Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 1 Derby County 2

Sunday, 23rd January 2005
by Gordon Thrower

Another match where our now legendary propensity to shoot ourselves in the foot was, once again, aided and abetted by yet another referee whose failure to apply the laws of the game on a whim put paid to any chance of sharing the points.

Injuries to, amongst others, Etherington, Zamora and Ferdinand saw Mullins revert to right-back and Harewood push up front to assume the lone striker role giving a starting line-up of Walker, Mullins, Powell, Repka, Mackay, Williams, Fletcher, Reo-Coker, Rebrov, Chadwick and Harewood.

It was something of a lack-lustre start, possibly inspired by the rotten kick-off time of 12.30. It was even more of a rotten start for Williams who, in an incident that I missed, was left writhing in agony on the floor. After some treatment he tried to continue but was obviously on a hiding to nothing and it was no surprise to see him limp off after a mere 7 minutes to be replaced by Mark Noble.

Things went from bad to worse three minutes later. Jackson was given far too much time and space by Mullins down the right hand side. This was to become a recurring theme in the first half. Jackson had the time to look up and, seeing Rasiak completely unmarked in the box, was able to clip a cross in for the pole to head past Walker from close range.

We laboured to make much of an impression for the next few minutes, though Noble had a few impressive touches, including a dipping volley from distance that wasn't too far wide.
Then came the first hint that the match official might have his own “look at me I'm on the tv” agenda. Rebrov was fouled in the centre of midfield. It was a high challenge, not pretty but the ref gave the Derby man the benefit of the doubt when it came to considering further disciplinary action. A few minutes later Fletcher committed an identical foul. Certainly no worse than the earlier foul on Rebrov. This was not the way that idiot ref Mason saw it and he took obscene delight in flourishing the yellow card.

The injustice seemed to spur on the home side for a few minutes anyway and Rebrov went close after Harewood's backheel gave Powell time and space to get in a cross. Shortly after we were level. Rebrov got a cross in which fell to the edge of the box. Fletcher won out in the tussle with Idiakez for the ball and buried his shot low inside the left hand post.

We continued to press forward, inspired in part by the runs of Noble. However, on 41 referee Mason confirmed his ineptitude and, undoubtedly, changed the match in Derby's favour. Noble played a beautifully angled ball on a break through the middle. Harewood won the race to the ball and, for his troubles, was unceremoniously – and cynically clattered by 'keeper Camp. At this point the ref had two questions to ask. Firstly was it a foul and secondly, did the action deny an “obvious goalscoring opportunity”. Well let's be charitable and say that he scored 50% on this test. No hang on a moment, let's not be charitable. Whether it was a desire to make a name for himself on live TV, or just manifest incompetence, referee Mason's decision not to dismiss Camp was an act of insane stupidity. It was the act of somebody who, given the clearest instructions by the laws of the game as to the correct way to proceed, blew it. It was such a ridiculous decision i suppose we should be grateful that he even deemed the “challenge” worthy of a yellow card. For the second week running – and for the umpteenth time this season – the result of the match depended less on the actions of the teams concerned and more on the failure of the match officials to apply the laws of the game correctly. Once again the paying public were short changed. Predictably, nothing came of the free-kick which Rebrov managed to hit straight into the wall.

There was a flurry of activity just before the break, the best chance falling to Reo-Coker, whose shot was well-saved by Camp – that's the 'keeper who should, by that time , have been halfway down the tunnel.

At half time Camp made a beeline for the ref, presumably to ask him whether he'd prefer cash or a cheque. Pardew made a similar trip to the ref, though I suspect that the conversation may have been slightly more one-sided since Mason obviously had never heard of Law 12 and would therefore have been blissfully unaware as to what AP was talking about.

We were first out of the traps for the second half. Rebrov's corner was met by Fletcher whose header was cleared off the line. Noble did well to get a shot in that went just past the post before making his one main error of the game by giving the ball away. Boulder ploughed forward into the space vacated by the home midfield whilst Mackay and Repka backed off and Boulder's shot, whilst wide, was far too close for comfort. Then harewood missed from close range, somehow managing to put the ball over the bar from Mullins low ball in from the right.

At this point a disturbing trend was developing. It seemed that every time the ball was cleared from the back, Harewood and/or Chadwick were being given offside. I took to looking straight at the offending two as soon as Walker got the ball just to see what the problem was. The problem turned out to be the linesman. The next three offside decisions that went against us were, well, wrong. Chadwick was given offside twice when being played onside by no fewer than THREE defenders and Harewood once when being manhandled by Huddlestone. Just goes to show that stupidity is not confined to the men with the whistle – the idiots with the flags can be just as bad

We continued to create – and spurn chances. Next up to bat was Mackay who managed to head wide before, defensively speaking, the wheels fell off once more just after the hour. Derby gained a corner on their left. Just as the corner was taken we seemed to change everything at the back. This left Harewood in completely the wrong position to cut out the cross which Huddlestone was able to pass on for Rasiak to volley in from close range.

