Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 1 Ipswich Town 1

Saturday, 18th September 2004
by East Stand Martin

I did say after the Rotherham performance that it would be nice to see a full 90 minute performance from West Ham for a change. Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, because we did it again today: a seamless transition through half time from almost faultless to clueless in one easy lesson.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh and let’s not get too despondent. We should concede that in these 50% performances we are seeing this season, we are at least getting our noses in front when we are playing well. And when it was good today it was very good: fluid and entertaining football that kept the fans happy. A lot of this is down to the new additions: Malky, Powell, Fletch and Devo. All of these look solid and are looking first and foremost for the pass rather than the hoof.

Take the draw?

In reality, we all knew today’s game was going to be difficult. If I’d been offered a draw beforehand, I would have been tempted by it, particularly after two wins on the bounce. Ipswich have been on a bit of a roll, and we all remember what happened when we played them at home on Boxing Day last year. Counago scored a couple and we went down 1-2.

The team setup looked pretty much as expected, being a repetition of the starting lineup against Rotherham. ESM Jnr swore blind that Sky were reporting the return of Zamora, but he was nowhere to be seen. Lomas was on the bench though, returning after that moment of insanity at Highfield Road.

I’ll get accused of starting these match reports the same way, but it did actually begin promisingly enough yet again. Tom, who is pretty much on fire at the moment and very happy playing at right wing back, went on a ranging run forward after being supplied by Teddy on 3 minutes. He knocked over a great ball over the top, but Teddy’s head down was cleared.

Three minutes later, Teddy showed his class again, with a superb back flick to Reo-Coker who then sent Tom on His way. Tom’s blocked cross led to a corner which found Teddy, but he could not quite get enough direction on his near post header and it went wide.

On 8 minutes, Ipswich nearly stole a goal themselves after Westlake nicked the ball from Malky down the left. There was the suspicion of a push on the Scottish defender, but the ball found ex-Hammer Kevin Horlock who then put in a good pass to Darren Bent. Fortunately, Bywater was on hand to deny the Ipswich striker who couldn’t find Counago from the rebound.

We score first yet again

Like Sheffield the week before, the Irons were able to get their noses in front early on. On 10 minutes, Matty won a corner after he gathered a clever pass from Teddy. Chris Powell slotted through a visionary pass to the feet of Chadders down the left in acres of space, the Ipswich defence having gone AWOL. He put over a cross which found ex-Norwich man Malky – and I bet he loved that against the Suffolk enemy – to head powerfully past Kelvin Davis.

Almost immediately from the re-start Ipswich were unlucky not to score. Magilton – who always seems to play well against us – got in a good cross from the left and Chris Powell was easily out leaped by Bent who just put it wide.

It was end to end stuff, and just after the Bent miss, Chadders picked the ball up and put over a great ball to Marlon who had managed to stay onside. Inexplicably, instead of bring the ball down, he decided to try and volley it and it went embarrassingly wide.

Reo-Coker was having another one of his inspirational spells with a great bursting run forward on 13 minutes and a series of tackles and closing down of Ipswich midfielders. Teddy sent Matty on his way again a minute later and he went tumbling down in the area close to the dead ball line. The referee was not impressed with his claims for a penalty,

Devo bosses it

Davenport was also having another commanding game in central defence. This boy has every chance of playing for England in the future, in my view. On 20 minutes he got in a good tackle around the six yard box to nick the ball off the foot of Counago, and for most of the half nothing seemed to get by him in the air or on the ground.

Chadders was also playing better than some of his performances of late and he made a great shimmy on 22 minutes to take the ball away and find the advancing Tom with a pass. His cross was good but there was no-one around to get on the end of it in the Ipswich box.

Four minutes later, there was a rapid exchange of passes which led to a great ball out from Marlon to Chadders who got in a quality cross to find Teddy’s head, but he just nodded it wide. We were now really in control and on 29 minutes, Matty took the ball down superbly and put through a fine pass to Reo-Coker who burst forward through the middle. He managed to get a good shot away, but Davis was alert to it and dived with great agility to his left to turn the ball around the post for a corner.

The resulting corner led to a free kick after Westlake was either penalised for handball or failing to retreat 10 yards. It looked like Malky was about to bag a brace when he met the cross from the free kick, but it just went wide.

Davis excels

There was hardly a moment to gather your thoughts, and another quick succession of passing between Chadders, Teddy and Marlon led to another corner. This led to a powerful header from Devo which was cleared off the line and then an outstanding reflex save by Davis from a point blank shot by Teddy. How one of those didn’t go in defied belief.

