Tuesday, January 3

The winner takes it all

West Ham 1 Coventry 0

My train back from Northallerton arrives at Kings Cross at 13.43 and then it’s a dash across London to make the kick-off. The 'voice of darts' Russ Bray is on the pitch and he's invited by Jeremy Nicholas to announce the teams. He rasps out our side like a hungover Ray Winstone who's just swallowed a packet of Fisherman’s Friends for a dodgy throat.

Part-time Matt is in Sweden looking at the Northern Lights – only couldn’t he have waited for our trip to Barnsley to see them? Or maybe he's on a secret Abba tribute tour. In a bid to make the blog he texts: ”Have been studying statues at Kiruna Cathedral of human states from prayer to desperation – reminded me of WHU.” But Fraser, Nigel (who thankfully makes no rash predictions of "cricket scores" and "floodgates opening") and his pal Michael, a man who wrote a book about Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart from Doctor Who, are all present.

We have a new team on the pitch with the Gang of Four returning from suspension and Baldock fit to start up front. We create several chances, but as usual come up against an inspired goalkeeper in City’s Murphy. He saves with his feet from Nolan and then makes a great stop from Collison’s shot.  Faubert has a shot just wide — “that was novel from Faubert” suggests Nigel — and it’s clear we need to be patient for the breakthrough. Nolan has a couple of lobs over the bar. Tomkins has a great game forcing another inspired save from Murphy and causing lots of problems going forward, but generally we make City’s defence look solid, while they threaten occasionally on the break.

In the second half, after an early scare, we batter their goal once more, although we have no natural winger and all our crosses are delivered from deep. Murphy tips Baldock’s shot on to the bar and palms away a Collison header.

Finally the breakthrough comes on 66 minutes, McCartney crosses from the left, Tomkins heads across goal and Nolan places his header in the corner before running off to do his chicken dance. That’s his seventh goal of the season and we need Mark Noble to show a similar ability to put the ball in the net.

Frank Nouble comes on and looks lively making some fine runs down the flanks, After Carew and Cole it’s a pleasant change to see a pacy, 100 per cent fit striker. We should make it two when a poor back pass leaves Nouble clear. His shot is blocked by Murphy and Noble slices the rebound wide of an empty net.

Predictably we almost allow City back into it in the final ten minutes. On full time Tomkins makes a great block, and the ball loops up to deflect on to the bar. This happens just as it’s announced that Jack Collison is man of the match, when surely it should have been Tomka or Nolan for making the breakthrough.

We hold on and I text Matt that it's the greatest 1-0 victory ever seen at Upton Park, which strangely he doesn’t believe. Results go our way with Boro and Southampton both losing 3-0 to leave WHU joint top, but second on goal difference.

We retreat to the real ale-free zone of the Central where we’re pestered as usual by that woman selling iffy DVDs and watch Joey Barton get sent off.

Big Sam does his Dr Pangloss impersonation afterwards by claiming that we have played “very, very well” which we haven’t, but we have at least shown patience and ground out a result against a team playing above itself. Bring in a striker and a new winger and we might even give someone a tonking.


Phil Nichols said...

Another victory for the arch pragmatist Allardyce. You're right, we did not play well & he is deluding himself if the thinks we did. However, we won against another poor side. Tomkins was excellent (was his extended thanks to the crowd at the end an indication of his imminent departure?). Lets hope not. I thought Noble was fantastic. He covered the whole pitch & while his interventions are not always effective he gives everything. We need some wide players & a proven goal scorer. Apart from that I think we can approach 2012 with some confidence!

Chrissy Brand said...

Phew, back on track with this win, but I have a WHU feeling that it;s going to be Top 6 and the play-offs, and not Top 2 come May...
Happy New Year ;-)

Chrissy at Manchester: a photo a day at Mancunian Wave

and DX International radio blog

matt said...

Think that will look like a very significant win at the end of the season - but it was against the bottom team in our division. With a couple of good signings (I won't be sad to see Piq go though) and better luck with injuries, we should be fine.

PS - "part-time"? Really? So we'll be seeing you at Hillsborough then?

Pete May said...

You've got me worried about Tomkins now, Phil. He had a great game on Saturday, as you say, and we'd be mad to sell him. Noble always works hard and has been consistent, but we just need him to bag a few goals.

And yes, Chrissy, that third place in the play-offs fear keeps haunting me too.

As for Matt, I still can't believe you rated the Northern Lights above the Green Street Xmas lights! I won't be at Hillsborough, but I do plan to to go to the more important game at Peterborough, honest.