Coca Cola Championship
Crewe Alexandra 2 West Ham United 3

Saturday, 21st August 2004
by Nic Stoke

I've always enjoyed our trips to Crewe. One thing you know you'll get out of a Dario Gradi team is a proper game of football. Maybe that plays into our hands a bit, but they have turned us over before. Mind you, who hasn't?

A warm sunny day made up for a journey to the ground spoilt by thousands of student-type tossers on some sort of pilgrimage to a field where even more student-type numpties with guitars were making a racket.

Thank the Lord for the Olympics and cricket on Radio Five; it saved my ears from the deafening sound of grunge combat trousers crunching in their car seats after the great unwashed stopped at the services. I didn't even get out the car, just turned on the air con and drove straight past them.

So on to Crewe. It wasn't a bad turnout by our lot, on a par with last season's travelling contingent. Our lot were fairly subdued to begin with - hardly surprising after our outing last Sunday. I missed the first 10 minutes due to the aforementioned students blocking the M6 in their Citroen 2CV's, so don't know how well we actually started but we were in the ascendancy when I eventually got plotted up in my seat.

We started with Bywater in goal; Mullins at right back, Rufus on the left with Repka and Anton in the middle; Nowland and (Do-Do-Do) Nigel Reo-Coker as the central two in midfield; Brad (Chadwick) on the right and Matty on the left. Teddy and Marlon once again started up front.

One pleasing aspect was the constant support our following gave every player; Marlon constantly had "there's only one Marlon Harewood" sung to him. Today saw a bright and effective display from the former Forest man - who got us under way by hitting the crossbar early on.

Soon after Harewood's chance Chadwick carved an opening; he cut the ball back after some decent build up play for Teddy Sheringham to finish.1-0 to West Ham, 16 minutes gone.

A couple of minutes later Etherington broke down the left, whipped in a low, fast cross which Teddy helped on into the far corner. 2-0 to the Cockney Boys. Teddy's display today was by far his best so far. He captained the team, led by example and was involved all over the pitch.

On the half hour mark we raced into a three goal lead; a corner was headed out to Rufus, who was about 25 yards out to the left of centre. He steadied himself before firing a left-footed shot into the far corner - before running to celebrate with Alan Pardew on the sidelines.

So three-nil up inside half an hour; still not quite as good as last season at Gresty Road - but not bad! However just like last season we let Crewe back in to the game, this time straight from the kick-off. Although it was a well made goal with good passing around our defence (who looked a little static) the move was all down their inside left channel - the final pass leaving Ashton one on one with Bywater, and he slid the ball into the near side of our net.

We continued to dominate possession and chances, however the ref did seem to have a habit of giving Crewe some right dangerous looking free-kicks around the edge of our box. Overall referee Kaye was poor; at one point in the second half he either overruled or failed to see his linesman flag for a clear (to everyone except him) hand-ball and waved play on. Play stopped a minute later with Crewe straying offside, which bought a barrage of abuse from West Ham players and fans alike. Par for the course the knob-jockey dug someone out and spent a while giving Rufus a lecture; at no time did he acknowledge the linesman who flagged - all he managed to do was create havoc, so if you see a ref called A.Kaye on the bottom of any future programmes beware - he's useless.

The second half started much the same as the first finished; we created several chances and opened Crewe up time and time again - but just couldn't add to our three goals. You just knew that one of their very few second half chances would go in and we'd be up against it; Dean Ashton duly obliged with 8 minutes left to play after we'd hit the post through Marlon and missed some other great chances.

Ashton's goal was another very good move with him and the impressive Kenny Lunt combining again; his strike gave Bywater no chance. Shortly after, Crewe hit the crossbar from a corner - although the linesman had already flagged for offside - and at the death one of their lot tried an overhead kick which went close.

Although we were on the back foot a bit in the last five or ten minutes, the play from our front two was, for once, spot on. Harewood was continually fed the ball from defence and ran to the corner flag to kill the game. About time too; in the past we'd panic a bit and give the opposition the initiative. After the longest four minutes of injury time I've ever witnessed the dipstick of a ref blew for full time - and a well deserved three points were in the bag.

Our new midfield pairing of Nowland and Reo-Coker looked comfortable throughout, and 'Do-Do-Do' repeated the performance he gave at Leicester where he dominated the midfield. The former Dons man harried the Crewe players all over the pitch and broke forward at any given opportunity.

