Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 3 Gillingham 1

Saturday, 23rd October 2004
by East Stand Martin

We were robbed today. He stood up, ready to storm home. Instead of repeating the 27cm monster reported in this week’s Enfield Independent, our boy Brendan got beat by a paltry eight and a half incher. What a blow. All of Enfield’s hope got burst.

This probably has got a lot of you totally non-plused, but I am of course talking about the Dubble Bubble competition at half time today to blow the biggest bubble gum bubble. It just had to be at Upton Park, didn’t it? After all with a club song like we have and a reserve team defender called Darren Blewitt, it was a match made in heaven.

There was only one change in the starting line-up from the Stoke game, when Sergei started down the right side of midfield rather than Chadders. Somewhat surprisingly, Matty was deemed fit, and I did wonder if Fletch should have started instead of Lomas. As the game unravelled though, I had to admit that my doubts about Lomas were unfounded.

Z-man responds to kick up ar*e

The first thing that was crystal clear in this game was that Zamora looked highly motivated. Maybe the dig from Pardew at the beginning of the week had done the trick as amazingly he got stuck in and won a 50/50 ball on 9 minutes. Immediately afterwards, Marlon, who also looked lively, went on a ranging run down the right but got bundled off the ball in the box. That had the suspicion of a penalty about it and certainly Marlon didn’t look impressed by the lack of interest from ref Mr Evans.

On 11 minutes, Gillingham made their first threatening move of the game, when a free kick from the right was delivered over the top to the far post. Luckily, the Gills’ Ian Cox couldn’t capitalise on a free header nor could they get on the end of a ball in from the right hand side of the box which Bywater held well down low.

On the quarter hour, Marlon benefited from a lucky break from a long ball and managed to set Z-man on his way. He advanced menacingly on goal on the right hand side of the box and fired in a powerful shot towards the top left hand corner of the goal. Gills keeper Jason Brown made a good save, but he would have been beaten had Z-man chosen the other side of the goal.

Three minutes later, West Ham made the breakthrough after Z-man was again on the end of a good pass from Marlon. He showed good strength to surge forward and this time, Zamora chose the right hand corner with his shot. It beat Brown hands down.

Marlon joins the party

On 20 minutes, Marlon nearly made it 2-0 after a nice chest down from Sergei on the edge of the box. It wasn’t one of his most telling strikes, and Brown held the ball well. Three minutes later Marlon was again involved with an excellent pass to Reo-Coker, but he ran out of steam running in on goal.

Lomas was showing that he merited the start with a number of solid passes and tackles in the centre of the park. One of these found Matty who put in a great ball to find Z-man in acres of space down the left hand side of the box. He angled back a pass from the dead ball line and there was Marlon waiting to smash the ball into the roof of the net from close range. 25 minutes gone and we were cruising.

Reo-Coker then nearly added to what was becoming a rout just a minute later when he went on a great run cross field but he shot just wide of the right hand post. Marlon won the ball on 31 minutes and tore off towards the dead ball line yet again. He put a dangerous raking ball back across the box, but unfortunately it was behind all of the West Ham players.

Z-man involved again

After lanky ex MK Don Patrick Agyemang was substituted because of injury on 37 minutes, Matty showed a lovely piece of skill to retrieve the ball and this led to a corner on the left. The delivery from Matty evaded the heads of the Gillingham defenders and Z-man was waiting to collect. He put in a volley which was half cross, half shot and the unlikely figure of Hayden Mullins was waiting at the far post to head home. It was no more than our play and domination deserved.

Two minutes after the goal, Marlon nearly scored again after he used his usual strength to shield the ball on the edge of the box. He turned in style and put in a fine shot which Brown just held above his head.

With added time underway, a brief period of pressure by Gillingham led to a corner. Steve Lomas failed to clear his lines and a good cross resulted from Rose down the left side. He found Darren Byfield – who had replaced Agyemang – and his header was expertly dispatched into the top right hand corner with Bywater left as a bystander.

The half time whistle went with the enthusiasm of the Hammers’ fans only slightly blunted by the undeserved Gillingham goal. The Marlon/Z-man combination in particular looked lethal and the Gills had been totally outplayed by a fluent and combative West Ham side.

Reo-Coker fails to appear

Reo-Coker didn’t come on for the second half and he was replaced by Fletch. He got on the end of a lay-off just outside the box on 48 minutes, but his shot went just wide with the Booby Moore Lower on the edge of a goal celebration. Then two minutes later, Fletch figured again with a great ball to Matty who sped forward and put in a good cross. Waiting near the penalty spot was Sergei who was unfortunate to see his goal bound shot blocked.

Two corners followed in quick succession and Lomas gathered a half clearance and put in a pretty decent shot which Brown did well to hold down low in the slippery conditions.

