Coca Cola Championship
Rotherham United 2 West Ham United 2

Tuesday, 28th December 2004
by Sicknote

Sometimes you just have to accept that the team you have played deserved everything they got out of the game.

We've all been there over the years when we've earned results that, on paper, we shouldn't have. Today, Rotherham did just that - but all we will witness in the press is the West Ham post-mortem rather than what a terrific game of football it turned out to be. Rotherham - like us many times before - will no doubt be wondering where the credit for their performance has gone.

Within the first five minutes both teams could (and should) have taken the lead. From the word go, Rotherham launched the type of aerial assault last seen in the East End some 60 years ago - a direct approach that produced a 'goal' which was (fortunately) disallowed - although it served as a a warning of what was in store.

The Millers had clearly taken a look at our (yet again) re-shuffled back line and opted to fire aerial bombardments at it from the off, putting us under as much pressure as possible. West Ham's lack of cohesure in those defensive positions - today's back four had never previously started together, after all - was our achilles heel today.

Whilst we we hoped our lot could hold out Rotherham had history on their side, no doubt recalling how poorly our players reacted in the corresponding fixture last year. It took just 13 minutes for their plan to pay dividends, and it came from a move that started with Lomas shooting straight at Pollitt - the keeper who had a blinder last season and seemed to be on course for another one today - from just outside the area.

Pollitt rolled the ball out, it was switched out to the Rotherham left and sent directly into our box where Martin Butler chested the ball down and, in the same movement, slid the ball past Steve Bywater. Not a single West Ham player got a sniff of the ball from the moment it left Pollitt's arms; this was a quality move hitting us on the break

From then on it was an even game. A minute after the goal Teddy Sheringham seemed to have his legs taken away in the box; a clear penalty we thought, but the appeals were waved away by the referee. Whilst Marlon Harewood worked a chance with his back to goal in the six-yard box, but Pollitt once again smothered the shot - this time at point blank range.

On the half-hour mark Steve Lomas mysteriously launched the ball out of play and walked off the pitch, being substituted by Luke Chadwick seconds later. One can only guess that his knee had gone bandy again and we may be missing him for a long old time. Some may find that a blessing, but up until that point Lomas was having a decent game going forward.

The Millers could have increased their lead but failed to convert any of several chances they created. With eight minutes of the first period remaining a West Ham corner saw Harewood feed Tomas Repka who nodded the ball towards the far right corner, only for Pollitt to get a finger to it. All watched as the ball bobbled onto the post before it was cleared downfield.

Rotherham's quick counter led to a corner which resulted in a goalmouth scramble following more uncertainty from the Hammers rearguard. Nigel Reo-Coker cleared the ball off the line but it was fired straight back in and Martin McIntosh headed Rotherham's second of the afternoon.

The second goal brought out the worst in what was a tidy turn out by our fans. About 1,800 had turned up but the 'support' turned to abuse, mostly aimed at the manager (although the board and chairman got bundles too). How that helps the players I've never worked it out. It certainly hasn't over the last three years, when our support has often been less audible than when the fans turn on our team or management.

Yet when the score went to 2-1 our support was superb, and clearly encouraged the team. Surely that's how we need to be. The two faces of West Ham's support were here for all to see - and it wasn't pretty,

The second half almost started in calamity as Reo-Coker brought down the impressive Junior right on the edge of the box, dead centre to goal. Fortunately the wall cleared, and from then on the second-half was pretty much played out in the Rotherham half.

Sheringham and Reo-Coker both had good chances before the first of two penalties were awarded to West Ham; Teddy's shot was saved by Pollitt (again) whilst Reo-Coker skied his.

On 70 minutes Pollitt upended Harewood - who went flying rather elaborately although there was clearly contact - in the box. Pollitt was duly booked - even though it was a one-on-one. Sheringham put the spot kick in the bottom right corner; Pollitt guessed right but couldn't get there.

Four minutes later Sheringham went running into the box and was this time hauled down by goalscorer McIntosh. Harewood stepped up this time and rifled the ball high into the roof of the net - 2-2, and game on.

As our lot made their way back to face up for kick-off Sheringham took time out to form an impromptu huddle, which turned out to be his last notable contribution as he was replaced by Bobby Zamora moments later.

Harewood had a chance of glory when he again went through one-on-one with Pollitt after working his own way into the box on our right. Had he looked up he may well have pushed the ball over to Zamora, but he chose to have a go at goal - as he had every right to do - and Pollitt smothered the shot.

Chadwick also went close, rifling one across the goal. There was only going to be one winner now; Rotherham had lost two of their better players and the aerial threat had gone.

But it wasn't to be another fairytale ending, and as half of the West Ham contingent applauded the team off the field the other half booed them. I thought it was a cracking game of football, one both teams had enough chances to win.

Maybe in the scheme of things it wasn't anywhere near good enough to quieten those who feel that Alan Pardew hasn't got a clue, but as I said earlier, sometimes you have to give teams a bit of credit. Apart from when our defensive line was being constantly bombarded we were always in the game, even at 2-0 down - we were still creating chances and never looked beaten.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Maybe he could have been more commanding in his area during the first half, when the balls were being put in from all over the pitch. Still worries over his kicking.

Hayden Mullins
Still don't see him as a right-back; this may have been part of the reason Rotherham got in so many crosses. If he is played out of position then you can't expect him to be the finished article.

Chris Powell
One of his better games; got forward well but was also guilty in the first half of not cutting out the Rotherham supply.

Tomas Repka
He nearly bloody scored, he did you know! Looked out of sorts like the rest of the back four early on, but in the second half - like Mackay - nothing went past him. If only he'd scored ...

Malky Mackay
Not sure he was in the game first-half, certainly his inclusion gave us a disheveled look. But not a thing got past him in the second half.

Steve Lomas
Not on long but tried to generate a bit of passion. Had a decent effort saved but walked off injured I think; either that or he just walked off.

Gavin Williams
Struggled first half as he, Reo-Coker and Lomas constantly watched the ball fly over their heads.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Not in it at all, had a couple of good chances but wasted them.

Matthew Etherington
Nowhere near the player he was last season, offered very little today.

Marlon Harewood
For a player often criticised for his work rate, Marlon ran for everything today. Industrious and strong, but he didn't get a hat-trick in the first ten minutes - so he must be sh*t ...

Teddy Sheringham
Our front two had good games, both relied on the service which was good. On another day they'd have scored more than the one each.


Luke Chadwick
(Replaced Lomas, 30) Looked lively, had a few efforts at goal and created a bit. Got back and helped out too.

Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Sheringham, 80) Not enough time to shine or get a bit of glory but got stuck in and deserved the chance.

Robert Burch
Did not play.

Sergei Rebrov
Did not play.

Bobby Zamora
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Hayden Mullins, Chris Powell, Tomas Repka, Malky Mackay, Steve Lomas, Gavin Williams, Nigel Reo-Coker, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Teddy Sheringham.

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 71 Marlon Harewood 76  0              .

Booked: Nigel Reo-Coker 52 Luke Chadwick 85 Gavin Williams 88      .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Rotherham United: Pollitt, Scott, Swailes, Hurst, McIntosh, Monkhouse, McLaren, Barker, Campbell-Ryce, Junior, Butler.

Subs not used: Montgomery, Minto, Vernazza.

Goals: Butler (13), McIntosh (37).

Booked: Swales (17), Butler (60), Pollitt (70), McIntosh (75).

Sent off: None.

Referee: I.Williamson.

Attendance: 7,769.

Man of the Match: Marlon Harewood.