Hammers v Liverpool

Nigel Reo-Coker's goal wasn't enough to earn Hammers a result against Liverpool in the FA Cup final dress rehearsal on Wednesday night, as a double strike from Djibril Cisse sealed a 2-1 Premiership victory for the Reds.

However, of more worry to Hammers boss Alan Pardew is the fact that influential midfielder Hayden Mullins is set to miss the final showdown at the Millennium Stadium on May 13 after being red-carded for violent conduct just eight minutes from the end of the match.

Following a scuffle with Liverpool forward Luis Garcia - who had arrived on the field as a substitute just two minutes earlier - Mullins and the Spaniard were both shown the red card by referee Howard Webb, and will miss the next three matches should an appeal against the decision be unsuccessful.

It soured what had, up until then, been a good-tempered and memorable evening, beginning with an emotional tribute in memory of John Lyall, our former manager who tragically passed away last week at the age of 66.

A host of former players and colleagues turned out to pay their respects to the great man, whose son Murray and three grandchildren were also given a standing ovation as they walked out at the arena that had seen so many memorable moments under the guidance of a loving father and grandfather.

Sir Trevor Brooking - a friend of John's for many, many years - gave a touching tribute, before the crowd of almost 35,000 honoured the memory of arguably the greatest manager in West Ham United's history by observing a minute of applause and vocal appreciation - scenes that would certainly have made John beam with pride.

After the moving tribute to Lyall, the two teams set about trying to improve their Premiership points tally.

Following Sunday's energy-sapping victory at Villa Park, Alan Pardew made five changes to his starting line-up. Jimmy Walker replaced Shaka Hislop in goal, while Danny Gabbidon and Paul Konchesky were nursing groin strains, giving Elliott Ward an opportunity alongside James Collins, with Lionel Scaloni stepping into an unfamiliar left-back role. The other two switches were in attack, where Teddy Sheringham and Bobby Zamora came in for semi-final heroes Marlon Harewood and Dean Ashton - who was also suffering with a slight groin injury.

However, the Hammers boss was outdone by his Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez, who made no fewer than eight changes following their own FA Cup semi-final victory - over Chelsea - at the weekend, with only Carragher, Finnan and Sissoko surviving from the side that saw off Jose Mourinho's men.

After a fairly quiet start, it was the visitors who produced the first real effort of the game, when Cisse cut in from the left on nine minutes and fired in a blistering effort that Walker spilled before gathering at the second attempt.

However, 10 minutes later, the Hammers goalkeeper wasn't quite as lucky, as Cisse found the net from an almost identical position - his shot beating Walker at the near post after travelling through a crowd of players.

Hammers almost provided an instant response when a deep cross found Benayoun at the far post, but the Israeli's excellent angled volley was well held by Dudek, while Reo-Coker saw a long-range effort blocked by a defender.

It took until the 40th minute for the next goalmouth action of any note to crop up, as Hammers finished the half strongly. Sheringham released Zamora, whose low shot was saved by Dudek, before Sheringham himself headed Ferdinand's inch-perfect cross into the side-netting and Yossi Benayoun also missed the target when Zamora's centre dropped to him 10 yards out.

Pardew was forced to make a change at the interval, as Collins became the latest member of his team to fall foul of the groin strain curse. Carl Fletcher replaced his Welsh international colleague in the heart of the defence, but the switch certainly didn't have an adverse affect, as Hammers drew level just 48 seconds after the restart.

Zamora was the provider, playing a neat one-two with Sheringham on the edge of the penalty area, before showing superb composure to square the ball for Reo-Coker to tap into an empty net for his fourth Premiership goal of the season.

Liverpool almost responded immediately when Cisse's cross was fired against the bar by Fernando Morientes but, as it turned out, they didn't have to wait much longer before restoring their advantage.

Just nine minutes after Hammers had grabbed their equaliser, Cisse converted his second of the night, as he raced on to a Robbie Fowler pass and squeezed the ball between the legs of Walker.

Hammers fought back bravely again, though, and certainly deserved more for their efforts in the final half an hour. Etherington's fierce free-kick from 25 yards out was only pushed back into the danger area by Dudek, but Ferdinand stabbed the rebound wide, while Reo-Coker should have celebrated his second goal of the night when stabbing past Dudek following Sheringham's neat lay-off - but was harshly denied by an offside flag.

Fowler missed a glorious chance to make sure of victory for Liverpool with 12 minutes remaining, by which time Harewood had stepped off the bench to add further attacking impetus as Hammers searched hard for another equaliser.

However, the momentum suddenly drained away following the dismissal of Mullins, and the realisation that one of our most consistent performers this season and a genuine unsung hero is likely to miss out on what would have been the greatest day of his career so far.