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Saturday, 20th October 2001

West Ham United 2
Southampton 0

by Graeme Howlett

Glenn Roeder can breathe a huge sigh of relief tonight safe in the knowledge that his job is secure for a few weeks longer at least after his Hammers' side breezed past a lacklustre Southampton at the Boleyn this afternoon.

But the three points and subsequent rise to mid-table obscurity did little to hide the problems inherent within the squad at the moment.

Roeder will be especially pleased with Freddy Kanoute and Laurent Cortois, who were outstanding on the day. However no doubt harsh words will be retained for one or two other members of the team who contrived to upset each other to a far greater effect than anything the opposition could conjure up on the day.

More of that later. Back to the game; Roeder started with a far more balanced team than that which embarassed the lot of us at Blackburn last week. Back came Nigel Winterburn and Laurent Courtois on the left, in place of Ragnvald Soma and .. er .. whoever was supposed to be playing left midfield last week (Moncs?).

Some sections of the Boleyn crowd did their very best to undermine the supposedly rejuvenated team spirit by roundly booing Christian Dailly and wantaway Trevor Sinclair as the teams were announced. Certainly not the best way to boost the teams fragile confidence, but as Frank Lampard once said to me 'the crowd here have always dug someone out'.

The Hammers started nervously, and Michael Carrick and Don Hutchison were finding things distinctly uncomfortable, being overrun as they were by the decidedly unremarkable Marsden and Draper.

The opening exchanges were littered with mistakes, and mostly on the Hammers part. The lack of confidence, probably enhanced by the pre-match booing was clearly evident in the West Ham ranks, with even Michael Carrick uncharacteristicly misplacing pass after pass.

But as the game progressed the Hammers began to impress more, with Lauren Courtois and Trevor Sinclair finding plenty of space on the flanks. The chances began to pile up; Paolo Di Canio was guilty of spurning the clearest when he shot wide from the edge of the box with keeper Paul Jones stranded.

However Southampton's El-Khalej was almost single-handedly keeping the Hammers at bay, controlling the Saints back line to great effect.

Half-time came, and to be honest not many in the crowd would have been too disappointed. But the second half was to be a different story entirely.

Having been entertained by the even-more-than-usual scantily clad Hammerettes (not sure what's entertaining about watching girls pulling their ill-fitting drawers out of their arse for the duration, but there you go) the crowd took their seats for the second period.

And only seven minutes into the half the goal that we had all been waiting for finally arrived. Quick work on the left by Winterburn and Di Canio resulted in a plum cross from the former which Kanoute gleefully nodded home at the far post.

Game on; the Hammers had the edge, and the confidence it gave to the team was evident throughout. The slick passing returned and the Saints were on the backfoot.

Inbetween this purple period we witnessed one of the most blatant pieces of cheating you will ever see. Marian Pahars, a clear six feet away from the nearest opponent flung himself theatrically to the floor in the box to the derision of all at the Boleyn. The only surprising thing was that Pahars didn't even get a talking to from referee Barry, let alone a yellow card.

It was to be the little Latvian's only real contribution to the game; shortly after he was pulled off by Stuart Gray to chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' from the demoralised Saints fans. Mind you, that was understandable when you discovered that he was being replaced by Stuart Ripley.

Earlier I mentioned disarray in the Hammers ranks. Throughout players appeared to be at loggerheads with each other; none more so than when Paolo Di Canio and Nigel Winterburn almost had a punch-up following a defensive error. Quite what that was about remains to be seen, but clearly there is no love lost between the two.

But back to the game; Di Canio and Kanoute were enjoying more of the ball and both had opportunities to increase the lead; Di Canio went close twice - once with an attempted lob and then with a free-kick - and Kanoute was only inches away from getting on the end of a Courtois teaser.

