Wednesday, February 15

We've only got ten men! (Again)

West Ham 1 Southampton 1

In Ken’s Café we’re musing whether West Ham could stay forever top of the Championship rather than return to the foothills of the Premiership. Could we be in a kind of “we’re West Ham United we’re top of the league” purgatory? “It’s almost Miltonian,” muses Big Joe, mentioning West Ham’s Paradise Lost. This is possibly the first time the word Miltonian has ever been uttered in Ken’s Café.

Anyone who’s anyone appears to be in Ken’s tonight. Alison, Scott and Joey O’Brien (no relation) are up from Essex, there’s John formerly of Shelter and Matt’s brought Lisa out for a romantic Valentine’s night dinner, having earlier been on a mini-break to Margate. “You can keep the Costa Brava and all that palaver, going no farther, me I'd rather have me a day down Margate with all me family,” suggests Matt, before recommending that Tate gallery there.

Big Joe is also with his Missus, and is offering Candy a tour of the Central and other Barking Road boozers after the match, along with Big Phill trying to decide which one Bobby Moore used to own.

There’s a good turnout in the stadium and a great atmosphere, helped by the noisy Saints contingent. For the first twenty minutes West Ham play some of the best football of the season. In the first minute slack marking from the Saints defence allows Vaz Te to burst through and strike a low half-volley that Davis does well to save. Reid later puts a chance over the bar from a few yards out and generally we look fluid with Vaz Te adding some pace to the forward line.

Then comes a very West Ham moment as we manage to both win a penalty and get a player sent off. Noble is brought down by Billy Sharp for the penalty, which looks clear enough to us. Sharp then accuses Nobes of cheating. Matt Taylor appears to punch him and Lee Probert is straight out with his red card. Later replays suggest Taylor has only pushed Sharp in the chest, though he goes down in the fashion of Sonny Liston being floored by Muhammad Ali’s phantom punch. Stupid of Taylor to raise his arms though and indiscipline is threatening to wreck our season.

Skipper Mark Noble ends all the fuss by calmly scoring his seventh penalty of the season on his 200th appearance.

The Bobby Moore Stand serenades us with the new theme song of “We’ve only got ten men!” Big Sam removes Collison and brings on McCartney at left back. Carlton Cole takes tremendous punishment up front with no protection from the ref and is even clattered by keeper Kelvin Davis. Noble gets some great tackles in while Faubert shows great workrate but always gets his third touch slightly wrong.

We’re playing with spirit but the extra man shows as Robert Green makes a great double save from Sharp and then dives low to tip another Sharp shot wide after good skill by Lallana.

Going in still winning at the break feels like a victory. West Ham celebrate Valentine’s Day with a post-feminist half-time pitch appearance from Hayley Mac, a beauty queen from Grays and Miss Essex, Sydney Jennings. So there is hope for Russell Brand.

In the second half the ref still seems to get everything wrong. At one point Lee Probert gives Noble a free kick for stepping on the ball, though at least he doesn’t red card the ball. Faubert trips when he appears likely to score. Saints put a free header over but West Ham do a pretty sound defensive against seemingly endless corners until 15 minutes from the end.

The skillful Lallana swings in a free kick after Abdy Faye goes down like Basil Fawlty suffering from his war would in a bid to waste a bit of time. Lambert knocks the ball back and Dutch defender Hooiveld prods home a softish equalizer.

But a draw will still keep us top of the league. The Upton park faithful make a lot of noise and immediately break into Bubbles after the Saints equaliser. Best performance from the fans this season.

Maynard comes on for Cole and after some slight hesitancy from the Saints defence fires an acrobatic volley towards the top corner that forces a great save from Davis. Promising from the new boy.

“You’ve only got twelve men!” chorus the Irons fans. We survive four minutes of added time and remain top of the league.

Nigel’s alternative route to the Black Lion takes us around most of East London, but eventually we make it into the back bar for restorative pints of Maldon Gold and Captain Bob in front of Sky Sports News. Not a disaster, but we’ve had six players sent off this season and it has to stop. We could have gone four points clear if we’d kept everyone on the pitch, though in the circumstances it’s another gritty performance from the Irons. If we ever get to play with 11 men we might be quite good. 


Keefyd said...

I would like to see how long we can keep this up - this is very tough league to get out of, and I want us to go up as Champions - I will "settle" for second spot.

If/when we get promoted, what now really worries me is how we will cope in the Premiership again - nothing really hints that we have got star quality to keep us there.

Tonks, Noble, Collison, Green, Nolan....all excellent, but I cannot see other big names wanting to join the cause....

North Bank Normna said...

Bobby Moore owned a sports shop in Green Street, opposite the main entrance. I think it was, rather cleverly, named Bobby Moore Sports.

Pete May said...

Agree with you Keef that Tomkins, Noble, Green, Collison are all PL players, not sure if Nolan can keep going but he has the track record. We'd have to buy 4 players or so.

Nice to hear from you North Bank Norman, always wondered how that shop got its name! You'd have loved the ref last night...

Phil Nichols said...

It was an exciting game with a cracking atmosphere. Good to see us up against a half decent side for a change. Indiscipline cost us. Taylor knows the score, but it was out of character. With 11 I think we would have won. Still I'll live with a draw. Glad we proved we can live without Nolan, but Tomkins is wasted in his new position. What is that position exactly? I also thought playing Taylor at left back was an odd tactical move in the first place. Maybe he had been watching too many old Dicks videos, prompting his bad boy shove.Noble & Green were absolutely inspiring.

Pete May said...

Think Taylor started at left back as McCartney had a knock, Phil. Green has had a great season - strange no PL clubs came in for him in Jan - and it's good to see Noble coming out of Parker's shadow - he was really inspiring on Tuesday. Tomkins is meant to be in the Diop position I assume but agree he's a better centre back. COYI