Fulham 0 West Ham United 0

Saturday, 23rd December 2006
by Gordon Thrower

By all normal standards I ought to be happy at another clean sheet and a well-deserved away point. However, despite the much-improved away performance there was nagging feeling that we should have come away with more.

I suppose if we have to mess around with the fixture list at the whim of the TV execs, there are worse fixtures to have to endure an early start for on the Saturday before Christmas than an easy trip up the road to West London. Though the lunchtime kick-off did mean that certain members of our party, who shall remain nameless,
were reduced to gambling on which door of the pub would open first at 10.00am. The gamble paid off and we were first to be served though, at our time of life, it appeared that getting a seat near the radiator was more important what with the knees not being what they once were.

Team news was that there was a return to first-team action for football genius Christian Dailly, a replacement for James Collins whose groin strain had not responded to him being given a seat near the radiator (or whatever treatment players get for groin injuries these days). Otherwise it was a case of "as you were" giving a starting line-up of Green, Spector, Konchesky, Ferdinand, Dailly, Reo_Coker, Mullins, Bowyer, Etherington, Harewood and Zamora.

It was a bright start with both Harewood and Zamora having early shots from the edge of the box. Things settled down a bit and we enjoyed a fair bit of the ball. The away support was in good voice too - which was probably just as well the home support apparently having had their life-support machines switched off before kick-off. It being Christmas there was a collection of Greatest Hits out including decent-length remixes of "Twist and Shout", "I Want Curly Hair Too" and of course the somewhat geographically challenged "My Name Is Ludo Miklosko". Another old favourite was the "let's pretend we've scored a goal" chant which made an appearance shortly before the usual "1-0 to the cockney boys" follow-up.

Though we had a lot of the ball, as ever this season the delivery in the final third was a bit lacking. One of the things that was particularly galling was the delivery from corners. I know we've had a bit of recent success with the near-post flick on but that's something that is likely to succeed on a limited number of occasions so it was a bit baffling to see us try it time and time again, especially when the delivery was not the best. The lesson to be learned was there for all to see when a cross actually came into the box from the left. It caused a bit of a panic when Niemi flapped at the ball under pressure from his own defenders. Etherington did well to get a header on the bouncing ball anddirected it goalwards only to see the ball cleared by a combination of crossbar and Rosenior's arm. Mullins also went close and NRC, fresh from his first goal of the season, also put an effort over from 12 yards. This prompted a chorus of the "Reo-Coker Conga" from a crowd that, no doubt, will be reported in the newspapers with the same prominence they have given to other NRC-related "issues" this week. Not.

Fulham hadn't really created much but had a good chance on the half-hour. Spector was adjudged to have caught Radzinski who had in fact thrown himself to the floor near a convenient leg. Spector got a yellow card from the sadly inconsistent Foy who had ignored the blatant tug on NRC in the build-up. McBride hit his free-kick over the wall but Green parried, recovering to claw the ball away from Routledge who was following-up. Breaking down the middle Zamora manoeuvred himself into a good bit of space but, though his shot had a bit of pace on it, it was straight at Niemi who parried uncomfortably. Shortly after came our own best chance of the half. A cross was only half cleared and the home defence were very slow in coming out. Bowyer's ball into the box found Harewood onside only for Marlon to crash his shot against the post from what was admittedly a tightish angle.

I thought that we'd been the more livelier side, though there was an element of "playing for the interval" about the last couple of minutes of stoppage time as Green had to be awake to keep out Volz and Brown.

The half-time entertainment consisted of some schoolkids doing one-on-one shootouts introduced by "Diddy" David Hamilton. Younger readers may not realise this but many moons ago, when there were only three tv channels, you used to actually see the person on the box announcing the next programme. Diddy David used to perform this vital function for Thames Television and it appears that he hasn't aged a bit. Well his hair hasn't anyway.

If we'd started the first half the better of the two sides the second half was more even. Green pulled off a couple of fairly comfortable saves early on. McBride's freebie just before the hour prompted a change. With the crowd clamouring for the introduction of Tevez, Curbishley elected instead to switch things around in midfield and the hard-working if ineffective Bowyer was replaced by Yossi. The introduction of the Israeli brought a little creativity to proceedings. Etherington fed NRC whose shot was saved by Niemi. Harewood's follow-up was partly saved by the 'keeper, Rosenior being on hand to clear off the line. Shortly after, Harewood fed Yossi in the same sort of area only for Niemi to be equal to the shot.

