FA Premiership
West Ham United 4 Blackburn Rovers 2

Saturday, 28th January 2006
by Gordon Thrower

Right everyone pay attention because weíve got a lot to get through today. The menu includes no fewer than six goals, including one after 28 seconds, a penalty and an own goal, the lights going on and off at one end of the ground and the mysterious disappearance of 10,000 football supporters. Quite how Iím going to find time to give a mention to CJ, kumbís official mascot and chief grammar critic I have no idea. I expect Iíll think of something.

The team news was that, in a nod to tradition, new boy Dean Ashton, was not fit to play. I've lost count of the number of times we've done that. Roy Carroll had also succumbed to a back problem that might keep him out for a few weeks. Tomas of course had made his emotional farewell on Monday night to be replaced, for the time being, by the boo-boys' current favourite target, Christian Dailly, whilst up front Marlon was given a rest in favour of some guy called Sheringham, leaving us with a starting line-up of Hislop, Dailly, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Benayoun, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington, Sheringham, Zamora.

Over the years my neighbours in the ground and I have developed a number of traditional running gags. One of these is the use, ironic or otherwise, of the phrase "we started brightly". Well this time we didn't. We started terribly. Konchesky, who has been a little out of sorts lately, lost the ball to Reid who advanced. Untroubled by anything as inconvenient as a challenge, or indeed even by anyone doing so much as closing him down a bit, Reid advanced and fed , (I think) Kuqi who squared the ball across to Bentley who, from two feet out made a complete pig's ear of the finish. Being two feet out he literally couldn't miss as, somehow, he put the ball in with his back to goal.

The crowd, whose pre-match rendition of "bubbles" had, in all honesty, been a little flat, were stunned. We struggled to get any sort of passing rhythm going, and, though there was an early chance of reply after some possession on the left saw the ball fall to Mullins whose drive was well gathered by Friedel, our main concern was that the early goal might be the only goal of the game.

Also giving cause for concern were the lights at the Bobby Moore end of the ground which had gone out along with the digital clock behind the goal at that end. Thankfully it was a bright, if freezing, winter's day and the lights were not needed at that point, though there were the usual dark mutterings (no pun intended) concerning Malaysian bookies. The lights came back on on one by one but it wasn't to be the last time that they were to give cause for concern.

Dailly then picked up a yellow for a cynical trip when he'd got the wrong side of his man and things nearly went from bad to worse as another break down our left saw Shaka hold onto a free header. However, there were signs that all might not be completely lost. Matty got onto a short back-pass and beat Friedel to the ball but, apparently having one eye on the 'keeper, Matty's touch only took the ball out of play. Then a Dailly run down the right ended with a cross that Zamora met with insufficient power to test Friedel in any serious manner.

On the half hour a strong penalty appeal went unheeded. Yossi's break down the right ended with a cross that was blocked by Khizanishvili whose name has just sent the computer's spell-checker haywire. The Georgian appeared to use both hands in the manoeuvre in a save of which Friedel would have been proud and, whilst the loan signing from Rangers may have been unlucky to have encountered Graham Poll on Wednesday night, he must have been counting his lucky stars that ref Atkinson was in more forgiving mood. However it was to be the last thing that went right for the Georgian all day.

A break out down our left was crudely ended as Matty was hacked down. It was difficult to see any difference between that challenge and the one that had resulted in Dailly's (admittedly deserved) caution but no card was forthcoming. Once Matty had recovered from the treatment that had been required it was left to Konchesky to take the kick. The ball was played in and as it reached the spot young Edward's hand went up in appeal and Akinson granted the penalty. From our distance we couldn't tell what the infringement had been but it later turned out that it had been Khizanishvili's tug on Zamora rather than handball that had been punished.

