Date: 26th December 2006 at 3:00pm
Written by:

Boxing Day saw us travel to London to face West Ham as we did last season on this very day. The Hammers were previously unbeaten under Alan Curbishley but this run was ended as we came away from Upton Park with a 2-1 win.

Benjani aggravated his injury in the victory over Sheffield United on Saturday so missed out here, Manuel Fernandes coming in in an otherwise unchanged side with Kanu leading the line alone. David Thompson took Fernandes’ vacant place on the bench.

Goals from defenders and goals from set pieces or corners have been like buses recently, you wait ages for one then a whole host come along; the same applied today with two coming from Pedro Mendes deliveries both scored by the same man…Linvoy Primus! Linvoy’s last goal came against Crystal Palace exactly two years ago on Boxing Day 2004. Teddy Sheringham pulled one back late on but despite West Ham pressure we hung on for another three priceless points.

First Half
The early exchanges of this traditional Boxing Day match (that I always look forward to) saw West Ham have the better of the ball without causing us many, if any problems; with Matty Taylor the first to threaten either goal but a trademark 20-yard plus effort was safely gathered by Robert Green.

Having failed to score in the last two-years since his winning goal against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day 2004 Linvoy Primus evaded the attentions of Marlon Harewood to connect with Pedro Mendes’ corner heading down and into the net. Despite his best efforts Danny Gabbidon was unable to clear, he could only head into the roof of the net but the ball was already over the line.

Minutes later it should have been 2-0. A succession of corners resulted on Primus flicking on with the ball finding Sean Davis whose overhead kick was cleared off the line by Gabbidon falling to Sol Campbell some six-yards out but somehow he blazed over the bar.

Mendes himself very nearly made it two with a wonderful 25-yard drive, this had Green struggling but was a little too high as it went over to safety. Yossi Benayoun had West Ham’s best moment of the game up to this point when his run created an opening. His shot however took a deflection and went over to the safety of a corner.

As half time approached taking a one goal lead into the break would have suited us perfectly but this wasn’t to be, instead Primus again popped up to score again! After Jonathan Spector’s handball of Taylor’s attempted cross Mendes sent in the free kick perfectly delivered to the head of the waiting Primus who headed home unchallenged against the underside of the bar and in. It had been well worth the two-year wait!

Mendes sent another effort wide, Davis a header wide and Matthew Etherington shot wide for West Ham before the half time interval.

Second Half
West Ham needed to change something so Alan Curbishley decided he’d change personnel, Carlos Tevez and Teddy Sheringham were introduced.

Both players contributed, Tevez chasing down things to the approval of the fans then Sheringham shot into the waiting hands of David James from range then Tevez after twisting and turning sent a cross shot across goal that only needed a touch which it failed to get as it went wide, then moments later his 20-yard curling free kick narrowly missed the target.

70 plus minutes had passed and although West Ham were coming back into the game we were comfortable enough.

With time running out Sheringham reduced the deficit. Campbell’s attempted clearance was miss hit and span back towards James, who try as he might couldn’t get to the ball first Sheringham did enough to disrupt him then from a near on impossible angel somehow lifted over James and into the goal despite Glen Johnson’s acrobatics on the goal line. Unlike Primus’ first goal the attempted clearance didn’t come before the ball crossed the line but as it was already going in Sheringham gains the credit.

Hayden Mullins shot over the bar before some trickery and then battling to win the ball back saw Kanu aid in creating an opening for Davis. Seeing Green off his line Davis attempted to lob him but Green was alert enough to back track slightly and gather safely.

To slow things down, and give Kanu a slight rest with three minutes to play Andrew Cole came on in his place for his second substitute appearance in as many days as he works back from injury.

The three minutes of injury time saw a further couple of chances come for West Ham as they tried in vein to force an equaliser. Firstly Mullins again missed the target shooting wide before James came out bravely to deny Sheringham at his feet at the death.

Match Summary
A hard earned but well deserved victory, Upton Park is never an easy ground to go to especially at the current time with the club undergoing change under new management.. I had hoped for three points today and although a point wouldn’t have been bad three is superb.

We are absolutely flying at the moment, Fratton is a fortress and we are grinding out results away also and in all honesty not looking like losing, we have a belief that we can win.

Bolton away on Saturday will be another tough, tough game so I will happily take a point here although we do owe them one for the three points they stole at Fratton earlier in the season so why not return the compliment. After Bolton we have Spurs which will then leave us with a decent run of very winnable games.

West Ham – Teddy Sheringham 81
Pompey – Linvoy Primus 17 & 38

David James
Matty Taylor
Linvoy Primus
Noe Pamarot
Glen Johnson
Sol Campbell
Gary O’Neil
Pedro Mendes
Manuel Fernandes
Sean Davis
Kanu (Andy Cole 87)

Substitutes Not Used
Jamie Ashdown
David Thompson
Niko Kranjcar
Andy O’Brien