West Ham United 0 Manchester City 1: Curbishley sees problems cash cannot fix

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The Independent Football

Alan Curbishley arrived at West Ham claiming he might have to "curb a little bit" the enthusiasm of the club's new chairman, Eggert Magnusson. Back-to-back home defeats will have done just that although, of course, that is not what the manager meant.

To be fair to the Icelander, Curbishley's brief, when appointed three weeks ago, was clear. This season fourth from bottom would do. It is just about survival. Flights of fancy, European football, the Champions' League ... they can all wait. Just get us eight wins, he was told.

Suddenly that task looks more remote. The transfer window opens today and few clubs have the funds available to Curbishley but, again, a reality check. "Listen, everyone will be looking to do something," he said. "Will the clubs let them go? When you're third from bottom will the players want to come?"

The precedent was set last January by Harry Redknapp, who effectively bought a whole new team to save Portsmouth. It was a remarkable feat and will be hard to match, even if West Ham have more cash, and a bit more kudos, than was available at Fratton Park.

Some of the targets are clear: a striker (Mark Viduka is the No 1 target), a right-winger (Shaun Wright-Phillips) and a right-back (Lucas Neill would fit the bill but he is off to Liverpool). In truth, virtually every position is up for grabs.

This is a side shredded by falling confidence, injuries and the feeling that maybe they do not quite have the stomach for it. How can they rouse themselves to beat Arsenal and Manchester United and then capitulate against opposition more on their level?

Lack of experience is one thing, especially in defence, together with a lack of goals which has created more pressure not to concede. Then there have been the overachievements of last season, ninth place and the FA Cup final, and a feeling that the exertions took their toll. Four key players missed pre-season after having operations and Dean Ashton's broken ankle will rule him out until February.

"I've had a good look at what's happened," Curbishley said. "We find ourselves where we are. All is not lost." But it felt like that on Saturday against a City side hardly brimming with ambition and missing virtually a whole midfield. Among those absent, crucially, was Joey Barton and again his manager, Stuart Pearce, had to fend off questions about his future.

It does not help that the suspended Barton has a £5.5m release clause and a host of clubs itching to trigger it. Pearce again said that the player was "fully committed" - and there he was, handing out drinks on the final whistle. His agent, Willie McKay, is singing from the same songsheet but could not help striking a bum note by adding that Barton deserved to play for one of the "top four" sides.

One of those, Chelsea, are set to snare Micah Richards. Here, the 18-year-old was pushed into midfield. Given the opposition and the conditions, he filled the role of semi-enforcer and he was able to ruffle feathers to such an extent that West Ham achieved just a couple of speculative shots, two Teddy Sheringham free-kicks and a late miss by Marlon Harewood. There was also a fierce drive over from Carlos Tevez. Curbishley, like his predecessor Alan Pardew, is struggling to fit him in.

Amid all this there was a shard of startling quality as the City substitute DaMarcus Beasley shrugged off two tentative challenges, charging into the area to squeeze a fierce shot between Robert Green and the post and earn his side a second away win in a row.

Goals: Beasley (83) 0-1.

West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Dailly, Gabbidon (Mears, 86), Ferdinand, Spector; Benayoun, Mullins, Bowyer, Etherington (Tevez, 56); Sheringham (Cole, 68), Harewood. Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Noble.

Manchester City (3-5-2): Weaver; Onuoha, Dunne, Distin; Trabelsi, Richards, Dabo, Ireland (Beasley, 65), Jordan; Vassell (Miller, 88), Corradi (Samaras, 70). Substitutes not used: Isaksson (gk), Thatcher.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Manchester City Vassell, Jordan.

Man of the match: Richards.

Attendance: 34,574.

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