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Stoke City 2 West Ham Utd 1


Filed: Sunday, 13th March 2011
By: Staff Writer


West Ham were sent tumbling out of the FA Cup by a combination of anti-football and a referee straight out of the Keith Hackett school of officialdom.

A goal either side of the break was enough to do for Avram Grant's side who, in truth, rarely got out of third gear on a most disappointing afternoon at the Brittania Stadium. However the shocking way in which the Potters went about sealing the win will leave a nasty taste in the mouth for lovers of the beautiful game everywhere.

For given a more astute referee than sub-standard match official Mike Jones, the chances are that neither of Stoke's goals would have been allowed. Indeed, the build-up to both goals would almost certainly have been punished on a rugby field, let alone a football pitch.

Goal One: Robert Huth rose highest to power home a Rory Delay throw-in. However TV replays confirmed that Huth's intended marker, Matthew Upson, was clearly impeded - deliberately - by Jon Walters. Walters, looking away from the ball barged into Upson, allowing Huth a free run on goal.

Goal Two: Huth was again involved as Danny Higginbotham fired a 20-yard free-kick through a mysteriously parting West Ham wall. TV replays confirmed that as Higginbotham pulled the trigger, Huth could be clearly seen pulling Thomas Hitzlsperger aside and to the ground, allowing the defender's shot to pass through the space previously occupied by the German.

But as if Stoke's blatant cheating wasn't enough to contend with, the Hammers may as well have been playing against twelve men throughout the second half.

Referee Jones, who had received an earbashing from Stoke boss Tony Pulis at the interval for having the temerity not to disallow Freddy Piquionne's controversial 30th-minute equaliser clearly couldn't wait to even the score - and waited just 12 SECONDS before gifting Stoke a penalty that never was by way of compensation.

Former Hammer Matthew Etherington waved goodbye to any future warm welcomes at the Boleyn Ground when comically falling to the floor - no doubt on the orders of his manager - having surged into United's penalty box with the first play of the second half.

At least justice was served on this occasion when Rob Green made a magnificent save; not for the first time in his life, Etherington's gamble didn't paid off.

But for as direr as the referee was, West Ham can make no excuses after producing an incredibly poor performance. Having breezed past the same opposition with consummate ease less than a week ago they should have been more than a match for a side who rely on the most primitive of tactics to ensure positive results - a Wimbledon or Bolton for the 2010s, if you will.

Far too many players - including Carlton Cole, Mark Noble and Victor Obinna - failed to turn up and, as a result, the Hammers are facing a second huge Cup disappointment of the season having been dumped out of the Carling Cup at the semi final stage just a few weeks earlier.

Stoke set their stall out from the off with a series of high balls aimed at strikers Jones and Walters. These were dealt with comfortably by the United defence during the opening exchanges until Huth broke the deadlock on 12 minutes.

Given the nature of the 'goal', little blame can be attributed to West Ham's defence although the manner of it should have come as no surprise. Defensive coach Wally Downes, who will have primed his defence to deal with set-plays of this nature watched on grim-faced from the bench as the now unmarked Huth's header hit the back of the net.

Having clawed their way back into the game the Irons got their reward when Piquionne notched a clever equaliser. Once again controversy reigned as a drilled through ball from Hitzlsperger was met by the Frenchman who cooly lobbed the ball over an advancing Thomas Sorensen; the controversy coming as Stoke claimed Piquionne controlled the ball with his arm.

TV replays proved inconclusive - at one angle it appeared to be clear hand-ball whilst another suggested Piquionne has used his shoulder to retain control - although the element of doubt would usually have seen a free-kick awarded in Stoke's favour. Not today however, and 1-1 it remained until the break.

Having survived Etherington's lame dive and subsequent penalty miss West Ham may have been forgiven for thinking that the tide had turned. But homer Jones had other ideas, and when Carlton Cole was penalised for hand ball on 63 minutes - having put his hand in front of his face to prevent his block being knocked off by a free kick 25 yards from goal - you just knew it wasn't going to be West Ham's day.

Scott Parker's sensible arguments were to no avail, and Higginbotham stepped up to fire Stoke into the semi-finals - aided by Huth's illegal - yet crucially, unnoticed - intervention.

In defence of West Ham, Grant's side huffed and puffed until the end; Matthew Upson going closest with a header from a Hitzlsperger corner that pinged against the crossbar. Meanwhile the challenge that saw James Tomkins felled in the penalty box by Walters as the two jostled for position at a free kick was more aggravated assault than mere interference - but referee Jones was unsurprisingly having none of it.

