Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 1 Crewe Alexandra 1

Tuesday, 15th March 2005
by East Stand Martin

As I passed by Manor Park on the way to the game, my stomach was gurgling. I couldn’t work out whether it was the radiation coming from the A1 Kebabish takeaway or the fear of another Reading-like performance by the Irons.

That Kebabish place really took out some punters big style with food poisoning. I read in the Evening Standard that one bloke lost well over a stone in three days due to salmonella. That is what is known as a radical weight-loss programme – maybe we should have sent Neil Mellor down there for an after-training snack when he was playing for us.

The only way is up, baby

Anyway, my attitude to this game is that it was surely impossible to sink any further than the disgraceful parody of football that occurred at the Madejski, and I was actually much cheered to see Anton and young Elliot Ward in the centre of defence. Then again, who wouldn’t feel happy to see the Chuckle Brothers (Malky and Mullins) kept well away from defensive duties. Williams also returned to midfield and Teddy started after his consolation goal (if you could call it that) on Saturday.

The first amazing thing I noticed about the game was that we were passing the ball. You may think that this is a rather strange observation, but anyone who had the misfortune to be in Berkshire three days earlier will know why this was somewhat of a relief to witness. As early as the first minute, Teddy broke free in the box after a nice series of passes, but he couldn’t get his foot on the ball. Crewe then immediately broke and Bywater looked indecisive as he came for the ball. He was lucky that the Crewe striker couldn’t loop the ball over his head and into the empty net.

Lack of finishing

On three minutes, Marlon employed all the trickery at his disposal to try and get an opening in the box, but his chip shot went wide. Seven minutes later everybody around me had gone up for a goal after Marlon gathered a good pass from Williams, made a great surging run, rounded the keeper and then mysteriously missed the open goal.

Ward and Ferdinand looked very confident at the back and on 11 minutes, Anton showed some real pace to clear a dangerous ball. Maybe in reality he’s not that quick but having seen Malky move around like he’s in a swamp, he looked like a greyhound.

Fletch showed that he has some passing ability on 24 minutes when he put a really good ball through to Williams, but he blasted his shot wide of the post.

West Ham won a free kick in a good position on 32 minutes after Marlon had been fouled, but the cross sent over could only be nodded harmlessly at the Crewe keeper Ben Williams. A minute later, Shaun Newton – on his home debut – showed some good industry in beating a defender down the flank and putting over a dangerous cross. However, much like at Reading, Marlon’s header seemed to go sideways rather than at goal. He certainly seems to be having a real nightmare with his heading of late.

Matty was certainly looking more lively than in his previous two performances, but he took a knock after a run to the by line. This led to him being replaced by Luke Chadwick with two minutes of normal time left.

Translation from Pardew to English

That was about it for the first half, hardly the start of a revival as promised in the programme notes by the manager. Perhaps someone could also explain to me what this means: “It’s now all about whichever 11 players put on a West Ham shirt gets our full support and faith that they’re going to be good enough to get the job done.” The way I read that is “I have come to the conclusion that we are not good enough, but we might as well support them anyway”. That actually is pretty much how I see the manager.

In the opening part of the second half, West Ham tried to raise the pace but could not break down the Crewe defence. There were some nice passes going on involving combinations of Noble, Teddy and Chadders, but there was always a Crewe defender in the way to block the shot. Both Noble and Fletch saw goalbound shots stopped on 49 and 50 minutes.

On 57 minutes, Marlon claimed a penalty as he looked like he had been bundled over by three defenders following a nice flick on by Teddy, but he appealed in vain. Two minutes later, Crewe proved that they could break, but a shot that could well have gone in was blocked by another Crewe player in the box.

Gavin Williams forced a save on 59 minutes after he picked up the ball on the edge of the box. The keeper made a routine save though as Williams went for precision rather than power.

Marlon continued to look dangerous with his trademark physical runs forward, but his finishing was poor. A typical effort came on 63 minutes where he got the ball into a good position but he scuffed a half shot, half cross across the goal.

Let’s add to the attack

With time running out and little sign of a breakthrough, Pardew decided to add another striker in the form of Z-man with around twenty minutes left. However, no sooner had Williams left the pitch than Mark Roberts very nearly gave Crewe the lead after he was found by a fine pass. Bywater did well to stand up and turn his powerful shot around the post.

Mark Noble – who tried extremely hard tonight – made a great curling strike on 71 minutes which Williams tipped around the post by flinging himself across the goal. From the corner that followed, Ward got his head on the ball at the far post, but Crewe managed to clear.

With hope running out that we could break the deadlock, the breakthrough came on 75 minutes after Teddy made a sweet free kick after a foul just to the left of the D. He is always capable of quality in situations like this and the old pro showed his class yet again. The Crewe keeper was beaten to his right after a wicked shot cleared the wall.

Let’s defend the lead

The next move was a tactical one, although everybody around me couldn’t believe it and the Bobby Moore Lower was booing very loudly as Teddy was replaced by Hayden Mullins on 79 minutes.

The thinking no doubt was to give Teddy a breather so that he could recover to start again in three days time for the Leicester game. It also looked like a move to try and shut up shop for a 1-0 defeat. The wisdom of doing this to my mind was highly questionable and shows once again the essentially negative approach of Pardew. I really do not see how 11 more minutes would have made the slightest bit of difference to Teddy’s prospects of starting the game on Friday and the reality was that the lead was very slender.

