West Ham United 1 Reading 0
Tuesday, 10th August 2004
by Nick Homer
How they came in their hundreds. How we marvelled at their tremendous following. How we sent them packing back to Berkshire with their blue and white shirts stained with the tears of defeat. If only.While West Ham ground out their first victory of the season with a dogged but lucky performance, the game failed to live up to its heavyweight billing. Reading managed to pull together just 1200 fans for their short trip to East London, but the Irons’ attendance only just topped 26,000 – somewhat disappointing for a team used to topping the attendance tables last year.
Chris Cohen replaced the suspended Rufus Brevett at left back, and was turned inside-out time and time again by his opposite number Glen Little. An injury to the Reading player relieved the youngster of his torment, and he showed steady improvement throughout the game especially when venturing forward. New boys aside, the back four continues to look as shaky as ever. While Repka looks calmer, Bywater’s improved distribution has been countered by moments of erraticism. When Melville was removed midway through the second half through injury, the central pairing of Repka and Dailly looks worryingly short of confidence. If we can spend a portion of the Carrick money anywhere, then this has to be the number one choice. There’s little cover, little confidence and little chance of anymore clean sheets if we keep this up.
In midfield though, Reo-Coker seems hellbent on making the central berth his own. Ball-winning and determined, Nigel made several runs through the middle of the field withstanding several storm force tackles from his opposite numbers. Alongside him, Mullins looks more comfortable than in his defensive roles last year, although a little prone to the kind of wild shooting normally reserved for a western.
Tuesday night’s showdown however left Harewood goalless for the second game running, despite several diamond-lined chances which he failed to convert. Perhaps a little short on confidence, Marlon is enjoying service from the classy flicks of Sheringham which will surely bring him success. Time and time again Teddy rose above his marker to cushion a header in Marlon’s directior, yet so often West Ham failed to capitalise. With Rebrov again confined to the right-wing, the team continued to lack balance. Only after Chadwick was introduced late on did the cylinders begin to fire towards full capacity. So much so that it brought the decisive goal. Enjoying his first appearance in the claret and blue, Luke managed to get himself to the byline with just enough room to cross to Sheringham. The 38 year old poked the ball past the stranded American keeper and the Boleyn erupted to the sound of the ex-Tottenham player’s name. Football fans are a fickle bunch.
Before the decisive moment though, West Ham could easily have thrown it all away. Hapless defending continues to darken our game, and two stikers with better finishing skills would have seen the Irons off early in the game. A second clean sheet will help to brew more confidence in the side, but the lack of serious attempts on goal from West Ham lies with Pardew’s choice of tactics. Stikers play upfront, wingers play on the wing. Easy, surely? I guess not. The manager’s insistence on playing three stikers, one of which who ends up out of position is a mistake. When Chadwick came on the team had width on both sides (although Matty had a quiet game), and the forward line seemed more useful. We’ll give Rebrov his due though. He battled hard and showed some nice touches, but Serge is a striker and unfortunately cannot cross the ball. But then neither could the rest of the team. Countless good positions were wasted by poor crossing. Corners continue to be a source of serious embarrassment too. If it clears the first defender it will probably be the best taken set-piece of the game. But this is an uneasy period. New players need to gel and the team needs a rhythm. Two clean sheets and four points from the first two games is a good start, providing that Pardew can fill the cracks, especially in defence.
Our next opposition have more of a point to prove. Denied of a play-off spot by West Ham last season, Wigan will be looking for revenge and Upton Park will need to be a little bit more of a fortress than it was on Tuesday night.
Alan Pardew (6) Somehow got out of this one with three points, but needs to knock this three stiker idea on the head.
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Player RatingsStephen Bywater
Superb saves coupled with moments of madness. Improved distribution was pleasant to see.
Played well at right-back but looked nervy in the centre of defence. Seemed cool despite personal problems.
A testing game for the youngster, but to come through unscathed and with a clean sheet will have done him the power of good.
Captain Chris continues to lead by example, covering on the left when help was required.
Clearly Dailly?EUR(TM)s preferred partner, unfortunately taken off with an injury in the second half.
better and better. This boy is going to be exciting. Hopefully.
Not quite as good a game as Saturday, but still doing an above satisfactory job.
Working hard, but let?EUR(TM)s face it, Chadwick is sure to take over on the right now.
Shackled by Reading who clearly saw him as a massive threat. Lacking a little match sharpness.
A class above for the second game running. How the fitness of his veteran will last, is another question.
Confidence Marlon, is all you need. But the more goals you miss, the harder it becomes. Right? Let?EUR(TM)s hope not.
(Replaced Melville, 61) Replaced Melville, but still wants to step-over twirl his way out of defence. Looking better than last season though.
(Replaced Harewood, 71) Looks a little more likely to score than Marlon, but if we could get a decent ball into the box they?EUR(TM)d both have had a hat-trick.
(Replaced Rebrov, 76) Set up the goal, defended superbly and scared a few people when he hugged Teddy. Great debut.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Tomas Repka, Chris Cohen, Christian Dailly, Andy Melville, Nigel Reo-Coker, Hayden Mullins, Sergei Rebrov, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Teddy Sheringham 82 .
Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 20 Christian Dailly 65 Bobby Zamora 86 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Reading: Hahnemann, Shorey, Williams, Murty, Ingimarsson, Harper, Hughes, Little, Sidwell, Kitson, Forster.
Subs not used: Young, Sonko, Newman.
Booked: Nalis (21).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Luke Chadwick.