West Ham United 1 Sheffield United 1
Saturday, 29th January 2005
by Gordon Thrower
Another performance with a touch of the Jekyll and Hydes about it, as a promising first half was followed by a niggly and, ultimately disappointing second period that left us facing a replay with a far from supporter-friendly Sunday lunchtime kick-off.The day had started unpromisingly with the arrival of Romford in the Wakefield. It wasn’t Romford himself that was the problem, more his trousers. It wasn’t the trousers themselves really so much as the colour. They were, frankly, orange. Romford, of course was having none of it. Much as his favourite other team have taken to describing their claret kit for next season as “Redcurrant”, Romfordwas adamant that this most lurid of fashion items was not orange but something called “Tuscan Terracotta”.
Following the spectacle of two bald men fighting over a comb (or Southampton v Portsmouth as the BBC insisted on calling it) we picked up the team news. Bywater was preferred in goal to Walker, though whether this was just for the cup match remains to be seen. Returns from injury saw the following eleven start: Bywater, Repka, Powell, Mackay, Ferdinand, Mullins, Fletcher, Chadwick, Noble, Harewood, Sheringham.
A few weeks back we had gone through the entire 90 minutes without producing a single meaningful effort on goal. This time we started the brighter of the two sides and the first effort of any note fell to Harewood. Receiving the ball in what we older readers like to think of as the inside left position, his turn created some space but unfortunately the shot from the edge of the box was pulled wide.
Harewood was again involved a few minutes later as a long ball was played up from the back. Harewood laid the ball off by way of his chest only for Mullins to shoot wide. Harewood was again the centre of attention as another shot from the edge of the box proved a bit too hot to handle for Kenny in the Blades’ goal. We were also treated to one of Repka’s periodic efforts on goal which was diverted wide for a corner, thus continuing the mystery of what the celebration would be like if he ever scores for us.
As one would expect from a side put out by Neil “Colin” Warnock the match was punctuated by bouts of time-wasting and gamesmanship. For some reason Sheringham came in for particular stick as every attempted tackle was followed up with a spell of writhing in agony followed by a miraculous recovery. Understandably fed-up with these tactics Teddy resorted to helping each so called “injured” player to his feet each time the mystery sniper hiding in the Chicken Run hit the target.
Meanwhile Harewood continued to be the focus when football was played. A free-kick was earned as, for the second week running, a run on goal was unceremoniously ended by a cynical body check. Bafflingly, referee Gallagher kept his cards to himself and the free-kick was hit, as usual, straight into the wall. Harewood then put a free header over following Noble’s corner.
Up to this point the away side, resplendent in their fluorescent “Tuscan Terracotta” away kit, had failed to produce much, though Bywater seemed more confident than I did that Tonge’s effort from outside the box was going wide. However we looked to be the better side and eventually took the lead with about five minutes left before the interval. A scrappy piece of midfield play found the ball on its way through to Harewood who, somehow, played the ball into the air. As the ball came down, and despite being clearly off-balance falling back, Harewood managed to get a volley in that flew into the corner of the goal with the ‘keeper stranded.
We continued to keep the pressure on in the remaining minutes and went in at half-time one nil up and looking the better side. However, not for the first time this season the interval did us no favours, and we came out looking a bit bereft of ideas, meaning that where we had occasionally looked good playing football in the first period, we now started to resort to hoofing it long in the general direction of Marlon or Teddy. In keeping with the running battles that took place in the first half, Teddy went down early on having been decked in an off the ball clash that even the inconsistent Gallagher would have found hard to ignore had he seen it. Just short of the hour the scores were level. We sat back and watched as the ball was played down the Blades’ right hand side. The cross was met by Jagielka whose header down appeared to be covered by Bywater. However, the linesman on the other side had a decent view and ruled that the ball had crossed the line. I couldn’t see from my angle to be honest but Bywater appeared to have few complaints.
