Watford 1-1 West Ham United
Tuesday, 22nd August 2006
by Graeme Howlett
West Ham were lucky to escape with a draw against newly-promoted Watford at Vicarage Road tonight.Under pressure for much of the game, Alan Pardew will no doubt concede that his team were second best and lucky to return to London with a point.
It was always going to be a tough night for Pardew's charges, up against a side playing their first home fixture in the Premiership since being promoted via the play-offs last season.
The Hornets - who remain without a win against West Ham since 1985, some 21 matches - were unlucky to lose at Everton on Saturday, and will count themsleves equally unfortunate for not taking all three points from tonight's game.
With West Ham's rearguard at sixes and sevens for much of the match, Watford created a number of goalscoring opportunites although only Marlon King, who scored Watford's only goal on 63 minutes, managed to make one count.
West Ham - who started the game in an unfamilair 5-3-2 formation - suffered throughout as Watford pressed and harried continuously. The pacy, free-flowing football that Alan Pardew's team has become known for was non-existant tonight.
Crucially however, and despite being far from their best, the Hammers managed to sneak a point courtesy of Bobby Zamora's right boot just two minutes after King had given Watford the lead.
Despite suspicions of hand-ball by Marlon Harewood in the build up, Zamora timed his run to perfection in order to meet Paul Konchesky's precise cross.
Despite the best efforts of keeper Foster, Zamora's touch was enough to divert the ball into the back of the net and level the scores.
All three of Zamora's goals this season have come from inside the six yard box, and his current form represents a wonderful turnaround for a player who seemed destined to play little more than a bit part this season.
Whilst at least two of his three goals have had an element of luck about them, the old adage about being in the right place at the right time applies.
Zamora - who was rumoured to want out in the summer following the signing of Carlton Cole - has answered his critics in the best possible way, and any worries about West Ham's attacking options in the wake of Dean Ashton's injury have all but disappeared.
The point lifts the Hammers to the top of the Premiership, albeit temporarily. Next up for Pardew's men is the visit to Anfield this Saturday, where West Ham have not won since 1962.
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Player RatingsRoy Carroll
A commanding performance - as it needed to be due to the sheer number of high balls Watford pumped into his six-yard area. Made one fantastic stop to avert Anton Ferdinand's backwards slice; had little chance with the goal.
Once again he looked fantastic driving forward down the right flank - and once again there are question marks over his ability to defend competently. Should Pardew's attempts to land a right-winger prove fruitless, and from what we've witnessed thus far this season, one suspects he could do worse than look at our favourite Ghanaian as a possible solution.
Konch enjoyed the freedom of the left-hand side when playing as a wing-back as he did for the first hour or so. The cross for Zamora's goal was inch-perfect, although he whould have been celebrating a goal for himself had he directed his second-half close-range header more accurately. Defensively? Like our entire back five, he had his wobbly moments.
Anton struggled tonight against Watford's big strikers, and had Roy Carroll to thank for saving his blushes when he made a hash of a clearance late on in the game. Had a hard time of it as a result of being continuously pressured by the opposition. "Worse than your brother" sang the home fans; not the biggest insult really, when you consider that Rio was one of only two England players to escape with any praise from England's recent World Cup debacle.
Danny missed the entire pre-season calender this year, and it shows. He looks a long way from the player we saw last year at present, and his fitness is clearly lacking. Rightly replaced when Pardew changed to a 4-4-2 formation midway through the second period.
Just about the pick of the three centre-halfs on show tonight, Collins - in for his first game of the season - increased his reputation further with a decent display. Earned the biggest (non goal-related) cheer of the night for a diving (and somewhat dramatic) headed clearance in the first-half.
Given little time and space on the ball, Mullins had a tough night as part of a three-man midfield. His distribution was poor at times and he struggled to impose himself on the game.
Like Danny Gabbidon, his lack of a pre-season has affected his early Premiership performances. With Matthew Etherington nearing fitness once again, it will be interesting to see how the captain fares, as he has been the weakest midfield link in the Hammers opening two fixtures.
He was exceptional on Saturday against Charlton but the game seemed to pass him by a little tonight. Like his two fellow midfielders he struggled to cope with the extra man and Watford's quick, incisive passing. Improved a fair bit after he moved to the right when Pardew went 4-4-2.
As on Saturday, if you discount his goal/s there wasn't any major contribution of which to speak. However a striker's job is to hit the back of the net, after all, and Bob has done so more than anyone else in the league so far.
The big man had one of his off nights, and was rarely involved to any great degree. Substituted late in the second half by Teddy Sheringham.
(Replaced Gabbidon, 66) Brought on to exploit the space on the left hand side, Yossi rarely found himself with the ball at his feet during his 25 minutes on the pitch. Made a couple of good runs and was involved in one or two moves but there was little to write home about.
(Replaced Harewood, 66) Played an effective role in several late Hammers attacks, although found himself waiting for the ball for long periods such was Watford's dominance.
(Replaced Zamora, 83) Alan Pardew was perhaps hoping that Cole would repeat his heroics of Saturday when he scored after being on the pitch for less than 30 seconds. Sadly it wasn't to be.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Roy Carroll, John Paintsil, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Bobby Zamora 65 .
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Watford: Foster, Doyley, DeMerit, Shittu, Powell, Francis, Mahon, Bouazza, Young, King, Henderson.
Subs not used: Lee, Stewart, Mackay.
Goals: King (63).
Booked: None booked..
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Roy Carroll.