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Seventeen Year Old's Match Reports

West Ham 3-1 Charlton
Seventeen year old - Sun Aug 20 2006

After the heroic efforts of last season, West Ham should have begun this campaign with total optimism, only for that to be shattered by Dean Ashton's broken ankle he suffered training for England. Suddenly everything did not look so rosy, with supporters that bit more cautious than before.

But Ashton's injury opened the door for the other strikers Alan Pardew has signed- and Bobby Zamora grabbed his chance with both hands, repaying his manager's faith with two second half goals against Charlton. Incidentally they were Zamora's first Premiership goals at Upton Park, all of last year's efforts coming away from home.

When these two sides met here in April, Alan Curbishley's Charlton came for a point and got one. Would Iain Dowie, having added Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to partner Darren Bent up front, come with a more adventurous outlook? We were never given the chance to find out.

West Ham ripped into the visitiors in the opening ten minutes, with Zamora, and Yossi Benayoun both sending decent chances off target.

However, Charlton's reputation for smash and grab play was enhanced on 15 minutes when Bryan Hughes' cross from the left was marginally handled by Danny Gabbidon. Howard Webb consulted with his linesman and awarded the penalty. Bent made no mistake from twelve yards.

If this was unexpected, a few minutes of idiocy from Djimi Traore, a recent signing from Liverpool, was not. He first scythed through Lee Bowyer, earning a booking. Then, with that fresh in his mind, he stuck out a foot to block a quick Bowyer free kick and was promptly shown his second yellow card.

It instantly handed the impetus back to West Ham, but although Scott Carson was called upon to brilliantly save Zamora's header and tip aside Harewood's low shot, they struggled to break down the ten men. This was mainly down to a lack of width, with Matthew Etherington missing through injury.

Pardew clearly noted this at half time, and the introduction of John PaIntsil at right back, with instructions to push forward, helped change the course of the game.

The Ghanaian instantly struck up a good partnership with Lee Bowyer, who was now sticking more to the right side, and it was Bowyer's fantastic cross which just evaded Benayoun but which Zamora placed in at the far post.

Bowyer was at the heart of Zamora's second goal, as he popped up on the left this time. He turned inside the defender and chipped the ball to Zamora, who mis-kicked his volley. What followed was comical.

The ball glanced off a defender's head, totally deceived Carson who flapped his save, the ball bounced along the line, hit the inside of the post and the icing on the cake was a swing and a miss of an attempted clearance on the line by another defender.

At this point, Charlton probably realised that it was not to be their day. There was still time for Bowyer to lob the ball over a tired back four, allowing new boy Carlton Cole, on for barely a minute, to smash the ball past Carson to give the scoreline a more realistic feel.

Carroll- A couple of shaky moments, such as the disallowed goal, but overall it was good to see him back in goal for us. I feel much more confident with him than Hislop.

Mears- Not bad, not good. Didn't provide enough attacking impetus when we had the man advantage which probably led to his substitution. Did nothing wrong defensively and nearly scored with a fierce shot.

Gabbidon- Just lacking a bit of fitness I thought, and his handball was not in character. Got better as the game went on and eventually had Bent in his pocket.

Ferdinand- Only troubled a bit by Bent in the air, but kept JFH quiet enough.

Konchesky- Did well going forward, although his final ball was poor. Great foul on Bent, really accomplished effort.

Bowyer- Well he's back. And much improved on last time. Three assists, three goals. If he continues like this, we've got a great player.

Reo Coker- Off the pace.

Mullins- Calm and efficient.

Benayoun- Ok in the first half but not a lot came off. Led the midfield attack in the second half and Charlton couldn't handle him. Was he tackled once? Bowyer shades the MOTM award due to the assists though.

Harewood- This was Marlon in Thick Mode. Consistently lost the ball when trying to hold it up and didn't look confident. His best work was done out wide.

Zamora- Has a strange knack of looking like he's going to score even when he's playing shit and two goals will do wonders for confidence.

PaIntsil- Good going forward. Good crosser, and played some nice quick passes to the front two (which were invariably given away).

Sheringham- One hospital ball and he didn't do much more than run down the clock.

17 Year Old's Semifinal Report
Ron Greenwood and John Lyall, former West Ham managers, both passed away this year. The current manager, Alan Pardew, felt that it was West Ham’s destiny to reach the FA Cup Final for the first time in 26 years in order to salute the two managers who have won the trophy for the Upton Park side. And sure enough, Marlon Harewood’s cracking late goal against Middlesbrough in a fraught semi final saw the Hammers through.

