We look back to Jay-Jay Okocha’s winner against West Ham in April 2003’s six-pointer
Vital Bolton has started to look at 20 of the biggest moments at the Reebok. Today we go back at 2003, and one of the greatest goals scored at our ground, not just for the goal itself, but also the context it was scored within. Step forward, Jay-Jay Okocha.
Saturday 19 April, 2003. A second season of Premiership football had been tough for Wanderers, Sunderland had been awful and were always going to be relegated, while Gary Megson`s West Brom never really gave themselves a chance of staying up too. The third relegation spot wasn`t done and dusted though, and it was largely between West Ham, a team dubbed ‘too good to go down` and us.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in April, we went head to head in a massive game. We sat three points and one place, 17th in fact, above the Hammers. A huge game.
We started the much better side. An early sighter from Okocha and a Henrik Pederson shot both left a bit to be desired. The shooting improved though, with Okocha hitting the near post from the edge of the box and Youri Djorkaeff forcing a save out of David James.
With just over five minutes to go until half-time, we got the goal. Ivan Campo blocked a shot just outside the area. That fell to Okocha about 60 yards out. He ran into their half, with Joe Cole tracking him. Well, for a few seconds, until Cole was shrugged off and left on the floor. The rest of the West Ham defence stood off him. 25 yards out, Okocha shot, and beat James. 1-0 to Bolton. It stayed that way, with Ian Pearce being sent off for a desperate lunge on Pierre-Yves Andre late on.
That got us six points clear of West Ham with four games to go. Although it`s fair to say we never rammed home the advantage, still having to go to the final day to secure survival, that Okocha goal went a long way to keeping us up and setting the foundations for the great years that followed.