West Ham United 2 Bolton Wanderers 1
Wednesday, 15th March 2006
by Richard Osborne
Cold wasn't the word for the weather last night. Three of us went, the Mrs, my father and I, and somehow we contrived to forget essential winter evening clothing. Between us we had two hats and two pairs of gloves, without realising before we were in the confines of the ground itself. Rotation was the order of the day, a 2-3 minute stint with gloves and a hat, to welcome back feeling into our freezing appendages.Rotation was also the order of the day for the WHU team. Pards stuck his strongest team out after the weekend's [ahem] rotation and experimentation which to be fair went drastically pear shaped.
Shaka in goal, back line of Konch, Anton, Gabbers and finally Scaloni who I am sure if had a 'mare may have played his last game in C&B as Clive Clark was chomping at the bit on the bench after his excellent performance against Arsenal.
The midfield quartet was the strongest possible with Ethers and Yossi on the wings, Muggins just in front of the back four and Nige in the middle with his armband and box of hankies fresh back from illness.
Up front our drool-worthy strike partnership of Deano and Marlon were in attendance forming the spearhead of the 4-4-2.
The singer chap from the show The Brat Pack sang again to get us in the mood prior to kick off. Great voice and got us going a treat. He lost his way with Bubbles, but hey, who doesn't!
The match started at a terrific pace. The club DJ couldn't get the Bubbles song off quick enough. Back and forth the game went from end to end, with us edging it at the start after a couple of long shots from them. Ethers, Konch, Deano and Marlon delighted in pulling Stelios [who started on their right] and Hunt apart. Their towering central defenders having to cover on many occasions.
Our first goal came early and down the right flank. Marlon was set away beating the defenders with his pace. The ball was crossed across the goal mouth with Deano and Ethers in mind, but an unfortunate defender tried a clearance which ricocheted off of their keeper and into the back of the net.
The first half was tightly fought with tackles starting to fly in. Marlon copped an unfortunate yellow card and would not let the issue go; we thought he was going to get sent off real soon. No one, not even the opposition could make a telling pass; they were always blocked or found a stray opponent. The battle of attrition was on and no prisoners were being taken.
Our captain was having an off day. His tackles were going astray, but to be fair 22 players could be accused of that. His challenges were non existent and with Bolton dribbling is never an option. Indeed it was his mistake that lead to us giving the ball away cheaply in our own half, only for Davies to wrong foot Shaka with a 20 yard strike swerving wildly down the centre of his goal, which he promptly missed.
The second half saw us lose more ground in the midfield. The only midfielder that went in for a challenge was the excellent Muggins. Nige was hiding even more, probably partly from his earlier mistake and partly from illness; but don't worry he'll be back!
Bolton started to turn on the style. They have their [cough] knockers but to be fair they play to their advantages. Every attack saw the excellent [I am ashamed to say] Nowland, Stelios amongst others looking for the second ball just in front of our back four for the killer strike on goal. Fortunately for us Anton, Gabbers, Konch and especially Scaloni had turned defending into an art form.
Up front Marlon ran his socks off, all night, for everything. When I say ran, I mean sprinted. His effort was awe inspiring. Deano cleverly won headers from the back four and was a constant thorn. Yossi who had a quiet first half was given license to roam and became more involved, but as expected Bolton brushed him aside.
So we hit full time at 1-1. The gloves and hats were duly rotated and I was rather pleased that my neck muscles hadn't frozen.
Extra time ensued and the crowd became rowdier again. Strangely, we were told that the attendance was 24,000. It looked pretty full to me, so maybe the DMU had a plethora of empty seats. It mattered not a jot and the noise continued the whole game. Talking was quite difficult because the ambient noise was so tremendous you just got used to it.
Nothing between us, but this felt like it had to be our night. Sure enough a few minutes into extra time the player of the evening Magical Marlon deftly tucked away a superb cross into the box by stretching and lifting it just over the defender and keeper behind.
Seconds became hours as we drew ever closer to the victory. Teddy on as a sub tried a spectacular effort when the keeper was in our half for a corner. The ball landed for Bobby to just knock over the well advanced keeper but he managed to put it onto the roof of the net. No matter, the final whistle blew and my freezing fingers and head tingled with jubilation rather than cold. What a result!
Believe it or not Styles had a good game tonight. He had to make tough decisions to make examples of players to keep the game from spiralling out of control. There were casualties on both sides but unbelievably and largely down to his guidance no one was sent off. A few decisions were dubious but as usual they went both ways. I normally hate the games he refs, but last night I thought he did a very good job.
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Player RatingsShaka Hislop
Not an inspired performance. Didn't come off his line all night. Arguably should have saved their goal.
A career changing performance. Went from strength to strength in tackling, positioning, heading and even shooting. Now to work on those crosses.
An attacking and defensive thorn in their side. Even calmed Marlon down in his rumpus.
Where would we be without him?
A classy understated performance.
Dedication/application/commitment he has the lot... in droves.
Shook his head when he came off. He knows it was a bad game for him. Plenty of excuses and rest assured, he will be back.
Good in stages, came good in the latter part of the game. Never easy against the likes of Bolton.
Always a threat and a joy to watch.
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 98) I feel so nervous when he has the ball. Old habits I guess. He did well.
(Replaced Etherington, 105) Got stuck in but missed a sitter.
(Replaced Ashton, 105) A calm resonated throughout the team when he joined in.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Shaka Hislop, Lionel Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Dean Ashton.
Goals: Jussi Jaaskelainen og 10 Marlon Harewood 96 .
Booked: Matthew Etherington 12 Marlon Harewood 17 Nigel Reo-Coker 53 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Bolton Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, Ben Haim, Jaidi, Hunt, Faye, Nolan, Speed, Giannakopoulos, Okocha, Gardner, Davies.
Subs not used: Al Habsi, N'Gotty.
Goals: Davies (31).
Booked: Nolan (12), Ben Haim (28).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Marlon Harewood.