Monday, May 9

We'll play the wild Rovers no more?

West Ham 1 Blackburn 1

Upton Park station is closed yet again. It’s another Palin-esque train journey up the Victoria line to Blackhorse Road, on the Overground to Barking then one stop to East Ham and a walk to the ground.

I’m taking ten-year-old Nell as it’s kids for a quid and we’re accompanied by my neighbour Scott, a Blackburn fan and possibly the only sociologist ever to enter Upton Park. Nell, perhaps lacking the Corinthian spirit, tells him that Blackburn are rubbish and that Arsenal should have 1000 points docked, which we all agree on.

Inside Ken’s Café Nigel is shaking his head as he reads the programme, muttering, “Grant says we displayed well at Chelsea and Man City…” Indeed, Avram’s notes might have been compiled by Voltaire’s Dr Pangloss, who believed that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”.

Matt’s speculating with Big Joe about who is hiding behind superinjunctions, but fails to admit his own superinjunction forbidding the press from covering his shameful relationship with 11 men in E13.

There’s a long wait for our cuisine, although I explain to Nell that we can’t leave as it’s the best part of our day. DC and young Conor arrive at 2.55, which is pretty early for DC. We just make the kick off.

It’s a little baffling why there’s no place for Piquionne, and Parker, Tomkins and Upson are all out. “Any team with Jason Roberts up front can’t be up to much,” quips Nigel.

The crowd are up for it, but as ever we concede an early goal. Hitzlsperger fails to foul properly, the ref plays the advantage and Jermaine Jones finds Emertom who races down the right to cross. Da Costa loses his marker to let journeyman Jason Roberts score.

We have a Da Costa header cleared off the line and Ba holds the ball up well for Sears to shoot at Robinson, but we rarely look like penetrating the Rovers rearguard. Samba is immense and the impressive N’Zonzi runs the midfield for Blackburn.

Early in the second half Spector fires just wide and Der Hammer gets in a shot that Robinson parries. At least we’ve tested the keeper. Carlton Cole beats the ground in frustration at being denied a penalty but Rovers still look on course for a victory. But we still look disjointed and lacking in energy and belief.

Keane replaces Boa Morte after 55 minutes. After 63 minutes Grant makes more scattergun substitutions, bringing on Piquionne and Collision for Sears and Jacobsen. At least he’s acted early for once. We end up with four forwards, in Cole, Piquionne, Keane and Ba. It’s lopsided, but in the final 25 minutes we at last show some urgency.

There’s some booing when Grant touches the ball in the second half and then a mournful chant of “Que sera sera whatever will be will be, we’re going to Coventry…” But generally the fans are superb, singing a rousing “We are West Ham’s Claret and Blue Army!” and making it the noisiest second half at Upton Park this season.

Collison plays a great long ball out to Cole on the left and Carlton whips in a superb cross that Demba Ba heads just wide, when he probably should have got it on target.

It’s great to see Collison back. Suddenly we have a midfielder who appreciates an angle for a pass.

“Daddy, when are West Ham going to score?” asks Nell.

“I’m not sure if we’ll ever score again,” I reply bleakly.

“Don’t be silly Daddy, of course West Ham will score.” Oh, the optimism of youth.

Carlton Cole is proving influential on the left. Just as I’ve given up hope CC crosses for Piquionne on the right who plays it into the box. The ball breaks for Carlton again on the left and he holds it up before finding Hitzlsperger. Der Hammer fires first time from the edge of the box and a superb strike finds the bottom corner, Upton Park erupts and Nell was right.

Could we win it at the death? On 88 minutes Collison finds Piquionne on the left and he crosses low towards Robbie Keane two yards in front of the goal. Somehow Keane contrives to miss the ball and spurn the sort of chance he’s buried all his career.

“What the f***ing hell is the point of f***ing Robbie Keane?” hollers the normally mild-mannered Nigel. You wouldn’t think he attended Brentwood School and lives in sedate Kew Gardens. The vicar’s son beside him looks a little shocked. Even Fraser is in danger of losing his mask of cool. Nell wants to know why they’re calling Keane an “anchor”. Keane’s missed three chances in three games for us now.

There’s still time for the superb Samba to block a goalbound Ba volley and then throw himself in front of Cole in stoppage time.

They think Hitz all over. We’ve got to win our last two games and hope that Wolves lose to WBA. Defeat would have surely been the end, so there’s some limited hope. Let’s start Collison next week at Wigan and give Piquionne a game and pray that Parker returns. Our two-game group of death begins here. And even if we get six points it may not be enough.

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