Tuesday, September 2

Head on a stick!

West Ham 4 Blackburn 1

Ferdinand has gone to the Mackems for £8 million, but West Ham and Ken's Cafe endures. Ken’s is so hot that the doughty Carol has given up serving behind the counter. Even the loyal denizens of Green Street are finding the prospect of fried food too much in the unexpected humidity.

My Blackburn-supporting mate Scott has been and gone, possibly the only sociology lecturer ever to explore the greasy paradigm of Ken’s Café.

So it’s into the West Stand where Matt and Fraser are feeling smug having loyally watched the Macclesfield match, unlike myself and part-timer Nigel, who refused to fly back from Canada.

It’s the same line-up as against Man City. Early on Behrami is dispossessed on the goal-line and Rovers nearly score, but then, bizarrely, we’re two up, just like in the Wigan match. Davenport heads home Faubert’s corner, prompting Matt’s partner Lisa to text him with the missive “Head on a stick!”.

Then Noble plays a great ball out to Gustave Faubert, takes the return and his cross come shot creeps in off Samba, under pressure from Ashton.

It’s great for Curbishley, who’s endured headlines such as the Mirror’s “Hammered Curbs to fight on” after the extra-time win over mighty Macclesfield. Yu wouldn’t have thought we’d won a football match. A crisis after three games surely belongs to the realm of Alastair Darling-like pessimism. The Chancellor would propably say that this is the worst West Ham side for 60 years, although they have been the victims of outside forces.

In the excitement we’ve almost forgotten about Ince, before an obligatory chant of “Judas, Judas what’s the score?”
“Don’t worry lads, we haven’t lost a game where we’ve gone 2-0 up all season,” I say. But then, just like in the Wigan game, our knees go all trembly. Behrami’s dodgy clearance is miscued by Parker and Roberts turns Davenport far too easily to score. Then Rovers have what seems an onside goal disallowed.

In the second half there’s yet more Blackburn pressure. Santa Cruz is substituted, at least allowing me to suggest, to groans, that “Santa Cruz isn’t coming to town”.

Cole handles a direct free kick and it’s a penalty, but England’s number six makes his usual fine save from the Roberts weak spot kick. Then Green saves brilliantly from Emerton’s free header. We’ll be lucky to snatch a point.

Curbs brings on McCartney for Faubert, one of our better players, switches Behrami to the right of midfield and Neill to right back. We’re all baffled by this, but then suddenly Curbs appears to be a tactical genius. Behrami looks a different player in midfield, Neill is much more at home at right-back, and with McCartney on the whole side looks better balanced.

Bellamy replaces Ashton, and quickly fires a volley of abuse at the ref to earn a booking. Then a proper volley produces a fantastic save from Robinson, who seconds later makes another great stop from the hard working Cole. What a great match it’s proving to be.

In injury time a long clearance finds Bellars’ outpacing the Rovers defence and firing a half-volley of sumptious arrogance past Mr Robinson. Blimey. And now we’re stroking the ball around to cries of ‘Ole!” from the crowd. Behrami slips his way to the byline pulls it back for Parker to cross and Cole to prod home for a deserved goal. Eight goals in two days...

On the way to East Ham station there’s that excited buzz from the fans that hasn’t been heard at Upton Park for a good six months. There have been signs of optmism; Noble played like he owed us for the Man City debacle, Etherington was more like the old Matty on the left, Cole unsettled their back line all afternoon and Davenport, apart from a mistake for their goal, has won everything in the air. We’re fourth! Crisis, what crisis?

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