FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP RESERVE LEAGUE (SOUTH)
(at Upton Park)
TUESDAY 14TH DECEMBER, 2004
WEST HAM RESERVES 2 (0) SPURS RESERVES 2 (2)
West Ham scorers:-
Sofiane (pen), 70
Referee:- Mr. G. Ward
Attendance:- Est. 150
West Ham (4-1-4-1):- Burch; Mullins, Mackay (Capt.) (sub Blewitt, 79), Ward, Brevett; Cohen; Williams, Noble, Reo-Coker (sub McClenahan, 46), Reid; Ashikodi (sub Sofianne, 66)
Subs not used:- Reed (GK); Wright
Booked:- Ashikodi (Dissent), Reo-Coker (Foul), Cohen (Foul)
Spurs (4-4-2):- Fulop; Ifil Richards (Capt.), Davenport, McKie; Dilevski (sub Malcolm, 73), Marney, Jackson, Yeates; Silva (sub O'Hara, 55), Slabber
Subs not used:- Eyre; O'Donoghue, Defendi
Booked:- Yeates (Foul), Marney (Foul)
Having dominated an under-performing West Ham side and taken a two goal lead to the interval, through excellent goals by Yeates and Slabber, Spurs succumbed to an invigorated second half performance, although they only have themselves to blame for losing two points through conceding a penalty, allowing a soft header in the area, and finally failing to convert a late penalty, when West Ham's Rob Burch (on loan of course from Spurs) saved from Jamie Slabber.
It was weird walking around the front of the stadium, seeing ex-Spurs Teddy Sheringham and Matthew Etherington's pictures prominent in the Hammers' shop window. It was also weird to see that, despite playing at Upton Park, Hammers could only attract a very small gathering of fans, to whom Spurs are supposedly "enemy of the people"! Some of the number estimated to be present were of course Spurs fans. Not that they would be counted amongst the crowd figures, but Martin Jol and Frank Arnesen were also on hand, and was that young face I saw next to them our new Icelandic signing Emil Hallfredsson? Surely he has only been signed to boost the sales figures for lettering on shirts!
Throughout the first half, Clive Allen's side played as a coherent unit, forgetting that reverse at Barnet last week to our "enemy of the people" - Arsenal Reserves. Rodrigo Defendi was left on the bench, as Dean Richards once again skippered the side, and played beside Calum Davenport, welcomed back to Upton Park, where he recently played Championship football. Phil Ifil and Marcel McKie were the full backs, and Ifil was excellent in my view, regularly winning seemingly lost causes, and helping out the attack too. Spase Dilevski played on the right, and Mark Yeates, fresh from the first team squad for the Manchester City game, played with great energy, skill and effect on the left wing. Once again, Marney and Jackson held the fort in the middle, with Slabber and Silva the front men.
West Ham started on the defensive, allowing only Ashikodi to act as a front runner, with Cohen sitting just in front of the back four, behind a four man midfield, that featured an enthusiastic Kyel Reid on the left and Nigel Reo-Coker very much in support of Ashikodi. The Hammers' trouble throughout the half was poor passing and cheap loss of the ball, with most of the Spurs team regularly winning balls that should have been retained by the Claret and Blues. It's fair to say that Fulop was not tested in the first half.
Eddie Silva had a great chance after just 5 minutes, receiving a long ball from the left half way, doing well to control it, swivel, but then shoot high from only 10 yards. Ashikodi got an early booking for shooting after being blown for offside, and the pattern was set for a strict refereeing performance as often seen at this level, when inexperienced refs are no doubt being assessed closely and aspiring to higher levels of the game. Not that Mr. Ward can technically be criticised for his decisions, but the game lost flow too often for my liking due to too much whistle.
On the quarter hour, a poor ball inside from Hayden Mullins gifted Slabber a half chance which he took, but shot into the side netting. Eight minutes later, a Yeates run was halted unfairly and from the free kick, Slabber touched the ball to Marney, who hit a right foot thunderbolt that bounced off the top of the bar and out of play with Burch beaten. It was no surprise when Spurs took the lead in the 29th minute. Yeates cut inside from the right and made room for himself to shoot, hitting a great left foot shot beyond the diving Burch, and into the net off the far post. Another Yeates free kick was deflected into Burch's grateful hands.
Spurs increased their lead in the 39th minute, with a superb goal. The ball was passed from defence into the West Ham half, and great interplay between Slabber and Yeates led to the goal. Slabber had started the move with a clever dummy to his fellow graduate from the Spurs Academy, and when they got to the edge of the box, Jamie released a superbly driven low left foot shot to the left of Burch. It looked like Spurs were going to run out cosy winners.
Hopefully, the second half demise of the "stiffs" will not lead an example for the first team, who could go on a decent run starting this Saturday. West Ham coach Kevin Keen took off Reo-Coker, who may be needed by the first team this week, and put McClenahan at right back, pushing Mullins to that defensive midfield slot and allowing Cohen and Noble to play more creatively. Reid seemed to give more support to Ashikodi, and certainly the "Irons" had been fired up, although it took a while for the fuse to truly be lit.
Eddie Silva suffered from a strong challenge from Cohen, who got booked, and Silva was soon replaced when he was taken as much by surprise by Ifil's cross as the West Ham defence. The ball fell invitingly in front of him, but he was just not prepared for the chance. Silva was replaced by O'Hara, and Spurs copied the home side's formation, with Slabber relying upon support from his midfield, and principally Yeates. It never really happened though, and Reid had already had a decent effort go over Fulop's goal to start the ball rolling for West Ham.
It took a long time for the home side to get through the Spurs defences though, but Williams (on his debut in West Ham colours) made a good run from right to left, got into the box, and went down under Marney's challenge. Marney claimed to have got the ball; home fans wanted him sent off for being the last man, and the referee settled on a yellow card, but awarded the penalty, fired home by substitute Sofianne, low to the left of Fulop.
At last Spurs got back on the front foot, and at least John Jackson gave Burch something to think about with a shot just outside the post. Sadly though, Spurs had lost their composure, with McKie conceding a cheap corner with an over hit back pass from 40 yards, and even Davenport looking less than convincing. One too many free kicks outside the area was conceded and when one was floated in to the back post in the 76th minute, Hammers' skipper Mackay rose to head back across the goal into the net for an equaliser, before taking his leave.
It looked like Spurs would take the spoils after all, when Yeates ran into the box, after a period of pressure, and this led to a handball by a fallen defender. A penalty was awarded and up stepped Jamie Slabber against his mate Rob Burch, who no doubt knew all his tricks from training. Slabber hit the ball, but only slightly to the left of Burch who made a great save to prevent a goal, despite the attempts to follow up by both Slabber and Malcolm, on for Dilevski. In injury time, Sofianne got round Davenport, but the shot was saved by the legs of Fulop, to ensure the scores remained level.
Spurs remain in second place in the Reserve League, but Charlton in first have two games in hand, and both Arsenal, and Palace have games in hand, being within reach. The Reserves next game is at home to third placed Southampton on January 10th at Broadhall Way, Stevenage.
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