Sunday, February 22

Grim up north

Bolton 2 West Ham 1

Bad feeling about Bolton away. We’ve lost 4-1, 4-0 and 1-0 at the Reebok in the previous three seasons and we also lost 1-0 up there in 2003 in a defeat that virtually condemned us to relegation, just before poor Glenn Roeder had a brain hemorrhage. Cue Fat Sam and Okacha doing horrible victory jigs at the end of the season as we headed for Rotherham.

Nicola, my daughter Nell and this absent Iron are taking advantage of spring-like sunshine to cycle through the woods at Bayfield in Herts. Having decided to try and ignore the game, a text comes from Nigel, putting a spoke in my mountain bike’s wheel. It reads: “Sounds unlucky”. For an instant there’s a temptation to think he might mean unlucky not to win in a plucky draw. But no, Matt conforms the 2-1 defeat with the proviso “we never win at Bolton”.

At least Cole and Behrami are fit to play and Spector is in for the suspended Neill. Match of the Day confirms that we should have taken something from the game.

Early on Ilunga does well to get into the box and plays in Cole for a blocked chance. But Bolton score after ten minute when Jack Collison rather naively gives away a free kick on the edge of our box. Matt Taylor scores with a trademark unstoppable shot into the top corner. A minute later Elmander crosses for Davies to reach the ball before Upson and Spector to fire home first time. Then Collins goes off with a hamstring injury.

But we come back with some great football. Starting with Tomkins' header out of defence a great move sees Di Michele find Cole and Carlton play through Noble, who bizarrely opts to cross when he looks certain to score. In the resulting melee Nobes' has a lob cleared off the line.

Before the break Nobles plays Di Michele through and in a one-on-one he slices the ball horribly wide. Even Zola looks like he might swear.

After the break Cole has a header cleared off the line before Spector’s fine low cross is steered in by Parker. All you can hear on the box are the Hammers fans’ chanting “Come on you Irons”. Jaaskelainen does well to save Carlton’s Cole's bouncing header. Then right at the end Di Michele neatly rounds the keeper only for Cahill to clear the ball off the line. Yet, even in defeat, some of our football shows how far the team has come undr Zola.

We’ll see bankers waiving bonuses and Nigel forgetting how many grounds he’s been to before we win at Bolton. Let’s now concentrate on the Cup.

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