From this point really the match degenerated. Our attempts at playing football disappeared out of the window as long ball after long ball went up in the direction of Sheringham and Harewood only to come back to the back four. Things weren’t helped by referee Gallagher’s increasingly eccentric interpretations of the laws. A foul on Noble went unpunished only for Gallagher to give a free kick for an identical challenge. In frustration at the decision, Repka took a lazy swipe at the ball which went high into the air. Gallagher, ho had previously ignored numerous incidences of the away side kicking or throwing the ball away to delay the restart, decided that Repka’s crime was worthy of a yellow.
Reo-Coker replaced the largely ineffective Chadwick – whose main contribution to livening up the crowd had been a 30 yard chase back and tackle whilst Rebrov came on for Mullins but neither side could make much of an impression. As the quality of the football deteriorated, so the niggle factor increased and the tackles started getting heavier. A crude two-footed lunge on Ferdinand escaped punishment whilst a similar lunge from Noble – which at least had the advantage of taking the ball – produced a sadly predictable response as several brave tuscan terracotta wearing braves ran across to remonstrate with the 17 year old. Gallagher fell for it and produced the yellow card. For someone who resembles a light bulb Gallagher seemed incredibly dim. Equally predictably, “Colin” had lots to say about Noble’s challenge whilst remaining strangely taciturn on the unpunished foul on Ferdinand.
As the seconds ticked away we were treated to the incredible sight of away players seemingly requiring treatment after every challenge. Right at the death Rebrov found himself unmarked in the box on the end of Repka’s cross. Despite having the time to control the ball the Ukranian elected to head first time, only succeeding in finding the ‘keeper. Despite all the timewasting and stoppages Gallagher decided that three minutes of added time would be sufficient and the match petered out into a draw that, if they were being brutally honest, neither manager really wanted.
It’s been said on many occasions this season that we lack consistency. We’ve looked good in one game only to come unstuck. the next. However, I think the problems we’re encountering at the moment go deeper than that. At present we seem incapable of playing well for anything longer than a half at a time. Ok, so this was the Cup and, in terms of league form, it might be considered to be something of an irrelevance. However had we been able to build on some of the dominance we had in the first half we’d have gone into the Cardiff match on a high rather than in the slightly depressed mood that made a draw look like a defeat. And at a time when the confidence is down we could do with every boost we can get.
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Player RatingsStephen Bywater
Not really tested as such until the goal, which he ought to have done better with.
Given that kicking or throwing the ball away at free-kicks seemed to be almost compulsory for the opposition, his yellow card from Gallagher seemed daft. Back at right back, he WILL score one day!
I?EUR(TM)m becoming increasingly concerned about the left back position. Brevett isn?EUR(TM)t the same player he was before his injury and Powell is beginning to show his age.
Not a bad game, though he and Mackay both left Jagielka for the goal.
Knew he?EUR(TM)d been in a battle with Gray who, presumably dissatisfied with his side?EUR(TM)s choice of Tuscan Terracotta for shirt colour, seemed intent on relieving Malky of his shirt on every occasion.
A battling performance though some of his passing left a bit to be desired.
Back in midfield where, in my opinion, he belongs. Solid enough and might have scored in the first half, though, like Fletcher, his passing wasn?EUR(TM)t great today.
Didn?EUR(TM)t seem to get involved much, though one chase back did get the crowd going.
Solid, if not as eye-catching as he has been of late.
At the heart of some intelligent play in the first half but faded alarmingly in the second. Cynically targeted by the opposition defence on occasion, there could be fireworks to come if he plays in the replay.
Difficult to cope with in the first half, difficult to locate in the second. Marvellous finish for the goal.
(Replaced Chadwick, 77) I still think that he may be suffering from the after effects of pleurisy ?EUR" hence his position on the bench. Otherwise I?EUR(TM)d prefer to see him start as he does not seem to pick up a game easily when coming on as sub.
(Replaced Mullins, 84) Not really given much time to impress, though he really ought to have buried that header at the end.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest 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.
Man of the Match: Carl Fletcher.