The goal prompted a substitution. Rebrov, who I thought had done ok, was replaced by Sheringham. However we were now faced with the prospect of chasing a match against a side now intent on protecting what they had. Sadly, once more we lacked the nous, guile and intelligence to break down the opposition defence. Time after time we seemed to think the long high ball in the general direction would somehow take a defence including players of the size of Huddlestone (and how big is he going to be when he grows up?!) by surprise. When we did create the odd chance it came through playing the ball on the deck – a lesson that we seemed incapable of taking on board. The best opportunity fell to Chadwick when Noble had fed him on the left of the box. Camp, the 'keeper who, by that time should have been down the tunnel, bathed and watching the match on Sky from the changing rooms, pulled off an excellent save.

The final chance to equalise came right at the death when Mullins drove in from outside the box. The cheat 'keeper was, for once beaten only for Taylor to stick a leg out on the line to clear. There was no time for further attack as the final whistle went.

So here was another game where, when level we created enough chances to earn a draw , but when behind, we simply had no idea as to break down determined defence. This is something that needs to be addressed soon because word is obviously spreading amongst championship managers that all you have to do to get a point from the Boleyn is to sit deep and wait for the inevitable aerial assault to occur once the ideas pool becomes depleted. Although we're now down to 9th position in the league, that's still only one point off a play-off place at the moment. The slump needs to be turned around before the points gap increases to an insurmountable level.

It would also help if the often quoted rubbish about refereeing decisions evening themselves out over a season could actually be applied to us for once. The shockingly appalling standards of officiating in this league have, by my reckoning, contributed to the loss of about 9 points over the course of this season. Unfortunately the refereeing situation won't improve whilst the authorities continue to remove incompetence. I mean the chances of Mason receiving any form of official censure must be unlikely in the extreme given that the assessor for this match was the useless Paul Alcock, who will report to the man at the top Keith Hackett. A phrase containing the words “lunatics” and “asylum” springs to mind.

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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
Not really tested. Came for one cross which he dropped under blatantly illegal pressure from a forward but did well to recover.

Hayden Mullins
Gave his man far too much time and space in defence. Was more effective going forward and contributed to a couple of good chances. Still looks much better in midfield but if we have to play him in the back four how about in the centre where he is supposed to have played so well for Palace.

Chris Powell
One good combination with Harewood set Rebrov up but had an otherwise quiet match.

Tomas Repka
Solid enough defensively but I think we look better with him at right back ?EUR" time for a swap with Mullins until Dailly returns?

Malky Mackay
Slow and ponderous. Distribution was poor as well. Doesn't seem to be half the player he was before the injury.

Carl Fletcher
Took his goal well and was desperately unlucky not to double his tally with a good header early in the second half. However, there were occasions when he seemed at a loss as to what do with the ball.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Largely anonymous save for one first-half shot. May not be 100% recovered - I can sympathise with his situation having recently suffered from a similar illness to that from which he's recovering so hopefully he'll be back on form in the near future.

Luke Chadwick
In and out of the game. Unfortunately was more out than in, though he can count himself unlucky to have been thwarted by a 'keeper who shouldn't have been on the pitch.

Gavin Williams
A sympathy mark really since his injury occurred too early for him to have any impact on proceedings.

Sergei Rebrov
Some good runs and he can consider himself unlucky to be transferred at a time when we needed something a little different.

Marlon Harewood
Not one of Marlon's better days, though hardly helped by some dreadful refereeing. Should have done better when only six yards out.


Mark Noble
(Replaced Williams, 7) One of the brighter spots of the afternoon. Probably the only player capable of taking on the opposition and not afraid to have a shot. Not the finished article by any means ?EUR" he gave the ball away in a dangerous position that nearly led to a goal ?EUR" but nevertheless he has had a very promising start last few weeks.

Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Rebrov, 65) For once the get out of jail card didn't work. Largely incognito, his arrival prompted the hoof & hope approach.

Stephen Bywater
Did not play.

Rufus Brevett
Did not play.

Chris Cohen
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Jimmy Walker, Hayden Mullins, Chris Powell, Tomas Repka, Malky Mackay, Carl Fletcher, Nigel Reo-Coker, Luke Chadwick, Gavin Williams, Sergei Rebrov, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Carl Fletcher 26                  .

Booked: Carl Fletcher 22          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Derby County: Camp, Kenna, Mills, Taylor, Bisgaard, Jackson, Bolder, Huddlestone, Rasiak, Smith, Idiakez.

Subs not used: Grant, Boertien.

Goals: Rasiak (10, 63).

Booked: Camp (42), Rasiak (81).

Sent off: None.

Referee: L.Mason.

Attendance: 30,347.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.