West Bromwich Albion 1 West Ham United 2

Sunday, 23rd February 2003
by Graeme Howlett

It may not have been pretty to watch, but a Trevor Sinclair brace was good enough - just - to earn the Hammers their first away win in the Premiership since October 2002 against fellow strugglers West Brom at the Hawthorns this afternoon.

It has been said that Lady Luck has smiled on the Hammers far too rarely this season - but she certainly smiled on Glenn Roeder's men this afternoon. The sort of misfortune normally reserved for the Hammers appeared to go the way of their opponents this afternoon, thanks mainly to the incompetence of referee Mike Dean.

Dean, who officiated over West Ham's controversial 3-1 defeat against Arsenal at Highbury last month was again culpable for some horrendous errors which had both sides tearing their hair out in despair.

Apart from apparently stopping the game for every challenge - however innocuous - the Wirral based official was guilty of missing a couple of strong penalty appeals plus incorrectly ruling offside a perfectly legitimate West Bromwich Albion 'goal'.

That 24th minute incident, the game's first real talking point, came as Nigerian defender Ifeanyi Udeze latched on to a through ball from Danny Dichio to convert what appeared to be a perfectly legal goal. But referee Dean, taking the linesman's advice ruled Udeze offside - although TV replays proved he was being played onside by TWO West Ham defenders.

It was just the first of a string of bizarre decisions which infuriated both sets of supporters in what was already a highly-charges atmosphere, with both teams playing for their Premiership lives.

Yes, that's both teams; for once West Ham were up for a fight, which was just as well because the home side threw everything bar the kitchen sink at David James and his defence in a crazy game full of controversy, gaffes, blunders and the kind of football you expect to see reserved for the third round of the FA Cup.

Joe Cole and Freddie Kanoute (both suspended) were the two notable absences from Glenn Roeder's line-up; their places going to Les Ferdinand and Steve Lomas.

And they, like their team mates were under the cosh from the off as Albion set off like men possessed, in a game which both sides had to win.

Although the Baggies had the lions share of possession in the opening half-hour, James was rarely forced into action (apart from picking the ball out of his net for the aforementioned disallowed goal).

The Hammers however soon rallied, but the travelling faithful had to wait until the 38th minute before the Hammers first real attack of note arrived. Michael Carrick's snap-shot from the edge of the penalty area was spilled by Albion keeper Russell Hoult into the path of the oncoming Trevor Sinclair.

But with the goal at his mercy Sinclair inexplicably fired against the bar - from a position of no more than 8 yards out. It looked like it was to be yet another one of those days.

With the scoreline still deadlocked the half-time whistle rapidly approached. But one last pre-break foray from the Hammers was to prove to be the turning point of the game.

Steve Lomas, playing like a man possessed today delivered a cross from the right which Trevor Sinclair collected some 10 yards from goal. The winger, facing away from the goal turned his marker before firing across the body of Russell Hoult from an acute angle to register the first goal of the game. Much token badge-kissing ensued from the delighted goalscorer, who was probably just as relieved to have atoned for his earlier blunder than to have scored the goal itself.

If the goal was pretty damn perfect, the timing wasn't half bad either. Less than 60 seconds later the half-time whistle was blown to give the visitors a huge psychological boost to take into the second half.

Down spirited or otherwise, Albion set their stall out for the remainder of the game as the began to press forward more and more. It was no surprise when the equaliser came, although even West Ham's shoddy defence would probably feel somewhat disheartened for only managing to hold out for a paltry four second-half minutes.

A half-cleared corner was re-delivered into the Hammers box by Jason Koumas. Danny Dichio, hardly prolific in the Premiership but with a good few inches advantage in the height department out-leapt Tomas Repka to equalise for the Baggies. TV replays suggested that Dichio may have pushed Repka in the back as the two rose to meet the cross, but to hold Dean culpable for not giving it would be a little harsh perhaps. Whatever, the referee who shared the same name as a famous comedian would have plenty of opportunity to atone for that later.

Dichio's goal came less than a minute after Paolo Di Canio, desperately disappointing during the game was substituted by Glenn Roeder. Di Canio greeted the move with some disdain, and if any proof of the lack of love between the pair was necessary it was clear to see as the two ignored each other as the Italian trudged off the pitch, wearing a face of mock dejection. Had he put as much effort into his game as he did with his show of disapproval toward Roeder the Hammers boss may not have been forced to make the (justified) switch.

With images of a(nother) media outburst from Di Canio blaming the loss of three vital points on his substitution perhaps playing on the mind of Roeder he was no doubt praying for salvation in the shape of a second Hammers goal.

And it duly arrived from the head of Trevor Sinclair exactly half was through the second half. Goalkeeper Hoult's poor clearance was picked up by Steve Lomas, some 40 yards from goal. Lomas fed the overlapping Lee Bowyer on the right flank before the England midfielder delivered a pinpoint cross to the far post, which was nodded back across goal by Jermain Defoe. Les Ferdinand should have opened his Hammers account but his strong header from no more than six yards crashed against the bar. The ricochet fell kindly for Sinclair who flung himself at the ball to nod home his second of the afternoon.

