Sunday, February 5

Paqueta earns deserved point at Newcastle

Newcastle United 1 West Ham United 1

When Newcastle score after 40 seconds it looks like being a long afternoon. Willock's effort is correctly disallowed by VAR as the ball has gone out of play, but from the resulting goal kick Newcastle score a legitimate goal. Paqueta isn't strong enough in midfield, Longstaff nicks it and plays a through ball to Callum Wilson. He has managed to get between Ogbonna and Kehrer for a simple finish. It's a poor goal to concede.

Schar flicks a free kick over the bar but the response from West Ham is good.The players look angry and driven on by the excellent Rice the Irons start to have the better of the half. Emerson makes a number of surging runs and after good work by Antonio, Benrahma shoots on his right foot instead of taking it on his left.

When Paqueta has an effort deflected narrowly wide the Irons win a corner. I'm wondering why Rice is taking it when he would surely be more use in the box. Declan answers my doubts by whipping in an excellent inswinger, which is flicked on by Aguerd. Paqueta is on hand at the far post to control and calmly poke over the line. He celebrates with a double somersault, something not even Antonio (or the balletic Iain Dowie) attempted after scoring for WHU.

Benrahma cuts inside only to fire wide from a good position and then Aguerd puts a free header over the bar from Coufal's free kick. So it's 1-1 at the break.

The Hammers start the second half well, with Johnson on for the injured Kehrer. The last half an hour is Newcastle pressure though as Coufal blocks Saint-Maximin's goalbound effort. Joelinton is booked for a terrible dive and Newcastle's best chance is a Wlson header straight at Fabianski.

Aguerd has a great game at the back and his best moment is a sprint back to make a superb tackle on Wilson just as the forward is about to shoot. Credit to Coufal too for another well-timed tackle on Saint Maximin in the box.

In the end it's a very creditable away point and one of the best performances of the season. Newcastle looked a little tired after reaching Wembley in midweek and missed Guimaraes. But this was a solid team performance from West Ham. Even my fellow season ticket holder Matt is impressed, and for the first time in his life says on WhatsApp that he thought the ref had a good game. 

This was more like last season and gives the side something to build on. Now all we have to do is beat Chelsea and their 57 new signings. Irons!

Thursday, February 2

Stick your blue flag up your transfer window

Let's hope for the sake of football that West Ham beat Chelsea in our next home game. Chelsea have signed 17 players and spent a total of £550 million this season. Their gross transfer expenditure of £289 million in the window was more than all the combined clubs of La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga. Owner Todd Boehly's strategy is to use creative accounting to spread the cost of the deals over eight-year contracts (next season they'll only be allowed to spread costs over five years) and keep within the financial fair play rules. It's a risky game as you can end up with a lot of dud players on long-term contracts. Imagine if West Ham had signed Anderson, Haller, Hugill, Roberto, Ajeti and Jack Wilshere on eight-year deals... It's surprising to see Graham Potter mixed up in all this as at Brighton he was known for sensible management. His biggest problem will be keeping a massive squad happy. And the good news is that only 16 of them can play against the Irons.

Tuesday, January 31

Bowen and Antonio see off Derby

Derby County 0 West Ham United 2 (FA Cup)

It's Monday night at home in front of ITV 4 for this cup-tie. Nice of them to ruin it for us by having the draw just before kick-off — and yet again West Ham are drawn away to Man United. That's three times we've drawn the Mancs away in the last two seasons and the fifth time we've drawn MUFC in seven seasons. Infamy, infamy...

Derby are now a League One club with a fine stadium but not much brass, but at least they are still in existence which was in doubt last year. The Irons start well, with Downes making a fine tackle to release Bowen, who fires at the keeper. After ten minutes comes a welcome opener to deflate the crowd. Antonio's shot is blocked, but Downes plays a short ball to Soucek who plays a one-two with Antonio. Soucek unselfishly heads Antonio's return across the goal for Bowen to fire home.

Derby rarely threaten and we get plenty of time to admire Aguerd's control and left foot passes. Antonio and Bowen are lively up front and Fornals dithers when he should have shot. "How shit must you be we're winning away?" chant the West Ham fans, followed by "My name is Ludek Miklosko..."

The second half sees the game put to bed as Fornals pounces on some lax midfield play to put in a through ball that is deflected to Bowen. Jarrod's cross nicks a defender and sits up nicely for Antonio to head home.

Sub Dobbin has a few decent runs for Derby, but the rest of the game is spent enjoying the chants of, "Ten men men went to carry, went to carry Lampard." Bowen should make it three after sub Benrahma plays him through and young Mubama comes on and does a few bits of good hold-up play.

So a fairly easy win without Rice and Paqueta, and now a massive task at Old Trafford. Still, we won there in the Carabao Cup next season and we have to beat the top sides to progress. Though I do fear our cup final breakfast in Kew might just be postponed for another season.

Monday, January 30

Ashby goes to Newcastle

Harrison Ashby has signed for Newcastle for £3 million after refusing to sign a new contract with the Hammers. On the face of it £3m for a lad who has only played in one league game and six cup games isn't bad business. Though clearly Eddie Howe rates him and it's a bit disturbing that both Ashby and Sonny Perkins refused to stay with WHU. Ashby would have had to get past Vladimir Coufal, Ben Johnson and Thilo Kehrer to make the first team, though he's also up against Kieron Trippier at Newcastle. The last promising right-back to depart, Jeremy Ngakia, hasn't progressed that much at Watford. Still, it's a shame to see 'H' depart, though along with the sale of Craig Dawson it does raise more cash towards te Danny Ings fee.

