Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 1 Cardiff City 0

Monday, 7th February 2005
by Wycombe Wicks

There was a time in my life when the thought of missing a game at Upton Park because of a conflicting commitment would have filled me with horror. Given some of the stuff that's been served up lately, today I was grateful for it, although I thought it might be a good idea to get a second opinion on our team.

Whilst in South Africa watching cricket and simultaneously imbibing unreal quantities of Castle lager, amongst our party was a bloke from Wycombe (or thereabouts) who had the biggest f*cking England flag I have ever seen. This was of course spoilt by the fact that it had Wycombe emblazoned across it, but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Wanderers, ever since I turned up there once to see ESM Jnr put away a penalty in one of those half time shoot outs.

The irony of that trip was that Wycombe were playing Cardiff that day, but the Welsh fans gave a real rousing roar when ESM Jnr's penalty got slotted away.

Anyway, this bloke Ian, or Wicks as he is known amongst the Barmy Army is on this mission to visit all the English Premiership and League grounds, so it seemed the decent thing to lend him my season ticket. He is under warning of a right kicking if he fails to get it back to me in time for the Plymouth game, although I'm not sure that getting it lost in the post would be such a blow at the moment.

Wicks does do a bit for a Wycombe fans website, so the condition of lending him the ticket was to come up with a match report. Of course, this is hardly up to ESM standards (the f*cker's even done some player ratings, which I never do), but nevertheless, I hope you agree that it's a decent effort. I'll be meeting a couple of Blades' fans I also met in South Africa up in Sheffield next Sunday, so I hope to bring you good tidings of Neil W*nknob with a face like a smacked ar*e.

Cheers Wicks, anyway, and remember what I told you in South Africa - you cannot get HIV from a blowjob unless you swallow (just some friendly advice given when Wicks was contemplating doing some 'business' down the waterfront in Cape Town, although I do believe that he was rather expecting the lady to be doing the act that ex-President Clinton does not consider to be sexual in nature). There, that's blown your cover, good and proper.

Wicks' Match Report

East Stand Martin is away this week, so you will have to put up with the ramblings of a Wycombe Wanderers supporter who borrowed his season ticket. The scoreline may show that the Hammers were victorious, 1-0 against Cardiff, but the match was a hardly a classic – and there were more negatives than positives if you are a West Ham fan.

Today was my first trip to Upton Park (or the Boleyn Ground as some may call it). A strange day, played in cold weather, I saw a first class ground with a strange atmosphere. At one point West Ham fans were at their passionate best – “I’m forever blowing bubbles…” But at others, in my view, were the complete antithesis of the word “supporter” – booing the Hammers during the middle of the game was hardly going to help.

It was ground number 67 in my quest to complete the league’s 92 clubs. It was good to drink in a good boozer and get a pint down me in the capital for the pricely sum of £1.54 – full marks to the Queens.

So to the ground in time for a 1pm kick off – what a stupid time – meaning that there is not enough time to fully shake off the post-Saturday night hangover.

I bought a nice balti pie – a delight to sample one which was neither too hot that it would burn your tongue or too undercooked it would give you food poisoning. (ESM edit: Wicks, if I were you I'd wait to see whether you're up all night pebbledashing the pan before you praise the catering in the East Stand).

West Ham lined up with three up-front – Bobby Zamora joining Marlon Harewood and the classy Teddy Sheringham in attack. Nigel Reo-Coker came into the midfield as Tomas Repka was suspended, meaning Hayden Mullins switched to right back.

It was a dreadful game, and I cannot recall either keeper having a save to make in the whole match. West Ham huffed and puffed. There was lots of foreplay, but really no penetration. At times it looked like the Iron wanted to pass the ball into the back of the net.

And the “hoofball” started, Anton Ferdinand being the biggest offender. It wasn’t pretty.

West Ham forced a few corners during the first half, but nothing materialised, apart from a couple of half chances – Zamora firing a free kick well wide and a Sheringham volley also going over Cardiff keeper, Alexander’s bar.

Fortunately Cardiff produced nothing of note either apart from a few scraps in the area,

The game was played in a heated atmosphere with plenty of patriotic chanting from both sets of supporters. But football wise the second half was little better than the first.

It was the visitors who started the second half slightly better with Alan Lee and Richard Langley both being denied with good efforts.

But West Ham found their feet, despite some poor passing which resulted in boos from the home crowd.

Alan Pardew is clearly a man under threat, and when he took off Zamora to be replaced by Luke Chadwick, switching the system back to 4-4-2 he came under more flack. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” chanted the Hammers in the Bobby Moore Stand.

The visiting supporters delighted in the home fans annoyance. “We want Pardew out,” they chanted as events off the pitch got more exciting than those on it.

Cardiff should have scored on 72 minutes but Alan Lee miskicked twice when well placed. Minutes later Sheringham agonisingly curled a free kick just wide of the post.

Sheringham then could have had a penalty as it looked like he was felled in the area.

Hammers skipper Malkay McKay then fired a header wide as the Hammers support got louder.

With time running out, Lee was denied a goal – his right footed shot on the turn going just wide of Stephen Bywater’s right post.

I had trusted West Ham to gain victory before today, putting £20 on them at 8/11. I was not to be denied as seconds before the start of injury time, Carl Fletcher rose dramatically to head home Chris Powell’s cross from the left past a stranded Alexander. Fletcher ran in the direction of the Doc Martens/Centenary Stand corner sparking a mini pitch invasion from delighted West Ham supporters.

So 1-0 West Ham. Did they deserve it? Well, West Ham were certainly the better team, but it was a poor performance and a poor game.

West Ham look like a side struggling, but they are just one point off the play offs. On the evidence of today they won’t come close to going up. They looked like a team full of individuals, they had no communication and no organisation at times. Against better teams, such as Sheffield United next week (?), I expect them to struggle.

I was disappointed to find that I could not get a £1.54 post match pint – the Met Police deciding in their wisdom it would be a good idea to deny people the right to visit a local public house, and the businesses in the area the right to make any money.

But all in all it looks like a good place to watch football, does Upton Park, just a shame that the team could not perform slightly better.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Very little to do.


Hayden Mullins
Tried reasonably hard and had a good game.


Chris Powell
Comments to follow.


Anton Ferdinand



Malky Mackay
A composed game from the ex-Norwich centre half.


Carl Fletcher
The hero of the hour, heading home well late on. But a quiet game otherwise.


Mark Noble
My man of the match. This guy looks like he?EUR(TM)ll be a star. His tackling was great.


Nigel Reo-Coker
I was disappointed with his performance. He needs to pass and shoot a bit quicker than he was.


Bobby Zamora
I thought he was disappointing and didn?EUR(TM)t live up to expectations.


Teddy Sheringham
Even at the twilight of his career, Sheringham still looks a class act. Was unlucky with his free kick.


Marlon Harewood
A livewire who caused Cardiff problems. But could have done better in front o goal.



Substitutes

Luke Chadwick
(Replaced Zamora, 61) Did very little.


Sergei Rebrov
(Replaced Noble, 84) Not enough time to make an impact.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Rufus Brevett
Did not play.


Trent McClenahan
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Hayden Mullins, Chris Powell, Anton Ferdinand, Malky Mackay, Carl Fletcher, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Bobby Zamora, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Carl Fletcher 89                  .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Cardiff City: Alexander, Weston, Gabbidon, Lee, Langley, Barker, Collins, Kavanagh, McAnuff, Thorne, Inamoto.

Subs not used: Warner, Bullock, Fleetwood.

Goals: .

Booked: Gabbidon (73).

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Stroud.

Attendance: 23,716.

Man of the Match: Mark Noble.