FA Cup
Sheffield United 1 West Ham United 1

Sunday, 13th February 2005
by Gordon Thrower

Football cliché no. 962: “Now we can concentrate on the league”! This old favourite has been trotted out by managers since time immemorial on being put out of the cup. However, for once anyway, it might be a good shout.

An early start in the Sicknote-mobile was called for on a rather cold day and an uneventful journey up to flat cap land saw us arrive at a studenty pub where I swiftly realised that I was, by a long way, the oldest person in the place. Being a studenty-type place, although it was packed out the bar was relatively clear since it does take the tax-dodgers quite some time to count out all those 10p pieces into enough to buy a pint.. The whole experience was a little like walking into a time-warp. Spandau Ballet’s “True” was playing on the jukebox and the preferred haircut of choice was the mullet. No doubt those with mullets will claim they were being ironic. We laughed at them anyway. Spandau Ballet having (thankfully) been replaced by the Manchester derby commentary, we were able to neck a few beers.

Lee disappeared, supposedly to put his contact lenses in. Then our cab arrived. Highbury was dispatched to the Gents to retrieve Lee. After a few minutes it was decided that I should be sent in to see what was happening. Now I’ve been wearing contact lenses since 1979 but in all that time I’ve never felt the need to stare into somebody’s eyes in a gent’s toilet whilst repeating the phrase “yes it’s in”. Highbury’s explanation that he was helping with the lenses seemed a bit hurried to me but if that’s what he claims he was doing that’s fine by me!

At the ground, the team virtually picked itself, given the injury situation. Indeed injuries meant we were left with absolutely no forward cover on the bench with the following eleven starting: Bywater, Repka, Powell, Ferdinand, Mackay, Chadwick, Fletcher, Reo-Coker, Noble, Harewood, Sheringham.

Unlike the matches at the Boleyn, Sheffield United came at us from the start and we struggled to get a meaningful foothold in midfield. It wasn’t much of a surprise when we went behind, though the goal owed a lot to yet another poor refereeing decision. The dive that led to the free-kick was comical. It was straight out of the David Healey school of plummeting to the ground. The only person in the ground who thought that it was a foul was the ref. I suppose that we shouldn’t be surprised that Clattenberg, a ref that can’t see a ball a whole yard over the goal line, should start seeing fouls that aren’t there but it was galling to see Sheffield United getting away with it once again after so many similar incidents in the first match. The free-kick was drilled into the bottom right hand corner by Liddell to give the home side a deserved lead.

Things didn’t improve at all and a Jagielka effort shortly after was deflected wide. Just to add injury to injury Chadwick then limped off with what looked to be a hamstring injury – it was one of those that you know is a big problem as soon as it occurs. Off went Chadwick to be replaced by Mullins. Things looked even worse when Mackay made a complete hash of a long ball over the top. His header back to the ‘keeper was woefully short. Thankfully Bywater was ready for Gray’s lob and pulled off an excellent save.

It took an age for us to get any sort of attacking move together. There was no grip on midfield and the long balls were coming straight back. Things looked a little better when Clattenburg miraculously spotted a foul on Sheringham in a promising position. However, our notable lack of set-piece invention displayed itself once more and the free-kick merely set up a Blades breakaway. Reo-Coker had to be alert to clear the cross as Gray slid in.

As the half progressed things got a little less frantic and, we started to hold our own a little more in the middle and we actually had a couple of shots. Harewood’s effort went well over, whilst Noble’s was a little closer. Then, shortly before the interval, came our best chance of the half. Sheringham latched onto a long ball from Ferdinand and took the ball past Kenny. There looked as if there might have been contact from the fat ‘keeper – certainly had the forward been a home player in similar circumstances he would have gone down (not that that’s saying much). However, Sheringham managed to keep his feet and keep the ball in play. However, with players possibly better placed, young Edward elected to shoot only to see his shot deflected over for a corner.

So half time came and we had managed to stay in touch without creating much of note. We needed to improve however if we were to get anything out of the match. We did seem to have a more determined air about us in the second half. Sadly Clattenburg’s eyesight hadn’t improved any and the booking received by Repka for the most innocuous of challenges suggested a pre-ordained agenda on the ref’s part.

