West Ham United 1-2 Portsmouth 

Tuesday, 26th December 2006
by Jacob Steinberg

So that's it then - the honeymoon period lasted just two games for Alan Curbishley, who will now be under no illusions about the difficulty of reversing West Ham's stuttering fortunes. Make no mistake, this is a relegation dogfight, and Curbishley requries hardier souls than the team currently possesses.

With the January transfer window approaching, the chance to strengthen the side is vital. Portsmouth are a prime example of the galvanising effect fresh faces can do for a team. Portsmouth were sinking last season, but Harry Redknapp's signings during the window eventually kept them up.

Yesterday they hardly broke sweat in dispatching West Ham, whose woeful first half performance sucked the life out of the home crowd. When Linvoy Primus scores twice against your side, it is a dispiriting time.

West Ham's inability to defend set pieces allowed the journeyman defender to punish them. He first evaded Marlon Harewood at the far post to head Pedro Mendes' corner powerfully past Robert Green after sixteen minutes, before a similar routine twenty minutes later found Hayden Mullins wanting, and Primus found the top corner.

In between those goals, yet more set piece confusion led to Danny Gabbidon clearing Sean Davis' effort off the line, Sol Campbell blazing the rebound well over, and the Upton Park crowd had begun to turn on their team. Most disappointing was Curbishley's decision to revert to a five man midfield after the first goal, with Harewood bizarrely often finding himself in a defensive right midfield position.

Negativity rarely leads to anywhere else but defeat, and West Ham predictably departed to half time boos. With changes required, Harewood and the anonymous Matthew Etherington, who was later found in Glen Johnson's back pocket, were taken off.

On came Teddy Sheringham and Carlos Tevez, and West Ham looked the better for it. Sheringham's promptings began to turn the game in West Ham's favour, while Tevez's skill and sheer desire livened up the crowd. He nearly had his first goal for the club after leaving Johnson with twisted blood, but he shot agonisingly wide. Minutes later, his free kick grazed the bar.

Yet when the goal came, the little Argentinian had little to do with it, and it was somewhat more English than South American. Anton Ferdinand reached a long ball before David James and diverted it to Sheringham. From a tight angle, he delightfully lobbed the ball into the net, despite Johnson's best efforts on the line.

With ten minutes remaining, it gave West Ham a chance to salvage something. There were last gasp and last ditch moments. Mullins fired badly over, James beat Sheringham to a loose ball, before Mullins and Zamora collectively managed to muck up a relatively easy chance, the ball eventually ending up in the side netting.

It was too little too late, the points were for Portsmouth, who left the relegation worries for West Ham to ponder over.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Had little to do other than pick the ball out of his net.

Jonathan Spector
He was poor in the first half and was rightly subbed.

Paul Konchesky
Not a bad game actually, but he is let down by poor distribution and crossing.

Anton Ferdinand
Has had better days as he found it tough against Kanu.

Danny Gabbidon
Rusty, and a little casual.

Hayden Mullins
Where has his form gone? His passing was atrocious and he failed to get to grips with their midfield.

Nigel Reo-Coker
What exactly is he meant to be? I genuinely don't know, other than he's not as good as he thinks he is. Far from it.

Yossi Benayoun
One of his best games of the season. He looked dangerous, but there was little end product.

Matthew Etherington
He needs to go. Watch me fly, he said. Hide would be more appropriate.

Marlon Harewood
Bewildered on the right, he had an ineffective game.

Bobby Zamora


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Harewood, 45) Lovely goal. Should have started.

Carlos Tevez
(Replaced Etherington, 45) Yeah, yeah, he was good because he IS good, we know he is, but he must be pissed off with it all now. Wouldn't you be if you had to watch that clown Zamora in your place every week?

Christian Dailly
(Replaced Spector, 69) Surprisingly decent at right midfield/ wing back/ whatever it was we changed to by then.

Roy Carroll
Did not play.

George McCartney
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 81                  .

Booked: Anton Ferdinand 40 Nigel Reo-Coker 83        .

Sent off: None.

Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Primus, Pamarot, Campbell, Mendes, Taylor, Davis, O'Neill, Kanu, Fernandes.

Subs not used: Ashdown, O'Brien, Thompson, Kranjcar.

Goals: Primus (16, 38).

Booked: Kanu (80).

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Atkinson.

Attendance: 34,913.

Man of the Match: Teddy Sheringham.