It was certainly an emotional day. Before the kick off, Mike Riley blew for a minute’s silence to remember Lyall, who passed away more recently. It did not last long, but in respectful circumstances, as the West Ham fans broke into a huge chant of ‘John Lyall’s Claret and Blue Army’ something that was sustained throughout the match.

Given that passion, the objective observer may have wondered what chance Middlesbrough had to win the match? In the first half, the reality was somewhat different from that as the prospective England manager Steve McClaren tactically outwitted Pardew with an unexpected 3-5-2 formation.

Boro did not seem to be suffering from a European hangover following their long trip to play Steua Bucharest on Thursday, as they were the much more fluent side in the first half. However, they could not convert their initial superiority into clear chances, let alone a goal. Stewart Downing was given the freedom of the left side for long periods and he was Boro’s biggest threat, but with little end product before Anton Ferdinand defended the young winger out of the game.

Boro’s best efforts mainly came from long range through Fabio Rochemback but he failed to really test Shaka Hislop. Frank Queudrue and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink were equally wasteful with good headed chances. For all of their midfield dominance, the Teessiders were continually let down by their malfunctioning front two of Hasselbaink and Yakubu.

And after a lengthy stoppage- owing to an injury which forced goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer off- Boro lost their early rhythm allowing West Ham to gain theirs, and a sign of the Londoners’ growing confidence was Yossi Benayoun’s sharp volley which he couldn’t keep down.

It was much the same in the second half, as West Ham forced Boro further and further back, with the creativity of Benayoun and Matthew Etherington causing havoc. Dean Ashton put a header against the bar and had a chance smothered by Brad Jones, before Nigel Reo Coker flashed a shot inches wide.

Yet still there was no goal and the match looked increasingly likely to drift into extra time- until Harewood’s moment. The powerful striker had been too impetuous earlier in the half when he volleyed wildly off-target despite having space to run into. Ferdinand lofted a pinpoint pass towards Ashton who flicked the ball onto Harewood in the area. He shrugged off the attentions of Gareth Southgate and thundered an unstoppable left foot shot into the top corner. As Villa Park erupted into a sea of Claret and Blue, Harewood burst into tears.

He and his team were required to regain composure though, as Boro mounted a desperate assault on West Ham’s goal. Queudrue had a free kick excellently saved by Hislop and Yakubu and Massimo Maccarone put half chances wide. Then, deep into the five minutes of injury time, a loose ball fell to Chris Riggot but his finish was as wide as could possibly be expected of a defender.

It proved to be Boro’s final chance, and not long after, West Ham were celebrating the final whistle. This time last year, West Ham were struggling to qualify for the Championship playoffs. Now they are in Europe and in The FA Cup Final.

Hislop- A couple of shaky moments but he did well when he had to do, most noticeably from that late free kick.

Ferdinand- Initially a little uncomfortable, but he got better and better as the game went on and Downing had no way past him.

Gabbidon- Another exemplary game from Danny.

Collins- Apart from THAT tackle- cheers Ginge- he was as solid as we could have hoped.

Konchesky/Stu- Marauded to good effect and defended well.

Benayoun- Was of no help defensively in the first half as he drifted in field in search of the ball. He got it in the second half and ran the game from then on.

Reo Coker- A little lost against Boateng in the first half before he rediscovered some of his early season form and could have scored.

Mullins- Kept Rochemback quiet but a little loose in possession.

Etherington- Like Benayoun, he didn’t get enough of the ball in the first half but he skinned Parnaby in the second half.

Harewood- Actually fairly quiet. But what a goal.

Ashton- Could have scored, injured their keeper- both actually- and set up the goal. Good enough, I’d say.

Zamora- On late but wasted time well enough.

Newton- Little time to make an impression.

Boro Away Report  4/18

Just got back from the sweaty armpit.... That is Middlesbrough. Joe, you were right. It does smell. Loud support from us and some good piss taking as well, including the seminal chant of 'You live in poverty'.

Can't be bothered to do a match report so I will give you a few thoughts on the players indvidually and overall. What a thrill.

Hislop- He appears to terrify this defence. Walker in goal please, he is a much better keeper.

Scaloni- Hack, Downing wasn't playing, they had a youth player on the left. Scaloni was ok today but I would not mind seeing Anton at right back against Downing who I fear could tear Scaloni apart.