Teddy replaced Zamora - still in spite of the clamour for Tevez. Then we had Mr Foy's moment in the spotlight. Routledge broke away. Konchesky came over and took the ball, cleanly. It was a fine tackle. Routledge got a yard away before throwing himself to the floor. The decision to give a free-kick was wrong. The decision to send off Konchesky was wrong. Foy's attitude was wrong. The linesman's arrogant refusal to get involved, even though he must have seen what had really happened, was wrong. It was a guess pure and simple from the ref. It was a disgraceful piece of officiating that, when the appeal goes through, ought to see both ref and linesman docked their match fees and suspended. That won't happen of course - when you have someone as stupid as Hackett in charge of referees you'll only end up encouraging stupidity amongst his officials. The free-kick was dealt with comfortably enough but the incident left a nasty taste in the mouth. Meanwhile Routledge has probably been noted as a possible signing by Liverpool/Chelsea/Man Utd/Arsenal all of whom encourage their players to fall over far too easily. Linda came on for Harewood who was sacrificed for the need to protect a point, thus ending all hopes of a run out for Tevez.

Green hung onto a few hopeful balls into the box, one resulting from a foul throw. I guess that, having decided to ignore the laws of the game once, the officials thought that they might simply throw the book out of the window completely.

That was it basically. A point that was well-earned. We had chances and there was enough to instil a spot of cautious optimism for the two home games to come over the next few weeks. However, Foy's insane antics left me with a feeling like we'd lost - my mood not being improved by having just seen the incident again on the box as I write this. To Foy and his assistants I wish a case of haemorrhoids for the Christmas period. To me I'd like Santa to deliver us 6 points. To everyone else, may you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas!

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
When the ball is hung up in the air you always get the impression he's going to win it. He did. McLaren won't drop Robinson but maybe he ought to think about it.

Jonathan Spector
Occasionally guilty of giving his man a little too much space but stuck to his task.

Paul Konchesky
Better. And if his appeal against the most ridiculous sending off since Dermot Gallagher sent the same player off at Newcastle last season the FA is more corrupt than we thought.

Anton Ferdinand
Excellent at the back. Kept it simple and coped well despite a tendency for opposition forwards to leave their foot in on him.

Christian Dailly
Better than he was given credit for, he made things difficult for the opposition strike force, which is all you can expect from the old war-horse these days. I'd just like it on record that I don't really want curly hair too.

Hayden Mullins
Guilty of dwelling on the ball a bit too much today. A couple of good clearances at the end though.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Appears to be improving with his option selection - he passed a lot more when you wanted him to and often held on to the ball at the right time too.

Lee Bowyer
A lot of running about, the main purpose of which seemed to be to get needlessly involved in a series of niggles.

Matthew Etherington
Got up and down the left a lot but never seemed to quite have the measure of his full-back.

Marlon Harewood
Gave his markers a hard time but should have done better with the shot that hit the post.

Bobby Zamora
Never really looked like scoring I'm afraid. Tried his heart out but there comes a time when that simply isn't enough.


Yossi Benayoun
(Replaced Bowyer, 58) Lively but his shot when one-on-one with Niemi was at a comfortable height for the 'keeper.

Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Zamora, 69) I can see the logic behind replacing Zamora with Teddy but it didn't really work today.

George McCartney
(Replaced Harewood, 85) Given five minutes to shore up the defence following the ref's mental aberration.

Roy Carroll
Did not play.

Carlos Tevez
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Christian Dailly, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: None.

Booked: Jonathan Spector 26 Nigel Reo-Coker 69        .

Sent Off: Paul Konchesky 84    .

Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Bocanegra, Christanval, Queudrue, Volz, Brown, Routledge, Radzinski, Helguson, McBride.

Subs not used: Lastuvka, Runstrom, Omozusi, Jensen, Zakuani.

Goals: .

Booked: Helguson (39).

Sent off: None.

Referee: C.Foy.

Attendance: 22,452.

Man of the Match: Robert Green.