In Ken’s Café Big Phill is reminiscing about his bound copies of Fortune’s Always Hiding while Mike mentions his collectors’ items programmes from friendlies in Frankfurt and China. Matt is absent at the Ritz Hotel, where he’s having tea to celebrate his mum’s birthday, and arrives at the stadium in a suit recommending Lapsang and Darjeeling tea and cucumber sandwiches for Ken’s.
Can we dazzle under the lights? Downing has a low shot tipped away by McGregor after five minutes but after that the game becomes scrappy. Collins has to go off with an injury after nine minutes and there’s a collective gasp as, with Reid injured, Roger Johnson has to come on. To be fair to Johnson, he does the simple things well and has a decent game.
MARK ON THE SPOT
West Ham take the lead after 26 minutes when Diame races into the box, controls the ball with his hand, and is clattered by keeper McGregor. He still manages to dink the ball over the keeper but the ball is cleared off the line. McGregor is down for ages with an injured kidney and after consulting the lino ref Mike Dean sends the keeper off and awards a penalty. Mark Noble converts and Statto Matt says Nobes has now scored 19 out of 21 penalties.
Going ahead against ten men seems to make West Ham nervous though and Hull dominate possession. Added time in the first half goes on forever as Huddlestone shoots over and Figueroa forces a good save from Adrian with a fierce shot.
|Dare we go out for the second half?|
West Ham hardly create a chance in the second half. Nolan does well to find Downing on the edge of the box but he blazes his shot over. Huddlestone and Livermore continue to control midfield and Taylor, Noble, Diame and Nolan don’t seem to be able to do anything about it, even against ten men. The crowd becomes restless. Two minutes into the half Taylor gives away a silly free kick, the Vicar’s Son next to me gets very cross about it, and Huddlestone’s shot is somewhat luckily deflected into the net by Jelavic.
CHESTER SO MUCH TO ANSWER FOR
Six minutes later West Ham score a bizarre goal. Demel crosses from the right and under no pressure Chester slices the ball off his thigh and into his own net.
“Nolan can’t say that we’re not getting the luck anymore,” remarks Nigel.
“Another classic goal to mark Fraser’s birthday,” I suggest.
West Ham spend the rest of the game on the backfoot. Diame is replaced by Joe Cole after 69 minutes, which is a strange substitution. We look jaded and lacking in confidence as the midfield wilts and Downing plays the ball backwards, while Carroll looks disheartened and is suffering from two games in four days. The only consolation is that Tomkins has a fine game holding the defence together and Johnson does well too.
Tom Huddlestone, who sounds like a character from Dickens, forces Adrian into another save and Chester heads over.
“F***ing hell Demel… Taylor get off the pitch!” hollers the Vicar’s Son.
Nigel suggests a conscious uncoupling between ourselves and West Ham. ”We could use the time to read the collected works of Dickens instead, as we’ve certainly seen plenty of Hard Times.”
Typically, the previously anonymous Nolan comes alive close to the end to fire in a great shot that Harper tips away and late on Taylor gets in a good position to finally find Carroll with a cross but blazes a shot wide instead.
Added time sees us hopefully playing the ball in the corners and the final whistle is greeted by either silence or a few boos. It’s actually a vital win, though we’ve been lucky to win when playing badly.
WIN OR LOSE WE'RE ON THE BOOS
We retreat to the pub and Matt suggests there can’t be many people who have been to both the Ritz and the Boleyn in one day. Fraser buys two copies of Ex magazine as a birthday treat. News of Sam Allardyce’s reaction to the booing comes through on the internet. "I've never been in a place where we've won and got booed," says Big Sam.
We agree that it would be much better PR to ignore it and just say we didn’t play well but it was a great win. Nigel likens Big Sam to John Prescott, an outwardly bellicose man who is actually very thin-skinned. Cupping his ear to the crowd just turns the booing into a story. And having a row with your own fans usually only ends in one thing.
Allardyce’s comments are proof that he doesn’t understand the DNA of West Ham fans, who will be going to matches long after he or any other manager has departed. We all paid £50 or so for the game and we want character, entertainment and some attacking verve, rather than just defending a lead. I don’t agree with booing your own side, but the fans are not stupid either, and could see that West Ham had been lucky to win through a bizarre own goal and had spent most the game defending against ten men, so their frustration was understandable. There’s also an undercurrent of bemusement about the Ravel Morrison situation, which isn’t helping.
Having said that, it was a massive result that will hopefully instil some confidence in the side and result in some better football against Sunderland. The victory was a welcome step towards survival, though on this evidence there is much rebuilding to be done in the summer.
PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Demel 6, Tomkins 7, Collins 5 (Johnson 6), McCartney 5; Downing 5, Nolan 5, Taylor 4, Noble 5, Diame 6 (J Cole 5), Carroll 5.