Gills revival

The West Ham defence had hardly been troubled, but Tom was called upon to make a telling tackle on 54 minutes with a Gills defender looking to break on goal. Eight minutes later Fletch also made an important block in the box but conceded a corner. A revival by the Gills should have been rewarded with a goal when Spiller was found from the corner. His cracking shot hit Bywater’s crossbar and rebounded harmlessly away.

Encouraged by this passage of play, there was another penetrating attack from the Gills after Lomas lost out in the centre circle. Tom was on hand to make another crucial block after a dangerous ball was sent in from the right. Again a corner resulted, but a header was put just over.

All of this was beginning to create a bit of anxiety amongst the Hammers faithful and Pardew decided to change it with the introduction of Cohen for Matty. West Ham began to improve almost immediately led by some good work again down the left by Z-man. He put in a good cross which was cleared, but a West Ham player was also ruled offside.

Tom is a rock

Tom was continuing to anchor the defence and he was winning most balls in the air. Satisfied with Zamora’s response to his demand for an improved performance, Pardew swapped him for Chadders with 15 minutes left. Z-man went off to probably the warmest applause he has received for some time and he deserved it.

Immediately after this substitution, Marlon glanced a header just wide from a corner. Then on 76 minutes he made a top drawer turn and shot after he had received a fine ball in from Lomas. Although the shot went over - the keeper just got enough on it - this sparked a chorus on “there’s only one Marlon Harewood” from the Bobby Moore Lower. This recognition of Harewood’s contribution to the team is long overdue, in my view. To rub it in further, Marlon taunted three Gills defenders and still had the audacity to win a corner.

Byfield had not given up the ghost and he twisted and turned down the left on 79 minutes, but his shot was well held by Bywater. Two minutes later, Byfield ended up on a stretcher after he tried to beat Tom down the right and slid straight into the hoardings in front of the away fans. It looked pretty nasty.

In the fine tradition of makeshift West Ham strikers, Malky had been asked to play as a fill in centre forward. He didn’t look too mobile up front and the last couple of minutes of the match were filled with Hammers fans bellowing at him to get onside.

Chelscum are next

West Ham completely ran the game in the first half, and although Gillingham improved in the second half, they created few threats. It might have been interesting if Spiller’s shot had gone in with just under half an hour to go, but the opposition fizzled out after that. It was encouraging to see Marlon and Z-man combining so well, although I would have dearly loved to have seen Rebrov get a goal.

No complaints at all really, but this was clearly a poor Gillingham side low on confidence after a string of bad results. They hadn’t been too lucky with injuries either. There will be a sterner test in a few days time, but we’ll all be on our way to the Kremlin with hope in our hearts. If we do ‘em I will be dancing down the King’s Road, just like after that time Paolo f*cked ‘em over.

(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Solid and a couple of saves in the rain were probably a lot more difficult than they looked.

Hayden Mullins
Kept it simple ?EUR" won the ball and laid it off. Took his goal well but didn't get off the ground for theirs.

Rufus Brevett
Good in spells but looked a little uncomfortable during Gillingham's best spell ?EUR" the introduction of Cohen helped out.

Tomas Repka
Another good performance ?EUR" some excellently timed tackles came in handy at times when the opposition looked like they might come back into things.

Malky Mackay
Strong again though thankfully the game was effectively won by the time injury forced him to play up front.

Steve Lomas
Best performance for ages. Went in, won the ball and, generally laid it off well.

Nigel Reo-Coker
A good first period though he was obviously struggling towards the end with the knock that saw him stay in the changing rroom for the second half.

Sergei Rebrov
Useful in spells without dominating proceedings.

Matthew Etherington
Was a constant worry to Gillingham until injury caught up with him in the second half.

Bobby Zamora
A fine game ?EUR" you could almost see the confidence building up after he won an early header. Left the field to warm applause. He deserved it. Well played sir!

Marlon Harewood


Carl Fletcher
(Replaced Reo-Coker, 46) A good half. Strong in defence. Useful going forward. Unlucky not to score.

Chris Cohen
(Replaced Chadwick, 77) Bolstered up the midfield at a time when Gillingham were threatening our left hand side.

Luke Chadwick
(Replaced Zamora, 80) Replaced Zamora for the last fifteen but was largely anonymous.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Anton Ferdinand
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Hayden Mullins, Rufus Brevett, Tomas Repka, Malky Mackay, Steve Lomas, Nigel Reo-Coker, Sergei Rebrov, Matthew Etherington, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Bobby Zamora 18 Marlon Harewood 25 Hayden Mullins 39              .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Gillingham: Brown, Nosworthy, Cox, Rose, Southall, Hessenthaler, Spiller, Hope, Crofts, Agyemang, Sidibe.

Subs not used: Banks, Johnson.

Goals: Byfield (45).

Booked: Nosworthy (30).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Evans.

Attendance: 25,247.

Man of the Match: Bobby Zamora.