My instructions to young Edward were clear. Don't mess about, just bury the thing. So he did one of those little chips that take so long to go in you have time to suffer and recover from a mild heart attack at the prospect of the 'keeper making an easy save. Thankfully Friedel bought the deception and was left flapping helplessly as the ball sailed over him. The crowd's acclaim was, certainly where I was anyway, a mixture of exhilaration and relief - as if to say "ok now the game can start".

We started to play football and four minutes after the equaliser we were in front. In a congested midfield a loose ball came to Yossi. The ball played by the Israeli, who, like me had paid a recent visit to the hairdresser, was superb. If you see the goal again on the box check it out again because it is the sort of pass that you could easily fail to notice. Maybe it was only a few feet in distance but it took out the complete population of a crowded midfield to find Zamora. Bobby cut inside and feigned a shot but, instead, fed Matty wide on the left of the box and the left winger gleefully put away his second goal of the season, the other one having come against the win over the same opponents on the opening day.

By this time the horrors of the opening minute had become but a distant memory as we enjoyed a cracking spell. Matty's cross from the left somehow found its way out to Dailly on the edge of the box. Football Genius didn't quite catch the shot cleanly but Friedel still needed to make the save.

In a similar move, the improving Konchesky combined with Matty, whose confidence was now definitely up, and Matty's cross just missed Zamora, falling to Yossi who caught a full blooded effort just right to bring a good save out of Friedel. It wouldn't have counted though - Bobby had been pulled up for some infringement or another. It was a good spell of play though.

Though we were looking good value for the lead, the closing stages saw Blackburn force a series of consecutive corners, one of which saw Hislop pull off an excellent save from a header. However we survived the scare and went in at half time 2-1 to the good.

We started brightly (!) in the second half with NRC intercepting a ball. Bobby held his run superbly picking up the ball on the left. Unfortunately, lacking support, Bobby's position was probably a touch too wide for the shot which he pulled wide across the face of the goal. Blackburn were looking potentially dangerous from crosses but their depleted strike-force appeared reluctant to chance the prospect of getting on the end of any of them and Gabbidon, Ferdinand and Dailly all got good headers clear. At this point Blackburn's best chance came from Mokoena whose shot from distance saw Shaka pull off another fine save, tipping over an effort that would have steamed in inside corner of upright and crossbar.

Shaka's save was a decisive moment and we increased our lead on the hour. Reo-Coker won the ball and fed Sheringham who, in turn, laid the ball off into the path of the overlapping Konchesky. Konch's cross was low and pacy in towards Benayoun but I reckon Friedel might have cut it out. Happily we will never know as Khizanishvili came sliding in in the manner of someone who was determined to get his name on the scoresheet and he was not going to be fussy what one. The Georgian's attempted clearance flew into the net to give us a two-goal cushion. Jeremy Nicholas gleefully announced Yossi as the scorer only to find that he'd been the victim of misinformation from the bench, though, as he later admitted to kumb, he'd have struggled to pronounce the scorer's name anyway. Meanwhile one can only speculate as to what Khizanishvili's reaction must have been to his wife's question of "how was your day dear?" on his return home later that evening.

The goal prompted a double substitution from the visitors as Bentley and Kuqi were replaced by Johnson and Emerton. Any thoughts of us spending the remainder of the match in the comfort zone disappeared five minutes later. Neil was played in by a neat backheel and, from outside the box, he was able to curl in a superb effort wide of Shaka to keep things interesting.

Then the lights went out at the Bobby Moor end - again. Further Malaysian mutterings were heard along with the theory that the lights, together with the tv screens, digital clock and the wonderful Milly's tea-urn were all plugged into one adaptor with only a 3amp fuse for company. Although the light was fading, the Centenary stand lights were fully functional which gave us at least one half of the pitch in and the ref continued play, though things might have got a bit interesting later on had there been any major stoppages to contend with.

