West Ham United 3 Notts County 2
Tuesday, 21st September 2004
by East Stand Martin
Great Dane or Terminator. Those of you who frequent the top notch snack bar just opposite the ticket office in Priory Road will recognise the fodder on offer.The Great Dane - £2.50 for about 4 rashers of bacon in a piece of french bread. Pre-match cuisine of the highest order and they’ve been serving it for years. Replete, I sat down amongst acres of space expecting a rout given County’s diabolical form and their position at the very bottom of the football league.
Pardew inevitably rang the changes and Teddy was given a needed rest with Z-man back from injury. Devo and Fletch were cup-tied so in came Lomas and Mullins, with Tom slotting back into central defence. Walker came in for Bywater and Rebrov also started, although inevitably he was stuck out on the right.
Quickest goal in living memory
It could not have started better. With barely 20 seconds on the clock, Sergei made a crunching tackle, won the ball and fired in a stinging shot which County keeper Saul Deeney couldn’t handle. Z-man gratefully picked up the rebound and tapped the ball into an open goal.
The County fans looked like they were expecting a right mullering, but despite this great start, what followed was uninspiring. Tom in particular did not look comfortable back in central defence after some good performances at right back over recent weeks. On 3 minutes, he failed to clear the ball properly but the County striker shinned the ball over. Seven minutes later, a poor pass by Tom then allowed Scully to break, but fortunately Lomas was on hand to clean up.
Then on 12 minutes, we conceded a poor goal. A free kick was given down the right and the ball was floated over to the far post. Over the past few games, I have got very used to Devo leaping up and dealing with balls like this as a matter of routine; this time County were allowed a free header which was looped back to from other post where Wilson was waiting unchallenged to head past Walker.
On the quarter hour, Zamora – who was looking sharp – won a free kick on the right hand side of the box, but Sergei hit a woeful free kick over the bar. There was a lot of the long ball going on again, making the football look very dull and in stark contrast to the fluid passing of the first half against Ipswich.
To be fair to County, the goal made them step up a gear and they were chasing us down effectively and getting bodies behind the ball. Our passing was simply not good enough. Another hoof into touch over the head of Matty waiting on the wing by Tom on 18 minutes was pretty typical.
Then a minute later, there was a near disastrous mix up between Malky and Walker as the keeper hesitated and smacked the ball against the oncoming Hurst, who really should be playing for us with a name like that. Fortunately, when he gathered the ball he was just too wide and could only manage a shot into the side netting with Walker struggling to recover his ground.
Tom, don’t be such a punt
After another aimless punt forward from Tom on 20 minutes, Marlon was sent off on a run following a good through ball. Unfortunately the ref judged that he fouled the defender on the way through to goal and the whistle was blown just before he put the ball in the back of the net.
On 26 minutes, it seemed that we made just about the first pass along the ground out of defence in the half after Malky found Matty. However, his shot was poor and sailed way over the bar.
Lomas – who didn’t seem at the races at all tonight – then made an agricultural tackle on the edge of the box on 27 minutes. The free kick was wasted though and went well over.
Zamora went on a good run forward on 32 minutes, but probably made the wrong decision to pass out wide right when he should have shot on goal. Then a minute later Sergei made a great reverse pass out to the advancing Mullins who spoilt the move by putting over probably the worst cross I have seen at Upton Park this season. Hayden is just having a nightmare at the moment and it’s difficult to remember the last time he put in a half decent performance.
Lomas wound the crowd up even more on 38 minutes with yet another over hit pass into touch, and then we saw some intelligent play from Z-man a minute later with a good run and cross down the right. Marlon couldn’t get his head on it properly under challenge from a defender and the ball went wide.
Zamora made a great back heel to find Lomas on 42 minutes, but the Northern Irishman ran off into a dead end and got blocked out. Stevie looked like he was running forward with very little idea about what he was going to do next.
