Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 0 Sheffield United 2

Monday, 3rd January 2005
by Gordon Thrower

Regular readers will be grateful that this report will be a lot shorter than normal. There are two reasons for this. Firstly I have the 'flu bug that everyone in London seems to have at the moment and don't really feel up to reliving the horrors of Monday afternoon. Secondly, there wasn't much to write about.

I suppose the warning signs were there. A pre-match text message received from Maltese Hammer indicated that he would be attending the match. Such news usually indicates the probability of a 0-0 draw – much like Titi Camara, Maltese averages less than a goal a game on hs appearances at first team matches. Romford had also brought his lad for his first match. Big mistake mate.

The team was, apparently, unchanged from that which had performed so well at Portman Road. I say “apparently” because it would not surprise me one bit if those players had been kidnapped and replaced by some sort of strange non-thinking automaton-type gadgets that were indistinguishable from the real thing other than the robots were useless at football. This plot was a staple of the comics I read as a kid and it would certainly explain what I was about to see over the next 90 minutes.

The first half was a dour affair. Like many teams before them Sheffield United came with the intent of defending deep and stifling play. If they could get something on the break than all well and good but it wasn't essential. So far this was so familiar. However this time we seemed totally unable to create chances, or to come up with any sort of formula to break down the defence. As a result we had the precise total of zero shots on goal. Nothing. Not a sausage.

The tedium was broken five minutes from half time. A ball was played in from the right and the defensive communication lines failed completely, Repka turning the ball into the empty net freshly vacated by Bywater.

With things looking grim at half time the manager decided to switch things around. Etherington, feeling the combined effects of a groin problem and the flu came off as did Zamora who was, presumably substituted simply for lack of effectiveness. Chadwick and Rebrov came on in their stead.

The second 45 was very similar to the first. With the exception that they scored a lot less near the end of the half. On the hour a free-kick was swung in from the Sheffield United right. Mackay's headed clearance fell to Bromby who drove home from the edge of the box.

That was it really. We continued to treat the ball as if it were covered in anthrax. We could barely string one pass together let alone two. Chadwick nearly got on the end of a loose ball in the box but only managed to hit his ball against the defender with the goal at his mercy. But, to be honest, any goals we scored would have been stolen, such was our ineptitude. The Sheffield United away kit is a horrible fluorescent orange design that makes the wearer look like a steward. Frankly we were so bad that had we been playing eleven stewards we still probably wouldn't have scored.

That's it. My head aches, my throat is sore and I have a cough that would put a 60 a day smoker to shame. The good news is that Maltese Hammer isn't coming to the Norwich game though social services have yet to get back to me on the subject of whether Romford taking his lad to the Boleyn last week constitutes child cruelty. While they make that decision I'm back off to bed in the vain hope that the last few days have been some 'flu-inspired halluncination.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Looked like a communications foul-up between him & Repka was responsible for the first goal. Usual comments about the kicking apply.

Hayden Mullins
Was as poor in this match as he had been good at Ipswich.

Chris Powell
Also partially culpable for the first goal as he failed to get close enough to his man, thus allowing the cross.

Tomas Repka
His own goal summed up the day for me.

Malky Mackay
Poor. Shocking distribution too.

Carl Fletcher
Until he picked up a late booking I wasn't sure he was on the pitch.

Gavin Williams
Lacked the creativity required to break down the opposition.

Nigel Reo-Coker
See Williams.

Matthew Etherington
Groin injury or 'flu-whatever the reason he was anonymous during the 45 minutes he was on.

Marlon Harewood
Looked to be our only threat but got frustrated with the continual shirt-pulling he was up against until he eventually disappeared from sight.

Bobby Zamora
Posed no threat whatsoever.


Luke Chadwick
(Replaced Etherington, 45) His introduction changed nothing.

Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Zamora, 45) Nor did Rebrov's.

Chris Cohen
(Replaced Mackay, 79) Or Cohen's.

Rob Burch
Did not play.

Anton Ferdinand
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Hayden Mullins, Chris Powell, Tomas Repka, Malky Mackay, Carl Fletcher, Gavin Williams, Nigel Reo-Coker, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: None.

Booked: Carl Fletcher 88          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Sheffield United: Kenny, Bromby, Morgan, Jagielka, Geary, Cullip, Tonge, Harley, Quinn, Gray, Liddell.

Subs not used: Thirlwell, Wright.

Goals: Repka (og 40), Bromby (60).

Booked: None cautioned.

Sent off: None.

Referee: T.Kettle.

Attendance: 27,424.

Man of the Match: Marlon Harewood.