On This Day: Moncur recalls 'the maddest game…ever!'
Nine goals, stunning comebacks, stupendous strikes, dramatic injuries, Academy starlets and, at the end of the 90 minutes, three points; West Ham United's 5-4 victory over Bradford City on this day in 2000, simply put, had it all.
One of the most remarkable games in Premier League and Boleyn Ground history saw Harry Redknapp's Hammers trail 1-0, lead 2-1, slip to a 4-2 deficit, level the scores with 20 minutes to go and ultimately emerge 5-4 winners - settled by Frank Lampard's goal seven minutes from time - at various stages of a rollercoaster afternoon.
Teenage goalkeeper Stephen Bywater experienced a remarkable debut after Shaka Hislop suffered a broken leg five minutes in, while the game also saw Paolo Di Canio's dispute with Lampard over who should take a crucial penalty in the second half - the Italian winning out and then scoring.
“They come to be entertained and they certainly got their money's worth today. It was a magnificent game," Redknapp smiled afterwards.
Relegation-threatened Bradford gave their all in a see-saw contest, which began with Hammers goalkeeper Shaka Hislop being stretchered off with a broken leg after an accidental clash with Dean Saunders, to be replaced by young debutant Stephen Bywater.
On half-an-hour, the teenager was beaten by a Dean Windass header, before Trevor Sinclair levelled. John Moncur then put West Ham ahead with a long-range shot, only to concede a penalty a minute later, which Peter Beagrie netted to make it 2-2 before half-time.
Moncur himself could scarcely believe what he was part of.
"I could write book about the events of 12 February 2000," he smiled. "Where do I start? Shaka Hislop broke his leg after just two minutes, leaving Stephen Bywater to make his debut against a Bradford City team fighting for Premier League survival. Our 18-year-old ‘keeper found it hard to settle as Dean Windass put the visitors ahead.
"Trevor Sinclair equalised and I thought I’d given us a half-time lead, when I sent a left-footer flying in-off the post. Off-balance, technically, it was one of the best I’d scored and I enjoyed celebrating my first goal for two years. With play restarted, I ran back into our area, wrestling with my shirt because the sleeve was inside-out. Seeing that I was still untangling my arms, Dean Saunders cleverly nicked a soft penalty off me, leaving Peter Beagrie to equalise and Harry to do his nut at the break!"
Within six minutes of the second half starting, the Bantams were two goals ahead through Jamie Lawrence’s quickfire double.
Redknapp’s men looked to be down and out when they trailed Bradford 4-2 with 25 minutes left, but the attack-minded Hammers kept pushing forward and they were rewarded for their efforts with all three points.
On 65 minutes, substitute Paul Kitson was fouled inside the penalty area and Lampard prepared to take the spot-kick. However, Di Canio insisted he should take it instead, and an argument ensued before the Italian forward placed the ball and beat Aidan Davison from 12 yards.
Five minutes later, teenage midfielder Cole strengthened his claims for an England call-up when he levelled the scores 20 minutes from the end, firing home after a brilliant solo run before burying himself in the crowd in celebration.
It was left to another Academy product, Lampard, to have the final say, firing home a spectacular winner on 83 minutes to send the Boleyn Ground wild.
"Jamie Lawrence then scored twice to put City 4-2 up and, having already had two penalty shouts turned away, Paolo Di Canio went ballistic when his third appeal was rejected, too," Moncur recalled. "Wagging his finger and making a sit-down protest, he then stormed towards the dug-out, demanding to be substituted but Harry sent him back on.
"Paul Kitson eventually won a penalty but as Frank Lampard picked up the ball, Paolo started wrestling him for it. There was only going to be one winner there. Thankfully, the hot-headed Italian kept his cool to score and, after Joe Cole equalised, Frank did get his goal to give us a 5-4 win and bring the curtain down on the maddest game…ever!"