Meanwhile Harewood finally started to get into the game and a strong run down the right hand side saw him get a cross in that the home side were fortunate to clear with Sheringham lurking. The away support was certainly doing its part, though there seems to have been a subtle change recently in the “claret and blue army” chant; the current version of “We are West Ham’s Claret & Blue Army” omitting all reference to the manager.

Another free-kick from Sheringham went narrowly over though Bywater had to be awake to block Gray’s effort up the other end. Then on the hour we equalised. Sheringham headed on to Harewood who had got the wrong side of Morgan. Morgan clattered Harewood to the ground to give away the penalty and give Clattenburg no option than to show the red card. Sheringham put the penalty away to level the scores.

This gave us the upper hand for a few minutes. Harewood had a shot well saved by fatty, whilst Mullins failed to trouble the keeper with a shot that was always rising. However, the home side reorganised and did their job of stifling the midfield well. Powell’s clearance at the far post was superb – with Liddell just behind him it would have been easy to mess up.

However, as the game progressed, neither side had what it takes to break the deadlock and the game went into extra time. I must admit that I was taken aback by the final whistle. We’re so used these days to the announcement that there will be X minutes of added time that it completely threw me when full time was blown without any call – especially as the announcement had been made in the first half.

So extra time. Repka donned a pair of gloves, though these mysteriously disappeared after a few minutes. The pattern for both halves of extra time was fairly similar. Sheffield united getting in a lot of crosses that were dealt with fairly comfortably for once by the defence. However, the best chance fell to Mullins who, right at the death, had time and space to do whatever he wanted with Sheringham’s cross. Unfortunately he headed over and the match finished at 1-1 after extra time.

In the good old days we’d have tossed a coin to decide the venue for another replay but these days of course it goes to a penalty shoot out. You’ve all seen the shoot-out by now. Though it was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, special mention once more must go to Clattenburg and his assistant who, despite a total absence of anything else to concentrate on, somehow failed to notice the three yards Kenny came off his line for each penalty. Clattenburg has been quick to pour his heart out to the papers about how he felt Carroll & Ferguson should have “owned-up” over the goal that wasn’t the other week. Perhaps he thinks Kenny ought to do the same about the penalties. Oh – he just has. I look forward to Clattenburg’s next piece in the paper with interest apologising for his incompetence.

So out of the cup. For all the talk about wanting to do well in the competition, it was always going to be a potentially costly diversion to the main priority of trying to make the play-offs. It is also possibly to our advantage that it is one of our chief rivals for a play-off place that will have the extra cup match to cope with. I for one was not particularly gutted at going out of the competition.

Of more concern to me is the apparent total lack of attacking cover in the squad at the moment. We’ve heard all season about how Edward’s legs aren’t all they used to be and how two games a week would be a big ask for him so having to play 120 minutes this week was not in the script. Zamora has a foot injury, I presume Rebrov is injured, not having seen anything official concerning his absence. Sofiane has been packed off to Holland, deadly Don was last seen wired up to some sort of electric knee machine as an extra in an episode of “Casualty”. If you see large amounts of cotton wool arriving at Chadwell Heath this week it’ll be something to wrap the club’s forwards in.

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
Some good saves kept us in the match.

Tomas Repka
Fairly solid. If he could cross a ball he?EUR(TM)d be dangerous going forward.

Chris Powell
Recovered from a shaky start. The second half clearance from a dangerous cross was excellent.

Anton Ferdinand
I thought the youngster had a fine game ?EUR" especially when you consider his central defensive partner wasn?EUR(TM)t having the best of days.

Malky Mackay
Poor ?EUR" especially in the first half when his headers put us under a lot of pressure.

Carl Fletcher
Anonymous early on as the midfield got overrun. Got a few tackles in as the game wore on, though the ridiculous free-kick decision against him wasn?EUR(TM)t one of them.

Mark Noble
Like his fellow midfielders he wilted under the early onslaught but he kept plugging away and became probably our most effective midfielder.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Not really with it at all today. Not helped by having to switch position early on when Chadwick picked up his knock but since his illness he seems to have lost his early season form.

Luke Chadwick
Injured before he could get into the game.

Teddy Sheringham
Failed to trouble the home defence much and ought to have done much better in the first half when the goal was at his mercy.

Marlon Harewood
Not one of his better games, though he did force the penalty.


Hayden Mullins
(Replaced Chadwick, 16) Came on for Chadwick and did little of note until missing a gold-plated chance at the end of extra time.

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.