So from then on in it was pretty much backs-to-the-wall stuff for the Hammers, who knew that to hang on would give them a massive boost in the fight against relegation, whilst delivering a Hammer blow to their opponents.

And if Lady Luck had been guiding the Hammers up until now she was brushed aside at this point by David James, who pulled out one of the best goalkeeping performances from a Hammer in many years.

FOUR times in the second half James (who up until then had been taunted by chants from the home crowd of 'if James can play for England so can I') found himself left one-on-one with an Albion player - and four times he proved big enough to save the day for West Ham. One save from Lee Hughes, where James dove full length to divert a thunderbolt from no more than five yards away was simply breathtaking. The other three, against Hughes (again), Dichio and substitute Dobie were perhaps less spectacular but all vital to maintain the narrow advantage.

The final three stoppage-time minutes seen to last an age, before referee Dean blew for full-time, to send the once-again marvellous travelling supporters into near delirium. Once again the gap between safety is reduced to three points, thanks to Manchester United's last minute equaliser against Bolton yesterday.

So the Hammers 10 year run in the Premiership is still far from over. Sadly the same cannot be said for the plucky Albion who, like Sunderland appear to be destined for the drop now.

That scenario leaves the Hammers battling it out with Bolton and Birmingham for the final relegation slot. With ten games to go, it is all still to play for ...

* The only sour note of the afternoon came with the news that Birmingham had beaten Liverpool 2-1 at St.Andrews, meaning the Blues restored their six point advantage over the Hammers.

Player Ratings

David James (9) Would it be too much to suggest this was one of the finest goalkeeping performances in recent years? James was immense today and the clear difference between three points and one (or possible none). The aforementioned save from Hughes was simply world-class, yet that was not enough for James, who made three further saves from one-on-one situations. If there was any criticism to be had it was that he could have done better for the Albion goal, but that should in no way undermine what was a truly superb effort. To cap it all he kindly handed his gloves to a delighted young Hammer after the game; they should be treasured for years to come, and could yet prove to be the catalyst for West Ham's Premiership survival. KUMB's Man of the Match.

Glen Johnson (7) Another incredibly mature performance from a lad making just his fourth first team start. Much good has been spoken of the 18-year-old in recent months, and he has - thus far - proved all of his champions right. His finest moment came with the last ditch clearance from Darren Moore's header which had cannoned off the post into the danger area. Solid and committed throughout, Johnson looks like he will go a long way.

Rufus Brevett (7) West Ham's most recent acquisition gave another accomplished performance at full back, much as had been predicted by Fulham fans disappointed to lose a player they considered as one of their most consistent. For the first time this season the Hammers aren't missing Nigel Winterburn, which is a relief after a string of failures on that troubled left side. Was unlucky to be penalised for the second-half challenge in the area which was adjudged by the inept Read to be outside the 18-yard perimeter.

Tomas Repka (6) No doubt tomorrow's newspaper reports will highlight the two glaring errors Tomas made today. But they shouldn't detract from what was yet another effective performance from the much maligned Czech. They will probably also offer column inches to the spat with David James (which came after the keeper had berated his defender for failing to mark an opponent) which led to Repka administering a double-handed shove in the chest to his bemused team-mate. James said in a post-match interview that it was heat of the moment stuff; that there was no problem between the two. If that kind of thing inspires them to performances such as today then long may it continue.

Ian Pearce (6) Probably the least effective of the Hammers rearguard today, Pearce looked a yard off the pace on several occasions against a attack who, with all due respect to today's opponents, can hardly be described as top-class. He was culpable for a slip which led to one of James' wonder saves, although he was also responsible for a fair few successes in aerial challenges with the lanky Dichio. Still not back to his very best.

Lee Bowyer (7) Relatively anonymous for the first twenty minutes, Bowyer soon found his feet to deliver just about his best performance in a Hammers shirt. Like his team mates he was up for the game today, and worked tirelessly before receiving a deserved standing applause from the travelling fans upon being substituted with five minutes remaining. His most notable contribution was the perfect cross he delivered for West Ham's second goal, although with a bit more luck he may have opened his goalscoring account for the club.

Trevor Sinclair (8) Had David James not had the sort of game reserved for just a few special occasions in a players career Trevor would have walked Man of the Match today. The two week break (and failure to achieve an international call-up?) appeared to have done Sinclair the world of good as he was back to his very best. The two goals aside he was far more involved in the game than in recent weeks; the main difference being that he was clearly up for it today, and prepared to harry the opposition and chase apparent lost causes once again. Maybe someone has given Sinclair a timely reminder that, as he approached 30, he simply must improve if he is to stand any chance of regaining his England place. Whatever the reason, we'll take more of it.

