Friday, March 6

Seventh heaven

Wigan 0 West Ham 1

Put the kids to bed and then check BBC’s live text coverage of the Premier League. West Ham have gone a goal up thanks to Carlton Cole and “what a goal it was” enthuses reviewer Caroline Cheese (is that her real name?). Downstairs to the living room to turn on Sky Sports News and discover the anchor man announcing, “Carlton Cole who scored and was then sent off”. Merde.

The second half starts with bulletins from the square, automoton-like figure of Iain Dowie in headphones and mouthpiece, looking more than ever like the Cyber Controller. It’s all Wigan at the start, then there’s talk of a “horror tackle” by Lucas Neill and the news that Wigan’s Lee Cattermole has been sent off too. Good. Ten versus ten. Dowie seems to think the ref should be deleted.

Surely we can’t win again? But as the bulletins from the JJB arrive the Cyberman is enthusing about the defending of Upson, Tomkins, Neill and Ilunga. Although Collison has gone off with a horrible knee injury.

But late on Noble goes close as Dowie is in danger of overriding the emotional inhibitor in his chest panel and then Lopez of all people has another chance at the death. And after some six minutes of injury time we’ve won. We have 39 points and could probably lose out final ten games and still stay up. Quite an achievement, as relegation looked a huge threat during Zola’s early days.

On Match of the Day our goal is an amazing nine-pass move of first-time balls. It’s everything Zola has been trying to instill in the side. A great one-two between Di Michele and Cole results in the rejuvenated striker curling the ball into the corner. We need a plan B when our passing doesn’t work, but when it comes off like this it’s sublime. Just like watching Holland’s Total Football minus the dodgy shirts.

Cole’s sending off is undeserved. He seems to play the ball in the first challenge and has his eyes on the ball when he makes a high challenge near a defender’s head. A free-kick maybe, but a little common sense and a talking to would have been the reaction of a more experienced referee than 26-year-old Stuart Attwell. Ironic, as earlier a great ball from Collison has sent Cole though and he’s too honest to dive as the keeper rushes out.

Neill should have gone too for an over-the-top lunge. The Cattermole sending off is deserved after he clatters Scott Parker. It’s good to see Scotty so angry throughout the game; he cares about winning for West Ham and not the Abu Dhabi Franchise.

Collison’s knee buckles horribly with no-one around him and he’s surely out for the season. A blow, because with every game he’s reminding me of a young Michael Carrick, or even Trevor Brooking.

Mido grazes our post, but after that Noble just fails to connect with the influential Di Michele’s cross after a fine one-two with Neill, and then Nobes’ has another shot blocked.

After the game Steve Bruce deserves credit for agreeing that the Cole sending off was ridiculous. He’s far more scathing of the ref than Zola who proves he’s the nicest man in football by saying he feels sorry for poor young Private Pike, or whoever the ref was.

We’ve lost Behrami last weekend and now Collison, but hey, we’ve won away, and cemented our place in the Big Seven. Happy days — just as long as we don’t go into administration this week.

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