

The goal signalled the arrival of carnival time for the Hammers; Joe Cole and Paolo Di Canio began to delight the Boleyn crowd with sublime trickery and skill. One back-flicked pass from Paolo Di Canio drew gasps from the home fans such was it's quality, class, and sheer ingenuity.

The third goal arrived with just five minutes remaining on the clock and followed a sustained period of Hammers pressure which should have produced goals for both Joe Cole and substitute Jermain Defoe, on for the disappointing Freddie Kanoute.

And what a goal it was. A contender for goal of the season perhaps, and certainly the best goal scored at the Boleyn since Paolo's wonder goal against the Dons two seasons before.

Ironically perhaps the move was started by Di Canio; his short corner to Joe Cole was teed up and floated to the back post where Trevor Sinclair rose like a salmon to scissor kick the pass back across the goal into the far corner. Matt Poom never even saw it; sitting in the West Stand we had a perfect view. It was Sinclair's first goal of the season, and boy, did he enjoy it. Rightly so, too.


Sincs celebrates his first of the season

Defoe atoned for his earlier miss by adding a fourth just moments from the end. Sent through on goal by Michael Carrick (in a move reminiscent to Di Canio's earlier goal) Defoe waited for Poom to commit himself before slotting the ball into the corner. It was Jermain's fifth goal of the season; only Freddie Kanoute (six goals) has scored more for the first team this season.

John Moncur, sent on for Di Canio (as a festive gesture from Glenn Roeder) two minutes from the end could have added a fifth after he drove at the goal from 20 yards (following much urging to 'shoot' from the West Stand), but his shot was deflected away from it's intended target.

In the end 4-0 was a great way to round off Christmas, even thought it more than flattered the Hammers who seemed strangely subdued for the first 75 minutes. Perhaps they were suffering from the same affliction as the 4,000 who stayed away on the day ....

The win lifted West Ham temporarily into tenth place in the Premiership, before Fulham's point knocked us back down to eleventh. Still, that represents a five place rise on last weekend, and continues the Hammers unbeaten run to five games.

Player ratings:

David James (7) James will not enjoy many more afternoons this season as quiet as this. Derby, despite all their possession failed to test him more than sporadically on a freezing cold afternoon which produced a surface normally hazardous to a keeper. The kicking was fine, much better than at Leicester last week but it was his throwing that impressed most about his distribution. Often quick breaks resulted in some sharp thinking from James. More of the same and Korea beckons.

Sebastien Schemmel (6) Lovely to see Seb get his first goal for the club, and also to watch the celebration which ensued. Not as attacking perhaps as he was at the start of the season, but life is different playing behind Don Hutchison as opposed to Trevor Sinclair. Derby looked like they were targeting his right flank in the first half, and Seb was caught out of position on a few occasions. Still can't cross a ball for toffee.

Nigel Winterburn (6) Not the best game for Nigel to express himself in, but yet again he was solid in defence despite being caught for pace once or twice - hardly surprising though considering his age (which is by no means a criticism). Linked up well on occasions in attack, but very rarely stretched by the weak Derby attack.

Christian Dailly (7) It's been good to watch Dailly in recent weeks. Despite much criticism from the fans in his first few months at the club he has refused to buckle under the pressure preferring instead to perform diligently, and now turning out consistently good performances alongside Tomas Repka at the heart of the Hammers defence. Gave the dangerous Ravenelli no room for manouvre today.

Tomas Repka (7) It has taken a long time to replace Rio Ferdinand, but in Repka the Hammers appear to have finally found the answer. The Czech is nothing like Ferdinand in motion, yet commands the same respect, whilst offering the same level of inspiration and confidence to fellow team mates which gives the team stability, the likes of which has been so badly missed since Rio's untimely departure. Today Tomas was supreme in the air, assured in the tackle and excellent in his distribution - both close and distant. Booked for a fairly innocuous challenge on Carbone at the start of the second half.

Don Hutchison (9) Hutch has tried the patience of even the most forgiving Hammers fan since his much vaunted 5m arrival from Sunderland. But today he was magnificent on the right flank which he professes to dislike so much. His defensive play was excellent; his tackling, crisp, sharp and precise. Don's forays on the right flank begun many of the Hammers best moves and he worked hard from start to finish, even ending up pressurising Derby defenders on the left wing in the final seconds. His best performance since he rejoined the club. Man of the match.

