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West Ham United 2 Aston Villa 2
Saturday, 10th May 2008
So where did that season go?
It was only a few minutes ago that I sat down to write my first report of the season and somehow nine months have gone. Of course unlike last season there was to be no last match trauma, only the honour of still seeing our name on screen when they show the "top" section of the league table was at stake.
It was a scorching hot day and the temptation to remain in the Black Lion beer garden was almost overwhelming, especially as one's arrival was substantially delayed by the fact that the Jubilee line was, not for the first time, knackered. However, the need to deliver a spare ticket to a lucky recipient following a last minute cry-off meant that staying put was not an option.
Team news was that Ashton had recovered from the knock picked up in Salford and Ferdinand had recovered from the dodgy hamstring picked up way back when the weather was rotten. The starting line-up: Green, Neill, McCartney, Ferdinand, Tomkins, Solano, Parker, Noble, Boa-Morte, Ashton, Zamora. Unfortunately Mike Dean had failed to pick up an injury and was available to referee.
It was a bright start and both teams went for it right from the start. An early Solano lob into Zamora saw the striker find space but his header was wayward. We then forced a couple of corners, the second which started a Villa breakaway by Reo-Coker. Agbonghr's ball into the box found the impressive Young who didn't quite get the shot right, the post coming to Green's aid.
Things settled down and Ferdinand was taken out right on the edge of the box. After an interminable delay whilst Vila constructed a wall using all 10 outfield players Solano calmly stuck the free-kick past a poor attempt at a ave from Carson - who, lest we forget, was preferred to Green in past England squads. Solano's celebrations, as is the fashion when scoring against a former club, were muted.
Enter Mike Dean. God help us but this twit has the Cup Final next week. Remember that if you're thinking of having a bet because later on in this report he gets something right and the chances of that happening two weeks in a row are minimal. Firstly he decided to indulge in a spot of double booking, punishing Neill and Parker for challenges. Parker's looked especially harsh and, if that was the yellow standard, serious questions need to be asked about some later decisions.
Dean later endeared himself to the home crowd by deciding a knock to Tomkins was not serious, but seeing Zamora go clean through following some slick passing, the moron decided that he would bring play back after all.
On the quarter hour the scores were levelled. Linda had been drawn into the middle and Reo-Coker fed Young in the inside right slot. Green's positioning wasn't the best and Young had enough angle to slot in at the far post.
It could have been worse a few minutes later as Tomkins was caught the wrong side of his striker. Fortunately his striker was the asinine Carew who failed to make decent contact when he might have scored.
Neill forced a corner which caused the mildest of panics as Anton wound himself up for a shot. Noble then got on the end of a clever flick from Ashton only to see his run ended by a cynical hack from Petrov. I'm sure the idiot Dean had a perfectly adequate explanation for his failure to issue the yellow card that the laws of the game demand for such incidents, but, since unfortunately he is not accountable to us mere paying members of the public we'll never know what that explanation is. My theory - and this is backed up by years of having to put up with ruined matches at the hands of this twit - is that he is incompetent. Simple as that.
Meanwhile Boa-Morte was having great fun. Possibly discovering that there was someone who was getting booed even more than he was, he was happily chasing back at Reo-Coker and winning the ball off him time after time, thus endearing himself to the home support no end. This gave him the confidence to try a first time volley which, although not accurate, won generous applause for the effort. LBM was also involved just before the interval as his neat ball inside to Zamora saw Bobby hit a shot on the turn that had Carson, and, unfortunately, the post beaten.
Those of you who had McCartney in the Injury Lotto finally got a pay-out as Linda failed to appear for the second period, Pantsil being the replacement. Villa started the brighter of the sides in the second half, forcing an early corner on the right which came to naught. Boa-Morte countered with a surging run that ended up with a shot that was too close to Carson.
Then the moment that I'll keep on Sky + for the rest of my life. Mike Dean got one right. I know it's hard to believe but he did. I guess if you give an infinite number of apes an infinite number of typewriters, eventually one of them will write "Hamlet" and the same principle applies with this idiot. Agbonlahor played a ball across from the left and Green pulled off a marvellous save from Carew from point blank range. Green came out to follow up and Petrov beat him to the ball but dived. It was embarrassing. Even Dean thought so - actually he probably thought it was a penalty and was trying to be controversial - and out came the yellow card. Such a shame Dean hadn't thought to show the yellow to the same player earlier when he'd brought down Noble but I suppose we should be grateful for one decision from this official in 10 years.
