Friday, February 12

Zola power

West Ham 2 Birmingham 0

These are desperate times. It’s on with the lucky claret-hooped away kit that I’ve had since Fortune’s Always Hiding days. It worked in the play-off final so it’s worth a try.

We look doomed if we lose tonight. Although quite what the Vicar’s Son’s mum thinks of Armageddon being announced by David Sullivan on horseback via the Sun we don’t as yet have a theological opinion on.

In Ken’s Café it’s like a post-modern Waiting for Godot as The Gav sits in front of his bacon sausage and chips in his perpetual wait for DC to arrive with his ticket. Matt’s chips and beans arrive at 7.40 so I leave them to it, not wanting to miss our first three goals.

There’s a great atmosphere in the stadium, although we’re not sure about advocating a 25 per cent pay cut and undermining the manager is a great idea from the Club Manager.

“Well, we got plenty of publicity through it,” I say.

“Perhaps he’s just trying to get bums on seats like an old style fight promoter,” suggests Nigel.

Zola is apparently determined to show he is not the next Ossie Ardiles by making tough decisions. Out go Collison and Noble and in come Kovac and Diamanti. Ilunga is back too, but is soon injured again and replace by the ever-willing Spector. We look better balanced tonight and Kovac adds some physical presence to midfield.

Our defence has a few ropey moments but generally we look up for it. Diamanti, playing wide on the left, has a shot tipped away and Phillips has an effort palmed over by Green and Jerome shoots wide when well placed, but generally it’s a game of few chances. Mido puts himself about alongside Cole (you do hope Mido won’t have to have his £1000 a week cut to £750) and Diamanti whizzes in crosses all night, but the Brum defence remains resolute.

In added time at the end of the first half Parker is hacked down on the edge of the box and Diamanti curls home an absolutely superb free kick. The deranged Diamanti Geezer then runs into the arms of Zola shouting, “This is for you!” in Italian. Zola is mobbed by half the team in a clear message the new owners.

“I just hope we can hold on to half-time,” I quip. Thankfully there’s only five seconds left and we go in 1-0 up.

In the second half it’s more of the same. Birmingham look like they might have settled for survival like the Charlton of old. But we survive a clear penalty appeal when Upson handballs in the area.

On 67 minutes Cole finds Behrami who plays in Faubert on the right. The flying Madame Bovary apologist races to the line and plays in a great cross that Carlton bravely dives to head into the net. Yes! We are staying up!

Hmm. Maybe advocating a 25 per cent pay cut and undermining the manager works after all.

We’re almost comfortable for the rest of the night as Lee Bowyer is subbed and Birmingham blast the odd shot wide. Fraser looks at his lucky black leather gloves in a state of high karma and amid the faint hearts remarks that we still won the Burnley home game even if we did let three in after being 5-0 up.

The best aspect of the night is that Behrami is up and down the field like he used to. It’s his best game of the season and he gets stronger as the game goes on. Only three minutes added time and we’ve won!

For once we can celebrate in the Central (what still no microbrewery?) from the giddy heights of 14th place. Irons!


Pete May said...

Mike comments via his Blackberry device:

"Good win last night, BUT lucky too. Two penalty calls missed by Dean and Brum were not firing on all cylinders. Great play from Kovac, Behrami, Diamanti, and a lot of the game in the other side's half for once. Onwards v 'Ull"

TBI said...

Upson and Diamond geezer motm for me.

NorthBankNorman said...

Sorry but Mike's talking crap, for once there was nothing lucky, and nothing unlucky, about our performance. Yes the ball hit Upson's hand, but I haven't seen anyone mention that Cole was clearly ONSIDE when clean through in the opening minutes, so I figure that evens out. Don't know what the other penalty shout was supposed to be, but we outplayed Birmingham, and it's not often we do that to anyone, so credit where it's due. IRONS!!!!

Pete May said...

I agree it was a merited win. just about the only time this season I've felt (almost) comfortable!