Coca Cola Championship
Plymouth Argyle 1 West Ham United 1

Saturday, 30th October 2004
by East Stand Martin

Jellied eels and Cornish pasties. According to Gerry, the boss of the restaurant ESM Jnr and I visited in Plymouth on Friday night, that was what was going to be on offer by his staff at a wedding after the match between a local and an East Ender.

A match made in heaven. East meets West. I don’t know whether this was the same nuptials which involved the happy couple that turned up on the pitch before the game started, but I reckon the both of them will be pebble-dashing the pan tomorrow morning with a fishy Ginster mixture. Nice.

By the way, that was a classy claret dress the bride had on. If I ever get married again – which I won’t – I will insist on similar classy attire.

I had a feeling that this game was always going to be a bit of an anti-climax after Chelsea and the gulf in glamour was immediately apparent as one side of Home Park was actually bereft of seats. When was the last time you saw proper terraces at a football match? It looked great from where I was standing in my seat behind the goal. If only they could bring it back at Upton Park.

Sorry, you’re not playing

The starting line-up saw Devo back after a few weeks absence and Fletch got the nod in front of Chadders. You had to feel a little sorry for Anton sitting on the bench after a really solid performance mid-week. The same applied to Jimmy Walker who had been nothing short of sensational down at the Bridge.

The opening exchanges saw Z-man set off a great run down the right and feed the ball to Lomas, who put in another one of those scudded half shots wide of the post. No change from Chelsea there then.

Almost immediately afterwards, Rufus had to head clear after a ball got put over the top with Tom looking for an offside decision which didn’t come. The linesman down the left was going to upset quite a few people more before the game was out.

If you’re coming, you don’t stop

On 3 minutes, Bywater made a right hash of it when he came for a ball and didn’t make it. He was lucky to get away with that.

Not for the last time in the game, the Plymouth fans were up in arms in the 8th minute when Tom stuck his foot out under pressure and delivered what looked like a back pass. Next, Fletch managed to get a half decent cross over a minute later, but Marlon could only head the ball over the bar.

Plymouth looked the better side in the opening period with West Ham looking pretty lethargic. Argyle’s passing and movement was superior and Rufus and Devo – most uncharacteristically – cleared quite a few balls to Plymouth players.

Premature ejaculations

Tom also decided to fluff it on 12 minutes, allowing space for a shot but thankfully this went wide of Bywater’s right hand post. A minute later, Matty got a volley in after receiving a pass from Reo-Coker, but it didn’t trouble the keeper. Nigel showed again just two minutes later, when he fed a ball to Matty who immediately put over a dangerous cross into the box. Premature jubilation followed as Marlon put the ball in the back of the next but was subsequently ruled offside. Pardew was mightily peeved at that because it was a great move.

Z-man got a yellow on 18 minutes for what looked like dangerous use of his arms and down the other end, Mickey Evans was proving to be quite a handful, finding space and making good use of some headed flick-ons.

On 25 minutes, Worrell was booked for a nasty tackle from behind on Rufus who was also lucky to avoid a booking as he retaliated by kicking out. From the free kick, Reo-Coker lashed in a shot which just went wide of the left hand post.

Devo’s set piece threats

West Ham’s passing was very erratic and in marked contrast to Wednesday night and it was only on 28 minutes that we put Plymouth under some concerted pressure as two corners followed in succession. On both occasions, Devo got his head on it, but he headed over at the second time of asking.

Three minutes later, another corner was won by West Ham and there was Devo again rising above the Plymouth defenders, but he headed down weakly and by the post.

38 minutes saw another Reading player in the book as Worrell threw the ball away after a free kick was awarded. Ref Andy Penn marched forward another 10 yards, but Fletch hit a poor ball in.

With three minutes left on the clock, a ball over the top of the West Ham defence found Evans free and he slanted back a ball to the penalty spot. Fortunately for us, the Plymouth player running in kicked nothing but fresh air. Bywater immediately sent the ball upfield and it found Z-man down the right. He put over the cross of the half to find the advancing Steve Lomas who placed a powerful header beyond Plymouth keeper Larrieu.

It felt like we were a bit fortunate to be in front at half time, but this did not perturb the Hammers fans basking in the unseasonal Devon sun and noshing their pasties.

Plymouth start well

The second half started with an error by Rufus who let Norris in on 47 minutes. A good cross was put over, but the header was straight at Bywater who gathered easily. Worrell then went on a good run on goal five minutes later but he put his shot wastefully over.

