Coca Cola Championship
West Ham United 3 Coventry City 0

Saturday, 9th April 2005
by Gordon Thrower

I’ve given up superstition now – and it works. In the past, after a win I would invariably try to recreate the circumstances for the next game – taking the same rate to the ground, using the same turnstile, leaning on my lucky buttock that sort of thing.

Matty Happy Returns!

However this week, possibly prompted by the (over) celebration of a birthday that may have finally led me to admit that I am now middle-aged, I decided that such notions were silly and that no amount of finger crossing could possibly have any effect on the match.

The first test of my new-found pragmatism was Maltese Hammer’s presence for pre-match cocktails in the Wakefield. In the past his visits have had a habit of coinciding with draws or defeats. However, I was determined that my new grown-up attitude on life was not going to fail me and that I was going to go into the match with an open mind.

Two away wins on the trot without incurring any suspensions or meaningful injuries meant that AP had the rare luxury of starting with an unchanged line up of Walker, Repka, Powell, Ferdinand, Ward, Noble, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Newton, Sheringham, Harewood.

It was a fairly open start. Coventry, having eased their relegation worries with recent victories, played a fairly open game in contrast to the usual eleven men behind the ball we are often treated to at the Boleyn. Unfortunately, for all the decent passing in midfield, we displayed a tendency to over-elaborate in the final third, thus denying ourselves clear-cut opportunities. That’s not to say there weren’t chances. However our early efforts only highlighted the fact that our finishing was not at its best. Coventry themselves had busy spells and the impressive walker had to be on his toes to turn a shot from distance round the post.

Up the other end a lay-off from young Edward found Marlon but his shot went well over. Shortly after, Newton broke free on the left and following a neat exchange with Harewood, Teddy attempted a delicate chip which the ‘keeper had to be on his toes to deal with. Steele in the Coventry goal had an excellent game and did well to turn a Harewood shot on the run round the post, though he was left counting his blessings when Reo-Coker’s burst through the middle finished with a shot that took a looping deflection.that left the ‘keeper stranded.

The most gilt-edged chance of all came on the half hour. Teddy got himself into a good position down the right and pulled a low cross across the face of the goal. Noble may or may not have had time to produce a more orthodox finish but his attempted back heel went about a yard wide with the goal begging.

Reo-Coker was next to go close. Fed by Sheringham NRC’s penetrative run took him slightly wide of goal. His drilled ball across the goal was indication of a mind that suggested indecision as to whether to cross or shoot. The inevitable result was neither. With hindsight had Nigel looked up he would have seen the total absence of fellow Hammer in the box and might have made a more convincing effort on goal.

As the half closed we survived a late scare. McSheffrey found himself free down the middle but Walker did superbly well to turn the Coventry man’s shot around the post at full stretch and the half finished all square.

At half time we were treated to the worst half time entertainment I can recall at the Boleyn since they stopped having the brass band on the pitch at half time. Somebody who nobody had heard of “singing” (if that’s the word) to a backing track of “Out Of Touch” and “Rush Hour”. It was so poor that even my lovely girlfriend would have hated it – and she thinks Michael Bolton is a good idea.

After what seemed like an eternity of half time, the teams returned. Mullins was replaced by Etherington in what was to prove to be the most significant move of the day. However, Coventry were first out of the blocks and an early corner saw Walker enhance his reputation by pulling off another fine save from a header. However that was to be the last real scare and we started to push forward with inventiveness.

Unfortunately Marlon was having one of those days. An excellent move saw Harewood’s radar go on the blink and his header from the best of positions from Newton’s superb cross went horribly wide.

Next Ferdinand was unlucky to find Steele on top form. Etherington’s corner from the left found Anton whose header was excellent. Unfortunately so was Steele’s save, somehow getting down to his right to turn the ball away for another corner. The second corner caused similar problems and Newton’s volley found the on-loan ‘keeper in similarly irresistible mood, though he was unable to hold on to the shot, the rebound came back too sharply for Noble to do anything other than put the ball over.

With 20 minutes remaining on the clock Zamora replaced Harewood. Marlon had battled gamely to force the defence into errors but it was really one of those days when it wasn’t happening for him. His efforts met with generous applause which he seemed to appreciate.

On the left hand side Matty was beginning to wreak havoc. In fact it’s probably fair to say that this was the sort of performance we haven’t seen since last season. Time and time again his trickery gave the defenders nightmares and it was one of these sorties down the left that led to us taking the lead with about 15 minutes left. Matty’s cross was dangerous and, given one of those situations where he was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t, Shaw headed past the unfortunate Steele. Jeremy Nicholas took great glee in announcing the goalscorer’s name. I thought was a little unnecessary to be honest – there again as everybody kept reminding me this weekend I am getting old so perhaps it’s just another sign of me turning into Victor Meldrew.

