Sunday, April 11

May the fourth be with you: Hammers dig deep to secure vital win

West Ham 3 Leicester City 2

When is this going to stop? I'd have taken a point from this game going into it without Rice and Antonio. But this West Ham squad seems to thrive on adversity. It helps that Maddison, Perez and Choudhury are absent from the Leicester squad after a Covid protocol breach. Bowen is certainly making a good job of winning fouls and playing the Antonio role.

After not having a shot on target in the first 25 minutes the Hammers take the lead just as my feed buffers. The replay shows it's yet another confident first-time voley strike from the edge of the box by Jesse Lingard. Nasuaku's cross has caused the initial problem and Coufal has then provided the assist. It gets better as Diop's long ball plays in Bowen who gets behind Fofana to spring the offside trap and cleverly square for Lingard to score into an open goal. We even manage to not concede before the break. 

Just as long as we don't go 3-0 up we'll be fine. Soon after the break we do though. Lingard is again involved, finding Soucek who squares for Bowen to poke home. A deserved goal for Jarrod in his unfamiliar role. Diop seems to have made it four from another Lingard cross only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.

But this being West Ham it gets jittery. With 20 minutes left Arthur Masuaku is caught in possession and Iheanacho turns to send a great finish into the corner. Cresswell goes off with a hamstring injury, forcing Masuaku to defend, which isn't his strong point, and The General to be called upon at centre back. The team spirit is epitomised by Fabianski's dive at the feet of Ricardo and Mark Noble making a vital block and injuring his arm in the process. 

It seems the Hammers have made it through, until Mike Dean adds six minutes of time. On 92 minutes Albrighton is allowed too much time to cross and Iheanacho bundles home a second. Leicester force endless corners and with Johnson and Benrahma on we're down to the bare bones. Credit to the likes of Soucek for some great late interventions. But once again we see the game out to go back to fourth. Always in doubt! Irons!

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 7; Coufal 7, Diop 7, Dawson 7, Cresswell 6 (Balbuena 6), Masuaku 6; Lingard 9, Noble 7 (Johnson 5), Soucek 8, Fornals 7; Bowen 8 (Benrahma n/a).

Friday, April 9

Antonio woe

The Guardian is reporting that Michail Antonio could miss the rest of the season with his hamstring problem. It was a disaster that was always likely to happen and it still seems short-sighted not to have at least loaned a striker as cover. We have to hope that Jarrod Bowen steps up to the role — he did come on and score against Wolves and also had a chance well-saved by Rui Patricio. Though he doesn't look a natural in the role and certainly can't bully defenders like Antonio.

There's also the option of playing Jesse Lingard as a false nine, but he's surely better running at defences rather than playing with his back to goal. Could Benrahma chip in with some goals? Other than that the options are down to a possibly soon to be fit Yarmolenko or the untried Odubeko. To be more positive Masuaku is back and Ogbonna will soon be fit which at least improves things defensively.

It seems very unlikely that we can make the Champions League without both Rice and Antonio. What's important is that the season doesn't end with a whimper. I'd say that three wins and a couple of draws out of the final eight games would get WHU in the top seven and the Europa League. After last season that would be a massive success.

Wednesday, April 7

Dawson is a bargain at £2m

Good news is that Craig Dawson is to join West Ham permanently from Watford in the close season. And if the fee is only the reported £2 million then he's a massive bargain — particularly considering the fact West Ham offered £31 million for Burnley's Tarkowski in the summer. Since coming into the side at Southampton Dawson's played 17 games and scored four goals. Without  Ogbonna he's had to be a leader at the back and has been generally immense at the back. Even his two own goals have been signs of a player who is always close to stopping a chance. Craig is a good old-fashioned stopper who is dangerous at the other end too. As befits someone who has come up via Rochdale, West Brom and Watford, he's still hungry at 30 and a great addition to the squad. 

Tuesday, April 6

Lethal Lingard takes Hammers to fourth

Wolves 2 West Ham 3 

Declan Rice's injury has every Hammers' fan despondent before we go into this, but the team starts as if determined to defy adversity. Within two minutes Antonio has steamrollered his way past two defenders to have a powerful shot tipped on to the post by Rui Patricio. 

Wolves go close through Willian, but on six minutes the Irons take the lead with a superb goal from Jesse Lingard. Receiving the ball from Coufal in his own half he runs the length of the pitch to glide through four Wolves defenders. Antonio's run creates space and Lingard lifts it over the keeper. Brilliant.

