Youngsters bail out disappointing Hammers
West Ham 3 Millwall 1 (aet) AMID the chaos and the thuggery, there was a football match at Upton Park on Tuesday night, though for West Ham it was largely a night to forget, writes DAVE EVANS. The two redeeming features from this Carling Cup tie were th
West Ham 3
Millwall 1 (aet)
AMID the chaos and the thuggery, there was a football match at Upton Park on Tuesday night, though for West Ham it was largely a night to forget, writes DAVE EVANS.
The two redeeming features from this Carling Cup tie were the performances of some of the youngsters and the bravery of midfielder Jack Collison, who played 120 minutes just three days after learning of his father's untimely death.
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Those and the excellent return to competive action of Danny Gabbidon after nearly two years on the sidelines, should have been the things that fans were talking about after the match.
Mind you, there were some things that many West Ham fans will want to forget from this match, not least a woeful first half display.
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Gianfranco Zola got his tactics and formation wrong. Carlton Cole was left on his own up front again to try and cope with an aerial bombardment of misplaced passes, while Junior Stanislas and Josh Payne could not provide the foils he needed to break down the Millwall defence.
The least said about Radoslav Kovac the better. The Czech international watched the game pass him by, while his only contributions seemed to either pass the ball two yards sideways, or lose it.
He was mercifully replaced on the hour, while Payne's departure at half time allowed West Ham to bring on Zavon Hines and go with two strikers.
It was to prove the turning point, but by then West Ham were already a goal down against their keen League One opponents.
A quick throw-in on 26 minutes caught West Ham's defence napping and Neil Harris struck with a rasping close range shot.
West Ham looked for an equaliser, with Collison going close with a blast that rattled the post, but it seemed an unlikely possibility until just four minutes from time.
Then, Julien Faubert crossed deep from the right and Stanislas was on hand to finish at the far post.
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of gallant Millwall, and though they made it to extra time, they were soon dead and buried.
First Andy Frampton was harshly penalised for handballing Hines' cross, and Stanislas sent the keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Then Hines wrapped things up when he ghosted past Frampton and fired into the roof of the net to book West Ham's place in round three.
"Junior was unbelievable," said Zola. "I knew he was a talented player, but today he also showed some character.
"I also want to underline Zavon Hines' performance. He came on and made a real difference.
"I'm sure the young players will certainly remember this game and become better for it," he concluded.
I think we will all remember this game, but probably not for the right reasons.
WEST HAM: Green 7, Faubert 7, Spector 6, Tomkins 7, Gabbidon 8*, Payne 6 (Hines h/t 7), Parker 7, Collison 7, Kovac 4 (Nouble 62, 6), Stanislas 8, Cole 7 (Upson 109).
Referee: Paul Taylor 6.