Michael Carrick (5) No doubt, the weakest link in the Hammers midfield today. Carrick, who midweek had promised to do his damndest to regain the sort of form which earned him his first full England cap last year was hardly in it, lacklustre and as poor as he has been in recent outings. Quite what is going wrong for Michael at the moment is hard to pinpoint, but he is suffering from a real lack of form right now. Joe Cole's imminent return could even see a return to the bench for the 21-year-old.

Steve Lomas (7) Much vilified this season Lomas treated his critics to an excellent performance today. There was nothing especially outstanding about the Irishman today but his industry in the midfield was crucial. It was the alert Loams' foresight which stung Albion by starting the move for the winning goal, and right now a good argument could be made for Steve ousting Carrick from the starting line-up. It was at this stage last season his form peaked; one can only hope that the same beckons this term.

Paolo Di Canio (4) Paolo was again in the news this week for causing more behind the scenes havoc at Chadwell Heath. It's hard to know exactly what the situation is between him and Roeder but it is clear from their infrequent public exchanges that there is no love lost - on a personal level, at least - between the two. After looking less than 100% for much of the game the Italian was substituted by his nemesis despite protesting that he was okay to continue. Following a brief sulk Di Canio was back on the touchline urging his team mates forwards, whilst Roeder stood impassionedly - and a little bemused - beside him. Anyone who doubts Di Canio's attitude towards the club would do well to note his reaction to our winning goal - and his refusal to approach the travelling fans before the eleven who had finished the game had received their deserved applause.

Les Ferdinand (6) Big Les was made for games like this. In a match that was no game for the purist big, strong headers of the ball were to prove of paramount importance - and Ferdinand fulfilled his role diligently at both ends of the pitch. Whilst not creating any clear cut opportunities for himself (although he was left hugely frustrated when Lee Bowyer took a second-half shot with Les unmarked and through on goal to his left) his contribution was crucial for the second goal. Critics will argue that he should have scored, and, probably, so would the rest of us had Sinclair not saved his blushes.

Jermain Defoe (6) Sub: Di Canio. As with Ferdinand super-sub Jermain failed to create any clear cut shooting opportunities. But for much of the second half he was playing almost as a lone striker, as Les Ferdinand was forced further back by the waves of Albion attacks - which, as we know, isn't the kind of situation Jermain favours and profits from. However, he persisted in chasing every ball down, keeping the pressure on the home rearguard. It was his impressive touch from Lee Bowyer's cross which led to the decisive goal; it remains a mystery how he doesn't get into Glenn Roeder's starting XI.

Don Hutchison (6) Sub: Ferdinand. Only on the pitch for nine minutes, but a telling contribution nonetheless. Hutchison used all of his professional nous to earn two free kicks in the final moments which wasted valuable seconds, whilst taking forever to deliver a corner kick a sum total of three yards. He's been in the news for the wrong reasons lately, but it is in no doubt that West Ham would benefit greatly from a fully-fit and motivated Hutchison.

Gary Breen (6) Sub: Bowyer. At first the boos that greeted Lee Bowyer's inexplicable substitution appeared to be aimed at Roeder's decision. But after a few seconds more it was evident that they were instead pointed at Gary Breen, who was another Hammer in the papers this week for all the wrong reasons. Despite the heckles Breen did his job for the final, frantic few minutes and left the field a claret and blue hero. For a minute or two, anyway.


Mike Dean (0) Of course we all remember Dean from the game at Highbury a few weeks back, where he sent Steve Lomas off for breathing on Robert Pires before ignoring Dennis Bergkamp's bitch-slap on Lee Bowyer. His list of misdemeanours today is long and varied, but fortunately some of the breaks at least went our way. Ignoring his generally fussy handling of the game there was a wrongly disallowed 'goal' for the home side (1 bad decision to 0 in West Ham's favour), a suspected penalty when Di Canio went down under pressure (1-1), a free-kick against Tomas Repka for simply shielding the ball out of play (1-2) and a wrongly given foul against Rufus Brevett which occurred in the penalty box but resulted in a free-kick on the edge of the box (2 bad decision apiece). You may be pleased to know that KUMB forum regulars Chalks and Sicknote met Dean on the way out of Birmingham and let him know exactly what they thought of his refereeing credentials.

KUMB Stats

West Ham United: James, Johnson, Repka, Pearce, Brevett, Bowyer (Breen 85), Carrick, Lomas, Sinclair, Les Ferdinand (Hutchison 81), Di Canio (Defoe 49).

Subs not used: Van Der Gouw, Moncur.

West Bromwich Albion: Hoult, Moore, Gilchrist, Gregan, Adam Chambers, Koumas, Wallwork (Sigurdsson 74), McInnes (Dobie 74), Udeze, Dichio, Hughes.

Subs not used: Murphy, Lyttle, Clement.

Goals: Sinclair (45, 67), Dichio (49).

Booked: Gregan, Carrick.

Attendance: 27,042.

Referee: Mike Dean.

KUMB Man of the Match: David James.

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Player Ratings


Match Facts

West Ham United: , , , , , , , , , , .

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: .

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: .