Trevor Sinclair (6) Fairly anonymous throughout, Sinclair finally lit up the Boleyn with his wonder goal in the final minutes. Many will be surprised that it was his first of the season, but of the reshuffled midfield quartet he appears to be the one who is least happy with his new role. Several times after the break there were acres of space on the left flank crying out to be taken advantage of but Sinclair preferred to stay inside for the most. When he, like the rest of the team woke up for the final fifteen minutes he was excellent, but overall he is failing to replicate the form which earned him an England call up a matter of weeks back.

Michael Carrick (8) One of the successes on the day, young Michael oozed quality despite being pitched against an extra man in midfield. The passing was as slick as he has ever produced, and his two clinical through balls which set up our second and fourth goals were typical of the sort which Frank Lampard used to create from the same areas. Michael is working hard to adapt to the more unfamiliar defensive midfield requirements which are being asked of him by Glenn Roeder, and it's clear there is still some work to do. But the 19-year-old Geordie has his best years ahead of him, he's still learning, and if West Ham can hold to him they have a future England midfield general in their ranks.

Joe Cole (8) Joe was having a frustrating afternoon until the final fifteen minutes. Too often he was caught in possession, worryingly once or twice in our own half when a simple ball was called for. But in those final minutes he was devastating, and simply a joy to watch. The tricks came thick and fast and he was unlucky not to cap it all with a goal. The only fear is that he and sidekick Carrick will come unstuck against the stronger opponents to follow. But they said that before the Arsenal and Man Utd games ...

Paolo Di Canio (6) Not the best day for Paolo, but certainly not the worst. Rather uninspiring - like the rest of the team - for the majority of the game, but when called upon he delivered in devastating fashion with his goal. After a slow start he finally began to offer the sort of football which he produced at his peak two seasons ago, with all the associated tricks, flamboyancy and skill. The aforementioned pass will long be talked about in years to come through the rose tinted specs of many a doe eyed Hammer.

Frederic Kanoute (6) Probably his weakest performance of the season, and perhaps a result of the many injuries of late. Usually so adept at winning and holding the ball at the forefront of the Hammers attack he was ineffective today, giving the ball away cheaply too often. Rightly substituted towards the end for Jermain Defoe. Despite his poor showing today many Hammers will be looking forward to his partnership with young Defoe against Liverpool, in the wake of Paolo Di Canio's imminent suspension.

Jermain Defoe (7) On as a replacement for Kanoute with 16 minutes left on the clock, Jermain had two chances and took one - with some aplomb. Critics will argue he should have had two, but that shouldn't cloud his efforts today. Defoe is often likened to Ian Wright, and today he took his goal in the same manner in which Wright was well associated. Glenn Roeder will need to strengthen Jermain as he appears somewhat lightweight against big, Premiership defenders - but he is still only 19, after all. If he continues in the same fashion Jermain has a long and illustrious career ahead of him.

John Moncur (6) Brought on to offer further entertainment to the holiday crowd Moncs nearly capped his efforts with a goal. Disappointing not to see him get booked after so long on the field (three minutes) despite his best efforts, when he refused to give the ball back to a Derby player for a throw in despite the ranting of Graham Poll. Nice to see him again, but clearly his career at the club will be restricted to cameo appearances such as this from now on.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Schemmel, Winterburn, Dailly, Repka, Sinclair, Hutchison, Carrick, Cole, Di Canio, Kanoute.

Subs: Defoe (Kanoute 74), Moncur (Di Canio 88), Hislop, Foxe, Kitson

Derby County: Poom, Rowene, Riggott, Higginbotham, Boertien, Powell, Grenet, Zavagno, Ducrocq, Carbone, Ravanelli

Subs: Kinkladze (Ducrocq 45), Bolder (Riggott 61), Oakes, Burton, Christie

Goals: Schemmel (5), Di Canio (74), Sinclair (86), Defoe (89)

Booked: Zavagno, Carbone, Grenet, Repka

Sent off: Carbone

Referee: Graham Poll (5)

Attendance: 31,397

Man of the match: Don Hutchison

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