Just before half time, Tom capped a poor first half with a speculative pass forward which went into touch. Although, they hadn’t threatened too much in the first half, County nearly grabbed a second in first half injury time following a long throw from the left. We looked vulnerable again at a set piece as the ball was not cleared properly and came loose to a County player. The ball would have gone in but fortunately it was blocked by Malky. The rebound was picked up by Sergei, but his pass was poor and sent Reo-Coker wide and away from goal.
The half time whistle went to boos from the 11,000 or so fans that bothered to turn up.
Anyone for a nice cuppa?
Prior to the match, a minute’s silence was rightly observed as a mark of respect for Cloughie. I was reminded of a story when old big ‘ead was not happy about a first half performance by Derby. On entering the dressing room, he asked the team mascot to get the tea. As soon as the kid had put the tray down with the tea poured, Cloughie grabbed it and threw the whole lot at the team. This is what I like to think Cloughie would have done at half time today at Upton Park because the team deserved nothing better for that gutless display.
There were no changes in either side at half time, and immediately from the kick off, Marlon went on a penetrating run after Malky had found him with a nice pass. The ball was sent over, but Hayden couldn’t control the ball in the box and it was cleared.
Z-man brace cancelled out
On 53 minutes, Matty chased back brilliantly towards his own half to win a ball back after it had been cleared out of defence by County. A pass then found Marlon who used his strength to shield the ball and lay it off to Z-man who got a great strike on goal beating the keeper in the right hand corner. Surely we would now go on and win the game easily?
That was a forlorn hope three minutes later after a free kick was given for handball against Zamora in the centre circle. It looked harsh as both his arms were close into his body. Our rediscovered vulnerability to set pieces was revealed again as the ball was sent over the top to the right with the defence looking like rabbits in a headlight, hoping for an offside. Ian Richardson – someone else who should be playing for us as he is a West Ham fan - picked it up, ran forward and blasted it past Walker.
The Ukrainian opens his account
Then the game swung back our way again on 61 minutes after a free kick was awarded for a foul on Rebrov in a similar position to the one where Matty had scored a week earlier. This time, however, Sergei stepped up and hit a peach from 30 yards which squirmed under the body of Deeney by the left hand post. Maybe the keeper should have done better, but the shot was very clean and dipped quite viciously.
Sergei seemed to take great confidence from this debut goal for the Irons and on 63 minutes he made a fine pass out to Matty who then put in a cross which was chested down to Marlon by Z-man. Marlon’s control was poor and he blasted the ball over the bar.
The long throw then caused another panic in the Hammers’ defence on 65 minutes. Tom made a good block and from the corner which followed, there was a goalmouth scramble where it looked certain the game would be level for the third time. Somehow we managed to clear.
Lomas was the culprit again on 67 minutes when he gave the ball away with a wayward pass following a patient build-up of decent passes.
Melville returned to the team after Tom was substituted on 69 minutes.
Sergei continued to play some thoughtful and nicely weighted passes and was looking a lot sharper and fitter. County, on the other hand were looking pretty spent after having fought very hard in the first half.
Matty went another good run on 77 minutes and he sent over a curling cross to the far post where Marlon did very well to retrieve it before it went into touch. His header was sent dangerously back into the six yard box, but the ball could not be brought down by the stretching foot of the Z-man who had the goal at his mercy.
Another spot kick cock-up
A minute later, Marlon showed why his best position is in the centre of attack. If the ball comes to his feet on the edge of the box, he can use his great strength to gather and shield the ball. This time, he was bundled over, as the defender couldn’t cope with him.
Inevitably Zamora stepped up to take the resultant penalty to try and get his hat trick, but like Teddy three days before he couldn’t convert it. At least he managed to get the shot on target, but the keeper guessed the right way, diving to his right. A corner followed, and Marlon rose to get a good head on the ball, but the keeper held well.
The County defence were now struggling to cope with Marlon and on 81 minutes he won another free kick after he was fouled in a similar position to the previous one which Sergei had converted. This time, the Ukrainian hit the wall.
