West Ham United 1 Sheffield United 1
Saturday, 29th January 2005
by East Stand Martin
A few years ago I introduced a popular new incentive scheme in my workplace. This was known as the CoW award. If I told you that the ‘oW’ element of this stood for ‘ of the week’ I think you might be able to have a stab at what ‘C’ stood for.Every Friday lunchtime, we would open nominations. By the close of the day we would have our CoW. Usually one or two names were put into the hat. Yesterday, there was only one nomination, and only one winner: Neil W*nknob, the manager of Sheffield United.
Get a life
This is a man whose ego is bigger than his fat head, and who is always willing to open his loud mouth. Yesterday, the object of his ire was a 17-year-old professional footballer, who had put his all into an FA Cup tie. This skilful, yet inexperienced player had tried to genuinely win a ball and maybe had gone in a little too enthusiastically. There was no intent involved, no spite. Yet to listen to W*nknob, Mark Noble was guilty of a crime against humanity. Get a life.
This is the same individual who had clearly told his own team to go out and engage in spoiling tactics of the crassest nature. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had applied for tickets to see an FA Cup match not a West End show, yet rarely have I seen playacting to the degree that we witnessed yesterday. Somebody had clearly been drawing inspiration from the histrionics of the Spanish Liga.
At the end of 90 minutes, I think we can honestly conclude that this was one of the most unedifying spectacles of football witnessed in recent years at Upton Park. I’d go further – it was f*cking miserable. Some might say that this is an overstatement, but the combination of the spoiling tactics of Sheffield United, combined with the continuing diabolical style of the once aptly named Academy of Football, sunk the 17,000 or so West Ham fans present into new depths of depression.
The starting lineup actually looked a little better, with Haydn Mullins back in midfield, and the return of Teddy. Anton and Malky were in central defence, with Tom returning to his right back role.
The first minutes saw an Anton Ferdinand mistimed jump in defence. but then things began to improve. On 4 minutes there was a good turn by Marlon, after a ball was sent over the top. He was quickly in space, but he made a poor shot, dragging the ball wide of post.
Tom was ranging down the right wing on 10 minutes and managed to get a decent cross over, which was adroitly chested down by Marlon to find Haydn Mullins, just outside the box. Unfortunately, his shot was poor as well.
The best effort on the opening period came from Marlon, who used his body well to shield the ball, find space and let loose with a powerful shot shoulder high but straight at Penny Kenny, who managed to parry it to safety.
Then the Bobby Moore Lower decided that they had left it too long to comment on the garish luminous away shirts on display from Sheffield: “You're just a team full of stewards”, they mocked.
On 20 minutes, Mark Noble continued his recent good form with a bursting run forward He was fouled outside the box just as he was about to pull the trigger. Unfortunately, nothing came of the free kick, and I still feel the man best placed to profit from set pieces - Sergei Rebrov - is too often left on the bench.
On 25 minutes Teddy managed to get a quality cross from the right-hand side that just drifted over the top of Mark Noble's head. A minute later, just when we had looked like we were gaining the initiative, ex-Hammer John Harley foxed Tom down the left and managed to put a ball over, which was met by Michael Tonge. He made a sweet shot which looked in all the way but somehow contrived to graze Bywater’s left hand upright.
Until this point, I thought that referee Dermot Gallagher had performed quite well and had brought a welcome change from the usual standard of refereeing, that you have to put up with in the lower division. However, on 29 minutes, I revised my opinion on this as Marlon was taken out as he was advancing on goal, a cynical foul which did not even get a yellow card.
Turmoil broke out in the Sheffield penalty box on 36 minutes as a defender went to ground clutching his face, seemingly claiming that he had been elbowed by Teddy. It was pretty much handbags, and Gallagher clearly believed that nothing untoward had happened. A minute later, Mark Noble was presented with a half chance after Marlon knocked the ball down well. Unfortunately, his inexperience showed as he wildly blasted over the bar.
On 38 minutes Marlon proved once again, in my mind, why he is the best striker at our club when he made an absolutely terrific strike to score the opening goal. He knocked the ball forward, ran into the box, seemed too stumble, yet still managed to get his foot to the ball to volley it gloriously into the top left-hand corner. I make that the goal of the season so far.
Had this goal come, 10 minutes earlier I truly believe that we would have gone in more than one up at half time, but the whistle rescued Sheffield and allowed them to regroup after weathering a pressurised final five minutes.
I know, let’s try and defend
Inevitably – and you have to wonder what is being said by Pardew at halftime - West Ham restarted the second half in a less energetic style. We just didn’t seem to have any tempo. To me it looks like either lack of confidence or instructions to implement a defensive posture (or both), which all too often gives the initiative back to the opposition.
Sheffield weren't exactly dominating proceedings, but you could see that they had the momentum to create something. On 57 minutes, some space was found down the right by Andy Liddell to put over a good cross. Anton looked out of position, and Jagielka had a free header in a central position, which he headed down and into the goal after Bywater half saved it, but then let it go over the line. Unfortunately, we did not get the Man U benefit of the doubt and the goal was awarded.
The remaining half an hour of this game is something I just want to forget. It was scrappy, involved a lot of rolling around on the floor by Sheffield players and a lot of uninspiring punts. We had no width and Chadwick, in his rather familiar style of late, just seemed to run out of energy. Pardew's answer was to take Chadwick off and bring on Reo-Coker with 15 minutes to go. Once again, a cautious and unadventurous Pardew left it to the 83rd minute to bring off the ineffectual Haydn Mullins and introduce Sergei. Yet another tactical error.
Why won’t he do something a little revolutionary and try and win the game? We didn’t need a cup replay up north and the game was there to be won. Surely the change should have come after we had conceded the goal?
The only half chance to score since the Sheffield goal came in the three minutes of added time (woefully under what it should have been given the time wasting) when a flick on by Teddy did find Sergei in the box, but he couldn't get any real power in his header. This was gathered easily by Kenny.
We’re in quicksand
This game, confirmed again, that we are in a complete rut. The overall performance again was unconvincing, and confidence is clearly fragile. The mood amongst the fans is not really ugly, but is one of despair. We need some direction and leadership fast. This is not entertainment, this is water torture and it’s slow and painful. Attendances will continue to fall if this is all we have to look forward to.
The only motivation I have to go up for the replay is based on a real desire to see that arrogant little tw*t W*nknob turned over. We’ve done it once up there this season – maybe a little fortuitously - but the trouble is that the team has gone backward since then. I hold out no great hope.
(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)
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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.