Leicester City 0 West Ham United 0
Saturday, 7th August 2004
by Nick Homer
If there’s one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s those bloody football “phone ins” that you feel compelled to listen to on the way home from any game.Being fortunate enough to appreciate football in the higher echelons of the English game, you’re normally guaranteed to have your game featured in some capacity throughout the show. I like to be as open as possible to discussion, but I do expect those contributing form the professional side to have at least a moderate understanding of what went on during the game. After all, what kind of self-respecting football presenter would want to add anything but intelligent thought to a discussion of the highest importance?
As much as I’d take great delight in talking through the various credentials of the nonsensical ramblings of a sycophantic Manchester United fan (yes 606 presenter, I’m talking to you), I’ll get to the point. If you run into the back of a player, indulge in some pushing and shoving, end up on your backside and then strike him with your leg, then you deserve a red card for missing the chance to make a decent career with a travelling circus. Yes the card was harsh, but while it was harsh, it was fair. So when I hear on the radio that our MC for the drive home has watched the replay and can’t see anything wrong, I can only presume that lashing out with a boot is ok. Still, if you’ve overdosed on petulant foreigners under the brand of Manchester United, I suppose there might be an excuse.
Before any of this happened though, the game had started at a high tempo, but that’s what you would expect from two teams with something to prove. West Ham perched on the ball like seasoned pretenders to the Championship throne, while Leicester bustled around, still fumbling after the final remnants of their Premiership memories. Both teams felt inventive, and when Bywater flapped at an early cross Nalis gathered the loose ball, only to crash his resulting strike against the bar. When West Ham pressed, long-range shots from Mullins and Reo-Coker failed to test Walker, whose supporters still feel possesses a somewhat slippery glove on an England jersey. Maybe not, but a neat first-half save denied Marlon Harewood and kept the ten-man Foxes in the hunt.
Soaring temperatures were to play a huge part in the game, and even for the long periods of possession enjoyed by the Hammers, little decent end product resulted and Walker remained mostly untroubled for the majority of the half. Half-time provided the players with a needed break and West Ham began the second-half in earnest. Leicester seemed to struggle with the midfield industry of Reo-Coker and Mullins, but while Etherington enjoyed some success down the left-wing, the right side of the line-up still needs work. Harewood wasn’t the answer last season, and Rebrov will not be the answer for this one. We have four good strikers, each with their own benefits, but the addition of McAnuff for the last twenty or so minutes must surely have proven that a right-sided midfielder or winger is a much better option than an out of position goal-scorer. It didn’t work for England with Heskey, and it won’t work for us. No ifs and no buts. We’ve got Chadwick and McAnuff who can play there, so if there’s one criticism of today for Pardew, then this is it. No more dodgy formations – play two strikers and utilise the flanks. Please.
A superb second-half double save from Ian Walker denied Harewood and Sheringham, but his heroics were matched at the other end by an immense, one-handed stop by Stevie Bywater to deny David Connolly the kind of debut for which we would never have forgiven him. Reduced of his striking partner early in the game, Connolly played as only we would have expected, but for the most part Dailly and Melville shackled his moves while the supply from midfield was well controlled by the new pairing of Reo-Coker and Mullins. Brevett’s late sending off for a second yellow card seemed a little extreme, but mad hot afternoon’s require referees of equal purpose I suppose. The tackle was hard, but an irate Leicester crowd made the decision for him. Shame on you.
For all of the industry and possession offered by West Ham this afternoon, for all the crosses and corners that Leicester defended astutely but with ease, a building block was laid. You can’t win a division on the first game of the season. You can’t scare all the other teams into rolling over 5-0 each week by reputation alone. But the positives are there – we kept a clean sheet, we got a point from an away game at who will probably turn out to be our closest rivals. Hell, we even looked better than they did at times, passing the ball round with confidence, not rushing but looking for movement and opportunities whilst remaining safe and secure for the most part. We do need to move forward for the Reading game, but we’re almost there you know.
Alan Pardew (6) Failed to break down a ten-man Leicester and needs to sort the right-wing problem. Hot temperatures made the job difficult, so he can be satisfied with a point against a major rival away from home.
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Player RatingsStephen Bywater
One outstanding save, improved distribution from last year and only let down by a couple of misjudged crosses. Still, he did learn from David James?EUR?
Strong and disciplined, a good performance from the Czech.
The Ruf was on fire and unlucky to be sent off, but a great return to the team.
Lead the team as he did last season and marshalled his defence, and a certain DC well.
A cool and calm head in the middle of the back four.
Hard work and neat play from the young midfielder ?EUR" hopefully the sign of good things to come.
Much more comfortable playing in the middle of the midfield and unlucky not to score with his long-range shooting.
A fairly quiet debut, perforated with some nice touches and glimpses of his visional play.
Toiled hard down the left and linked well with Rufus when the opportunity arose.
Worked hard but rarely threatened goal.
Two good chances wasted, but Marlon looked hungry, and a hungry striker is always a good striker.
(Replaced Rebrov) Fitted in well on the right hand side, if only for twenty minutes. Surely pushing for a place in the full team.
(Replaced Sheringham) Rarely had a chance to impress after Brevett?EUR(TM)s red card. Brought on as a precaution.
(Replaced Harewood) Replaced Harewood and was unlucky not to score late on. Looking sharp (and hungry).
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Tomas Repka, Rufus Brevett, Christian Dailly, Andy Melville, Nigel Reo-Coker, Hayden Mullins, Sergei Rebrov, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.
Booked: Rufus Brevett 18 .
Sent Off: Rufus Brevett 85 .
Leicester City: Walker, Dabizas, Makin, Heath, Williams, Wilcox, Stewert, Nalis, Scowcroft, Dublin, Connolly..
Subs not used: Pressman, Gemmill, Blake..
Booked: Nalis (21).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker.