Sunday, October 7

Kick up the Arsenal

West Ham 1 Arsenal 3

There’s no Hammersmith and City line from Kings Cross and no District line at Mile End. It’s reminiscent of the great Avram Grant relegation season when every home game entailed 28 Days Later style treks from Canning Town, Stratford or West Ham. Thankfully there’s a slow service from West Ham to Upton Park, though we’d all assumed the closures had stopped with the Olympics. Still the Gooner librarians get plenty of time with their Kindles on the tube, though for a moment it seems I’ll suffer the embarrassment of being late for a 5.30 kick-off.

In Ken’s Cafe it’s stiff teas all round and a solid turnout of Matt and Lisa, Nigel and CQ, Iain, Jo, Michael the Whovian, fresh from a lunch with the great William Russell (aka Ian Chesterton), Mike O and a fleeting glimpse of DC running for Big Joe’s box. Matt and I note that Giroud hasn’t scored in the league yet for Arsenal so decide he will surely end his duck against us.

It’s the best atmosphere of the season inside the Boleyn Stadium, stoked up by a minute’s applause for the late John Bond. For the first 15 minutes it’s all Arsenal and their pretty passing, inspired by the tiny Carzorla. Jussi tips away a shot from Giroud within two minutes and Carroll heads away a goalbound effort from Giroud.

But all that changes after 15 minutes. Mystic Matt has just said that we haven’t seen much of Diame, as McCartney finds the powerful Senegalese midfielder wide on the left. Diame shows great skill to cut inside two defenders and from a tight angle curls a lovely shot across goal and into the top of Mannone’s net. He runs to the West Stand making a “calm down” gesture as Upton Park erupts.

West Ham have a good spell after this with Andy Carroll making good contact with a free header from a corner but heading straight at Mannone. We might only have made Arsenal angry though. Diame loses the ball in midfield and the ball is fed wide to Podolski, who sends in an inviting cross to the near post. Giroud gets behind Collins and scores a fine poacher’s goal. Bugger. Another striker ends his drought against us.

We nearly get a second just before half time when Carroll half-wins a header in the box and Nolan prods the ball wide.

It’s 1-1 at the break as Matt reveals that he’s been to a thrilling 0-0 draw between Rochdale and Bradford in midweek, while groundhopper Nigel is opting for a trip to Fleetwood instead of attending the Southampton game. Beach Boys fan Fraser, a man who has seen John Bond play, simply wants some Good Vibrations from three points.

The Irons have a storming start to the second half with Bubbles echoing around the ground. Andy Carroll beats Mannone to a diagonal cross but heads just wide of the empty goal. Kevin Nolan hesitates in a one-on-one allowing Mertesacker to get in a tackle. 

West Ham’s rhythm is disrupted when Vaz Te falls awkwardly after challenging the keeper and suffers a dislocated shoulder. Demel pulls up with a hamstring tweak and is replaced by Tomkins. Diame makes some storming runs forward and does really well to advance on the left on 77 minutes. But his poor cross is easily cut out and Arsenal break swiftly. Substitute Theo Walcott is suddenly through on the left, outpacing McCartney and slotting the ball home into the corner of the net. “You only sing when you’re winning!” chant the West Ham fans at the celebrating Gooners.

West Ham have another chance to equalize when McCartney cleverly finds Jarvis and his cross falls for Nolan on the edge of the box, only for Kev to flash his volley over. It’s the sort of chance he normally buries.

The game’s over in the 83rd minute when Carzorla receives Walcott’s ball on the edge of the box and curls a brilliant effort into the top corner. The Spaniard looks as good as Febregas on this form. The geezer in front of us blames Jussi, but it’s an unstoppable effort.

Diame goes off injured too and there’s still time for Matt Taylor to have a stinging effort turned away by Mannone. Andy Carroll plays the full 90 minutes through necessity and avoids injury, partnering Carlton Cole for the last 15 minutes.

In a way it’s encouraging that we feel we ought to have got a point out of this. Arsenal look a really good side and we’ve missed several chances against them and pushed them to the end. Sam will be saying yet again that we need to be more clinical.

We head to the Central to escape the mayhem at the station and find a table with a gingham tablecloth and an oven full of pies as the pub’s latest move into the gastro market. Still no real ale though, just some terrible karaoke. 

Had we drawn at QPR and drawn with Arsenal we’d have been happy, so three points against Rangers and none against Arsenal is still an OK return. Two weeks off to reflect on this now. We won’t meet many sides that can pass it like the Arse and it’s worth remembering that a year ago we were struggling to beat the likes of Peterborough and Ipswich at home.

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