Friday, September 24

Lanzini earns Irons historic win at Old Trafford

Man United 0 West Ham 1 (Carabao Cup)

It's off to Mabel's Tavern to watch West Ham Reserves take on Man United with Lisa and Fraser. The line-ups look ominous with United having Sancho, Lingard and Martial up front. But from the start WHU's squad players look up for it and Bowen is buzzing around effectively up front. 

Kral has a shot blocked and after nine minutes Fredericks nutmegs Mata before racing to the byline and pulling back for Lanzini to score. Manuel's first goal since his rocket against Spurs.

United come at West Ham after that but Diop and Dawson both have great games at the back. Areola misses a cross resulting in Mata volleying against the bar, but after that proves an athletic keeper, foiling Lingard's low strike and in the second half saving with his feet from Greenwood when the United sub is through. Lingard has a theatrical penalty claim turned down after Noble clutches his shirt.

The loss of Fredericks and Lanzini to injury doesn't affect West Ham, while Matic is lucky to stay on after a knee in the groin to Coufal. Even sub Bruno Fernandes can't affect the game. At the end West Ham could score more. Yarmolenko hits the post when he should score after a fine move. Noble shoots at the keeper after being played in by Bowen and then Jarrod fires another low effort at De Gea.

It's such a shock that we have to order some more Neck Oil. The celebrations from Noble and the players at the end show just what a great team spirit Moyes has engendered. It's not easy to win away in front of 72,000 fans. Who would have thought that our reserves would prove better than Man United's? West Ham's first win at Old Trafford since 2007. Which leaves Moyes with some nice selection problems for Saturday. Irons!

Tuesday, September 21

RIP Jimmy Greaves

One of my earliest memories of watching Match of the Day was seeing Jimmy Greaves score a couple of calm finishes on a mudheap at Manchester City as he made his West Ham debut in a 5-1 away win in 1970. That was the season I first started attending games and Martin Peters had just been swapped for cash plus Greaves. 

West Ham was probably the worst club Jimmy could have joined, as it already had a drinking culture. Greavesie was well on the way to becoming an alcoholic and would often be in his Romford local after training until closing time. Yet despite his drink problem Greaves managed to score 13 goals in 40 games for West Ham in his one and a bit seasons. Had the club ever got to grips with his 'refuelling' problems he might have had four of five years left at the top, as it was he retired at just 30 and was involved in the infamous Blackpool nightclub drinking incident before a third round FA Cup tie. I saw his last game for West Ham, a dispiriting 1-0 home defeat to Huddersfield Town. Little known to me a few years later he would be in the alcoholics unit at Warley Psychiatric Hospital, just round the corner from where I lived.

Luckily Greaves overcame his addiction and went on to broadcast fame with On the Ball with Saint and Greavesie. Some of the humour mighty seem dated now but it's doubtful if Baddiel and Skinner's Fantasy Football would have existed without it and the humorous tone paved the way for fanzines eclipsing aggro as part of football culture. So it was good to hear the applause at Sunday's match. RIP Jimmy.

Monday, September 20

Jesse haunts Hammers as Noble gamble backfires

West Ham 1 Manchester United 2

I'm with daughter Nell for this one and there's an expectant atmosphere in the queue at Block H. Inside the London Stadium Fraser is sporting a cut nose after slipping on his friend's polished floor (though we suspect the truth is a ruck at Millwall), Matt is recounting his rainy day in Ipswich with the Under-21s, Michael is asking how many acts there are in this performance and Nigel is wondering whether to eat his lucky banana at half-time. 

Steve the Cornish Postie has made it up to the metropolis and is with Alison's sister and top Essex sociologist Roz, while Scott is away at an important Colchester Gladiators match. The game begins with a minute's applause for the late Jimmy Greaves, who once helped start Gavin's grandad's car in Hornchurch..

Ronaldo's first touch is to play the ball into touch, accompanied by ironic cheers. Kurt Zouma rapidly endears himself to the Irons' faithful by clattering into Pogba. Bowen is replacing the suspended Antonio and has a couple of chances in the first half hour. After being found by Benrahma his shot is blocked by Wan-Bissaka and then he has a toe-poke saved by De Gea's feet. At the other end Fabianski does fabulously to tip Bruno Fernandes' strike on to the post. 

ONE-NIL TO THE COCKNEY BOYS

West Ham take the lead after half an hour thanks to a massively deflected shot from Benrahma. But if you don't shoot you don't score and that's Said's third of the season. Could we be about to pull off an upset against Ronaldo's boys? Perhaps not. Five minutes later Ronaldo is played inside by Cresswell's foot and gets behind the defender to shoot against Fabianski and then tap home the rebound.The galactico poseur is getting into the game, producing a few flash stepovers and forcing Fabianski into a smart low save. Vlasic fires a decent first time effort wide and it's 1-1 at half-time.

The second half sees Fabianski have to produce a fine save at Ronaldo's feet after Fornals' sloppy ball. Fornals does better when he flicks Bowen's cross just wide a few minutes later.

Soucek has a definite penalty refused after he's clattered by Wan-Bisakka in the box and then Ronaldo has another penalty claim after being caught by Coufal. Ominously United are exerting lots of late pressure, though Rice does make one surging run.

JESSE SCREAMER

The £73m Jadon Sancho come on, along with Jesse Lingard, who is greeted by  a rousing chorus from the home fans of "He wants to come home". It's inevitable what happens in the 89th minute, as Jesse cuts inside Zouma to fire a great shot into the top corner. He doesn't celebrate which is a nice touch though the legions from Surrey in the away end go mental.

