Monday, December 15

Stick your blue flag…

Chelsea 1 West Ham 1

Returning from our wedding anniversary trip to Winchester, it seems helpful to offer to take the bags home while Nicola picks up the kids. I just happen to be back by 4pm and there’s Chelsea v West Ham live on Sky in the Auld Triangle.

Interesting midfield selection from Zola. Faubert has been dropped after the Spurs debacle, Behrami is on the left and Collison and Noble return alongside Parker. I sit alone in the lounge bar with a pint of Guinness and a packet of Tayto crisps, anticipating a drubbing.

Davenport is in for the injured Collins. “We score four whenever ‘head on a stick’ plays,” I text to Matt and Nigel, remembering his role in the drubbing of Blackburn.

Zola receives the expected ovation from the Chelski fans. Lampard and Cole combine for Joey to go close, but Chelsea aren’t creating chances. After 25 minutes it’s looking optimistic and remember even Newcastle drew at the Bridge. Parker is winning every tackle and Collison looks energetic and neat. Behrami is everywhere on the left and Noble has improved our midfield workrate.

No-one’s made a save yet. Then on 33 minutes Noble chases a throw-in, charges the ball down and goes past Terry, who is claiming for hands even though Nobes used his shoulder. Noble plays the ball back to Bellamy who controls it on his chest and fires a great half-volley into the corner. Goal! I leap up with my arms in the air before realising I’m on my own. Still, it’s just what we and Bellers’ need.

Drogba comes on in the second half, which is ominous. Sure enough Lampard and Drogba play a neat interchange and play in the spinning Anelka, who pokes the ball through Green’s legs. 1-1 after 53 minutes.

We immediately attack and after Bellamy’s cross from the goal line, Carlton Cole takes an air shot when surely he should have made it 2-1. We’re giving this a real go. That’s better. Carlton turns on the edge of the box and sends a shot fizzing wide.

Chelsea come back. Ilunga makes a great tackle to deny Joe Cole. Lampard has a tame shot saved. Green makes a sharp save to beat away Drogba’s volley.
Kalou volleys over. Upson and Davenport are immense at the back and Parker is still chasing everything.

Kerry and Mark from Islington’s Green Living Centre arrive unexpectedly in the pub. Basildon has just been announced to be the least green place in Britain according to a survey in the Observer, and I confirm their view about Essex men. “Yes, local collective food, communal gardening co-ops, erm, no not there! God we’re never going to hold out!”

My pal Nick, listening on the radio, sends me a text: “West Ham will not be able to defend like this for another half-hour — BBC”. Cheers, mate.
Green then makes a mistake; he palms Lampard's corner towards his own goal, but the tireless Parker is on the goal-line to head it up on to the bar and away. The ball is instantly returned, but this time Green makes a fantastic flying stop from Alex’s header. You can hear ‘Bubbles’ on the tele.

There’s still time for a Lampard penalty claim. Neill sticks a leg out and withdraws it, with Big Fat Frank going over. Thankfully ref Mike Riley ignores him.

There’s bloody five minutes of Ferguson time. But then in the 92nd minute Behrami breaks confidently, plays the ball into Carlton Cole who’s clean through to win the game only, aaargh, he’s shot tamely at Cech. “Not up to it,” texts Nigel and you have to agree. Cole works tremendously hard, but he’s a Championship striker, at this level he gets three or four a season which isn’t good enough. We need Ashton back.

The whistle blows. “Phew” texts Nigel. It’s a great point and we could have won. What’s encouraging after the Spurs game is that Zola has won the tactics game. We’ve played a deep back four, denying Anelka any running space, and kept a bank of four across the midfield. The whole side has played well. Maybe our season turns here.

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