Although the season can now extend well into the month of May, in days past the league was often all over by the end of April leaving the season finale FA Cup Final scheduled for the first Saturday in May. And with Easter out of the way by the week of 17 to 23 April in Hammer’s History we are very much into the tail end of the season.
In the Glen Roeder relegation season of 2003, West Ham were famously demoted with a record haul of 42 points, 16 ahead of next bottom West Bromwich Albion and two behind Sam Allardyce’s surviving Bolton Wanderers. After the dust had settled the one game we could look back on as having sealed our fate was the game against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on 19 April. A tense match was won on the verge of half-time when Jay-Jay Okocha was allowed to run 40 yards with the ball before thundering a shot past David James in the Hammer’s goal. To add insult to injury Ian Pearce received a red card in the final minute.
An relegation escape attempt that had a happier ending took place in 2007 when Alan Curbishley’s side, featuring Carlos Tevez, recovered from successive defeats, against Sheffield United and Chelsea, to bag three points at Upton Park from next weekend’s visitors and perennial party-poopers Everton. The only goal of the game being a spectacular 20 yard strike from Bobby Zamora.
In the fixture backlog of the 1985/86 season West Ham were playing two games every week and this particular week was no exception. On Saturday goals from Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie secured a 2-0 win away to Watford and on the following Monday the Hammer’s entertained Newcastle United.
The Newcastle game is best remembered for an Alvin Martin hat-trick with each goal scored against a different goalkeeper. It was surprisingly also the only West Ham hat-trick during the entire epic league campaign. The game ended 8-1 in West Ham’s favour with further scores from Ray Stewart, Neil Orr, Frank McAvennie, Paul Goddard and a Glenn Roeder own goal. Alvin’s first goal was a close range volley in the 3rd minute past regular keeper Martin Thomas; his second a header past centre half Chris Hedworth who had taken over from the injured Thomas at half-time and; his third a penalty (donated by regular spot-kicker, Ray Stewart) fired past Peter Beardsley who had by then taken over the gloves after Hedworth too was injured. Watching a replay of the game it always amuses me how at 7-1 down with 3 minutes to play Newcastle protest so vehemently about the penalty award; extinguishing, I guess, any hopes of a comeback.
Parkes, Stewart, Parris, Gale, Martin, Devonshire, Ward, McAvennie, Dickens (Goddard), Cottee, Orr
Finally this week, it is FA Cup semi-final time in 2006 as West Ham take on Middlesbrough at Villa Park. The game was played during the week following the death of John Lyall which created an additional emotional atmosphere the travelling Hammer’s supporters. Boro had the best of a goal-less first half but their strike duo of Hasselbaink and Yakubu, often the scourge of West Ham, were unable to find a way past the well-drilled defence. The Hammer’s came more into the game during the second period and as time went on increasingly looked the likelier to score, which they ultimately did in a pleasing yet largely direct manner. Anton Ferdinand played a long ball from inside his own half, the ball was headed on and down by Dean Ashton, to where Marlon Harewood held off defender Gareth Southgate and fired a rocket into the top of the net. West Ham had sealed a final appearance against Liverpool and at the same time booked a Uefa Cup place for the following season.
Hislop, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Collins, Konchesky, Benayoun, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Etherington (Newton), Harewood, Ashton (Zamora)
22 April Alan Sealey d. 1996
23 April Eddie Bovington 76