Soon it's two as Messi Lingard produces a brilliant flick to bamboozle a defender near the corner flag and find Arthur Masuaku. The returning left-back's cross is cleverly slotted home by Fornals. "Wow," writes Fraser on WhatsApp, an unlikely convert to Moyes' Total Football. While Nigel points out that Lingard's goal has just been compared to Paolo Wanchope.

MESSI LINGARD

Antonio is terrorising the Wolves defence and gets through them again to fire into the side netting, only to pull up with a dodgy hamstring and go off. Just when it was all going so well.

But it's raining goals. Lingard makes another surging run to find substitute Bowen who finishes with alacrity into the bottom corner. Blimey. What a loan signing Lingard has been. Most players from MUFC are on their way down, but Jesse looks determined to prove Solksjaer wrong. This is the sort of performance we should have had from a £45 million signing like Haller. Lingard is unplayable at times and runs 12km in the game, which is impressive.

Mind you, after the Arsenal game it's typical that us West Ham fans find ourselves worrying at 3-0. Willian has a shot parried by Fabianski and Neto fires over when he should score. That's a warning, but just like Arsenal, Wolves pull a goal back before half-time. Traore makes a brilliant run from his own half, speeding past the Hammers defence to lay on a great cross for Dendoncker to head home. 

NERVY FINISH

It's a difficult second half, though the Hammers think they've scored a fourth when Bowen's shot is parried and Soucek hits home the rebound, only for it to be disallowed for handball. It gets very nervy when sub Fabio Silva gets behind Diop and Johnson to angle home a fine finish.

Wolves play a lot better in the second half, but thankfully the Hammers remain resolute. Let's have some praise for Mark Noble too. He's never going to be as mobile as Rice, but he looks much more at home in front of the defence and plays sensibly throughout allowing Soucek to get forward. A good professional performance. Johnson and Benrahma come on to aid the cause and, care of some holding the ball in the corner, WHU see the game out. We go fourth!

Could the Champions League breakfast at Nigel's gaff in Kew Gardens be back on? Well, we're surely not going to make the Champions League without Rice and probably Antonio. But this team doesn't know when to give up and is very much a collective. Strange things are happening and with eight games to go we can still dream of Bayern or at least FC Astra. Irons!

Monday, April 5

Aaaaaargh!!! Rice crocked

It's the news we dreaded. Declan Rice is out for at least a month having picked up a knee injury with England in Poland. He could even miss the whole season and the Euros in the worst-case scenario. He's the one player we can't afford to lose and it's a massive blow to West Ham's European chances. In fact the Champions League qualification breakfast at Nigel's gaff in Kew Gardens might have to be be indefinitely postponed.

What are the options? If Declan is replaced by Mark Noble than at least Nobes would be playing in his proper position, not as a number ten. But can the 33-year-old Noble turn back time and produce a reprise of his finest performances? It's doubtful he'll be anywhere near as mobile as Rice, but here's hoping. The other alternative would be to play Soucek as a holding midfielder and pack the team with three attacking midfielders in Fornals, Benrahma and Lingard in the hope we can outscore the opposition. And I won't even mention Antonio's dodgy hamstrings…

Friday, April 2

Top Hammers trivia

Some great WHU trivia on my West Ham Whats App group after Nigel revealed that his mate Reg lives in the road where Matthew Upson was born. I was able to reveal that my mum once went to a furniture auction in Brentwood with Billy Jennings' wife, Fraser told us he once met Jimmy Neighbour's daughter at Ilford station and Nigel revealed that an old friend taught Alvin Martin's (Spurs-supporting) son (not David). This caused a further flurry of Proustian remembrance: Gavin revealed that the mum of a bloke at the Times used to teach Tony Cottee. While Stewart Robson once told Nigel to eff off. Matt's mate Peggsy had a girlfriend who used to live next door to Jimmy Greavees' son Danny. And Gavin's mum got him Bobby Ferguson's autograph at the park in Upminster, while his grandad once had his car pushed by Jimmy Greaves himself. Impressive niche trivia all round.  

Thursday, March 25

Tomas treble

Great to see that Tomas Soucek scored a hat-trick for the Czech Republic in their 6-2 victory over Estonia last night. Though part of me wants Tomas to remain under the radar lest the galactico clubs get too interested. Soucek and Rice are vital to West Ham's ambitions and what a great boost it would be if we could offer them European football next season. Potato salad all round!