Thursday, January 26

Kurt crocked as well

The Everton victory is proving costly in terms of injuries. The latest reports claim that Kurt Zouma could be out for up to a month with the thigh injury he picked up during the first half. We could see from the Billy Bonds Stand that he was struggling and it was a surprise that he played on through some obvious discomfort. Zouma really should have been subbed — historically West Ham seem to have a problem with not taking off injured players. I recall Andy Carroll once making a bad injury worse by playing on at Southampton. 

Yes, it was a must-win game but with Ogbonna and Aguerd on the pitch caution would have been advisable. Now with Dawson sold WHU are down to three centre-backs, and one of those Thilo Kehrer, who has been disappointing so far. All this has happened just when Moyes was finally getting his best two centre-backs, Zouma and Aguerd, forming an effective partnership. The only plus is that there's a two-week gap until the next league game at Newcastle and that Zouma is a quick healer. Only please don't rush him back too soon.

Tuesday, January 24

Ings' knee can only get better?

This is peak West Ham. Danny Ings seemed fine giving interviews after the Everton match but now we learn he has a "slight knee injury" after a late tackle that will keep him out of the Newcastle and Chelsea games and probably Spurs away too. With Gianluca Scamacca also having a troublesome ankle that leaves WHU back with Antonio as the only fit striker. At least Micky had a decent game against Everton. But after Aguerd's injury in his first friendly at Rangers you do wonder if there is an unwritten rule that any new signing must get injured in their first match and that Antonio must always be our only striker. Nurse, the screens. 

Sunday, January 22

Bowen's twin strike wins El Sackico for Moyes

West Ham 2 (two) Everton 0

It's off to the Best Meze Cafe for pre-match fine cuisine, where Nigel has ticked off a new ground at Haringey Borough FC and booked tickets to Walsall versus Barrow with Reg. The bad news is that he has forgotten his 'lucky' banana. 

We're joined by Michael, Matt and Lisa. Our party is left reeling by some inflationary price increases, as my egg, chips and beans and a cup of tea now costs £8 and Michael needs a second mortgage to buy his omelette and chips. Maybe Jeremy Hunt could explain it all with some coffee cups.

We meet Fraser in the ground, where Mark Noble is on the pitch with the family of David Gold in a tribute to WHU's late chairman. Moyes has dropped Soucek and Cresswell and is fielding the returning Kurt Zouma in what looks like his best available side. 

There's an early fashion faux pas as we spot that Matt's yellow hoodie matches Everton's away strip. It's a nervous start from both sides in El Sackico, with two sets of five-man defences, an early Everton claim for handball in the box and an injury scare to Zouma, who plays on like Monty Python's Black Knight.

The nerves of the fans are improved when Benrahma finally gets a shot away towards the top corner, which Pickford tips over. The crucial goal arrives after 34 minutes. A West Ham corner is cleared but wing-back Emerson pings in another cross. Zouma gets a head to it and in nips Jarrod Bowen to score. There's a nervy VAR pause but he proves to be onside by the width of James Tarkowski's boot. Jarrod celebrates the news that he is having twins with Dani Dyer by stuffing the ball up his shirt and sucking both thumbs. It's his first goal in ten games and just the confidence boost he needed.

BOWEN'S DOUBLE TOP

Five minutes later the second goal arrives. Antonio is too quick for a rash tackle by Tarkowski and escapes down the right flank. His cross is swept home by Bowen, who has managed to get ahead of two defenders. Never in doubt.

There's a scare before half-time as Iwobi's shot is deflected by Rice against the outside of the post. In the concourse we meet Steve the Cornish Postie, who has travelled up from the west country in the belief that West Ham need all the strikers they can get. Though he still doesn't know where my Christmas cards are. 

The second half sees Everton have a lot of possession and Calvert-Lewin almost gets on the end of an Iwobi cross. But Zouma is solid and Aguerd has a fine game at the back. The best two chances fall to West Ham on the break. A brilliant return ball from Benrahma sets Emerson free and the left-back's shot is tipped on to the bar by Pickford. When Benrahma cleverly finds Rice on the half-way line, Declan surges into the Toffees' box to fire across goal and just wide.

TWO-NIL IN OUR CUP FINAL

Danny Ings gets to come on for Antonio and then Moyes goes slightly sub crazy, bringing on Johnson, Soucek and Downes. The home fans get to sing the Big Fat Frank song and a chorus of, "You're getting sacked in the morning!" The away fans are dispirited and it's hard not to feel sorry for the Everton supporters. The club has burned through a lot of managers who have done better elsewhere, like Marco Silva, and wasted a lot of money on sub-standard players. A lack of goals in the side is their big problem, while Lampard has inherited a squad put together by six different gaffers.

At the end Oggy does a celebration jig for the fans. This is a much-needed win for West Ham and with the squad we have surely the side can reach mid-table. Finally Moyes has been able to field Zouma and Aguerd together alongside Ogbonna and the defence has looked much more solid. While the arrival of Ings means WHU have an unprecedented three strikers at the club.

Matt and Lisa depart to see The Delgados at Shepherd's Bush, while the rest of us head off to The Eagle, unfamiliar with the sensation of celebrating a West Ham win. There's Doom Bar in the fridge and Zombie on the jukebox. Fraser, who has never doubted the Moyesiah (much) has helpfully laid on table service as Nigel wonders if there is a Deep Purple musical he can visit with his birthday vouchers. With games against Newcastle, Chelsea and Spurs coming up we can't be complacent. But this was more like it from the Irons.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Coufal 6, Zouma 7, Aguerd 8, Ogbonna 7, Emerson 7 (Johnson 6); Rice 8, Paqueta 6 (Soucek 6), Benrahma 8 (Downes 6); Bowen 8, Antonio 7 (Ings 6).