We have been in these one goal lead situations several times already this season, and it always makes for a nervous end to the game. Rufus got mugged down the right on 82 minutes and it was fortunate that no-one could get on the end of a dangerous cross.
Marlon burst forward again a minute later and got a good pass out to Rebrov who cut into the area down the right. Unfortunately his shot was blocked wide by a last gasp tackle.
It looked like extra time might be inflicted upon us when Zamora gave away a free kick just outside the box in a central position with three minutes left of normal time, but Oakes shot thankfully just past Walker’s left post.
Chris Cohen then came on for Matty to try and run the clock down a bit more, and the youngster almost scored in time added on as our last corner of the game came out to him from a Zamora touch. Unfortunately his shot was blocked.
3rd round here we come
What can you say about this game except that we are now in the hat for the next round? No doubt Pardew will be saying that the important thing was that we got the win. The manner of the performance and lack of quality on show makes me want to forget about it, to be honest. I think you can take something from the fact that Zamora looked pretty sharp, although a sceptic in the sparse crowd near me said, “This is his level”. You can’t argue with two goals, but he had to spoil it by missing the penalty and not closing the game out. Marlon was a real handful - I would still play him over Z-man - and Sergei looked like he might just be finding his feet. It was great to see him beak his duck.
The downside for me was that without Devo, we looked poor at the back. I worry about his return to Sh*te Hart Lane. The passing out of defence and midfield (Rebrov excepted and Malky at times) was not up to scratch again, and I thought that both Reo-Coker and Lomas had lacklustre performances. It’s a relief to think that Fletch and Devo will be back for the trip to Forest.
(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)
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Player RatingsJimmy Walker
Not really given much to do. Positioning was a little suspect for their first goal and had a dodgy moment with Malky in the first half. Made one close range save in the second half from a panicky moment.
Not at his happiest in the centre of defence these days and there were a couple of scary moments dealing with stuff hoofed into the box.
Probably wouldn't have started had Powell been available. Ok but nothing special tonight.
The most comfortable of our defenders on the night. So far looks a good signing.
Generally ok but had problems with distribution ?EUR" he was not alone on the night in that respect.
Inconsistent. He would often get a foot in only to give the ball away.
Got through a lot of work and deserved more protection from the ref ?EUR" those bursts out of defence were unceremoniously ended by fouls on a number of occasions.
Easily the best match he's had for us this season. Some fine passing capped off with a well-deserved if fortunate goal. I'm still not convinced that right midfield is the best place for him but unlike many of his previous excursions into such territory, he spent a lot of time inside actively seeking the ball rather than sticking like glue to the touchline with his hand forlornly raised in the hope someone might spot him.
Got into the game more once we stopped aiming balls at a spot some ten yards over his head. Could still benefit from cutting inside his full back once in a while or taking a more direct route to goal.
On the credit side two goals ?EUR" one excellent. On the debit side his touch still looks a bit suspect on occasion and he'll want to forget the penalty.
Lagely invisible in the first half. Less so in the second though there was always the feeling that he ought to be doing so much better against such opposition.
(Replaced Repka, 70) Didn't really register when on for Repka.
(Replaced Etherington, 89) On for the last few minutes and could have wrapped things up with a late late goal.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Jimmy Walker, Tomas Repka, Rufus Brevett, Malky Mackay, Hayden Mullins, Steve Lomas, Nigel Reo-Coker, Sergei Rebrov, Matthew Etherington, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.
Goals: Bobby Zamora 1 Bobby Zamora 54 Sergei Rebrov 62 .
Booked: None booked. .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Notts County: Deeney, Wilson, Whitlow, Edwards, Richardson, Ullathorne, Bolland, Gill, Pipe, Scully, Hurst.
Subs not used: Mildenhall, Robinson, Harrad.
Goals: Wilson (13), Richardson (57).
Booked: Richardson (24).
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Sergei Rebrov.