Collins and Gabbidon- They took it in turns against Viduka and Pepperami man and struggled a fair bit at times against both, Gabbidon more so I thought. It would be unfair on Collins, but I feel that Anton may be a better option, if he does opt to play Scaloni at right back. I realise that Gabbidon and Collins have a good partnership but I think that the one between Anton and Gabbidon is better.

In summary here, I'd just like to see Anton in the defence if he's fit, either at right back or centre back. We look much better when he's there and given the way the pair struggled today, Anton has a strong case to start on Sunday.

Konchesky- Fine... fine... fine... Then one stupid mistake and we have a build up for the second goal. Konchesky is never really beaten by the opposition, he seems to do the work for them. He'd be so much better if he cut out the losses of concentration. He is also not the same player going forward without Etherington.

Newton- Lots of effort, little quality, lots of heart, little pace. No chance of starting on Sunday. Yossi in.

Mullins- Didn't do too much wrong and nearly scored a screamer from thirty yards. Never going to inspire us to victory, rather more likely to spare us from defeat. A definite for Sunday.

Reo Coker- Is he an attacking midfielder? All of his defensive work was great today, he was extremely strong. But there is absolutely no creativity from this player. He gets the ball, sees loads of space and just runs in a straight line while it is clear he has absolutely no idea what to do with the ball- when to pass it, where to pass it, who to pass it to...We really suffer from it but he will play on Sunday.

Katan- A complete joke. Ok, he's not a left winger. But is it too much to expect him to break into more than a jog. What a terrible attitude today. And what a chance he had to make an impression. Well he sure wasted that. Perhaps he needs a loan spell. I blame him exclusively for the first goal. You could see what Boro were going to do and he didn't follow his man at all. It wasn't the first or last time. Oh, and you'd think that given he had lost the ball in the first place he might have tracked back properly. Katan Out! It emphasised that we need proper cover for Matty.

Sheringham- Little chance of starting on Sunday. The usual nice lay offs but he added nothing else and missed an easy header. Slows the play down too much.

Harewood- Made sure of a starting place by playing like the only one who wanted to take the game to them and win. Caused them lots of problems and will be a big threat on Sunday. They struggled to cope with the ball over the top utilising Marlon's pace.

Fletcher- Played in a back three. I doubt it will be seen again for a while.

Zamora- Some nice bursts at times. Is it just me who thinks that we seem to play quicker and better football when Bobby is on the pitch, especially down the left? One to ponder, eh...

Ashton- Played like he had a point to prove actually. I think he will just about start ahead of Bobby. Could have scored a couple really but missed, yet at least he's starting to get chances again and showed he can really cause problems against their defence. Encouraging because we know he is a match winner.

Overall- It revealed little about Boro because they will have a completely different side out and it's hard to tell what it will be. It promises to be a tough game as they are clearly a good side. However we have beaten them and better sides already this season. We will need every player to be 100 percent because there is a lot of talent in Boro's team. If we stick to what we are good at and play at a good pace, I think we can overrun them. Yossi, Matty, Marlon, Deano- it's up to you. Today has shown that we must take our chances because we would have won comfortably if we had done, even though the highlights didn't give that impression.

I'm still confident. We're both beatable.

But this is our year. And we will win.

Believe in Hack.

In the Chelsea end today
My seat was in the West Lower, by the corner flag near where Drogba scored. Needless to say, it was like a Cunt's Convention in there. We lost 4-1, but no way could you persuade me to sit there every week. It makes me laugh that while I was having my half time pint, there were two Chelsea 'fans' near me discussing Frank Lampard. The conversation went something like this:

"He's been shit recently."
"Yeah, Mourinho should drop him."
"I was gonna get F.G.C. on the back of my shirt."
"Fat Gay Cunt. It's in honour of Lampard."

I nearly dropped my pint. It seems that no-one loves Sooper Frank. However, it did rile me a little, if only because he's OUR hate figure and because if they think that Fatty has been a bad player for Chelsea, it just sums that club up. He may be a tosser, old Frank, but no-one can deny that he has done well there. Even if all he does is point a lot, and then, maybe, score. To the game...

At times in the first half, even at 2-1 down, they were saying that West Ham looked like a very tough side to play against. Just not in that second half, eh....

I thought we should have won. Chelsea, never more than at 1-0 down and with ten men, were there for the taking. It was a case of then or never. And it is a huge shame that we didn't, because we all would have liked to have added to Fatty's comfort eating.