Nowland added a bit of flair to the partnership which against a team like Crewe works as you get more time on the ball; I'm not sure how effective he'd have been against Wigan last week, but it was an encouraging display in the middle by him nevertheless.

Chadwick and Etherington created problems all day with their running at defenders. Both put in several decent crosses today, and both had assists for Teddy's goal (and they also tracked back well throughout the game). Marlon looked like the Marlon we want to see every week, whilst Teddy was top draw; his angled passing and short flicks just seem to create space for our other players, I hope he stays fit - he could be a big player for us, and not only for his goals.

At the back, Anton and Repka looked comfortable - neither, for me, did much wrong. If Dailly is to be out for a while then these two can take encouragement from today's performance and hopefully build on it.

As for the overall performance, considering the way we went about things - especially in the first half against Wigan last week - it was a display to take a lot of good out of. Several players showed a bit of desire that was sorely missing prior to this game.

Both of our away games this season have witnessed good performances - if only we could get some of that style of play and desire into our home games. It makes you wonder if we - the supporters - have a part to play in this; Marlon Harewood, for one, had a good day today - early on his name was sung by the away fans; does he or any of our players ever get that vocal support at home to help them through games?

Like I say, it makes you wonder if we could all learn from this.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Produced some good saves when called upon. On one occasion he intercepted a long ball whilst two players were bearing down on him by diving at their feet - which has to give the defence a bit of confidence.

Tomas Repka
At last, a faultless display from Tomas. Maybe being the senior player of the two at the back gave him the responsibility to marshall things a bit more. One of his best games for us - funny that, as he was man of the match at Crewe last year.

Rufus Brevett
Solid performance - and a cracking goal.

Anton Ferdinand
Finally got his chance to start in the centre of defence. Never looked too concerned and dealt with most things well. Went down like a sack of potatoes a couple of times in the second half; not sure what that was all about.

Hayden Mullins
Never too sure that Hayden performs at his best at full-back, but he keeps on going. If we do eventually bring in Maurice Ross from Rangers hopefully he'll revert back into the centre of midfield to compete with Nowland for the right to partner Reo-Coker. Substituted early in the second half; may have picked up an injury.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Would be man of the match but Teddy's goals and captaincy shaded it. This was a brilliant display by Nigel today, much like his Leicester performance, he took the game to the opposition.

Adam Nowland
Slotted into the midfield well and looked comfortable alongside Reo-Coker. Had a few digs at goal too; good to know we have an alternative option to Mullins in order to put a bit of pressure on team places.

Luke Chadwick
Excellent running at defenders, linked up well with the front two and got back to defend too; more of the same please 'Brad'.

Matthew Etherington
Welcome back to the real Matty Etherington. Effective on the flank and caused trouble for Crewe all game.

Teddy Sheringham
Well the old bugger has still got it, and in abundance. He sees and plays passes no one else would in our team; his two goals were quality finishes (especially the glanced header); his link up play with the midfield and his constant talking to players throughout the game clearly helped the cause.

Marlon Harewood
As said above, finally we saw the Marlon we thought we'd bought from Forest. He can tear defences in this league to pieces with his skill, speed and strength. Showed a bit of passion today, which was rewarded by the support he got from the travelling fans.


Trent McClenahan
(Replaced Mullins, 55) Came on for Mullins early in the second half, and looked reasonably comfortable on what was his first team debut.

Chris Cohen
(Replaced Etherington, 84) Not on long enough to judge, but did okay.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Mark Noble
Did not play.

Sergei Rebrov
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Tomas Repka, Rufus Brevett, Anton Ferdinand, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Adam Nowland, Luke Chadwick, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 16 Teddy Sheringham 22 Rufus Brevett 30              .

Booked: Marlon Harewood 18          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Crewe Alexandra: Williams, B.Jones, Foster, Briggs, Vaughan, Walker, Sorvel, Lunt, Cochrane, Rivers, Ashton.

Subs not used: Ince, Moses.

Goals: Ashton (31, 82).

Booked: Cochrane (60).

Sent off: None.

Referee: A.Kaye.

Attendance: 7,857.

Man of the Match: Teddy Sheringham.