Sunday, November 9

No defence

West Ham 1 Everton 3

Fraser's back from the Orient Express and now in the more classy environs of Ken’s Cafe. He’s failed to see Venice play (“it was flooded off, there was a waterlogged pitch") and tells me that despite paying all that dosh to go from Venice to Budapest, the train doesn’t even have Sky TV, just a piano player and two restaurants. The train also stopped in Vienna, but it meant nothing to him.

I've escorted fellow north London resident one-armed Jo on the District Line, attempting to shield her broken arm from bashings. She's probably still closer to a return than Dyer and Gabbidon.

In the ground it seems that Barack Obama must be visiting, as the pitch is full of soldiers. But it’s Remembrance Sunday. The minute's silence is perfectly observed. It's almost as if we're at the Emirates.

The team selection looks a little strange. Mullins is dropped despite scoring and so is Collison, the man of the match against Boro. In comes Bowyer and Luis Boa Morte is preferred to Etherington. Clearly Zola sees something in him, although what is unclear. All season Nigel’s maintained that the 12-year-old kid sitting in front of us is in fact Freddie Sears; but no, the real Freddie is playing today, It must be his older brother sitting by us.

We start off brightly against the Blue Scousers. Sears is lively up front, all quick feet and darting runs disturbing expereienced defenders like Yobo and Jagielka. But after 17 minutes Matthew Upson goes down and is subbed by Collison. “The one player we can’t afford to lose,” mutters Nigel.

But with Neill at centre back and Faubert at right-back we continue to dominate. Bellamy volleys just over and then the Welsh irritant beats a despairing defender with a great dummy and crosses for Sears to shoot and Howard to tip the ball onto the bar. Then Boa Morte does well to pick out Sears in the six yard box, but he slices wide when he looks certain to score.

We meet Gavin in the stand at half-time, who has bought a ticket for Hornchurch v Peterborough in the FA Cup. The man selling the ticket wanted to know why he hadn’t been for 20 odd years, apparently unaware of distractions down the District Line. Then Nigel and Gavin do a deal for a Uriah Heep ticket, all without visible embarrassment. Matt thinks they should at least look “very ’umble”.

“Don’t worry, they’ll have tickets on the door,” Nigel reassures us.

“Yes, about 3000,” I suggest.

We’re happy with the way we’re playing and all agree that under Zola the football has improved, if not the results.

The second half continues with Hammers playing a fluent passing game with Parker prominent and Collison looking like a young Michael Carrick. Boa Morte is having a bit of a mare though, shooting wildly over and slicing once cross into touch before being subbed by Etherington.

We have a good appeal for a penalty turned down when there’s a clear handball in the box. The crowd get going in the Bobby Moore Stand and they’re clearly inspired by home grown players playing such good football. Then Matty brings an instant dividend. Sears finds Etherington who plays in Parker in the box, Scotty backheels to Collison who expertly curls the ball over Howard for his first Hammers goal in the 63rd minute.

Only inevitably we start to sit on our lead. We reflect that Curbishley would bring on Mullins on and sit on the lead, while Zola will go for a second.

“It would be ironic if we finally kept a clean sheet without Upson.” Suggests Nigel.

“Now you’ve done it…” I counter.

Everton bring on Vaughan up front along with Anichebe and Saha but Zola doesn’t respond as we’re pressed back.You know any side managed by David Moyes is going to keep going right to the end.

Then in the 82nd minute Saha drifts wide on the right, with Parker ambling towards him like a man on a Sunday afternoon stroll. He crosses and Lescott outpaces Collins to head in, unmarked. Now we’re only going to get a sodding point. “Who are yer!” chant the Everton fans.

Only a minute later, Ilunga lets Anichebe cross and Saha shoots from the edge of the area, it deflects off Collins and into the far corner past a despairing dive from Green. We've been mugged. Saha’s had two chances and scored both. Two minutes later Faubert carelessly gives the ball away and Saha fires in an unstoppable shot from 25 yards. Three goals in five minutes. How did this happen? The centre fails to hold, things fall apart. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the Upton Park faithful.

Even Nigel runs for the Silverlink. The departing Hammers fans have the dazed looks of Congolese villagers fleeing rebel forces. Should we be encouraged by dominating the game for 70 minutes? Or more worried by no clean sheets for 24 games, a Premiership record, and a defence with a glass chin? Dominating a game and losing is relegation form.

It’s the most depressing defeat of the season. Is this a time for a novice in charge? At least Curbishley could get results. The crowd drift towards East Ham station with collective murmurs of dissent.

“Typical West Ham… I never wanted to be f••king Chelsea anyway… all that kissing the Chelsea badge… Zola was out-thought… no use playing all the f••king pretty football, who got the f••king three points… that French muppet… when did we last have a player who could take a free-kick? It was Solano…”

Hmm. Maybe we’d better cancel that invitation to Obama.


matt said...

Uriah Heep! With my reputation! That is surely libel....It was Gavin. A Uriah Heep ticket turning up would be one of my worst nightmares. You'll be accusing me of liking Tales From Toppgraphic Oceans next.

Pete May said...

Apolgies, it was a slip of the mouse, so please don't sue. I have amended the copy to out Nigel and Gavin as the very 'umble ones. I realise Yes are more your bag...

Anonymous said...

Matt's more of a snow patrol/ travis/ stereophonics / the feeling fan. nothing to be ashamed of there.

matt said...

Oi, anonymous (if in fact that is your real name, Nigel) no, no, no and no.

Anonymous said...

I have known Matt many years and can confirm he is a huge Bloc Party fan

Pete May said...

I always had Matt down as a Coldplay sort of guy... and of course the reformed Take That.

matt said...

Bloc Party? Quite liked some of their early stuff...Now, more Hockey, Passion Pit, Arch M, Happy Hollows, Glam Chops...If you've heard of them, I've moved on. As for Coldplay, saw them supporting Terris at ULU back in the day and knew they'd be big, but if I wanted to associate with success and world domination I wouldn't support West Ham.