Things were effectively sewn up with 20 minutes left on the clock. Marlon replaced Teddy. Mullins robbed the Blackburn midfield with the ball finding Marlon. Marlon's effort from outside the box may have caught a deflection but either way Friedel ought to have done better with the shot but only managed to spill it into the path of Zamora who was following-up, like all good strikers should, to bury the ball high into the roof of the net. My neighbours don't get to too many away matches and so they have often sat in disbelief as I've told them tales of Zamora goals but now they believe me. It was a well-deserved goal too as I thought Zamora had had an excellent match.

As the lights came back on, again one by one, Blackburn enjoyed a lot of possession - much as they had done for much of the half - but they rarely looked like doing much with it. Katan replaced Zamora - who left to a well-deserved ovation and Fletch came on for Yossi as the game petered out to it's conclusion. It had been an entertaining cup-tie with all sorts of stuff going on and, given that we'd had a goal within half a minute plus another five I reckon the players could be forgiven if the last few minutes were a bit quiet!

So the season continues on a high note. Another round of the cup successfully negotiated and another date set for people to huddle round the transistor radio on Monday lunchtime to hear who we get in the next round. My gut feeling is Stoke away for what it's worth!

Good luck CJ - and straighten that wig when you read my match reports!

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Player Ratings

Shaka Hislop
Early on when we were far from our best he seemed to be very reluctant to leave his line. However he pulled of three really good saves to keep us in the match at crucial moments.

Christian Dailly
Started of a little shakily, possibly not helped by the attitude of those who insisted on jeering his every move during the early exchanges. Happily he settled down and turned in a fine performance and it was noticeable that the applause at his efforts was drowning out the less content elements of the crowd.

Paul Konchesky
Hasn't been at his best of late and his part in the early goal suggested that this run of form might continue. Happily, like Dailly, he recovered from his start to put in a decent show.

Danny Gabbidon
Another fine effort. Best buy of the season in my opinion.

Anton Ferdinand
Another one who might be deemed culpable when backing off for the first goal. Played well after that.

Hayden Mullins
A typical Mullins performance. Came in. got his foot in, laid it off. Time and time again. Unfortunate to see Friedel save his early shot and his interception led to the fourth.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Took a while after the early shock to get into things but improved no end as the game wore on.

Matthew Etherington
Probably his best run out of the season. As his confidence grew during the match he became more and more adventurous - the goal gave him a big boost as well.

Yossi Benayoun
Some good touches from the freshly-shorn Israeli, whose ball into Zamora for the second goal was the very personification of intelligence. Worked hard off the ball as well.

Teddy Sheringham
Played a useful part in the team's link play throughout the match. Lovely penalty though I may have to up the blood pressure prescription if he's going to do that too many times this season.

Bobby Zamora
Outstanding run out for one of those who must be looking over his shoulder at the arrival of Ashton. Led the line excellently, set up Matty's goal, won the penalty for the first, and capped an all-round fine effort with his first home goal of the season.


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Sheringham, 71) Looked like a man with a big point to prove during his 20 minute run out. Ashton may find it difficult to break into the side if he has his way.

Yaniv Katan
(Replaced Zamora, 78) Not really on for long enough to contribute to proceedings in a game that was effectively dead by time he got on.

Carl Fletcher
(Replaced Benayoun, 82) Fletch's introduction appeared to be more of an exercise in running the clock down than anything else - no real time to affect the result.

Stephen Bywater
Did not play.

Shaun Newton
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Shaka Hislop, Christian Dailly, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Matthew Etherington, Yossi Benayoun, Teddy Sheringham, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 33 Matthew Etherington 37 Zura Khizanishvili og 59 Bobby Zamora 73            .

Booked: Christian Dailly 17          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Blackburn Rovers: Friedel; Neill, Todd, Khizanishvili, Gray; Mokoena, Reid, Savage, Pedersen; Bentley, Kuqi.

Subs not used: Enckleman, Nelsen.

Goals: Bentley (1), Neill (65).

Booked: None booked..

Sent off: None.

Referee: M. Atkinson.

Attendance: 23,700.

Man of the Match: Bobby Zamora.