Almost immediately after the substitution, Crewe had the ball in the back of the net, but this was ruled out for offside.

Chances spurned one after the other

What followed next was a whole host of very decent chances to put the game beyond doubt. On 81 minutes, Noble made a beautiful reverse pass to find Marlon in the box, but it looked like around three shots in succession were blocked. A minute later, Marlon made a strong run and got over a fantastic ball across the six yard box, but no-one was there.

Then on 84 minutes, Z-man threaded a clever ball through a defender's legs, but Chadders was forced just a little too wide. A minute later Chadders went on a penetrating run through the middle, cut inside and found Noble free in the box. Noble had a real chance to cap a good performance, but his shot was straight at the keeper. This reminded me a bit of Joe Cole, real quality by a frustrating inability to finish.

It looked a matter of when we would get a second as it was four West Ham players against three Crewe on 86 minutes, but Noble again tried to go for glory by an over ambitious attempt to chip the keeper. A minute later, Marlon really should have done better as he was sent on his way. His first touch was poor and he elected to shoot rather than pass to the far post where Zamora was waiting. Z-man did get one more chance immediately afterwards, but he hit a truly horrible shot.

Despite all this pressure and domination, our profligacy around goal was punished when the last attack of ordinary time by Crewe saw our defence fail to clear properly and Crewe substitute Steve Jones was found with a cross from the right. He dispatched a header at close range to heap more misery and utter frustration upon the Hammers’ fans.

Although there were four extra added minutes, we couldn’t find a way back and the game ended to the now customary chants of “Pardew out”.

Set up for the sucker punch

For the second game in a row, I believe that Pardew was guilty of a tactical error, this time in substituting Teddy. If he had stayed on then we may well have put away one of the several chances we had in the last ten minutes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Pardew has very little love of adventure and attacking football. In fact his style is one of conservatism but when there is one goal in it, you are always vulnerable to the sucker punch and that is what happened.

There were some very strange results in the Championship tonight and like a very sadistic form of water torture, our rivals in the playoffs seem to be deliberately conspiring to hand us a lifeline when we are failing to win. Maybe we should be grateful, but what really annoys me is that it sets up Pardew to make yet another one of those “This next game is vital” speeches that seem to have zero effect.

Ironically, instead of chanting “Pardew out” we should be pleased that he is still in charge. Let’s get real: it will only be at the point that we have failed to make the playoffs, that he will be conceivably on his way, although given the incompetence of the Chairman, this is not guaranteed. When he goes, we will know for sure that we will be having the pleasure of seeing Crewe again next season. Brown neither has the resources for or the ability to attract a new manager of any quality and everybody knows this – the fans, the players and Pardew himself. We’d do better now to face this fact, even if we don’t like it.

(Player ratings by Gordon Thrower)

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Player Ratings

Stephen Bywater
One good save if a trifle hesitant early on. A couple of excellent throws set up late breaks that were wasted by those further forward.

Shaun Newton
Looked a lot better for having had a few more training sessions with his new team-mates. Some good runs going forward but was AWOL at the end when he lost Jones for the equaliser.

Chris Powell
Another solid performance. Benefited from having an improved Etherington in front of him.

Elliott Ward
An accomplished league debut for the youngster. In hindsight, this was an ideal match in which to give him a start since Crewe are more of a footballing side than many in this league so we were spared the usual aerial onslaught. Good to see.

Anton Ferdinand
Not sure that he?EUR(TM)s 100% after injury but he seemed to revel in the role of senior partner alongside rookie Ward.

Carl Fletcher
A solid game in the middle and some good passing as well.

Mark Noble
A hell of a lot of hard work and obvious enthusiasm marred only by a tendency to chose the wrong option when well-placed to score. It?EUR(TM)s a measure of how he has developed this season to realise how much we missed him when he was injured recently.

Matthew Etherington
A bit of a shame this one. For the first time in ages it seemed that Matty had the confidence to take on his defender ?EUR" and he was meeting with some success until he went and twisted his knee.

Gavin Williams
In and out of the match in little spells before being sacrificed in favour of Zamora.

Teddy Sheringham
The goal was superb but he didn?EUR(TM)t contribute as much during the game as he otherwise might have done.

Marlon Harewood
Back to finishing school. He caused the Crewe defence all sorts of problems only to be found wanting in front of goal.


Luke Chadwick
(Replaced Etherington, 44) Failed to provide much in the way of width.

Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Williams, 70) Some nice touches but failed to trouble the ?EUR~keeper.

Hayden Mullins
(Replaced Sheringham, 79) Mr Unpopular, his introduction allowed Newton to push forward but, like Newton, he was missing at the far post when the equaliser was scored.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Stephen Bywater, Shaun Newton, Chris Powell, Elliott Ward, Anton Ferdinand, Carl Fletcher, Mark Noble, Matthew Etherington, Gavin Williams, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Teddy Sheringham 76                  .

Booked: None booked.           .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Crewe Alexandra: Williams, Walker, Lunt, McCready, Tonkin, Sorvel, Bell, Varney, Gary Roberts, Rivers, Murdock.

Subs not used: Wills, Higdon.

Goals: Jones (90).

Booked: Sorvel.

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Thorpe.

Attendance: 26,593.

Man of the Match: Anton Ferdinand.