The continuous pressure by West Ham then won a penalty on 33 minutes after Fletch was brought down by the keeper as he gathered a strange looping ball over the top from Matty. Teddy stepped up to take it and he looked confident enough, but he scuffed it well wide of the post. Maybe the keeper’s save a couple of minutes before was playing on his mind. Maybe he saw the keeper move early to the left and decided to make a last second adjustment and hit it right. Rarely do you not live to regret misses like that – I still often hear people say that we would not have taken the drop if Kanoute had not missed that penalty against Arsenal. Who’s to say they’re wrong?

Ipswich seemed to be lifted by the miss, and almost immediately levelled the game on 35 minutes. Bywater was in an excellent position to tip over a shot from 20 yards from Miller.

Gangsta in da house

That was about the last real chance of a first half where West Ham could have been at least three up. I was contemplating that at half time when I saw a boy of about 7 stroll by with some serious dreadlocks hanging down his back. As he walked on, I was left in fits of laughter as I read the words “Cockney Yardie” emblazoned on the back of his West Ham shirt. Quality.

Oxford Fred will testify to the fact that I was expressing great fears about how we would come out in the second half, given recent performances and tactics. I would dearly love to know what was said at half time today, but our attitude to the game looked like Pardew had told the team to defend the lead. I have said it before and I will say it again, Pardew is a pretty conservative manager. Maybe you could see some merit in the argument that we should try and frustrate Ipswich for twenty minutes and hold the lead, and maybe get a breakaway goal, but my preference is always to look for another goal rather than sit back.

The tone for the second half was set in the first minute, when Fletch needlessly gave the ball away. Bent had clearly been told by Joe Royle to try to take defenders on, and on 47 he tied Devo in knots on the edge of the box before firing a shot over. It was the only time Devo looked troubled in the match. Two minutes later, a ball was sent in over the top and Bywater hesitated, but fortunately Bent killed the ball in the turf, allowing Bywater to gather.

Will he stay or will he go?

Bent looked a class act today, and you can see why he’s part of the England U21’s setup. What would worry me if I were a carrot cruncher is that someone will come in for him during the January transfer window. We suffered that problem last year – following the erection of a large ‘for sale’ sign by our Chairman - and I live in hope that this might happen to Ipswich and Wigan, whose position in the Championship is down to them having top quality strikers. The reason this might not come about is that unlike West Ham United, both these clubs appear to have boards whose first priority is to keep valuable assets.

On 50 minutes, Teddy made a quality reverse pass out to Chadders down the right who made a good run to the dead ball line. Unfortunately the ball was nicked off his foot before a shot could be sent in, with the Bobby Moore Lower claiming a penalty.

On 55 minutes, Ipswich showed that they could pass the ball as well as anything we had done in the first half with an exchange that led to Counago forcing a tremendous save from Bywater. The corner which resulted led to a melee in the West Ham box and Counago managed to control the ball and fire in a shot into the net. I discovered later that this was his first away goal since scoring against us in that Boxing Day match. It had to happen, didn’t it?

Bywater saves our bacon

If this was a wake up call, we hit the snooze button. Teddy got in a shot just wide of the post on 60 minutes and then Chadders put another very half-hearted shot over the bar on 64. A minute later, Reo-Coker won a free kick in a dangerous central position. I was expecting Matty to step up and attempt to repeat his glorious strike from four days earlier, but Teddy hit an uncharacteristically poor shot at the base of the wall which rebounded out to Bent. He went off on a penetrating run with the West Ham defence looking static and let loose with a fantastic shot which Bywater saved brilliantly by just brushing it onto the bar and over.

It was not Marlon’s day either as he failed to control a good pass to his feet from Teddy on 68 minutes. Three minutes later he did better with a run on goal, but his shot was blocked and the ball that was put back in could only be looped way over by Teddy. I would hesitate to criticise Marlon today, though, as his workrate could not be faulted. The only weakness was his touch.

With eleven minutes left, Teddy and Chadders came off to be replaced by Sergei and Hayden.

Marlon’s best chance came on 77 minutes, when Rebrov won a ball and sent Matty off on a great run down the left. His cross was almost text book in execution, but Marlon failed to get his head or anything on it on it properly, brushing it wide. There were cries of anguish all around.

The final action of the game was a desperate shot by Fletch from 30 yards in added time which sailed harmlessly over.

Pardew’s priority is not to lose

There were a few boos at the end but these were borne more out of frustration than anything else. The spectacle was entertaining enough and you would struggle to name a first half performance that has been that good over the past six months. We simply failed to capitalise on our first half domination and then went into reverse gear in the second half. I do wonder whether Pardew should have changed it earlier and we did seem to cede control of midfield to Magilton and Horlock. Teddy also faded perceptibly, and although you can always see him doing something very clever to win a game, maybe Sergei should have been given something more than his customary 10 minute run-out, as he certainly got his foot in when he came on.

