Monday, January 18

Green day

Aston Villa 0 West Ham 0

Times are desperate so we’re watching the game live on Sky in the Lucky Pub. None of us can tell you where it is or we have to kill you — but various members of our crew have seen West Ham win 3-2 at Highbury, beat Ipswich 2-0 away in the play-offs, win at Sunderland and draw at Anfield in this venue.

Nigel and CQ arrive late, laden down with grooming products and Body Shop-style pampering equipment because it was going cheap in the West End. Nigel declares that if we beat Villa it's our first double of the season. Matt and Lisa complete the Sunday luncheon club as we try to get the landlord to switch over from the cricket.

We’re playing a five-man midfield with just Nouble up front. Early on the young striker runs from the half way line and with the confidence of youth murders Dunne and Collins for pace as he races through for a one-on-one with the keeper, only to blast over as Cuellar lunges in.

Then it reverts to form. We work hard but can’t hold on to the ball and Villa make several chances and win numerous corners. Green brilliantly tips away a lifted cross come shot from Ashley Young. Then Agbonlahor swivels in the box and Green makes a fantastic one-handed stop. He shows the other side of his game by dropping a cross. But it’s 0-0 at the break and another pint of Master Brew please.

In the second half Milner hits the outside of the post after a great move and Ginger Collins volleys just wide. Green is caught out trying to dribble the ball but survives. Parker goes off with a thigh injury and is replaced by the snood-wearing Diamanti. (Possibly the worst accessory ever worn by a West ham player — what would Dicksy say? Will he play with a man bag next?)

Carew has the ball in the net after Green spills Downing’s shot, but he’s correctly ruled offside. The booked Kovac nearly goes off, but luckily his foul on Petrov goes unpunished, and Franco sensibly subs him for Stanislas. Tomkins and Upson are playing well at the back and even Faubert isn’t bad.

The tension is too much for Matt: “Nouble keeps falling over! Why can’t Behrami pass straight? Where is Collision? We’re not playing well at all!”

“You wouldn’t think we’re 20 minutes away from a point at a top six team would you?” intones Nigel, sagely prodding his overcooked roast beef.

"Do we go out of the bottom three if we get a point?" I wonder.

"Don't say that! It's a competition between you and Nigel to see who can say the stupidist things!" exclaims Matt, fearing I've jinxed the Irons.

Nouble is doing a good job keeping the Villa defence occupied and slowly we come into the game. Stanislas blasts in a low cross from the right and Collins deflects the ball past his own post. Dimanti has a scuffed shot and Friedel punches Behrami and the ball in the melee.

We make it to 90 minutes. Only then Agbonlahor is through one on one with Green and this is surely another injury time defeat, but no his control is poor and Green pulls off another fantastic stop.

Added time goes on forever, Da Costa replaces Nouble after 94 minutes, but finally it’s over. A point!

We rode our luck but three fantastic saves from Robert Green (30 this weekend) and some great blocks from Tomkins and Upson have kept us in it.

Nigel and CQ leave to sample some grapefruit body scrub and strawberry body polish and Matt and Lisa head off to the Courtauld to see Frank Auerbach, whoever he plays for. The Lucky Pub has worked its magic again. Best not go there again until the survival decider.


Matt said...

And here come Sullivan and Gold, saying Zola will almost certainly stay - but "he might not want to". Hmm, I think things are going to get ever more "interesting" at Green Street...

Pete May said...

Hopefully, judging on their record at Birmingham, they stick with managers. I think Sullivan means he has to talk to Zola before confirming he's staying long-term. We shall see...