West Ham keep going though and as we reach the last of three added minutes Yarmolenko's cross is touched by the outstretched arm of Luke Shaw. VAR agrees it's a penalty. Rice steps up but then Moyes brings on Mark Noble to take it. I'm not that confident in Rice as a penalty taker as he's only ever scored one and missed one, while Noble has a great record from the spot. It makes sense to bring on the skipper on paper, though perhaps it has piled too much pressure on him. Noble's first kick of the game sees De Gea make a good save, though the penalty is a little high. A point would have felt like a victory, but it's not to be. Moyes made a brave decision which didn't come off, though it's hard to be too critical. Had Rice missed we'd have been asking why Noble wasn't brought on.

So it's off to the Refreshment Rooms where Fraser tells us about seeing a foggy old Lindisfarne line-up at Nell's last week and Nigel recounts the time he was insulted by Brian May. Overall it's been a good game and while we have no strikers, United can have a £73m sub and bring on Lingard. They'll be close to the title and we've given them a tough match. Now it's on to United again in the League Cup and a winnable game at Leeds. Just hope we don't get any penalties. Irons!

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 8; Coufal 6, Zouma 7, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Rice 7, Soucek 6, Benrahma 7 (Lanzini n/a), Fornals 6, Vlasic 5 (Yarmolenko 6); Bowen 6 (Noble n/a but 10 for bottle).

Friday, September 17

Comfortable start to European Tour

Dinamo Zagreb 0 West Ham 2 (Europa League)

Very nice to be able to watch this on BT Sport at 5.45pm at home with a beer. The first thing you noticed was that Zagreb's blue carpet was even more massive than ours — their stadium makes the London Stadium seem compact!  

It turned out to be a thoroughly professional performance against a club which defeated a minor London side (Spurs) 3-0 last season. The Irons attacked from the start, forcing a series of corners. It took a helpful back pass from the admirably-named Theophile-Catherine to take the lead though. Credit to Lanzini for closing his man down and torAntonio for being alert enough to nick the ball round the keeper and into an empty net, sparking joy among the 2000 travelling fans.

It should have been two after a great ball from Antonio sent the speedy Fredericks away, only for Ryan to fire his effort into the keeper. Vlasic looked a little diffident but did have a good effort blocked and then sent a shot just wide. A deflected shot wide was the only Zagreb effort to trouble Fabianski.

The second half saw the home side play with greater intensity, until Declan Rice killed the game after 50 minutes. It was a great goal, Declan anticipating a pass and powering from the half-way line to shoot through the keeper's legs. 

Moyes sensibly decided to sub the booked Lanzini after another risky foul. For the rest of the match the Hammers out-passed the home side and finished comfortably. Clearly Dinsmo Zagreb are no FC Astra. Zouma and Diop had steady games at the back, Fredericks and Lanzini got some match time and we even had the luxury of bringing on the returning Arthur Masuaku, plus Noble and Yarmolenko.

As this was considered to be the Hammers most difficult game, a very encouraging start to our European campaign.

Wednesday, September 15

Management off-Pat

In Pat Nevin's excellent memoir The Accidental Footballer — as good on 1980s music as it is on football — there's a great anecdote about his time with Celtic Boys' Under-14 side. After scoring twice against two rugged centre backs who then start to kick him, the 13-year-old Nevin ducks out a tackle. 

At half-time he is accosted by the ginger centre back from Celtic's Under-16 team, who had come along to watch, who tells him: "Don't ever do that again, you might have scored a few goals and we might be winning but now they think you're scared of them. You have just given them a massive psychological lift. It might not help much today but they will always see that as a weakness in you in future especially if you shirk another tackle in the second half, so never do that again!"

It turns out the 16-year old with piercing blue eyes was David Moyes. Nevin writes: "You could have stamped MGR on his forehead when he was 16 and it wouldn't have made it more obvious than it was; he was born for for the job of being a top football manager."

Sunday, September 12

Antonio's off day as Hammers grind out point

Southampton 0 West Ham 0

Travelling back from the Lake District while this was on, but not a lot of excitement to trouble my phone. Dawson had to block a goalbound effort with his head, but it remained goalless at the break. After the interval Antonio had a low effort saved and then McCarthy did really well to tip over Bowen's volley. 

Generally though, as Moyes stated, the Hammers' international players such as Rice, Soucek, Coufal, Fornals and now Antonio, seemed off the pace after their exertions for their countries. While the Saints played a clever game be letting West Ham have more possession than usual.

Vlasic came on as a sub but it was the Saints who had the chance to win it, hitting the post through Broja, with the same player having a header cleared off the line by Declan Rice. The game ended terribly with Antonio sent off after 95 minutes. He had already been booked after a wrestling match initiated by Stephens and then made a stupid lunge at Djenepo. Antonio will now miss the Man United league match.

The Irons could have gone top by winning this, but on an off-day we should perhaps be grateful for an away point. It's still West Ham's best start to a PL season since 1999, having gone unbeaten for the first four games. Some interesting selections for Moyes to make in the next busy fortnight. Assume Areola, Zouma, Vlasic and Krol might get games at Dinamo Zagreb, while Bowen will probably play up front against Ronaldo's Manchester United and it would be like Moyes to go with five at the back against United's flair players. Then comes United away in the Carabao Cup and a difficult away game at Leeds. The only good thing to come out of Antonio's red card is that at least his hamstring will get some enforced rest…

Friday, September 3

A good night for Declan

Congratulations to Declan Rice on scoring his first goal for England last night — albeit aided by a Hungarian goalkeeper who appeared to have been coached by Roberto. It was a good night for Rice all round. He made the opening goal for Sterling with a classic example of the defensive midfielder's art, winning the ball and releasing Jack Grealish. And he also managed to mock the racist boneheads among Hungary's fans who booed taking the knee and abused Raheem Sterling by pretending to drink from one of the cups they had thrown at Sterling. That's the second cup he's lifted this summer, having also picked up the Betway Cup.