Sunderland 0 West Ham 1
An away crew of Nigel, the Gav, Matt, Lisa and myself congregate in our lucky away pub in Covent Garden. We’ve seen West Ham win at Highbury and Ipswich away in the play-offs in this very boozer. And no we can’t tell you its name; if we do we have to kill you in case it loses it's magic.
Collison and Sears are dropped, and Bowyer appears to be on the left. We watch the game in the surreal circumstances of three TVs and no sound, as the lunchtime drinkers scarper at the prospect of the Stadium of Shite. Though not as surreal as when we watched West Ham win at Blackburn at the Lord Nelson in the Tevez year, accompanied by Stealers Wheel singing “clowns to the left of me jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you”. Now that was a lucky pub.
Sunderland have all the early pressure, Cisse plants a header just over our bar. Mystic Matt says we just need a deflected goal. Then in the 19th minute Neill overlaps on the right and is bought down.
“Lucas Neill was too quick for him,” I say, prompting Nigel to answer “It’s not often we say that.”
Faubert’s free kick is headed out to Behrami whose shot takes a deflection off Kenwyne Jones into the back of the net. Wahey! The lucky pub is working. Behrami’s first goal for the Hammers.
Sunderland surge forward and have two penalty claims we conclude, judging by the silent slow motion replays. Collins has his arms round Jones’ neck but luckily the ref doesn’t see it. The second claim looks like a simple bit of shoulder barging between Collins and Cisse. The ginger giant and Matty Upson are looking up for it at the back though, throwing themselves at everything in the air. Green makes a good tipover from Sunderland’s Collins and then Andy Reid curls a lose ball on to our bar.
But then we should make it two. Anton Ferdinand (remember him?) miscontrols the ball allowing Bellamy to race through for a one on one. Instead of shooting he allows himself to be pushed way out wide by Fulop bit manages to cross and present Behrami with a tap in from one yard that he thumps against the bar.
“Hornchurch third team could have put that in!” booms Gavin.
We all agree that we’ll lose now and that miss will be seen as the turning point. But at least we go in one up at the break.
The second half begins with more Sunderland pressure. We aren’t holding the ball in midfield, Faubert and Bowyer appear anonymous, Cole miscontrols the ball too often and Bellers looks affected but his miss. We’re relying on Collins and Upson, but thankfully Sunderland look way off form.
We plead with Matt to start swearing again. “I think Scott Parker’s the greatest player I’ve ever seen,” says Nigel, making an admirable attempt to wind him up.
It works. Perhaps inspired by Lisa’s half-time knowledge of the Gary Crosby incident, it’s the terrible prospect of hope in his heart that gets Matt raging.
“We don’t ****ing deserve to win this… what’s Bellamy done all game… There’s Zola sitting there doing ****-all… what is the ***ing point of Boa Morte… that was ****ing rubbish Di Michele!”
A wave of Anglo-Saxon kinetic energy appears to inspire our lads and we hold out, even though with five minutes to go I start thinking about the Everton game. We’ve played better and lost, but somehow we’re holding on. Then there’s four sodding minutes of added-on time and we hold it up in the corner and blimey, we’ve won! We go above Tottenham! Maybe we’ve dragged Arsenal into the relegation struggle too…
We celebrate with more Bishops Finger and a trivia round of naming our favorite and least favourite three Premier League teams. Nigel and Gavin head off to see Uriah Heep on pretty much their perfect Sunday. While Roy Keane, Anton and George McCartney feel very ’umble indeed.
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