Young then found space on the right but Parker had made up an incredible amount of ground to make the blocking tackle. Barry then had a shot deflected wide. Carew's header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line by Noble. Up the other end Solano's cross was brought down by Ashton but a defender cleared just as the trigger was about to be pulled.
The sun was causing problems as, twice, Zamora failed to pick up the ball, the second time a promising ball coming back off his heels as he lost the flight of the ball.
Just before the hour we went behind. Pantsil lost the ball upfield in a pointless run that was going nowhere. Stretched by his failure to seem in too much of a hurry to get back, Neill found himself outnumbered at the far post and, whilst Green's save from Reo-Coker's shot was superb the ball fell straight out to Barry who turned the ball back in first time for what will probably be his last Villa goal before yet another Liverpool illegal approach finally works.
We came back strongly. Solano's free-kick narrowly missed conversion by Ashton, Carson flapping away at the cross in that comical manner that seems to be required of England goalkeepers. Ashton's header from the corner was then cleared off the line by Petrov - yes the same one who shouldn't have been on the pitch. Boa Morte then twisted and turned before getting a cross in that Zamora put against the bar with a powerful header. This was virtually his last contribution as he was replaced by Cole shortly after.
Agbonlahor then got a cross in that Tomkins did well to block, Green getting a kick in the face from Carew for his trouble that the idiot ref eventually spotted as a head injury without obtaining the free-kick that one might expect of even a moderately able official. Sears then replaced Noble in an attempt to give the attack a bit more emphasis.
With two left on the clock, and most people feeling grateful for Spurs' impending defeat, we equalised. Paintsil's ball in was, frankly, dreadful. However a deflection brought it away from the defence and Ashton's powerful drive gave Carson no chance. That, apart from a bizarre attempt by Cole to chest the ball back to his 'keeper from a distance of about 1 inch, was that. And an entertaining match, if not a season, came to a close.
It's been an odd old 9 months. At the start of the season when asked what I'd like for this year I asked for a dull season untroubled by anything that would cause sleepless nights. Boy did we get that. Next year we need to push on though. Will we ever see a fully fit squad? Will Rob Green ever make the England squad? Where actually is Nigel Quashie? And will Chalks ever pay me that tenner for mentioning the word "Jacuzzi" on national radio?
All these questions and less will be answered right here next season. In the meantime I should go into self-indulgent mode and finish off with a few thank-yous. This rubbish comes to you each week thanks to the invaluable assistance of the following people without whom I'd be even more of a gibbering wreck than usual(so blame them!): Upton Girlie, Margot, Romford, Gent, Nan, Alan & Trevor, Naeem, Bonehead, Goes To Eleven, Delilah and most of all If Not Why Not (where's my birthday present?!).
Have a great summer everyone and be safe.
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Maybe slightly in the wrong position for the first goal but made some fine stops later on.
Seemed a yard short against the admittedly pacy Young.
Not at his best in the first half - possible as a result of the hamstring problem that saw him sit out the second 45.
A welcome return but was made to battle.
Had a tough time up against Carew and Young. Stuck to the task though.
Another hard shift put in before being sacrificed in the chase for the equaliser.
At full-time he went down on his knees, possibly looking for the one blade of grass he hadn't covered during the day.
Always looked dangerous on the ball. Fine free-kick though the 'keeper helped a bit.
Luis Boa Morte
A good game - some great tracking back and a few good crosses.
Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.
Always dangerous, his goal was superb.
(replaced McCartney, 46) Passing was poor.
(replaced Zamora, 73) Failed to make an impression.
(replaced Solano, 80) Also failed to make an impression.
Did not play.
Did not play.
West Ham United:
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Nobby Solano, Luis Boa Morte, Bobby Zamora, Dean Ashton.
Nobby Solano 8 Dean Ashton 88 .
Scott Parker 10 Lucas Neill 10 .
Carson, Mellberg, Laursen, Knight, Bouma, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Barry, Young, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Subs not used:
Taylor, Salifou, Routledge, Maloney.
Young (14), Barry (58).
Mellberg , Petrov.
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