Match Reports 1999-2000 - West Ham (h)
Newcastle United 2 West Ham 2
Date: 3rd January 2000
Venue: St.James' Park
Conditions: Don't ask me, in my comfy Gallowgate End perch. Those in the Leazes End seemed to emerge devoid of precipitation so I guess it must have been dry. It was chilly but not freezing.
Kit: Normal home.
Crowd: 36,314 - Another gaping hole in the away section. What's happened to the ticket management these days? When the away fans sat in the other corner anything not sold went on sale to Toon fans and a line of coppers kept warring factions apart. Nowadays the gaps are right in the middle of the visiting section. Prime seats you'd think.
NUFC: Harper, Barton, Marcelino, Dabizas,
Pistone, Solano, Lee (Antunes 52), Speed, Gallacher (Glass 75), Shearer, Ferguson
WHFC: Hislop, Potts, Ferdinand, Stimac, Minto, Carrick, Foe,
Lampard, Keller (Byrne 79), Cole, Sinclair.
Referee: R.Harris (Oxford). Who would have thought that this official would be embroiled in one of the great modern day controversies by the end of the week? Only everyone who witnessed another piece of baffling officiating from this renowned twerp. Receding hairline, poor attempt at a beard and decidedly knock-kneed, we've all seen our fair share of idiots like these. Undoubtedly a perpetual sufferer of streaming snot at school, these types always had an excuse and a note from mummy when it came to Wednesday afternoons.... Worst decision of the day was not to award a blatant penalty to Joe Cole when he undid Barton late in the game.
While the more mature half of NUFC.com donned his philosophical hat, this half felt dejected and deeply disappointed at West Ham's late fightback. Not because the two points discarded should end up being particularly crucial, as midtable security seems probable, but because our soft-centred defence should capitulate in such a fashion. What if the miracle of a hat-trick of Wembley appearances should happen? We'd need our back three/four/five to be made of far sterner stuff than the powder-puff resistance offered in the dying embers of this contest
This should have been the easiest three points of the season and that includes the 8-0 drubbing of Sheff Wed. We totally dominated the game for 83 minutes and looked likely to grab a sackload against a Hammers side that was without Di Canio, Wanchope, Ruddock (shame) and a few others. At times we seemed almost embarrassed at the ease of victory and had Big Dunc not been suffering a Hogmanay hangover we could have rattled up four or five.
Even from early on we tried desperately hard to throw things away as time and time again possession was laid on a plate for the visitors. It was just as well that they only had the one player capable of causing us trouble. Frank Sinclair worked tirelessly and effectively but without being on the end of his own crosses he was unable to orchestrate much of a challenge.
To be fair, it wasn't just Dunc who had obviously over-indulged. His team mates all looked a little sluggish and the subdued crowd and limp atmosphere simply added to the air of apathy. It made you wonder whether Sinclair had been the only consummate professional and got an early night on December 31st. Either that, or he was still pissed.
The Dabizas goal seemed a little unreal and was one of those that you celebrate after a moment's pause just to make sure that it had indeed gone in. It was strangely reminiscent of McGhee's equaliser at Plymouth in 1990 but then that's just between me and my sadly encyclopaedic memory....
Kevin Gallacher looked most lively up front for us in the first half with Shearer seemed intent on doing no more than necessary as Dunc lumbered about. The £22m pairing seemed to assume that goals would inevitably come their way (as they had in the three previous games). And they should have. Poor crossing was the main reason with the final ball never causing any real damage in the Iron's box. Solano came closest to doubling the lead with a free-kick shortly before half-time but Hislop saved comfortably.
Lee trooped off after 57 minutes with what looked like a good old-fashioned kick-in-the-nuts. However, it was later referred to as the all-encompassing groin strain. Fumaca came on and looked lively if ineffective. The midfield lost its shape and most of its bite with Lee's withdrawal but we still looked well on top.
The smug air of an Old Trafford or Highbury followed Speed's excellent goal after 65 minutes but this time it seemed unlikely to backfire. Noone could have predicted anything other than three more Premiership points at this stage. Steve Harper produced a superb save to deny Keller at the far post and when ref Harris denied the Londoners a certain penalty that seemed that.
Only a further shambolic decision or two remained before the best forgotten last six minutes. Steve Potts thanked his lucky stars and the referee for staying on the pitch when he blatantly and cynically chopped down Shearer as he bore down on goal. What the hell was the red card rule brought in for if it wasn't to punish exactly this sort of offence?? A possible handball against Minto when Ketsbaia tricked to flick the ball past him was also missed as the third killer goal eluded us.
Even after the visitor's shock two goals Glass tumbled in the area when he might have kept going and set up a dramatic Arsenal v Man U 1979 Cup Final style climax.
Aye, well. One to put down to experience, I suppose, although this defence is now becoming far too experienced in the act of bearing gifts for my liking.
And finally - congratulations to the unidentified Hammer's defender who thumped the ball out of the ground over "The Corner" roof. Not seen this for a long time at St. James'. Hopefully some bairn got a canny caser to kick against his back wall, although Freddie Fletcher was seen sprinting out of the Director's Box muttering something about "they cost 50 bloody quid...".