We were naive today. Their team selection gave us a huge chance. We are mainly weak at full back and where Benayoun doesn't cover on the right, but they left all of their wingers out. Arrogance? It looked like it to me initially- but it paid off. Their midfield dominated, even after the red card and Crespo and Drogba tore us apart with their strength and movement. I guess that's what 50m buys you these days...As the immortal Jeff Stelling said... Harewood... 500k... 14 goals... Drogba... 24m... 10 goals.

Still, 11 goals now.

I just think we didn't know what to do. As others have said- and I HATE agreeing with Clack- we should have put Harewood up front after Maniche's sending off. Chelsea were good enough to pick us off if we sat back and let them. And we did. Fair enough, if it had been 1-0 with both teams having eleven men, then you could forgive the onslaught that came, but Pardew just had to change the team when that wasn't the case.

But he didn't. Chelsea lost a man in midfield, but we didn't make them pay at all. Their midfield was simply brilliant, the fat cunt excepted. He just lets the others do the work. Makalele and Essien are terrifically underrated players. Every time we looked like breaking, they would suddenly pull off a last minute challenge or just be there. The likes of Etherington could not take on Essien and he would turn around, pass back to Konchesky who would punt the ball up to Ashton.

Now, Ashton won virtually everything against Terry in the first half but it didn't matter because none of the midfield followed up his flicks and Harewood was marooned out on the right. All the hard work from Ashton ended up at the feet of Gallas and Chelsea could build. We tried to sit back against that and we couldn't- that always breeds mistakes, especially from West Ham.

I know that Chelsea had chances but the fact is that we kept out a lot of their decent moves before giving away silly goals. If we were going to sit back, we shouldn't have left so much space behind the back four. For the first goal, Drogba had so much time behind Collins that I felt embarrassed for him that he didn't score first time. He got his luck though. After that, they were on a roll and were always going to punish us.

Teams like Chelsea only give you one chance. Either you take it, or they thrash you. They thrashed us- as soon as the first went in, we more or less packed the game in and we all know what happened next. People may say that a few of their goals were lucky, but you don't score 4 lucky goals in one game. Any luck they had was of their own making and they deserved what they got and possibly more.

What we shouldn't lose sight of is what a good side we played against today. That they could go a man down and still totally outplay us was impressive. I have little respect for Chelsea- fans, players, management, you name it- but I had to admire the way they went about us today.

I went to the game with my dad. It was the first time we'd been to a game together since Brian Deane at Wigan and at half time we both agreed that we had not played that badly and looked like we could still win the game. We just did not turn up in the second half at all. There was just nothing... whether we had our minds on the semi final or whether we were intimidated by Chelsea, it was disappointing. For me, the second half performance, if you can call it that, is what hurts about today.

Wigan 1-2 West Ham
Seventeen year old - Sun Mar 26 2006

West Ham have picked up 18 points from losing positions this season, a remarkable statistic, which highlights well the steel and character that Alan Pardew has instilled into his side. They were required to turn the game around again at Wigan, having gone into the break trailing to Lee McCulloch’s goal.

Wigan and West Ham have shocked many this season following their promotions by combining attacking football with positive results. But there was little on of that on offer at The JJB yesterday as both sides appeared to want to rubbish suggestions that they could qualify for Europe via the league. West Ham, of course, could gain qualification thanks to their fabulous run in the FA Cup.

Unfortunately that cup run had stunted the Hammers in the league, if recent heavy defeats against Bolton and Portsmouth were anything to go by, not to mention the ineffective first half against Wigan. Wigan, although not much better, just about shaded the opening period but they appeared to lack belief.

That is not surprising from a side which has not won a game at home since Boxing Day. A season which began so promisingly appears to have been crushed by their Carling Cup final thrashing against Manchester United.

There were only half chances in the first half. Wigan were quick to test Shaka Hislop’s shot-stopping abilities with long range efforts from Gary Teale and Jimmy Bullard which the goalkeeper held well. Jason Roberts turned and shot just over the bar, before McCulloch nearly punished Danny Gabbidon’s poor clearance with a stinging drive which Hislop palmed over.

Given that moment of rare incisiveness, it was sheer folly on West Ham’s part to simply stand by and let McCulloch have another try from range on the stroke of half time. This time Hislop was rooted to the spot- he might have done better- and the ball flew into the corner of the goal.