But the game wasn't finally settled until ten minutes from time, when Kanoute nodded home from just a couple of yards to complete a brace. Paolo Di Canio should have scored himself earlier in the move but he blazed against the bar with a(nother) open goal ahead of him; fortunately Kanoute was perfectly placed to save Di Canio's embarassment.

Just one substitution today; Laurent Courtois went off to a standing ovation in the final moments as a token gesture from Glenn Roeder. He certainly deserved it; he had his best game in a Hammers shirt by a mile. He even began to showboat towards the end; not half bad for a free signing, it would seem.

So the three points were bagged to the relief of all, but there was still an uneasy feeling about the game we had just witnessed. The defensive frailties were still in evidence; Chelsea, on Wednesday will surely exploit these rather more than today's opponents.

Just as worrying was the amount of space offered by the Hammers to the opposition in vital positions. Several times the crowd were heard screaming at the Hammers to put the Saints under pressure; Blackburn profited from this to great effect last week. Food for thought for Glenn Roeder.

The win lifted the Hammers up to fourteenth place in the Premiership. With seven points from the three homes games this season (and no goals conceded) the Hammers are beginning to rebuild 'Fortress Upton Park'; it may be vital to the Hammers fortunes this season should the dismal away form continue.

Player ratings:

Hislop (7): Another home clean sheet for Shaka; he'll need a few more of those if he is to keep David James on the bench when he returns next month.

Schemmel (7): The usual workrate was there from Archie; his partnership with Sinclair on the flank reaped reward time after time. Just needs to work on his crossing as this is the only area you can fault him in on current form. Player of the season for me so far.

Winterburn (7): How we missed the old-timer last week; he worked the left flank to great effect and was instrumental in the opening goal. A spat with Di Canio aside he was almost faultless.

Dailly (7): Another good home performance from Dailly. Sprayed the ball around well and made a couple of timely interceptions. Caught out of position once or twice though, and his partnership with Repka is causing one or two concerns.

Repka (8): Solid again, and will be hugely missed when he starts his suspension. The one criticism of him is that he tends to go down early in the tackle - and any mistimed challenges are usually rewarded with a yellow card.

Sinclair (7): Despite being booed at the start he turned in a solid performance, creating Kanoute's second goal. Worked the flank tirelessly and made some timely defensive interceptions.

Courtois (8): A wonderful performance from the Frenchman. He created havoc on the left flank and gave the Hammers the balance they were so lacking last week. To be fair he should have done better with a couple of first half chances - but the signs are good.

Hutchison (6): Very disappointing. Spent a fair proportion of the game on his arse and his passing was, well, dreadful. Underperforming at the moment and needs to do a lot more to justify the 5m transfer fee.

Carrick (6): Another poor game for the England hopeful. His passing was dire in the first half, and he and Hutchison were given the runaround by Draper and Marsden for much of the game. Picked up once the first goal went in; the confidence factor seems to play a major part in young Michael's game.

Di Canio (7): Not the greatest game we've seen from the captain, but the enthusiasm (perhaps too much?) was clear to see. Missed two absolute sitters and the tricks were nowhere to be seen, but the workrate was a major improvement on recent weeks.

Kanoute (8): Two real strikers goals from Freddy, he provided that predators instinct we have missed so far this season. But the real plus point from today was the amount of work he put in, closing down defenders and - almost unheard of before - the goalkeeper too, to great effect.

Moncur (sub, 6): Only on for two minutes, hardly touched the ball.

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

Subs: Moncur (Courtois 85), Bywater, Foxe, Defoe, Kitson

Southampton: Jones, Dodd, Bridge, Lundekvam, El-Khalej, Marsden, Draper, Delap, Pahars, Davies, Beattie

Substitutes: Svensson (Davies 67), Ripley (Pahars 75), Moss, Monk, Petrescu

Goals: Kanoute (52, 80)

Booked: Draper (late tackle, 28)

Attendance: 25,842

Conditions: Overcast

Referee: Neal Barry (8)

Man of the Match: Laurent Courtois

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