The goal was a great lift to everyone and, if Matty had been good up to that point, the goal seemed to inspire him to even better things. Another tricky dribble saw him cut back into the box and the defender’s outstretched leg caught him. It was, if truth be told, a silly penalty to give away. However, the silliness didn’t stop there. Teddy stepped up to take the kick. I can only presume that my instructions for him to bury the thing didn’t reach him over the crowd noise because, after a delay whilst Zamora and some defenders pushed each other about on the edge of the box, he tried one of those chips that look so good when they work. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Steele, though he went early, was able to get a hand to the ball. Realising the error of his ways Teddy buried the rebound only to be informed by the somewhat fussy and inconsistent Mr Williamson that he would have to do the whole thing again. This time Teddy stopped messing around and, my instructions presumably having got through, his second effort went into the corner at a velocity that gave Steele no chance.

Matty then claimed a hat-trick of assists. Yet another sortie down the left saw him clip a cross over to Zamora who made no mistake with his header from inside the six yard box to make the score 3-0. There was even time for Etherington to do a spot of defensive work to deny a late Coventry break – heck I bet he even collected the corner flags and nets at the end!

The final whistle saw a couple of thousand remain behind to protest at the continued presence of the current board. During the match the stewards had been under instructions to remove any protest banners which apparently had lead to some hilarious scenes as banners were passed about the stands to evade the clutches of the officials.

Overall I thought this was a very encouraging performance – especially in the second half. Matty’s return to form, which he will hopefully carry through to the end of the season, can’t have come at a better time and it was also pleasing to note that we resisted the temptation to simply lump it long towards the end – something that hasn’t always been the case when Zamora has come on. The play off place will still be down to our own efforts and you will all no doubt be pleased to discover that, following extensive time spent on my computer in calculating the permutations, we are safe from relegation!

I returned to complete my birthday celebrations at the Wakefield where I have vague memories of Romford apologising to me for getting into an argument with somebody I didn’t know and of Rio offering to sell me his “significant other” for £6. At least I think that’s what was being said. The only thing I am sure about after far too much Guinness is that the “no superstition” experiment is paying dividends so I won’t be requiring any lucky white heather from our opposition next week thank you very much!

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Player Ratings

Jimmy Walker
Unemployed for large periods of the match he nevertheless came up with some vital saves at important moments in the game. Now seems to be taking his cup form of earlier in the season into the league.

Tomas Repka
A good solid performance. The emergence of Ferdinand and Ward in the middle means that the manager can now play Repka at right back safe in the knowledge that the centre of defence is not weakened.

Chris Powell
A bit of an unsung hero in the back four. Whilst injuries and suspensions have, until recently, caused endless reshuffles in the middle, Powell has quietly and reliably done a decent job on the left.

Elliott Ward
Given the relative inexperience of both central defenders, it is sobering to think that the current pairing was probably the last option that the manager wanted to use. It?EUR(TM)s a steep learning curve but one with which the lad seems to be coping admirably.

Anton Ferdinand
The improvement shown by this lad has been one of the more pleasing things to happen over the course of the season. He seems to thrive on the responsibility of being the more experienced partner in the middle. Unlucky not to score when Steele pulled off a marvellous save to deny him in the second half.

Nigel Reo-Coker
Drifted in and out of the match ?EUR" needs to develop a bit more composure in front of goal because he?EUR(TM)s making some decent runs through the middle that end only in disappointment.

Hayden Mullins
Didn?EUR(TM)t have that bad a game but he was the obvious choice to be sacrificed to enable the introduction of Etherington.

Mark Noble
Another impressive run out for the youngster. Perhaps should have scored in the first half when his back heel went wide.

Shaun Newton
He?EUR(TM)s one of those players that you kinda don?EUR(TM)t notice. However, he got through a lot of donkey work up and down the right hand side.

Teddy Sheringham
39? A mere youngster! Should really know better at his age than to mess about with penalties like that though.

Marlon Harewood
Poor old Marlon seemed a little out of sorts today. Some hard running and good link-up play with Teddy spoilt by some less than impressive finishing.


Matthew Etherington
(Replaced Mullins, 45) The aliens who kidnapped last season?EUR(TM)s HOTY and replaced him with some sort of inferior space clone have returned the original. Without a doubt this was his best 45 of the season and I just hope he can keep this form going over the last few matches.

Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Harewood, 72) A decent 20 minutes or so with some intelligent runs being rewarded by his late goal.

Stephen Bywater
Did not play.

Carl Fletcher
Did not play.

Luke Chadwick
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Jimmy Walker, Tomas Repka, Chris Powell, Elliott Ward, Anton Ferdinand, Nigel Reo-Coker, Hayden Mullins, Mark Noble, Shaun Newton, Teddy Sheringham, Marlon Harewood.

Goals: Richard Shaw og 76 Teddy Sheringham 89 Bobby Zamora 90              .

Booked: Elliott Ward 62          .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Coventry City: Steele, Duffy, Page, Shaw, Hall, Osbourne, Doyle, McSheffrey, Dyer, Adebola, Goater.

Subs not used: Pressman, Benjamin.

Goals: .

Booked: Duffy (48), Page (56), Hall (66), McSheffrey (73).

Sent off: None.

Referee: I.Williamson.

Attendance: 26,839.

Man of the Match: Matthew Etherington.