It was a goal the game did not deserve and West Ham’s equaliser was more in keeping with its committed and messy style. Paul Scharner’s back header sold Mike Pollit woefully short and the ever-willing Marlon Harewood nicked the ball away from the goalkeeper before tapping the ball into the now empty net. That West Ham were level thanks to such an error was even more galling for Wigan because they could have been two goals ahead just seconds before if Henri Camara’s finishing had matched his approach play.

Scharner looked at atone his error with a point-blank header which Lionel Scaloni cleared off the line, before Gabbidon looked to emulate the Austrian defender with a shocking back-header of his own. Camara nearly pounced but James Collins mopped up well. McCulloch then showed again that he had his ‘Shoot from distance’ boots on with a looping volley which Hislop only caught at the second attempt.

With a few minutes remaining, Wigan could and should have snatched the win. Pascal Chimbonda headed Bullard’s free kick back across goal and Camara merely had to connect properly with the ball to score. He scuffed his shot though and a combination of last ditch defending and Hislop meant that West Ham escaped.
Following that scare, the away side could have been forgiven for accepting a draw. But deep into injury time they got an undeserved winner. Teddy Sheringham had not been on the field of play long but it was his calm head which created the goal. The veteran combined with Harewood on the right, then turned, looked up and slid a pass to the near post to Nigel Reo Coker who swept the ball into the far corner, sending Wigan into despair and West Ham into raptures.

Hislop- Some decent saves but was again beaten by a shot which another goalkeeper would have saved.

Scaloni- A solid performance.

Gabbidon- This was by no means a bad display from Gabbidon but he was too casual at times and could have cost us a couple of goals with bad clearances.

Collins- He looks a different player from the one we saw at Christmas. Was beaten for skill by Camara a couple of times but he was mostly excellent.

Konchesky- He defended ok apart from one time where Camara beat him easily on the right but it his passing which is a major concern.

Benayoun- A busy and committed performance. Even if he doesn’t stand out he still gives our midfield a bit of skill and creativity which is invaluable.

Mullins- A quiet game by Hayden’s standards- everything just seemed to pass him by.

Reo Coker- Our best player. Strong and direct and capped it all off with a goal.

Etherington- Just not his day. Well marshalled by Chimbonda (a very good player, by the way).

Ashton- The service was poor but when he had the ball he invariably lost it. A day to forgot for our cup hero.

Harewood- Another without service who did little with the ball when he did get it. But he got his goal through his persistence. How many times have we seen him score or trouble defences like that?

Zamora- Didn’t do much really.

Sheringham- Touched the ball roughly once or twice and created the goal. It’s a contribution we’ve been waiting for a long time…

Newton- N/A

Man City 1-2 West Ham
Seventeen year old - Tue Mar 21 2006

Priced at 7m during the January transfer window, Dean Ashton was thought by many to be too expensive. Alan Pardew took a chance on the Norwich striker and Ashton has not done much wrong since his move to Upton Park- and he repaid a huge amount of that transfer fee by scoring twice to dump Manchester City out of the FA Cup.

This quarter final had been mired in controversy. Television and The FA dictated that it would be played just two days after Premiership fixtures, meaning that both managers rested key players on the weekend in order to keep them fresh. Naturally enough, both teams lost at home.

After West Ham’s capitulation at home to Portsmouth, Pardew claimed that he would take no pleasure from a win on Monday night. Given that his side easily outclassed City and thoroughly deserved their victory, his is one of the stranger post-match comments of the season. West Ham must now wait to find out who they will face in their first semi-final since 1991.

City were surprisingly poor in front of their own fans, with injuries appearing to take their toll. Andy Cole, Georgios Samaras, Trevor Sinclair and Claudio Reyna were all absent but the influential Anton Ferdinand was missing at the back for the Hammers. In came James Collins who excelled all expectations by turning in a superb performance.

The hosts did start the game brighter than their visitors. Kiki Musampa should have given them the lead when he ran at the heart of the West Ham defence which backed off and backed off until they were virtually next to goalkeeper Shaka Hislop. Musampa put his effort over the bar, perhaps surprised by the amount of space given to him.

Following that scare, West Ham began to subtly control the game. Their tactics centred around quietening the previously noisy home fans and calming the Stuart Pearce inspired frenzy City wanted to work themselves into. And then, they would have to score a goal, something that has not been a problem this season.

