West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul and Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals.
Monday, September 12
We're winning at home!
West Ham 4 Portsmouth 3
Oh to be back in England with the smell of chips in the autumnal air. In Ken’s Café all is well with the world: Carol’s been at her caravan on the Isle of Sheppey, the egg, chips and beans is as good as ever, and Matt has given up on the Dukla Prague away kit and is wearing his untried lucky Versace Classic black t-shirt.
My daughters are there as it’s kids for a quid and Lola and Nell ask why the imitation guns are still on the wall. Probably to deter rioters or shoot customers who don’t answer when their number is called.
It’s been worth wearing my sweaty nylon yellow, blue and green Solomon Islands replica kit just to make Nigel and Matt envious with tales of the Lawson Tama Stadium. Though Matt claims Doncaster is more obscure.
Inside the stadium, what’s apparent is that Noble, Nolan and Lansbury are snapping into tackles in midfield, O’Brien has slotted in well at right-back and Carlton Cole is holding the ball up well and showing more desire than last season. We’re also doing some nice short passing in the middle and the long-ball game we feared hasn’t materialized. The one thing the side seems to lack is pace.
Still, it all seems to be going predictably wrong when Luke Varney shoots from a corner. The ball is going wide, but deflects off Carlton Cole and into the net.
Within a minute Cole wins a free kick on the edge of the Pompey box. “Don’t worry girls, we always score from free-kicks,” I tell my daughters.
Miraculously, Taylor curls the ball, via a slight deflection, past Ashdown. Blimey. I didn’t mean it… It seems to sum up the difference between this season and last.
We have the better of the first half though Pompey create the best chances. Robert Green – who is still at Upton Park after ten-year-old Nell wrote to him telling him not to move — makes a fantastic double save from Pearce’s header.
The second half begins with Noble’s cross from the left being headed out to the edge of the box for Henri Lansbury to shoot home.
As we celebrate, Nell wonders if we can cheer an Arsenal player, so I reassure her it’s permissible to cheer an on-loan Gooner.
“How shit must you be we’re winning at home?” chant the Bobby Moore Stand.
“Don’t lose it there Noble!” shouts Matt, as Noble misses a tackle and Varney sweeps down the field. Pompey cross and Norris’s header appears to be over the lie as O’Brien kicks it clear only for Benjani to make sure.
On 63 minutes Allardyce brings on Bentley for Gustav Faubert. The old David Beckham is eager for the ball in central midfield, if inclined to shoot on sight, Diamanti-style, from 900 yards out. Bentley’s skill results in Lawrence being him down and getting sent off for a yellow card offence.
Six minutes after Lawrence’s dismissal Lansbury juggles in the box and wins a penalty for what was surely an accidental handball. Noble strikes it confidently home.
ALWAYS BELIEVE IN CARLTON COLE?
It’s good to see McCartney back in the side and his overlapping on the left and understanding with Nolan makes a difference in the second half. The game looks over on 76 minutes as Taylor plays in an instant cross and the unmarked Cole rises to score with a heard into the top corner.
“Oh what a goal!” gushes the commentator on the Football League Show’s highlights – and it’s a long rime since we’ve heard that said about West Ham.
Lansbury almost gets a fifth but when Nell and Lola say that West Ham have won, curmudgeonly Nigel, Fraser and Matt all reply that you can never ever say that with West Ham.
Sure enough, sub Freddie Piquionne stupidly raises an arm to Portsmouth defender Halford and gets sent off. Perhaps Halford had made a quip about fly-tipping.
And in the 97th minute Ben Haim is brought down by Noble and Halford strokes home the penalty. Mercifully the ref signals full time immediately after the restart, before we concede the inevitable equaliser.
“That game went really quickly,” says a disbelieving Lola.
It’s a trip to the Newham Bookshop afterwards to celebrate after a thoroughly entertaining game of seven goals and two red cards and several cardiac flutters. Unbeaten in five games, we go up to fourth and it’s our first win at home since March 5. Sort out the defence and we just might get in the top two.