Redknapp angry over goalkeeping ruling

 

WEST HAM were forced to play a 17-year-old goalkeeper, Neil Finn, at Maine Road yesterday and were beaten as Manchester City scored two goals in a Premiership game for the first time this season.

The Hammers, forced to play the Essex-based goalkeeper who turned 17 just three days ago to become the youngest player to appear in the Premiership, looked set to take a deserved share of the spoils when Iain Dowie grabbed a 75th-minute equaliser to cancel out Niall Quinn's first-half opener.

But West Ham - and Finn's - brave resistance was finally ended when Quinn grabbed a fortunate winner three minutes later to give relegation-threatened City three precious points.

City's anxiety to test young Finn brought some woefully desperate first-half finishing, with Nicky Summerbee and Uwe Rosler in particular guilty of failing to find the target with time and space to spare.

Quinn's looping header after four minutes gave Finn a comfortable first save and the City striker was unlucky to see his diving header from Rosier's left-wing cross go just wide moments later.

City's bright opening - with Georgi Kinkladze the driving force behind everything - finally paid dividends on 21 minutes when Quinn scored only his second league goal of the season.

The Irishman beat Finn in the race for Rosier's clever flick and, with the Hammers defence nowhere to be seen, he walked the ball into an empty net.

Yet the goal only fired the visitors to greater efforts and a sustained spell of pressure brought three corners in quick succession.

West Ham looked to have revelled on 28 minutes when former City favourite Michael Hughes' left-wing corner was headed home emphatically by Marc Rieper but referee Mike, Reed ruled that the Danish defender had fouled Kit Symons and the Hammers' celebrations were cut short.

Robbie Slater was also furious with Reed after having his appeals for a penalty denied, after going down under Ian Brightwell's clumsy challenge as the Londoners continued to press.

Steve Lomas lifted City briefly with a beautifully-struck 25-yard drive that gave Finn no chance, only for a linesman's flag for an earlier offside infringement to rule the goal out.

West Ham again came within a whisker of equalising just after half-time when Julian Dicks curled a 25-yard free-kick against Eike Immel's left-hand post.

City were hampered badly by the loss of midfielder Garry Flitcroft with a leg injury after 57 minutes but substitute Ronnie Ekelund gave the increasingly-frustrated home punters something to cheer with a long-range drive that brought a neat stop from Finn.

The Hammers, though, finally got the equaliser their persistence deserved IS minutes from time when Dowie controlled Dicks' left-wing cross on his chest and rifled an unstoppable half-volley past Immel from eight yards.

But City - who handed a first team debut to teenage winger Martin Phillips as a late substitute - hit back to restore their advantage in decisive fashion three minutes later.

Symons made a determined break down the right, his cross was deflected goalwards by Ekelund and although Quinn's header hit the post, the Irishman reacted first to net from point-blank range.

It was rough justice on the Londoners but, after a four-game losing streak, City were happy to accept anything.

Angry West Ham boss Harry Redknapp criticised the Premier League for refusing to allow the London club to ease their goalkeeping crisis.

With Ludek Miktosko suspended and Les Sealey injured, Redknapp was forced to hand Finn his debut.

Redknapp said that Premier League officials would not allow him to make an emergency loan signing.

"Even Neil has a hamstring strain and could not kick the ball properly today, but the Premier League told us we would have to play him or use an outfield player as keeper," he said.

"I told them there would be 30,000 people at Maine Road and that they would be making a farce of the game.

"But even though they are allowed to let us make a signing in exceptional circumstances, for some reason they were not willing to do that."

Redknapp added: "Neil has not really had a shot to save. We bossed the game for long periods and we certainly did not deserve to lose."

Redknapp also claimed Marc Reiper's headed effort minutes after City had taken the lead in the 21st minute should not have been ruled out.

"It was a perfect goal. I've seen the video and Marc timed his jump perfectly."

City boss Alan Ball admitted it was a below par performance by his team, but that the relegation-threatened Blues were happy to accept a slice of good fortune.

"It was not our best performance. We were a bit empty, but I'm never satisfied anyway," he said.

"We started well, but we've done that in all our games in the last month and not won. I'm not happy with the performance, but very pleased with the result."