Ashton was the man who provided the moment of inspiration. Neat interchange between Nigel Reo Coker and Matthew Etherington on the left side presented Ashton with the ball just outside the area. Suddenly he turned swiftly past Sylvain Distin with a terrific back heel before cracking an unstoppable left foot shot into David James’s near post. 6000 West Ham fans wildly celebrated and soon cheered again when Paul Konchesky cleared Sun Ji Hai’s effort off the line.

Etherington nearly added a second goal early in the second half with a looping volley which clipped the bar with James a mere observer. City struggled to get any tempo going in search of an equaliser and Sun epitomised their frustration by getting himself stupidly sent off. The Chinese midfielder swung an arm at Etherington and Howard Webb instantly brandished the red card.

Shortly afterwards, West Ham finished the game off in contentious circumstances. Their right back Christian Dailly went down with a torn hamstring but City refused to put the ball out. However Musampa then only succeeded in losing the ball to Reo Coker who drove forward, slipped a ball through to Yossi Benayoun who clipped the ball over James allowing Ashton to put the ball into the empty net.

City were left to rue not doing the right thing but did at least manage to set up a frantic finish when Musampa powerfully volleyed Lee Croft’s cross past Hislop after 85 minutes. Pardew was presumably thankful that his hair was already grey as his side made the job unnecessarily difficult. But all could City could manage was a bit of huff and puff- West Ham were comfortable in their reduced lead and were soon celebrating a deserved place in the semi final.

Hislop- We only had the one shaky Shaka moment which Konchesky cleared up. Musampa’s goal was good and Shaka held a few other shots well.

Dailly- Gave his all, we all want curly hair. Riera skinned him a few times but Dailly is Dailly. 100 percent effort from an average player and that’s all you can ask. One of my favourite players- ability aside- simply because he doesn’t hide.

Collins- I wasn’t worried that he was starting as I expected him to do well next to Gabbidon. That he did in impressive fashion which… well, could it give Pardew something of a selection problem at the back?!

Gabbidon- Calmness personified. Del Piero once called him the best defender he’d ever played against. I’m not so sure about that but I am certain that Danny has been fundamental to every success we’ve had this season.

Konchesky- Better. He defended well, passed well and got forward well. Back to the early season form.

Benayoun- Some terrific little runs here and there but what impressed me most was the way he got stuck in. That was his best display for some time. Great awareness for the second goal. He’s tried that unselfish option a few times recently and it hasn’t come off but I’m glad he didn’t shoot this time.

Reo Coker- Another improved performance. A very mature display from a very young player. Hopefully he can sustain that level. He made Barton look second rate (which he probably is).

Mullins- The most unnoticed player in our side was as excellent as ever.

Etherington- Back injury? What back injury? This guy is really beginning to develop into the player we all know he can be. I won’t go over the top with England suggestions but he absolutely terrorised City at times and there was some pretty desperate defending against him.

Harewood- Worked hard but never really looked like he was going to do anything of note. It’s a team game though and he kept Distin occupied throughout.

Ashton- Simply, he is superb. What a signing, what a player, what a guy.

Scaloni- Ok.
Fletcher- Mopped up well enough.

Zamora- Did well on the counter attack.

Bolton 4-1 West Ham

The three previous meetings between Bolton and West Ham have been extremely tight this season. Bolton won 2-1 at Upton Park, 1-0 at the Reebok Stadium in the Carling Cup and West Ham earned a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup at the same stadium three weeks ago. Something had to give- and it was Alan Pardew's team selection and his defence.

This was the first of three games in a week for West Ham and clearly Pardew felt it was the least important- indeed he is on record as saying that the cup replay on Wednesday is of greater significance.

The presence of Yossi Benayoun, Dean Ashton and Marlon Harewood- in addition to Nigel Reo Coker's absence through illness- on the bench was indicative of this. But no-one expected to see the defender Anton Ferdinand starting in midfield while youngster Elliot Ward made his full Premiership debut in defence. It was an experiment which left heads being scratched before the game and one swiftly abandoned at half time.

Maybe Pardew had hoped to surprise Bolton with the new set-up as much as he had surprised all those concerend with West Ham. But the Trotters merely cast the changes a fleeting glance and then set about making them look foolish in the style which has made The Reebok such an intimidating ground for away teams to visit.

By half time, the game was dead as a contest- there were players in West Ham shirts, but for all we were to know, they could have just been plucked off the streets at the last minute, such was their alarming lack of organisation. West Ham have won the admiration of many for their attacking policy this season but this display merely confirmed that Pardew was wrong to believe that his side could defend their way through a game. They have not looked more clueless all season.