When Teddy came off, Marlon was left pretty stranded up front and the long ball to him is not what he needs or wants. All very well trying that when you’ve got a Deano or a Sir Les up front.

The reality with the Pardew style of play is that you can never see him throwing caution to the wind and trying something revolutionary like taking Fletch or Chadders off and sticking Rebrov on. Three strikers on the pitch? Go and win the game? Who do we think he is, Sir Trevor Brooking? Nope, the priority is not to lose the game, and you can see that in the five home games this season where we have only scored five goals. I do hope to see us score more than one goal in a match in the Championship at home this season. How long do you think we’ll have to wait?

(Following player ratings by Graeme Howlett)

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
A steady game all in all. Made a couple of first class stops although some may say he should have taken command of his box for the goal. Likely to replaced by Jimmy Walker for Tuesday's visit of basement boys Notts County.

Tomas Repka
Alan Pardew hailed Tommy as his player of the season so far earlier in the week, and this was another confident performance from the full-back who seems to have finally accepted that he will remain at West Ham for the time being. Is it me or has he mellowed somewhat since growing his hair? One for the psychologists to ponder.

Chris Powell
Another sound performace from the former England man, who created our goal with a sublime slide-rule pass. Alan Pardew has stressed his desire to retain the services of the wee fella after his current loan deal expires - and you would be hard pushed to disagree judging by his efforts for the club so far.

Malky Mackay
Scored one, could have had a hat-trick. An excellent and dominating performance from the big centre-half, who looks eerily like Alvin Martin from behind!

Calum Davenport
Another sound effort from the young centre-half, who continues to impress with the kind of polished performance that has earned him so much praise of late. Rmours of him staying longer than the agreed 3 months persist; one can only hope that there is some truth to all the speculation.

Carl Fletcher
Despite some idiotic elements of the Boleyn crowd berating him at times, the former Bournemouth man once again showed exactly what we have been missing in the engine room for som time. Tough and uncompromising throughout, Fletch also earned the penalty which should have given us an unassailable lead.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Pretty damn near perfect, it was hard to find fault with the former Don this afternoon. His tackling was much appreciated by the home fans who have been crying out for a bit of steel and leadership lately. Thoroughly determined, 100% effort. What more could you ask?

Luke Chadwick
For the first time since joining the Hammers, Chadwick really seemed to enjoy his game. The touches and craft that earned him such plaudits in the early stages of his career were on show to the full, and he was very much a part of Mackay's goal. Improving steadily.

Matthew Etherington
Today we saw glimpses of the Ethers of last season - which was perhaps a little strange as of all the teams we have met recently, Ipswich have been the one who have constantly 'doubled up' on the winger in the past. However today he was given far more freedom to roam, whilst his delivery from the flanks was pretty much perfect.

Teddy Sheringham
Maybe the three games in seven days caught up on Teddy today, as he was far less effective overall than he has been of late. Obviously the penatly miss was a huge blow, and it will be for that - rather than some of his sublime touches - that he will be remembered today.

Marlon Harewood
A good effort from Marlon, whose only problem currently seems to be a lack of confidence - typified by his early hurried shot at goal when he had time to compose himself having been left free of the last defender. The work rate was much better, it was as if the crowd's appreciation of Nigel Reo-Coker's endeavour had rubbed off on him. Still a major threat, and the goals will inevitable arrive soon.


Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Chadwick, 80) Yet again introduced too late to make any real impact; a start against lowly Notts County on Tuesday could be just the tonic. Another who needs a goal although it's unlikely he'll get many from wide right.

Hayden Mullins
(Replaced Sheringham, 80) As with Rebrov, Mullins was afforded little time to make an impact, although his small contribution was tidy enough. Another who is maybe suffering from a lack of confidence, after recent criticism.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Rufus Brevett
Did not play.

Steve Lomas
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Tomas Repka, Chris Powell, Malky Mackay, Calum Davenport, Carl Fletcher, Nigel Reo-Coker, Luke Chadwick, Matthew Etherington, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Malky Mackay 11                  .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Ipswich Town: Davis, Wilnis, De Vos, Naylor, Diallo, Horlock, Magilton, Miller, Westlake, Bent, Counago.

Subs not used: Price, Richards, Bowditch.

Goals: Counago 57.

Booked: Westlake, Counago.

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Jones.

Attendance: 28,812.

Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker.