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Phew! What a scorcher! A day of sweltering heat and no breeze - but by the end of the match most of the Leeds end were feeling hot under the collar for an entirely different reason.
With the ground rebuilding only half-complete at Upton Park, we found that we were in a different section to where we've sat in recent years - which was a good 5 minutes extra walk from the tube station. Not that we're afraid of exercise, but it did mean that those who leave the pub at the last possible minute found themselves missing the start of the game. This wasn't helped by the fact that there were only 4 turnstiles for the 2,500 away support and they all seemed to be working at half-speed. So when Paul Durkin blew his whistle for the one minute's silence for Les Sealey at the start of the game (very well observed by both sets of fans despite a few under-the-breath mutterings that he used to play for our friends from Salford) we could hear a good few hundred Leeds fans singing outside the ground as they waited to get in.
The game itself was a scrappy affair, littered with poor passing and wasteful finishing from both sides. There were plenty of chances - West Ham could have taken an early lead as Di Canio stumbled in the area having got between the centrebacks. One of the best chances of the game fell to Mark Viduka on 8 minutes - Bowyer's pinpoint cross found the big Aussie free on the six yard line, but his header went over the bar and the opportunity was lost. West Ham's main game plan seemed to be to get it to Trevor Sinclair on the right wing and let him run at/in behind Ian Harte - one brilliant long ball from Di Canio let Sinclair collect it and run in on the angle of the box, but abysmal finishing saved Leeds as Sinclair nearly reached the top deck of the Centenary Stand. A Di Canio free kick from the left found Carrick's head - ten yards out and with no Leeds player anywhere near him. The ball skimmed past the far post and Nigel Martyn shouted something unprintable at his defence. Carrick (again) nearly broke the deadlock when he saw Nige off his line, producing a lob from two yards inside the Leeds half that had the keeper back-pedalling and clutching the post in relief as it just missed. At the other end, a run by Harry Kewell cut open the West Ham defence but when the ball fell to Robbie Keane the memories of his numerous pre-season goals deserted him as he belted the ball high into the Bobby Moore Stand.
The second half was more of the same - after the half-time Hammerettes (whatever did happen to the Leeds Blue Cats?) and the poor sods who were dressed up in the mascot costumes (I understand the Hammer, but what's with the bear - and why don't they bring back Super Sponge?) we were hoping for a bit more football-related entertainment - but we didn't get it. Various chants from the Leeds end along the lines of "Is that the Rio Stand?" was about the only thing that kept the interest up. West Ham did have the ball in the Leeds net, but Todorov was (rightly - though it didn't look that way at the time) adjudged to have jumped into Nige, allowing Cole to knock the ball home. Di Canio had a hack at Danny Mills - Mills shrugged off the challenge but made it clear to the Italian what he thought of him and received a push in the face for his trouble. Although this wasn't the greatest all-round refereeing display ever seen, Paul Durkin showed a degree of restraint that was sensible, admirable and thus liable to get him in trouble with the authorities by not getting out his cards. Can't have many complaints about either of the two Leeds bookings, and Durkin was pretty consistent in what he'd allow and what merited a caution - although there must be something about carrying the word 'Cole' on your shirt that exempts you from punishment for persistent diving and shirt-tugging - Joe following Ashley's example here by combining no small amount of skill with a large amount of gamesmanship.
As the game wore on, it was looking like a single mistake would be enough to win it. Hislop made the mistake - spilling the ball as he climbed over his own defender to take a cross. The ball fell to Harry Kewell, he shaped to lay it across for one of three Leeds played in the middle with the keeper stranded....and Durkin blew his whistle, indicating that the keeper had been obstructed. Which is true - he had been...by his own player!
Alan Maybury made a surprising appearance for Olivier Dacourt - surprising not just for the nature of the change but also because Dacourt had looked to be one of the few players on the field still operating at full speed. Ian Harte had to be replaced with 10 minutes to go after he landed awkwardly in a tangle with Di Canio, which resulted in Dom Matteo dropping to left back and Jon Woodgate joining Rio at centreback. Woodgate got involved at both ends of the field and looks so much more confident and on the ball than he did in his few appearances last season. Harry Kewell looked fit to drop, and although he made a few runs, he just seemed to give up whenever he lost the ball, and half the Leeds end were screaming at him in frustration as he just stood there watching the play go by him. Keane desperately needs a goal to restart his confidence - a bit like Bridges last year - but this was one of those days where every ricochet went their way.
0-0 at the end - my man of the match would be either Trevor Sinclair for his continual charges down the West Ham right that caused problem after problem (but no positional changes) to the Leeds defence, or Michael Carrick - the most talented player on the West Ham side by a country mile. Di Canio is always unpredictable, frequently too volatile for his own good, but continues to produce magic moments of skill in every game. As for our lot - well, Rio's block on a goal-bound Di Canio shot again proved his worth, and Dom Matteo was solid alongside him. Danny Mills got forward well and produced some great crosses - but was turned by Di Canio a couple of times in defence, and Lee Bowyer never stopped running in midfield. But overall it was a lacklustre game and a 0-0 draw was a fair result - and we couldn't have complained too much if West Ham had squeaked it. Seven points from the first three games is a return I'd have been more than happy with two weeks ago - but after the victory at Highbury this seems very much like 2 points dropped rather than 1 gained.
Well DOL's comments were spot on. The result was just about fair, Robbie Keane must try harder and Viduka missed a number of chances but will probably score his fair share this season.
Di Canio is bloody skilful but he's also a diving twat, thank god Paul Durkin was having none of it. Mind you, wasn't Di Canio's hand in Mills' face an auotmatic yellow card. Moncur seemed to have taken a leaf out of Danny Mills' Tuesday night book and was doing his best to get sent off asap. Wst Ham have a nice passing game but still defended too deep for a home side. 1st half Kewell was causing problems and put Vidooks clear a couple of times. Harte couldn't find a white shirt unless it was in row z somewhere. I felt Keano was a big disappointment,it's almost as if he's trying too hard. He seemed to keep being in the wrong place all the time as he kept chasing the game. We were lucky their goal was disallowed. They were even luckier when they Hislop was fouled by his own player and they were awarded a free kick. Bowyer was better than against the Arse but still not the force I remember from last season, though I'm sure he'll be firing on all 4 cylinders soon. Thought we looked tired after 70 mins
Scores from the stoolie.
Anyway a bad start to today when the root canal filling that cost me 150 quid and 2 hours of agony earlier in the week fell out with breakfast and a dismal failure to get any New Order tickets. Still I was cheered up when the train into London was full of Arsenal fans still whingeing about Tuesday. On to the list meet where it was a pleasure to meet and deliver Gav's spare ticket to Pope Paul. In the absence of Betty, Thirkers had bonded with the local tramp, though when the manageress came to evict him we weren't sure which one was being thrown out.
Onwards to Upton Park - got to the ground in plenty of time but the rebuilding work meant the away entrance had moved around the other side of the ground but the Hammers didn't bother changing the signs. When we got to the right entrance a massive queue meant that upto 1000 of us missed the first 10-15 minutes. Loads of pissed off people and it was lucky in the extreme heat that nothing kicked off. On getting in, it was strange to notice that West Ham had managed to build their new stand some considerable distance from the pitch. Maybe Risdale could try the incremental ground move tactic.
Batty and Keane back in from the start for the injured Smith and Bakke and the first chance I saw was Viduka's free header fly over the bar. We seemed to be generally in control and it was West Ham who picked up the early bookings. Kewell was skinning Schemmel on the left and Mills was storming down the right, as well as making one excellent saving tackle on Di Canio. Martyn remained relatively untroubled for most of the half, whilst Hislop had to make a couple of saves and we were the better side.