Bolton simply peppered the away goal in a half which the home side will cherish. It took only 11 minutes for the first goal to arrive. Jay Jay Okocha swung in a testing cross and Ward allowed Ricardo Vaz Te to escape him and head against the top of the post. The ball came back out to Stelios and he tapped it in to an empty net. Shaka Hislop's inability to claim the initial cross was questionable as was his kicking for the second goal.

After Shaun Newton had put Danny Gabbidon under pressure with a terrible back pass, Hislop sent his clearance straight to Kevin Nolan who moved away from Hayden Mullins. The February player of the month aimed for goal and his effort was directed in by Stelios- the Greek forward claimed the goal unashamedly. More chances came. Okocha twice forced terrific saves from Hislop with fierce drives, and Nolan was denied by the goalkeeper at his near post.

Despite already being two goals ahead, Bolton were eager to stamp a mark of superiority on the game before half time- and Gary Speed sealed it. His overhead kick into the top corner was breathtaking for a man of his age. While Bolton were obviously delighted with the strike, West Ham's defending was shambolic and half-hearted, particularly from Hislop and Shaun Newton.

Pardew tried to bolster his midfield at half time by introducing Benayoun and Christian Dailly but the damage had already been done. Benayoun seemed keen to prove a point and drew a fine save from Jaaskelainen after a well-worked corner routine. As Bolton eased off, West Ham attempted to regain a smidgen of pride. After a couple of near misses, they eventually pulled a goal back in the closing stages. Matthew Etherington played the ball back to Benayoun whose shot was saved again, only for the ball to fall to the previously anonymous Teddy Sheringham who slotted in.

Yet any hope West Ham had of an unlikely late comeback was quickly dashed when Bolton restored their three goal advantage. Henrik Pedersen accepted a pass from Vaz Te and sent a brilliant toe-poked finish into the top corner. It confirmed a day to forget for West Ham and allowed thoughts to turn to Wednesday night's final installment.
Hislop- A couple of excellent saves but he failed to impress elsewhere. I had him down as partly to blame for the 1st, 2nd (for the kick and the attempt to save the shot) and 3rd goals. It sounds harsh to say it, but in all honesty, I've been expecting a performance like that from him and I'm surprised it's taken this long. I have nothing against Shaka but I just don't think he's up to it. That said, I'm not sure if Walker is either.

Scaloni- Slow and often caught out of position. Very hot-headed today too. Maybe the crowd got to him a bit.

Ward- Judging by what was said about him at the bondholders meeting, this display could prove to be costly. Elliot was brilliant for us last season and was really unlucky to be thrown into this game- but he really was out of his depth in everything he did today.

Gabbidon- Looked unsure of himself without Ferdinand beside him. That is because they're a partnership which has grown and matured all year...

Konchesky- Some terrible defending at times. Sluggish and positionally unaware. Sorry Stu.

Newton- Not good enough to start at a place like Bolton. Remains a good squad player.

Mullins- Sprayed the ball about at times but never got to grips with their midfield whatsoever.

Ferdinand- Looked every inch a defender playing in midfield. Who can blame him?

Etherington- Rarely saw the ball in the first half but to his credit he got at Bolton when he could and created the goal.

Sheringham- Counter-productive at all times. Just cannot play away from home. Sorry Monk.

Zamora- Some nice touches and decent movement but starved of any service and failed to hold the ball up well enough.

Dailly- Shored up midfield but gave too many free kicks away.

Benayoun- Buzzed around effectively and creatively. Was at the centre of most of what was good/average/not bad in the second half.

Bolton 0-0 West Ham
Bolton were offering supporters a chance to win free season tickets before their FA Cup tie against West Ham. Based on this masterpiece of tedium, it is not hard to see why. Barely 10000 Bolton fans turned up to see the game, with numerous travelling Hammers bolstering the attendance.

As Alan Green famously said, Bolton are an ugly side. Organised and solid, yes, but easy on the eye? Definitely not. If long ball is what reads on Sam Allardyce’s proposed England C.V. then he is, as the West Ham fans kindly pointed out, having a laugh.

West Ham will not relish a replay and another game against Bolton. But Bolton will just simply not relish another game, with a UEFA Cup tie in Marseille still to negotiate. By the end of the season, these two sides will have played each other five times- Bolton hold the advantage thus far, winning at Upton Park in the league and dumping their opponents out of the Carling Cup at The Reebok Stadium. In both games, West Ham might have felt aggrieved not to have taken more.

