FA Cup
West Ham United 1 Sheffield United 1

Saturday, 29th January 2005
by Chris Scull

The honeymoon, novelty period of second rate football well and truly came to an end today.

The optimism of relegation day at St Andrews that perhaps this was a triumphant ‘Nationwide’ slaying of lesser football clubs has not materialised. Instead of destroying weaker opposition, we have equated to them. No finer example of this than today’s lethargic 1-1 draw with Sheffield United.

The teams ran out onto a largely desolate Upton Park, no finer signifier of waning support and unhappiness at recent performances. Only noticeable changes from the abysmal defeat against Derby were the return to goalkeeping duties for Stephen Bywater, and a start for Teddy Sheringham.

West Ham started the brighter of the two teams, Marlon Harewood in particular playing the role of chief instigator for nearly all West Ham attacks. The first real chance of the match fell to him as well, an alert probing run into the area resulting in him screwing his shot well wide, alas the enigma of Harewood; everything and nothing at the same time.

Harewood again created another chance soon after, crashing a booming shot straight into the arms of ‘roly poly’ Paddy Kenny. It was clear that if we were going to score it was going to be through Harewood, who in the first half today displayed exactly why there is interest from Premiership clubs.

Harewood’s goal was stunning, a delightful volley that sprayed straight past Paddy Kenny and into the top corner of the net. Cue aggressive pointing, running, flaying of arms, and shouting in the direction of the Sheff Utd dug out, or at least that’s what it looked like from where I was sitting. So we went into half time ahead not playing well it has to be said, but how many victories can you think of where we have won and played outstanding?

The second half begun with ‘Bubbles’ still booming over the PA, of course it can’t be turned off until it gets to the part where the fans take over, or perhaps it was done for inspiration? If it was the latter, it was certainly not enough. West ham in the second half returned to the lethargy, lack of creativity, and sluggishness of all our recent defeats. It has to be said Sheff Utd were largely as ineffective. Phil Jagielka’s 57th minute header proving to be the only on target effort the Blades managed in 90 minutes of football.

The final 33 minutes of football were incredibly forgettable. A lot of laying around receiving treatment from players of Sheff Utd, as well as a challenge from the dynamic Mark Noble on Nick Montgomery later leading to a vocalised damnation from Neil ‘Colin’ Warnock in the post-match press conference. But at full time, Hammers fans were left as unimpressed and disappointed as recent weeks. A chorus of boos rang out, Pardew disappeared down the tunnel immediately, Reo-Coker, Powell, and Harewood stayed to make sure they clapped all four stands, whilst at the other end Sheff Utd’s entire team went to the away section to thank them for making the journey and offering their support.

It wouldn’t be fair to comment on the team’s performance without mentioning the performance of the fans, as it is us who have come under as much criticism as the team in recent weeks. Today the fans performance, like the players, was riddled with malaise. Upton Park has become a cauldron, our hate and bile at how far we’ve fallen, and how bad we’re playing, filling the Boleyn Ground with a metaphorical gas, creating an atmosphere of unease and revulsion in which to play football. Yet when the team perform, in particular Harewood’s goal today, a spark is created which ignites the gassy cauldron that is Upton Park into an explosion of joy, hardened support, and more importantly hope, much as it did for 90 minutes against Ipswich in the play-offs last season.

The problem for West Ham, and in particular Pardew, is that at the moment the spark is not being provided. We’re in a vicious cycle of poor performances and fans getting on the teams back. There is two ways to break the cycle; start playing the passing attacking football West Ham founded their reputation on, instead of the flat, long-balling tyranny under Pardew (i.e. replace the manager), or provide the funds for a major reinvestment in playing staff. I think we can all appreciate the latter will never happen under the regime of Terrence Brown.

Alan Pardew mentioned in today’s matchday programme there will be no excuses for poor performance. The problem with Pards optimistic “we must stand up and be counted, lay in the bed we make” statements, is that we’ve heard them all before from a certain Glenn Roeder. It was an abysmal performance away to Rotherham that signalled Roeder’s demise, on today’s evidence the axe could, and probably should, fall again.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Comments to follow.

Tomas Repka
Comments to follow.

Chris Powell
Comments to follow.

Anton Ferdinand
Comments to follow.

Malky Mackay
Comments to follow.

Carl Fletcher
Comments to follow.

Hayden Mullins
Comments to follow.

Luke Chadwick
Comments to follow.

Mark Noble
Comments to follow.

Teddy Sheringham
Comments to follow.

Marlon Harewood
Comments to follow.


Nigel Reo-Coker
(Replaced Chadwick, 77) Comments to follow.

Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Mullins, 84) Comments to follow.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Rufus Brevett
Did not play.

Bobby Zamora
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Tomas Repka, Chris Powell, Anton Ferdinand, Malky Mackay, Carl Fletcher, Hayden Mullins, Luke Chadwick, Mark Noble, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Marlon Harewood 39                  .

Booked: Tomas Repka 67 Mark Noble 71 Sergei Rebrov 88      .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

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

Subs not used: Ward, Thirlwell, Francis, Cadamarteri.

Goals: Jagielka (57).

Booked: None booked.

Sent off: None.

Referee: D.Gallagher.

Attendance: 19,444.

Man of the Match: tbc.