Second half started in much the same vain but gradually West Ham got more into the game and Cole began to give us trouble and we were all pretty relieved when an apparent goal was disallowed for a push on Martyn. As the game spread out we had some chances on the break with Kewell and Keane's pace causing problems but we never quite managed to deliver the killer ball. One decent chance went begging when ref Durkin gave a free-kick when Hislop collided with his own defender and the ball landed at Kewell's feet who had barely challenged for the ball. Maybury came on for Dacourt with Bowyer moving inside, though all he managed to do was get booked once and nearly twice - though this doesn't excuse the abuse he was getting from some blokes behind - he's only played a couple of times in 3 years give him a chance. Harte was also carried off at the death to be replaced by Woody. Late chances to both sides, a beautiful bit of Di Canio skill flummoxed Mills but the shot was blocked and then Kewell delayed to long when in space on the edge of the box.
At the end of the game, it was the Hammers who were happy and the Leeds fans who were disappointed which is probably a sign of progress, although a draw was a fair enough result. We didn't play great but still unbeaten.
It was too hot for football, in fact it was too hot for anything.
Having spent the first 15 minutes of the game outside the ground as we tried to squeeze 1000 Leeds fans into 2 poxy turnstiles I was thoroughly cheesed off. Plod smiled at our obvious inconvenience.
Upton Park is being redeveloped. The new stand - the Leeds fans reminded the Cockneys that Rio's money had paid for it - is some distance from the action. I then remembered that the Londoners are planning on turning their pitch 90 degrees. So in terms of Elland Road their "Kop" will soon become their "West Stand" - fab.
The game to put it mildly was atrocious. English football lacks technical ability at the best of times but this is usually compensated in the way of effort and endeavour. Because of the tropical conditions the tempo was low and this matched the skill level.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 27/08/2001.
Glenn Roeder owns two of the bandiest legs in football but when it comes to talking he prefers to be straight.
Take his view on the oft-quoted description of young Joe Cole. "Free spirit? What does that mean?" asks West Ham's rookie manager. "You have a dribble until you lose the ball then walk back? I think it will help Joe if he learns one or two specific positions and the discipline that requires."
Hence the positioning of the central midfield prodigy wide on the left on Saturday, although he still did his best work when he came inside.
Copy from The Independent of 25/08/2001.
Comparisons between West Ham's team and their raw, unfinished new main stand may be tempting, but they could so easily have done more profitably than a no-goals draw against a Leeds side who, by the admission of their manager, David O'Leary, were tired after their midweek exertions against Arsenal and also lacklustre up front.
With their captain, Paolo Di Canio, defying the conditions to turn in an inspiring non-stop show, West Ham had enough of the game to test fully the quality of a Leeds defence in which Rio Ferdinand not only excelled but came through without appar-ent harm before next Saturday's England crucial World Cup qualifier in Munich.
The news for Ian Harte was less good. The Leeds defender was carried off 10 minutes from the end following what seemed an innocuous collision with Di Canio. Another slice of bad news for O'Leary on the injury front, with Alan Smith and Eirik Bakke out of this game with injuries incurred at Highbury.
Smith's commitment up front was certainly missed. Robbie Keane achieved little, while Mark Viduka squandered a couple of chances he would bury comfortably on other days. "Viduka will make up for his misses today," said O'Leary. "But Keane could have done better and I have told him so."
In their opening home game, West Ham's new manager, Glenn Roeder, was formally greeted before the start, followed by a minute's silence for the Hammers' former keeper, the late Les Sealey. "Let's win it for Les," roared the announcer at the kick-off, and West Ham certainly tried hard enough.
With Di Canio teasing, taunting and building promising moves, there were early opportunities, but time after time the ball was hoofed high into the Centenary Stand behind Nigel Martyn's net. Perhaps it was something to do with the hot air.
When Leeds settled, they ought to have gone ahead in the ninth minute. Lee Bowyer's cross was pinpoint, right on Viduka's forehead, between Shaka Hislop's posts, but again the ball was propelled too high. Then, in a rare moment of inspiration, Kewell drifted past two tackles only to see his drive deflected into the side netting, before Viduka fluffed another opening, topping his shot along the ground into Hislop's arms.