Here, however, a draw was just about a fair result. Bolton dominated most of the possession for an hour, while an extremely poor pitch put paid to any hopes of a free-flowing exhibition of football from West Ham. But for all of Bolton’s territorial superiority, they found it hard to break down the visitors.

In defence for West Ham, Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon were constantly irrepressible and restricted openings to a premium. Bolton pushed hard in the first half and Gabbidon did well to block Kevin Davies’s close range side-footer, before the in form Kevin Nolan looped a shot just over the bar, the effort reminiscent of his excellent goal against Arsenal last week.

West Ham found it hard to get any attacking momentum going in the first half, their forays forward limited to two half chances for Dean Ashton which were both wide. Their main attacking outlets, such as Matthew Etherington, Yossi Benayoun and Marlon Harewood looked strangely out of sorts, the bumps in the pitch a likely contributor.

In the second half, West Ham began to find their feet and each other with more regularity, indeed, carving out the best opportunities. Save for a few scares at their own end, such as when Davies prodded inches wide or when Stelios had the ball in the net only to be denied by an offside flag, West Ham were more impressive.

With the Bolton defence now being called upon more to deal with dangerous opportunities, West Ham could sense a goal. And when Etherington beat Gary Speed on the left flank to deliver a tantalising cross, Ashton seemed certain to seal a place in the quarter final, and his header into the side netting certainly created the illusion of an opening goal. Fortunately for Bolton, it merely confirmed a replay.

Hislop- Some shocking kicking today, even by his standards. But for once he came off his line which was a major factor in relieving what was heavy pressure at times.

Scaloni- Well I like him. Seems to be ignored at times when in good positions. His tackling is superb though. It’s a shame he probably won’t stay.
Ferdinand- No way can Barcelona have him…

Gabbidon- A bit casual to start off with, but we’ve come to expect it. Another solid display from the player I’m tempted to label the find of the season. Made one great tackle to clear what was a certain goal near the end.

Konchesky- Fine in defence, pity that he can’t pass any more…

Benayoun- Outmuscled but worked hard.

Mullins- Quietly efficient.

Reo Coker- Very strong in midfield today as he constantly chased down the ball and drove at their defence.

Etherington- One piece of quality nearly brought us a goal but he was very poor at times. Seemed to retreat into his shell due to Bolton’s physical side.

Harewood- Seemed so tired. Marked out of the game.

Ashton- A good outlet and provides good cover at defensive set pieces. Should have scored. Maybe not quite fully fit yet.

Zamora- Added composure to our attack and nearly set up a goal for Benayoun.

Sheringham- S-l-o-w and on to late to make a telling contribution.

Dailly- A fine defensive shield yet still stupidly booed by people obviously dodging their care worker…

Birmingham City Thoughts
Easy. Easiest of the season.

Birmingham looked appalling. Cannot see them staying up. Dirty team who play ugly football. Forsell and Sutton looked clueless although Campbell has potential. Pennant has a terrible cross on him.

There's all this talk of their injuries and suspensions. First of all, don't get yourself sent off. Simple. Second of all, nine injuries?! And 15 last week?! That's not bad luck at all, that sounds like bad preparation when you consider the work Pardew has put into our side's fitness and that we have had nearly the same side for every game this season.

As for us, I thought there were times when we were a bit casual near our own box and a better side may have taken advantage. But there's not much more to criticise apart from Benayoun's finishing in the second half!

Harewood and Ashton look like a really good front two, a perfect combinaton. Harewood's pace and power ruffled them and he took his goals well. Ashton definitely gives us something a bit different. For a start, he works hard, as he should, always hustling defenders and he has a good first touch- always looking to get a shot away which I like- and brings others into play. And he scored with a header from a cross. Amazing.

Scaloni also looks decent. Gets forward well and it was a great cross for Ashton's goal. More importantly his tackling was very good tonight. He seems a bit more calm than Repka. It bodes well. Thought Etherington had an excellent game and was our most dangerous midfielder. He has certainly stepped up in form since Christmas. Konchesky had a less error-strewn performance than of late apart from a few poor passes. Gabbidon and Ferdinand were as imperious as ever. Not one worthy attempt on goal from the Brummies.

Dirty Bruce fuckers. Father and son (who was shit apart from the tackle on Mullins). Especially enjoyed Sky's constant close ups of Bruce in the 2nd half.
by: Seventeen Year Old