It was a strange atmosphere before this match. Much of the pre-match chit-chat surrounded the future of Paolo Di Canio. The big question on all West Ham supporters’ minds – is he going to Manchester United? Nevertheless, Di Canio received the warm reception he deserved.
You could see from the start that Di Canio was going to give something extra for today. He chased every ball, and showed-off with a few classy turns and tricks. The bright sparks in a game, which was often scrappy.
Leicester although a poor side, were winning a few early headers in dangerous areas. The likes of Deane and Scowscroft aren’t the most mobile of strikers, but give them a decent cross and they can cause problems.
Tomas Repka and David James did somehow manage to cock-up a simple backpass in typical West Ham fashion, which almost let in Ade Akinbiyi (who other than that, was completely anonymous). Fortunately Christian Dailly got back in time, managing a last-ditch block to deny an open goal and a contender for ‘blooper of the season’.
Our first real effort came when John Moncur smashed a goalbound volley from outside box, which Ian Walker did well to save. From that moment on we totally dominated the game. Trevor Sinclair then headed wide soon after that, following a good cross from Sebastien Schemmel.
The goal came after Joe Cole had amazingly seen his shot blocked off the line, I couldn’t believe how it stayed out. Schemmel then headed the rebounded shot towards goal, and there was Paolo Di Canio to stab home at the far-post on 36 minutes. He’ll score better goals than this, but in the context of things, it could be a goal for all West Ham fans to remember.
We continued to dominate throughout the second-half, with Leicester only causing occasional problems. Tomas Repka had been a complete rock at the back, heading away numerous long-balls hacked into our penalty area.
Di Canio almost sealed the game on 58 minutes, but saw his left-foot shot blocked by Walker. Later he created another good chance for Frederic Kanouté, who wanted too long and wasted the opportunity. In between, Don Hutchinson had gone close.
In the later stages of the game it had become particularly frustrating that we hadn’t killed the game off, and got the second goal. We’d seen in the Liverpool game how costly that can be. Despite Leicester’s obvious lack of fire-power, you can’t help being on edge when its just 1-0, and more so when the referee adds four minutes of ‘stoppage time’. Fortunately on this occasion we stood firm, and got the points we’d deserved.
A couple of interesting things occurred at the end of the game. First was Paolo Di Canio’s reaction. He turned and applauded all four corners of the ground. More interesting was the announcement from the club PA announcer. Who said (I quote) - "If this is to be Paolo Di Canio’s last game for the club, please stand and give him a round of applause". Makes you wonder why the club would allow him to say something like that, if he’s staying. Read into it what you may.
David James 7 – Generally I like the way he organises his defence and dominates his area. He didn’t have much to do, but sooner or later he’s going to be punished for one of his occasional lapses. I just hope it’s not costly.
Sebastien Schemmel 7 – Got forward well and put in some decent crosses. Will claim another assist for Paolo’s goal. One thing you can never fault is Schemmel’s work-rate, he gives 100%.
Nigel Winterburn 6 – A solid performance from Nigel, if not spectacular. Unfortunately it appears this season will be his last. With recent signing Vladimir Labant already waiting in the wings to replace him.
Tomas Repka 8 (man of the match) – A total rock at the back, especially late in the game. I thought he was excellent. Headed away everything Leicester could throw at him. He's not the tallest center-halve you'll ever see, but he was easily outjumping the likes of Brian Deane and James Scowcroft in this match.
Christian Dailly 7 – Decent performance at the back, clearing up one comical error from David James. Dealt with the danger and generally did well.
Don Hutchinson 6 – Did alright, but should and could do better. Really needs to start performing in that midfield and playing like a £5.5m player. Whether that’s in the centre or on the right.
Trevor Sinclair 6 – Played on the left and found it hard to get into the game at times. Maybe the Liverpool speculation played on his mind, who knows.
John Moncur 7 – Probably one of his better performances, since returning to the side. Some neat passing at times and not a yellow card in sight. However, it’s likely he’ll be back on the subs bench when Carrick returns.
Joe Cole 6 – Generally a quiet game. Provided the odd trick and flick when the opportunities arose but didn’t really offer much in an attacking sense.
Paolo Di Canio 7 – Worked his socks off, realising (or possibly knowing) it was his last game for the club. As I said in the report, he’ll score better goals but in the context of things it could be a goal for all West Ham fans to remember.
Frederic Kanouté 6 – Very quiet stuff from Kanouté who never imposed himself in the game. Replaced on 70 minutes by Jermain Defoe.