Wednesday, December 29

Oh what fun it is to see West Ham win away!

Fulham 1 West Ham 3

You do fear that 12-year-old Freddie Sears might be full of E-numbers after the festive break. Young Fred has been recalled from Scunthorpe and in the latest erratic selection from Grant has gone straight into the side at Fulham in a wide right midfield role.

“Bet he asked Father Christmas for a start!” texts Matt.

A Boxing day tube strike and a trip to my mother-in-law’s gaff in Buntingford mean I’m watching the match in the Fox and Duck.

I’m with my sister-in-law’s Uncle Angus who is a Fulham fan and an English teacher at a top public school, which rather confirms the stereotype that Fulham fans are a little more upmarket than us Irons.

Does he only drink white wine? No, he prefers the Fox and Duck’s red Merlot as they bring us the finest wines known to humanity and some cheese and onion crisps.

Carlton Cole fires across goal early on, but after 11 minutes my worst fears are confirmed. A corner is only half-cleared and Davies crosses for an unmarked Aaron Hughes — who hasn’t scored since 2004 — to head home. A terrible goal to give away.

Andy Johnson should make it two but scuffs his shot. Surely it can’t be like Reading away in 2006?

My only consolation is that Angus says Fulham can’t finish teams off without Zamora and that Salcido gets caught out of position at left back.

Sure enough, on 37 minutes Freddie Sears hits in a terrible cross and Etuhu deflects it into the path of Cole who turns sharply to prod home.

Cole goes close again in added time as Schwarzer saves, but from the corner Parker crosses and a completely unmarked Piquionne ghosts through the offside trap to volley home. Two-one at half-time and could this be the turning point of our season? It’s IPA and red wine all round. My daughter Lola joins us for the second half.

Green foils Johnson in a one-on-one in the second half but Cole is growing in confidence, holds the ball up well and is starting to look like the player of a year ago. A neat back-heel allows Sears to turn and shoot just wide.

Uncle Angus nips out to the gents and inevitably it’s a goal. On 73 minutes Gabbidon punts the ball upfield, Hughes misheads it to Cole and he turns to sweep the ball home in one movement. Lola and myself dance in the pubs of Buntingford. It’s a great goal and as Mark Lawrenson points out later on Match of the Day, you wonder what CC’s been doing for the rest of the season.

Of course you fear we’ll throw it away, but Ben Haim has a decent game at right back, Upson and Tomkins stay solid and Green produces a brilliant tip over to deny Johnson.

We actually look quite comfortable by the final whistle and for a moment Avram Grant looks a little less like Toad of Toad Hall after a motoring conviction and breaks into a smile, having presumably saved his job. Uncle Angus takes it like a gentleman, and I wish him luck for Fulham's game at Stoke, where he's staying overnight for the match on the way to Edinburgh.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all he way! Oh what fun it is to see West Ham first win away for the first time since the opening match of last season at Wolves. Thank goodness Freddie Sears wrote that letter to Santa.

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