FA Cup
Sheffield United 1 West Ham United 1

Sunday, 13th February 2005
by Northern Paul

I knew it was going to be one of those days as I set off. Five minutes into the journey I realised I’d left the tickets on the kitchen table so a U-turn which Tony Blair would’ve been proud of followed and a return home for the tickets.

Only an hour or so later though and we’re in the ground and exchanging greetings with friends, waiting for the kick-off as the cold wind whistled around our feet.

The first half was, in my opinion, awful. No-one seemed to want to challenge for the ball, the Blades seeming to show far more urgency and determination, so it was not altogether unsurprising when they took the lead from an Andy Liddell free-kick early, around the 8th minute.

The loss of Chadwick (with what looked like a pulled hamstring) didn’t help our cause but we started to create a little more yet it was only dogged defending, as opposed to superb tactics and execution, which prevented Sheffield United from extending their lead. So one down at half time was not too bad on reflection. The distraction of the banter directed towards the slightly overweight home keeper made the first half partly enjoyable at least.

A special mention must go to the half-time entertainment. A poor 17-year-old singer (whose name escapes me) standing in the middle of a sodden pitch singing ‘The Greatest Love of All.’ Perhaps a song that should have been dedicated to the thousands of West Ham fans that had travelled up in such cold weather on a Sunday. Anyway, the singer deserved a medal for her performance as she was not even afforded the luxury of a brolly!

Anyhow, back to the match. Now whether or not they were inspired by the half-time singer or not, or whether it was the Yorkshire puddings I don’t know, but the visiting supporters started the second half in much finer voice. Now I don’t know if it was a coincidence but this certainly appeared to have an effect on the team. We looked much more positive and confident and I felt it was only a matter of time before we would get the equaliser, which we did courtesy of a penalty following a foul by Chris Morgan on Harewood around the hour mark. Morgan was shown the red card and Teddy slotted the ball home as away end erupted.

We continued to press but Sheffield were always quick to break on the counter and continued to pose a threat. We just could not seem to take advantage of the extra man. Too often players were in spaces - particularly Tomas on the right hand side - but time and time again he was overlooked or simply not spotted, much to the frustration of the 2-3,000 travelling supporters.

As minute after minute passed, we all seemed to be resigned to an extra 30 minutes. “As long as it doesn’t go to penalties, as I hate penalties..” said the chap next to me. He must’ve been dreading it as much as Teddy who, although seeming to be our main chance of scoring, was looking tired. Pardew though, had little opportunity to change things though with no other recognised striker on the bench, Teddy and Marlon had to stay on just in case it went to penalties. Glaring missed opportunities from numerous chances ensured that we were to suffer the dreaded penalty shoot out.

When their first penalty was successful, we were always going to be chasing. However, next up was Teddy. He missed! Much to the dismay of the away support and to the delight of the quiet home supporters. However, the agony for both sets of fans was stretched with penaties being saved/missed by both sides. Only Mark Noble managed to score any of ours, leaving Andy Liddell to finally clinch it for the Blades.

We departed swiftly, allowing the home supporters to enjoy the moment.

It would be far too easy to throw around a lot of negative aspects of the overall performance – tackling for one thing - failing to get a foot in, second to the ball on too many occasions, woeful passing at times (although to be fair, it was ‘a rather blustery day’ as my daughter quoted from Winnie the Pooh at one point). But we are a Division 1 side when all is said and done. There are a fair few youngsters there who have had little experience and still need time to find their way.

We need to be much more realistic and should not expect too much of a side which, in my opinion, will not be able to move on until the Board have been replaced and high earners are gone, leaving us these young players who do want to earn their place in the side.

As the singer sang at half time ‘I believe the children are our future’. What we do need to do for the rest of the season is to get behind the team for the sake of the youngsters if nothing else. Because without them, there is no future.

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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.

Mark Noble
Comments to follow.

Nigel Reo-Coker
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Luke Chadwick
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Teddy Sheringham
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Marlon Harewood
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Hayden Mullins
(Replaced Chadwick, 16) Comments to follow.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Chris Cohen
Did not play.

Elliott Ward
Did not play.

Steve Lomas
Did not play.

Match Facts

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

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 63                  .

Booked: Tomas Repka 40 Malky Mackay 86        .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

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

Subs not used: Thirlwell, Forte, Quinn, Cadamarteri.

Goals: Liddell (8).

Booked: Cullip (27), Morgan (53).

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Clattenburg.

Attendance: 15,067.

Man of the Match: tbc.