Saturday, 11th November 2000
Cutting it very close as it was 1.00pm already, we ran to our car to circumnavigate the jam donut also known as the M25. With appalling weather lashing down and silent prayers that a rollcage would appear around us, we sped round to Dagenham East. After removing the breeze block from the accelerator peddle, we jumped on the tube, raced to the ground to get there just in time to hear the kick-off had been delayed by 15 minutes.
We lined up with a very strong team. Silky smooth Shaka in goal. The Pearces were joined by Rio and Winterburn in defence. Carrick and Lomas held the midfield, whilst Tricky and Lampard filled the holes for the attacking midfield positions. King Kanoute and Paulo saw our lineup complete with my favoured 4-4-2 formation. Warming the bench, Bywater, Suker, Diawara and Pottsy took their seats.
City won the toss and we turned round to kick off into the howling wind and the rain. The whistle blew and we burst forward with Tricky on the right, Lampard out left, Di Canio and Kanoute down the centre. Seconds later Kanoute had lost the ball and we were back pedalling and indeed didn't stop back pedalling. Lampard and Sinclair sunk back to deep positions and we barely got the ball out of our own half. Ian Pearce and Carrick went close with shots, but you just had to wonder where a goal for us was going to come from.
Wanchope was man-marked by Rio and frankly outclassed. The ex Hammer rarely got away from Ferdinand who has really started to show his class in a now very confident and proficient back line.
Their other striker, Ian Wright's son Sean Wright-Phillips was however in a different class. Very quick, very skilful it took Stuart Pearce and Winterburn to kick him all over the park to subdue the poor fellow.
Our midfield battle was lost before we had even started. With Trev and Lampard playing deep, we played for the first half with eight defenders. When we did break, we had nobody supporting Paulo and Kanoute up front who were forced out of possession every time.
City broke our defence only to be denied by an offside flag. Corners and clearances off the line became common place as Manchester City tightened the screw. Our defences finally gave way just after half an hour after a well placed shot from a Phillips cross. It was now official; we were in trouble.
It took an eternity for the half time whistle to blow and our beloved eleven went off to a hail of boos. Herby Hammer made a triumphant return with Bubbles the bear and the Hammerettes put on a better show than we had done for the first half.
The teams came out to the second half with a cheer from the crowd. Upton Park became silent again after the fist couple of minutes when we fell straight back into the old routine of the 8-2 formation, well 8-1-1 actually. My head in my hands it seemed like only a matter of time when City would score a second to bury us once and for all.
Then an amazing thing happened, not for the first time this season. The slow burning sticks of dynamite duly inserted by Harry at half time exploded and so did our game. Carrick, Tricky and Kanoute came into their own. Free flowing passes, taking the ball effortlessly past players, we started to push forward.
And we didn't stop. A marvellous run by Sinclair down the right wing saw his cross fluffed by Lampard and duly converted by Lomas. This in turn spurred Lampard on. His commitment was 100% getting stuck into challenges all over the park and hanging round the 6 yard box waiting for crosses. Finally they have realised that Kanoute and Di Canio cannot do it all.
Carrick was excellent and for me, has to be joint MOTM with Kanoute. His run in the 18 yard box wrong footed a couple of City defenders and found Sinclair to tuck the ball away.
Kanoute had three one on ones with England's U-21 keeper Nicky Weaver but was denied on each occasion. It was his unpredictability and skill with a run down the right hand side of the 18 yard box which led to Ian Pearce showing City that their cause was lost.
3-1 up and we were playing like a well oiled machine. Kanoute desperate for a goal was tugged by the defender in the dying minutes as he let rip a shot. To the surprise of everyone a penalty was awarded which was finished in a way that dreams are made of by our Italian star.
Naturally pleased with our 4-1 victory we left the ground to sighs of relief and comments of "about bloody time". It was difficult to see what to change when things were down. When we were going well, Winterburn would have been the only one, but even he didn't play that badly, and he was in a defence which held up extremely well.
With Carrick, Tricky, Lomas and Lampard playing like this (for the last forty minutes), it is difficult to see who would make way for Joey Cole. What a great position to be in!
The dizzy heights of 13th in the league table sees us away to Championship and European contenders Leeds United next week. We haven't won at Elland Road since 1963, but with a performance like that, we could definitely give them a good run for their money.
West Ham United: Hislop, Sinclair, Ferdinand, I Pearce, S Pearce, Lomas, Kanoute, Winterburn, Lampard, Carrick, Di Canio.
Subs: Bywater, Potts (Di Canio 89), Moncur, Diawara, Suker
Manchester City: Weaver, Howey, Prior, Ritchie, Charvet, Wiekens, Haaland, Whitley, Wright-Phillips, Wanchope, Kennedy.
Subs: Wright, Bishop, Dunne (Ritchie 67), Allsopp (Wanchope 67), Horlock
Goal Scorers: Prior (31), Lomas (53), Sinclair (58), Pearce (66), Di Canio (pen 89)
Sent off: None
Referee: G. Winter
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