West Ham United 3 Brighton 0: Noble's promise fails to cheer curt Curbishley

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The Independent Online

Throughout 15 years in charge of Charlton Athletic, Alan Curbishley was habitually calm and amenable in his relations with the press. A month into his new job at Upton Park the former West Ham United midfielder appears to have lost the sangfroid which characterised him both as a player and as a manager.

This FA Cup third-round victory offered Curbishley numerous reasons to be cheerful, not least the bright debut made by his £5m signing from Fulham, Luis Boa Morte, the goalscoring performance of the local youngster Mark Noble - making his first start of the season in place of the dropped captain Nigel Reo-Coker - and another display of honest endeavour and dazzling trickery from Carlos Tevez.

But the West Ham manager was still a very unhappy bunny in the wake of last weekend's 6-0 thrashing at Reading. His press conference lasted just over three minutes, and involved him making two points to the assembled scribes before striding from the room.

Firstly he attacked the way in which Reo-Coker had been criticised for West Ham's current plight, adding: "It's as if it is his fault we are in the bottom three and have not been performing that well, which is total nonsense. I would just like everyone connected with West Ham - I can't have any influence over yourselves - to leave him alone. He is a young boy and it is not his fault. It's easy to pick on people and he has been picked on."

Curbishley also felt his comments on the previous day, when he had mentioned a number of summer signings who had not established themselves in the team, had been "spun" to make it look as if he was blaming them directly for West Ham's position. "I've realised that I'm at a very different club," he said. As he left the room, one notably urbane member of the press announced the single word "Pathetic". Curbishley turned angrily to him and responded: "Perhaps you should print what I say."

But Curbishley had prefaced his remarks by asking that they should not be noted down. There was further puzzlement in the fact that his response came at the end of a week when he had gone out of his way to warn certain squad members that they needed to justify the money they spent on their luxury cars. And what sort of message did he think he had sent out by dropping his captain not only from the team but even from the bench?

Curbishley's hasty actions meant there was no chance to question the veracity of rumours that Reo-Coker had put in a transfer request.

What was incontrovertible was that the 19-year-old who took Reo-Coker's place acquitted himself with honour. It was Noble who effectively turned the match with the opening goal after 49 minutes as he volleyed home after Tevez had nodded down a Boa Morte cross from the left. Up until then, the League One side had been more than equal to their Premiership hosts.

Another Boa Morte cross allowed Carlton Cole to volley home unopposed in the 58th minute, and Hayden Mullins - also rumoured to be on the list - sealed the win with a 92nd-minute header.

Garry Nelson, who played under Curbishley at Charlton in the 1990s, held his manager in high regard, but noted - in his frank book Left Foot Forward - that this was not a man with whom to cross swords. "Crack wise at Alan's expense and he's quite unable to roll with the punch. Give him any jibe and he'll jab back and back and back... "

It could be a long, hard season for the press at Upton Park. It looks like being a long, hard season for the manager, too.

Goals: Noble (49) 1-0; Cole (58) 2-0; Mullins (92) 3-0.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Carroll; Dailly, Ferdinand (Spector, 45), Gabbidon, McCartney; Benayoun, Mullins, Noble, Boa Morte (Newton, 73); Cole (Zamora, 67), Tevez. Substitutes not used: Green (gk), Sheringham.

Brighton and Hove Albion (4-4-2): Henderson; O'Cearuill, Butters, Lynch, Mayo; Fraser (Hart, 50), El-Abd, Hammond, Frutos (Rents, 66); Robinson, Revell (Gatting, 84). Substitutes not used: Kuipers (gk), Carpenter.

Referee: M Halsey.

Booked: Brighton Mayo, El-Abd.

Man of the match: Noble.

Attendance: 32,874.

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