So for Avram Grant and his squad, attention now returns to the league and the battle to avoid relegation. Whilst the two cup runs will have earned the club a great deal of much-needed revenue one can't help feeling a sense of disappointment that neither opportunity to reach Wembley has been taken - although given a choice of Cup success or a Premier League berth next season, there is little doubt which would be preferential for the club.





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by Big Al
10:28AM 19th Mar 2011
''Stoke fans you are joking - 'if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a duck'. Did Huth not pull Hitzlsperger out of the wall? Er... yes; not biased but fact. As for Etherington - not a dive?! Come off it, biased and blinkered.

I work all over the country and with many fans and one thing we can agree on is your lot don't add anything to the game. Enjoy your success but stop the demands for respect!''

by Simon Robinson (SCFC)
01:20PM 16th Mar 2011
''The referee was a poor one, but other than that I thought it was a good battle between two teams and a teriffic Cup tie. Your comments that Stoke created nothing in the first period - is that apart from Etherington's point blank header (2 minutes), Huth's goal (11 mins), Jones' header (20 mins), a couple of scrambles off corners and throws, then in the final minutes of the half several quickfire Stoke chances in the box that West Ham defended well from (Delap, Pennant etc).

Folk moaning about Walters blocking off Upson - come on, Upson showed no desire at all to get to that ball, and didn't complain to the ref at all - in the mad scramble of the box people are blocked, shoved, pushed, poked and prodded all the time - defenders and attackers. In fact, the defence is usually the worst offender!

In between that was the most outrageous bit of basketball skill from Piquionne to control the ball - not conclusive my bottom - that saw him then finish superbly, but get caught up in a desperate attempt from Huth to clear the ball, using his strength to make sure the ball got there but getting injured as Huth landed - brave, unfortunate, unlucky all at the same time, but doesn't hide the fact he handballed it!

The second half - will give you it was a soft penno - I thought it was stonewall on the day, several replays show minimal contact but I think he gets a slight nudge from Tomkins to lose his balance and was expecting Parker to come from the other side. Had it been Cole at the other end you would have been screaming for it! You get and don't get those in equal measure.

The free kick for the goal was blatant, he came over the top, then Cole jumped and raised his hands - if he isn't prepared to take one in the face then he shouldn't be in the wall, but watch again - it's upper chest height and he puts his arm up - turn away if thats the case!

Huth did what hundreds of defenders have done for years - created a gap. Stuart Pearce used it in the 1991 Cup Final when the wall was 'parted' - it goes on all the time as is up to the defender to be stronger. Quite why West Ham allowed two Stoke players to stand in the middle of the wall is beyond me - can't imagine Huth allowing Upson to do the same thing.

Huth's handball? It hit his thigh quite clearly!

The Walters/Tomkins one again is something that can go either way - Tomkins starts the pushing, Walters grabbed on, they had a wrestling match, Walter won with three falls and a submission - again Walters desire outweighed the West Ham players, who then looked for a penalty.

I don't wish West Ham any ill and hope you are successful in your attempt to stay up, but please, the above is just so blatently the upset biased rantings of a disappointed fan rather than the balanced match report of any value.''

by Hammerinexile
09:05PM 15th Mar 2011
''What you missed was that when Piquionne was putting the ball into the net, he was taken from behind and had to leave the field injured as a result. Yet no yellow card for the defender!''

by hammer head
05:46PM 15th Mar 2011
''How much did West ham bail out Etherington for when he was in debt with his bookies - 30k? 60k? Or was it more? Yeah cheers Matt, you're a star...''

by Niran Ade-Onojobi
02:26PM 15th Mar 2011
''This was a rather poor performance by the Hammers. The consolation is that we no longer have anything to distract us. Attention will now be 100% on Premier League survival which will be a daunting challenge under the tutelage of Grant.''

by graham (SCFC)
09:29PM 14th Mar 2011
''If the ref blew his whistle at every person who blocks the runs of players he would be giving yellow cards and red cards in the first 15 minutes of every game and then have to abandon the game after 25 minutes as no player would be on the pitch.

As for the comment about Piquionne's goal and it not being conclusive as to if he controlled the ball with his arm, and that television replays could not see if it was or not, even a blind man could see that he handled it with his arm. The only ones in the ground who could not see were the linesman and the ref.

As for Cole raising his arm and the ball hitting it he really should remember that the ref will always blow for infringements like that.''

by Dean (SCFC)
01:44PM 14th Mar 2011
''I truly feel sorry for Hammers fans if this is the quality of write up you get after your matches. Completely pathetic, inaccurate and disrespectful account of the game (which I attended). I work in London with many Hammers fans who all enjoyed the game overall, albeit disappointed with the ref and West Ham's performance in general.

I do hope you stay up this season so good luck. I also hope that the majority of fans are not sucked in by this overzealous bashing of Stoke, which frankly is becoming a little tiresome.''

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