FA Cup
West Ham United 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 0

Saturday, 6th January 2007
by Gordon Thrower

Okay, so it was only Brighton. And a team full of kids at that. But three goals is three goals, a clean sheet is a clean sheet and we’re now through to the next round of what I am legally obliged to refer to as “a welcome distraction from the relegation struggle”.

As far as I'm concerned, following a family bereavement that has seen me dealing with me dealing with more red tape in one week than I've encountered in a whole career of working in tax, the win was a welcome distraction from real life in general.

In a reversal of the situation last year where players were rested from league matches in order to ensure fitness for the Cup, Curbs elected to give run-outs to a number of non-regulars. Most notable of the absentees was Nigel Reo-Coker, whose non-appearance even on the bench prompted mutterings about the preservation of his Cup eligibility in the event of any transfer. Whatever the reason for his absence, NRC's non-presence, coupled with the injury to Bowyer, gave a chance for Mark Noble to make his first start since God knows when. New-boy Boa-Morte also went straight into the side, leaving us with a starting line-up of Carroll, Dailly, McCartney, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Noble, Mullins, Benayoun, Boa-Morte, Cole and Tevez.

It was a quiet start to the game, the torpor being enlivened only by the assistance given to the visitors by the frankly shoddy refereeing of Mr Halsey who denied two of the clearest penalties that you'll ever want to see. The first effort was from Tevez which came at the end of a jinking run. A visiting defender dived at the ball turning it round the post using both hands in what was probably the best save of the match. Halsey was not impressed and, presumably on the grounds that a half-decent 'keeper would have held the shot rather than turn it around the post, gave only the corner.

Worse was to come when Boa-Morte turned O'Ceaurill in the box, the defender taking both the new boy's legs away from him getting absolutely nothing of the ball in the process. Throughout the match Halsey seemed to have an agenda whereby he would do all in his power to level up any perceived difference in class between the two sides.

Chances at either end were few and far between, though I was somewhat bemused to see Robinson clean through on goal shown as a "chance" on MOTD. Especially when the commentator made a point of informing us that: "the flag stayed down". This presumably came as some news to the linesman who had raised his flag, and to Halsey who clearly acknowledged the fact. Still, in a match where nothing much was happening, I suppose they had to show something, though in the bad old days I'm sure they would have simply started the highlights with the time-honoured intro of "we pick up the action in the second half....."

The only other incident of note was the somewhat unusual spectacle of a 44th minute substitution. Ferdinand hobbled off with what appeared to be a groin strain ("he's hurt his winkle" was the unconvincing and anatomically suspect explanation given by Upton Girlie to young Tomas). Spector replaced Ferdinand and went in at right-back prompting Dailly to switch inside alongside Gabbidon.

Having extricated the usual half-time Kit-Kats from the hood of my coat we settled down for the second half as the rain came down in biblical amounts reminding us that it can only be a month or so before Thames Water announce the next hosepipe ban.

It was a slightly livelier start to the second period and within 4 minutes of the restart we were in front. Boa-Morte's cross from the left came off, I think, Butters, to Tevez. Tevez's header down seemed a little short but Noble did superbly well to keep his knee over the ball to volley home from inside the 18-yard box. Noble celebrated like, well, exactly like you'd expect from a young enthusiastic West Ham supporter scoring his first goal for the club he's supported all his life. Good luck to him I say.

The opposition hadn't created much but there had been a bit of heart about them. The goal changed all that and the stuffing appeared to have gone from them, though had (I think) Robinson got on the end of a cross from the deep things might have changed. As it was we only had to wait another 8 minutes for the lead to be doubled. Tevez, who with Benayoun was beginning to enjoy all the space given to him, went on a fine run down the right and his cross into the now-infamous "corridor of uncertainty" was dangerous but nobody had got that far into the box. However, Boa-Morte didn't give up the ghost and retrieved the ball on the left to cross for an unmarked Cole to volley home on the edge of the box.

The goal killed off the match and the remaining half-hour was a bit of a non-event. Long spells of possession saw us get nowhere in particular quite slowly. Carroll made his first proper save on the hour though his dive low to his left was a lot more comfortable than it might have looked.

Tevez then went on a superb run only to be denied what would have been a deserved first goal by the 'keeper. On 67 minutes Cole was replaced by Zamora who, according to the chant, "should have stayed with the Seagulls". Well anything is better than T*ttenham I suppose. Even the Withdean which is a ground so poor I've actually played on it! Zamora should possibly have made it three, somehow managing to hit the post from a matter of inches, though the flag was apparently up.

With 13 left Newton, whose 10K nickname might require changing to 10g, replaced Boa-Morte, who had enjoyed a useful debut. Newton it was that had a hand in the third which came early in stoppage time, supplying the cross to find Mullins in acres of space to head home unopposed from about 10 yards.

This was a workmanlike performance. That might not sound much but given what we've seen in recent weeks it was a bonus to see a side go out and do exactly what needed to be done. Tellingly all three goals came from crosses - an area in which we've struggled of late. Other plus points were the form of both Tevez and of Noble and, though there's always the caveat concerning the quality of the opposition to consider, I left with the impression that neither would be found wanting in the event of a start against Fulham next week. It'll be interesting to see if Curbs agrees.

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Player Ratings

Roy Carroll
Unemployed for long periods. Not found wanting when required.

Christian Dailly
Got into some good positions at right-back when you'd be wishing that it was someone else. Slotted in nicely at centre half.

George McCartney
Solid game in defence for Linda who might be beginning to press Konchesky for the starting spot at LB.

Anton Ferdinand
Was doing ok prior to the untimely injury.

Danny Gabbidon
Solid and comfortable in what might be a useful confidence-builder before more sterner tests to come.

Hayden Mullins
Did the "Mullins role" well and got forward well at the end for a nice glanced-header of a goal.

Mark Noble
Bossed midfield and enjoyed his well-taken goal.

Yossi Benayoun
Enjoyed and made good use of the time and space afforded to him.

Luis Boa Morte
Useful start to his career as a Hammer with a hand in two goals - three if you credit him with Newton's cross for the third like Paul Merson did on the box earlier on!

Carlton Cole
A rare start saw him win a lot in the air and he took his volley nicely.

Carlos Tevez
A fine match, particularly second half when that air of anticipation accompanied every touch. I don't see him day-in day-out like the management but based on this performance I'd like to see him start against Fulham.


Jonathan Spector
(Replaced Ferdinand, 44) Not the hardest 46 minutes he'll ever have but was solid enough.

Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Cole, 68) Given 20 minutes against his old club but failed to cause them too many problems.

Shaun Newton
(Replaced Boa Morte, 73) A lively 10 minutes or so containing a shot and a cross for the third.

Robert Green
Did not play.

Teddy Sheringham
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Roy Carroll, Christian Dailly, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, Yossi Benayoun, Luis Boa Morte, Carlton Cole, Carlos Tevez.

Goals: Mark Noble 49 Carlton Cole 58 Hayden Mullins 90              .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent off: None.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Henderson, El-Abd, O'Cearuill, Lynch, Butters, Mayo, Fraser, Frutos, Hammond, Revell, Robinson.

Subs not used: Kuipers, Carpenter.

Goals: .

Booked: Mayo (15), El-Abd (26).

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Halsey.

Attendance: 32,874.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.