On 53 minutes, Z-man beat the offside trap, but he failed to release the ball early enough and he got shut out in the box. Plymouth responded immediately with a rapid break and Bywater had to be very alert to tip over a header which had goal written all over it.

Marlon clearly had been told to up his work rate at half time and was putting in a lot of energy to close players down and try and win the ball. On 58 minutes Reo-Coker was scythed down from behind and the offender Hodges was booked.

Three minutes later, the only West Ham shot on goal in the second half resulted from a nice flick on by Z-man to find Matty in the box. His shot was slightly deflected, but it did not really trouble the keeper.

Shaky Rufus

Brevett – who was looking shaky defensively – gave away a free kick on 62 minutes and this led to a similar fingertip save by Bywater from another Plymouth header.

Plymouth were looking highly motivated and seemed to ooze belief. On 66 minutes, the West Ham defence looked panicked and a game of pinball followed which led to a ball being blasted just wide of the post.

West Ham just looked increasingly frustrated, and the main tactic seemed to be the long ball which invariably led to either Marlon or Z-man getting caught offside. It was getting to the manager as well, who threw down a water bottle after Z-man had been flagged again.

Marlon won a free kick on 74 minutes and Matty put over one of the rare good crosses of the day to find Fletch who headed just wide.

Set piece levels it

Plymouth levelled it on 75 minutes, but it took a set piece to deliver the goal. Probing the West Ham defence, a free kick was given after Fletch had been deemed to handle the ball on the left hand side of the box about 25 yards out. The whistle was late, and Fletch looked pretty unhappy about it. The wall was in position but Wooton – who had only come on two minutes earlier – hit his shot down one side of it. Bywater got a hand on it, but only succeeded in pushing it upwards into the net. The immediate comparison was with the heroics of Walker at Chelsea.

It was at that point that I decided that we should take the draw, as the likelihood was that a similar outcome to our trips to Forest and Coventry was on the cards. We looked fragile and Plymouth did threaten again – exploiting our weak left hand side – but the ball got put over the bar. We had one last opportunity after Matty went on a long run and got fouled near the dead ball line. However, Fletch, in what was a below par performance put over a poor ball.

Overall, 1-1 was about a fair result and this was another one of those games where we got our nose in front but failed to kill off the opposition. The fact was that we only really created one half chance in the whole of the second half. The final ball was poor as well. This was disappointing after the performance at Chelsea, but you could have predicted it. The problem is always that our main opponents seem to win when we slip up. You get the distinct impression that this may well be what happens for the rest of the season. It’s going to be tough.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a message from ESM…

One final point – and this is a message to the train manager who told passengers at Exeter (where we picked up the train) that “regrettably” 300 West Ham fans would be joining the train at Tiverton and that ‘normal’ passengers should move to first class for free “to avoid them”. Listen up. We paid our money to use your train. It was your sh*tty coach service that led to those fans being late at Tiverton. It was your same sh*tty service that saw us stranded between Reading and London for 45 minutes after you told us the delay would be five minutes. You call us abnormal when you can’t even do your f*cking job properly. Have a look in the mirror you inbred freak.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Comments to follow.

Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.

Rufus Brevett
Comments to follow.

Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.

Calum Davenport
Comments to follow.

Steve Lomas
Comments to follow.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Comments to follow.

Carl Fletcher
Comments to follow.

Matthew Etherington
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Bobby Zamora
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Marlon Harewood
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Don Hutchison
(Replaced Zamora, 87) Comments to follow.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Chris Powell
Did not play.

Anton Ferdinand
Did not play.

Luke Chadwick
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Hayden Mullins, Rufus Brevett, Tomas Repka, Calum Davenport, Steve Lomas, Nigel Reo-Coker, Carl Fletcher, Matthew Etherington, Bobby Zamora, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Steve Lomas 43                  .

Booked: Bobby Zamora 19 Marlon Harewood 71        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Plymouth Argyle: Larrieu, Worrell, Doumbe, Coughlan, Gilbert, Norris, Friio, Hodges, Makel, Crawford, Evans.

Subs not used: Lowndes, Lasley, Adams.

Goals: Wotton (76).

Booked: Norris (26), Worrell (38), Hodges (58).

Sent off: None.

Referee: A.Penn.

Attendance: 20,220.

Man of the Match: tbc.