Watford 1 West Ham United 1

Tuesday, 22nd August 2006
by Gordon Thrower

Remember the Championship? Yeah me too. Horrible wasn’t it. Sorry to drag up bad memories of the not too distant past but this match was a nasty flashback of an era I hope we have left behind.

There was a surprise in the team selection for this one. Despite a strong performance on Saturday, AP elected to change things about and go for three centre backs in a 3-5-2, Yossi (who had reportedly been carrying a knock) being the one in midfield to miss out from Saturday's starting line-up. Paintsil retained his place playing at right wing back. We lined-up therefore as follows: Carroll, Paintsil, Konchesky, Collins, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Bowyer,Reo-Coker, Mullins, Hare wood, Zamora.

It was a dull start. It seemed to take forever for either side to get going and the game as a spectacle wasn't exactly helped by the home side's traditional direct game. The first clear chance fell the way of the home side. Ironically it came as a West Ham attack broke down. Zamora's step over being a mite too clever for its own good the ball fell to Boazza who was allowed to run the length of the pitch unhampered by anything as inconvenient as a challenge. Bouazza pulled the ball across for King whose first time effort came back off the post and was eventually scrambled clear. Generally though chances were few and far between and my eyes were beginning to hurt at staring up into the floodlights for so long.

What chances there were should really be described as being of the Half variety. Harewood and Paintsil combined well on the right. The home side failed to clear their lined and Bowyer's clever back heel found NRC in space only for the skipper to delay his shot and enable a scrambled clearance. Shortly after there was a half-hearted penalty shout as King played the ball off Mullins' chest. Tellingly the shout came from the crowd rather than those actually partaking in the match. Shortly after Young's overhead kick went a foot or so wide though Carroll had the post well covered. Then Zamora failed to get much in the way of power, pace or direction on his header from Konchesky's hanging cross from the left. That was honestly about it for the first half though the ref tried to enliven things by penalising Ferdinand for having King's arms all around him. Boazza's free-kick ended up coming back off the wall.

At half time the announcer helpfully told us that the score was 0-0, presumably in order to save us the bother of having to do the maths ourselves.

The second half started with some good work down the right from Paintsil who managed to extricate himself from an apparent blind alley to get the better of ex-Hammer Powell and swing a cross in. Konch's header was good but easily saved by Foster. Konch's crossfield ball then found Paintsil whose diagonal ball found Harewood who was promptly upended by Foster, only to have been adjudged to have been offside.

Francis then curled a gentle shot into the arms of Carroll before what was the best, nay probably only bit of passing football all night. A move that started deep in our own territory involved NRC, Konchesky then NRC again. The skipper's ball inside was cleverly allowed by Zamora to run across himself before Bobby's lay-off to Harewood. Harewood laid the ball into the path of Bowyer coming from deep in classic third man style. However, although Bowyer's run bought himself space, the shot lacked the power and placement the move deserved.

We then went 1-0 down. Young laid the ball back to King whose finish from 25 yards was excellently played with pace and curl past the despairing dive of Carroll. A good goal that seemed well out of place on the night. Watford however, went into my little black book as one of a worryingly increasing number of clubs who find it necessary to play music when they score. OK so playing the music from the Carling ad might be apt given the slightly basic nature of the style of play favoured in that part of Hertfordshire but that's still no excuse. It's not big. It's not clever and, along with chanting "easy, easy" it is one of those things for which I intend to reintroduce the death penalty as soon as I come to power.

We've heard a lot in recent seasons about our ability to come back from behind but you always fear that this will be the week we don't manage it. Thankfully we were not given too much time to fret. A long ball (another one) played from the back came off Harewood's arm though you'd have to be barking to contend that there was much in the way of intent. NRC played the ball out to Konch whose ball behind the defence into that fabled corridor of uncertainty was good enough to find Zamora whose first time effort flew in off the underside of the bar.

Almost immediately AP rang the changes. Gabbidon and Harewood, neither of whom were at their best, were replaced by Yossi and young Edward with about 20 left on the clock. However the die had been cast and the aerial assault continued. Shittu headed over from a corner. A promising break down the left ended with Bobby crossing behind everyone. Then, when all had stopped for a free kick, King got in on the right taking advantage of the advantage (if you see what I mean). Ferdinand sliced his attempted clearance and was grateful for Carroll's alert reactions. Sheringham brought Konch into play. Konch's cross was flapped at by Foster straight to the feet of Sheringham who pulled the ball back for Bobby to put wide - though he claimed a deflection.

A Young cross found Henderson who should have scored having beaten Paintsil far too easily in the air for my liking. As the cry of "look to the skies" was heard Shittu's header from a long throw fell to sub Priskin whose round the corner effort went wide. Cole replaced Zamora and promptly disappointed by not scoring within 20 seconds. Teddy's clever diagonal ball was well controlled by Bowyer who brought Paintsil into the game only for Cole to head the cross weakly wide.
The game ended with King getting down the right only to overhit his cross. For the benefit of the hard of thinking the announcer informed us that the game had been drawn 1-1 and I was able to get my neck muscles a break.
So a point battled for and won and, at time of writing we're top of the league for the first time since 1983 or so I am reliably informed. There was a slightly disappointed air about the away support though. My own thought was that maybe we ought to be imposing our game on other teams rather than altering our system to cope with theirs. Man Utd are the next visitors to Vicarage Road and I wouldn't expect the dour faced whingeing Scot to pick a largely untested system to cope with the perceived threat. Things may have been different when we were playing against this style of football in the Championship week in week out but I would have thought that with the better players at our disposal since our return to the top flight maybe we could afford to be a bit more adventurous. There again what do I know - I spell Paintsil with an extra "I"!

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Looked comfortable enough. The goal was unstoppable and Anton owes him a pint.

John Paintsil
Looked fine going forward but defensively had a hard game - especially in the second half when Watford targeted him in the air.

Paul Konchesky
At the heart of much that was good attacking-wise. Battled well at the back.

Anton Ferdinand
Must have a bit of a headache from all the headed clearances he made. A couple of shaky spells and that "clearance" could have proved very costly.

Danny Gabbidon
Had an injury-interrupted pre-season and doesn't seem to have quite got match fit yet. In particular his anticipation seems to be a little off at the moment. A few more games and he'll be fine. Hopefully.

James Collins
Seemed to relish the aerial battle and won more than his fair share of headers.

Hayden Mullins
Got his foot in well when the ball was on the ground but the pressing game of the home side saw him rush many of his passes.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Still not quite back from holiday. Struggled to make any sort of impact.

Lee Bowyer
Not as effective as he had been against Charlton. Probably because, like the rest of us, he had to spend much of the game watching the ball pass over at him 30,000 feet.

Bobby Zamora
The Premiership's top scorer at time of writing. In the build-up you'd see him do something really difficult and then follow it with something daft. Got into that space twixt 'keeper and defence really well for the goal - again.

Marlon Harewood
Battled gamely but lacked influence.


Yossi Benayoun
(Replaced Gabbidon, 66) Took a few minutes to get going but looked dangerous in spells.

Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Harewood, 66) Some good touches which made it a little easier to play football - it's much easier to have a passing game if you think that there's a chance that the ball might not come straight back from the front. Link play was excellent.

Carlton Cole
(Replaced Zamora, 83) Disgraceful. He has now gone about seven minutes without a goal! Not really given much time to influence things.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Christian Dailly
Did not play.

Match Facts

West 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.

Referee: M.Atkinson.

Attendance: 18,344.

Man of the Match: Roy Carroll.