In this spell of Leeds pressure, West Ham suffered two bookings: Rigobert Song for a tackle from behind on Keane and Svetolav Todorov for felling David Batty. Before half-time Dominic Matteo and John Moncur joined them in referee Paul Durkin's book, but the game never turned vicious. Perhaps that was something to do with the heat, too.
Leeds should have gone in at the interval with the lead, but Viduka again targeted the goal poorly from Danny Mills' fine centre, putting a header straight at Hislop. But either side of the break, Joe Cole could have claimed the game's first score. Mills got in a tackle as the West Ham youngster pulled the trigger from close range, and after the restart Cole had the ball in Martyn's net, only for it to be disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper by Todorov.
Michael Carrick's ability to spot a chance offered West Ham their best hope of a goal. Having driven narrowly wide from long range and then almost lobbed Martyn from the halfway line in the opening half, he produced a fine effort after an hour, turning inside Matteo to curl a shot narrowly beyond the far angle.
Leeds could never tame Di Canio. Having bamboozled Mills comprehensively, the Italian laid the ball into the path of Nigel Winterburn, invitingly on his trusty left foot. The shot was low and excellent, but so was Martyn's save. But it was Di Canio himself who came closest for West Ham. His vicious shot from 10 yards looked a certain goal, only for Ferdinand to stick out a foot and turn it over the bar.
Roeder said: "I thought Paolo had scored and so did he. But it was just a case of Rio coming back to haunt us. David O'Leary knew what he was doing when he paid £18m for him. Rio showed what he could do today."
There was to be only one more possibility of a goal for West Ham. Di Canio, inevitably, played the ball which sent Trevor Sinclair haring towards the Leeds goal, only to be halted by Matteo's perfectly timed tackle with the home supporters howling for a penalty as Sinclair tumbled.
So Leeds remain unbeaten, but a draw, according to O'Leary, was just about what his side deserved. "We were nice and solid at the back," he said. "But we needed more attacking options. I would have liked to make changes up front but I didn't have anybody else to put in. Having said that, we have done well."
But, as he knows, they can and will do better.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 26/08/2001.
Just one point, only two yellow cards and no goals. The numbers might give you the impression that Leeds United were slightly off colour, but if West Ham United continue to perform with such enthusiasm under their new manager Glenn Roeder, not many teams will relish a trip down the East End.
West Ham can be quietly content with their early form. Having made life difficult for Liverpool at Anfield last weekend, they gave Leeds a tough test here, in spite of the fact it seems the entire club, from top to bottom, is in the throes of rebuilding. A fresh-faced manager, who confesses he is trying to shake up his squad, playing in front of a semi-constructed building site of a main stand. It is a challenging assignment, but one that West Ham are relishing.
After a respectfully observed minute's silence in tribute to Les Sealey, the former West Ham goalkeeper turned goalkeeping coach who died last week aged 43, it was down to business.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 27/08/2001.
THE heat was most certainly on for United's man of the match Danny Mills as he battled through the sweltering sunshine to earn United a point.
The right-back continued his outstanding form this season with a great defensive display, mixed with the odd rampage down the wing.
It was certainly hard work.
"The weather was really difficult for us," said Mills. "Right from the very start of the match it was sweltering hot and that did not make things easy for us after the game we had in midweek.
"This was the third game in seven days for us. There are no excuses though, we just did not create enough opportunities to score. Had we done so then I think we would have won the game quite easily.
"I thought that West Ham had one or two breakaway efforts but on the whole I believe we controlled the game and had plenty of half-chances. We just could not get that killer blow."
United are second in the early Premiership table and Mills says that will do nicely as they go in search of a title challenge.
"We have had a hard game against Southampton and then against Arsenal. When we looked at the fixture list we would have been happy with seven points from the opening nine," he said.
"Maybe we would have thought those points would have come from wins against Southampton and West Ham and a draw at Arsenal. But it has not worked out that way. We are still happy with the start we have made.
"This time last season we might have lost games like this, West Ham might have nicked a breakaway goal and won the game. But we were determined that we were not going to lose the game. We are disappointed not to have won the match but we will just have to accept the point and be happy with that."