Filed: Sunday, 28th March 2004
By: Graeme Howlett
How the media saw West Ham's unconvincing 2-1 win against strugglers Gilligham at Upton Park yesterday afternoon.
A solo goal by wide man Matthew Etherington kept West Ham very much in the promotion play-off picture at Upton Park. But the decider against Gillingham, desperate to keep out of the bottom three, didn't come for 76 minutes.
West Ham flattered to deceive and hardly deserved all three points. But Gillingham just didn't have enough firepower to take advantage of a nervy defence in which Christian Dailly - an own-goal victim in the 4-1 thrashing at Millwall - was booed at almost every touch.
Manager Alan Pardew slaughtered his West Ham team for not wanting it enough at Millwall. But even in front of their own fans they failed to put Gillingham to the sword.
Alan Pardew has spent the last week smarting from the debacle of West Ham's 4-1 defeat at Millwall, their London neighbours, and the fall-out from that game spilled over into this hard-won victory.
The West Ham manager saw his captain booed and unrest set in among the fans during a first half in which they they were held by an occasionally threatening Gillingham side that is now beset with worries about relegation.
The booing of Dailly was replaced by a generally nervous feeling among the home supporters that they were not going to see a second goal, that was until Etherington decided to take matters into his own hands. With 15 minutes remaining he made it to the edge of the area and poked his shot inside Banks' far post for victory, although Pardew refused to countenance notions later on that his side could still genuinely hope for automatic promotion.
After seeing Gillingham defeated 2-1 by West Ham Andy Hessenthaler remains confident and believes they can avoid relegation. He thought his side could have got something from the match, but 15 minutes from time Matthew Etherington cancelled out Danny Spillers equaliser to secure the points.
It`s a shame Alan Pardew or someone from West Ham didn't comment on their so called supporters and stewards. When West Ham went 2-1 up one of them felt the need to throw a bottle at the 2,600 away fans behind the goal.
The bottle hit a supporter who required first aid for a cut on his head. The person who threw it though it was funny, as did the "fans" around him. The stewards couldn't have cared less and instead of throwing the fan out told the Gillingham fans to sit down! Some 10 minutes later the police got involved and eventually threw someone out.
If you thought the stewards at Gillingham were bad the ones at West Ham are scraping the bottom of the barrel. The need to be sent on a training course on how to deal with upset fans and people throwing objects at opposition fans.
Matthew Etherington struck a crucial late goal to take West Ham back into the play-off zone and leave Gillingham perilously close to the bottom three.
The result was crucial for West Ham after last week's 4-1 defeat at Millwall but Gillingham's third successive away defeat has left them facing a nervous finish to the season.
Zamora was crucial to the hosts and will be disappointed he did not add to his third minute opener.
Nowland created Etherington's winner and despite a late save by Bywater from Gary Wales, West Ham held on to go fourth in the table.
AS the final whistle sounded, West Ham manager Alan Pardew took the few steps from the edge of his technical area to find his captain Christian Dailly, who scored an own goal in last week’s 4-1 defeat at Millwall and was booed even before this match started.
While the bare statistics represent all that is really needed at this stage of the season — a victory for West Ham achieved thanks to an excellent goal by Matthew Etherington, the game’s best player — the result belied much that had gone before.
It was another frustrating afternoon for the home supporters, whose general groaning started with less than 20 minutes played.
The 12 draws since Pardew took charge in October will be a big factor if West Ham fail to make an immediate return to the Premiership and although the club have lost the bulk of their top players, one arrival has made an outstanding impression.
The match-day programme included leaflets to vote for the Hammer Of The Year and Etherington’s name will appear on many. He arrived as part of the deal that took Freddie Kanoute to t*ttenham and if his contribution and consistency has been excellent, his role yesterday was pivotal.
Gills slipped to 21st in the table following a narrow defeat at the hands of promotion chasing West Ham United.
The Gills fell behind as early as the third minute when Bobby Zamora struck to settle the home side. Danny Spiller levelled proceedings with a stunning volley to send the sides in level at the interval. Steve Banks was impressive in the Gills goal all afternoon but even his heroics couldn’t prevent Matthew Etherington from securing all three points for the Hammers with a well taken strike fifteen minutes from time.
West Ham had the ball in the net on 84 minutes but Harewood’s looping header, over Banks and into the top corner, was disallowed for a foul against the former Forest hotshot. That disallowed goal was the last real attack on goal as the Hammers were content to sit on their lead. Even three minutes of stoppage time and the fresh legs of substitute Matthew Jarvis wasn't enough for the Gills to get themselves back on level terms.
Hessenthaler and Wayne Jones can be pleased with the way Gills went about their business today against a side looking to bounce back to the Premiership, at the first attempt, via the play-offs.
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