Sunday, October 21

Noble on the mark to punish sinning Saints

West Ham 4 Southampton 1

The big talking point in Ken’s Café is groundhopper Nigel deserting the side to go and watch Fleetwood versus AFC Wimbledon, as it’s the only league ground he hasn’t been to apart from York City. Rumour is he’s sucking a Fisherman’s Friend up there. My text informs him: “You should have stayed with a big club!”

It’s kids for a quid so Lola and Nell are with me, enjoying Ken’s finest cuisine though Carol slaps my knuckles for taking the whole ticket before she’s torn off my number. Meanwhile DC is in a box and Jo seems to have blagged waitress service unlike the rest of us plebs in the queue. Perhaps there should be an inquiry. Then it’s on to the West Ham shop to spend £20 worth of Academy vouchers where the kids acquire some WHU socks, a pencil sharpener, and a ‘Moore than a football club’ mug and scarf.

One of our tickets is three rows back by the wall, so the girls sit with Matt, Lisa, Fraser and Michael the Whovian, while I’m next to a tactile fan who shakes my hand as I take my seat. Strangely the referee seems to perform much better away from Matt. Yossi is in for the injured Vaz Te and Tomkins, sporting a 1950s cad’s pencil moustache on the programme cover, replaces Demel at right back, while Lambert is left on the bench for the Saints.

The first half is mediocre. Tomkins has a header half-cleared off the line, the keeper’s clearance goes straight to Carroll but he hesitates he allows his shot to be blocked, while Rodriguez pokes an effort just wide for the Saints. “We’re Southampton, we play on the floor!” taunt the Saints fans and if anything the Saints have slightly the better of the first half. The whole side looks tired after the international break.

It all changes in the second half though. Carroll is clattered by Hooiveld again and Mark Noble flights a 40-yard free kick into the box. Ginger Voldemort Collins goes for it but fails to make contact and the ball floats past the Saints’ new goalkeeper Artur Boruc. “Go on boy! Get in you dirty little bastard!” hollers the geezer next to me before inviting me to high five him. Two minutes later Yossi Benayoun, running around like a kid trying to impress on his first day at school, dispossesses Yoshida and races down the right. His low centre presents clucking Kevin Nolan with a tap-in. It’s the sort of calm creativity we’ve lacked in the last third and Yossi could be a big player for us this season. “Get in you dirty little bastard!” hollers the geezer next to me again before embracing me in a manhug and high-fiving everyone in his vicinity. What’s he like with people he actually knows?

It’s always a little worrying when West Ham go two up and sure enough on 63 minutes Rodriquez plays the ball across the box for Lallana to turn swiftly and fire into the top of the net. McCartney should have been tighter.

Nine minutes later Fonde manhandles Carroll and blatantly handballs it in the box. Noble sends the keeper the wrong way from the spot and it’s more man hugging and high-fiving with my new best mate. The Saints defence is so worried by Andy Carroll that huge gaps are emerging elsewhere. Every time Jarvis crosses it causes danger and their keeper makes a fine save from Nolan. Mark Noble goes for a hat-trick but fires his free kick into the wall. Though I’m a little worried by the prospect of a fourth goal and more manlove. Modibo Maiga has replaced Carroll and wins the ball wide on the right. He drifts inside two defenders and curls a delightful finish into the far corner. It’s worth yet more manhugs to see a goal like that.

The West Ham fans have huge fun cheering every pass with cries of “Ole!” and visiting some schadenfreude on the Saints fans as they chant “We’re West Ham United we play on the floor!”

When did we last score four or more in the premier League? It was under Zola in the 5-3 win against Burnley in season 2009-10. A perfect day is completed by visits to the Who Shop and the Newham Bookshop and a text to Nigel telling him that it’s been the greatest second half ever seen at Upton Park. Or at least better than a 1-1 draw at Fleetwood. The addition of Diame, Jarvis and Carroll appears to have taken us a level above the Saints. Fourteen points after eight games – under Avram Grant we didn’t reach that total until December 28 and 20 games. With nearly a quarter of the season gone it’s been quite some start.


matt said...

Some fantastic Statto-style research here, Pete. Although you appear not to have noticed that Julien Faubert scored at the weekend. I am never going to criticise a ref again, as it worked well on Saturday.

Pete May said...

I'm not sure I even know who Julien Faubert plays for now... I'm looking forward to returning to row F for Man City. Surrounding you with kids and your WAG obviously has a beneficial effect on both your language and the referee!

matt said...

On 27 June 2012, Faubert was officially signed by Elazığspor of the Turkish Süper Lig on a three year contract.[26]

Pete May said...

So Real Madrid turned Gustave
down? Very surprising.

Saint Will said...

Pete, I am not sure that you and I watched the same game. OK, so over 90 minutes WHU deserved to win. But Saints were by far the better team in the first half, and were undone by shoddy defending in the first few minutes of the second. The story of our season: just not good enough at the back. But the stand out criticism from me was Carroll; he spent the whole game on his backside. Surely for a player of his supposed quality he should be bossing two average centre halves, not resorting to collapsing like a soggy bubble everytime anyone has the audacity to breathe on him. Big Sam's depressing guidance? And that's from a London Saints who wants WHU to do well.

Pete May said...

I agree that Saints passed it well in the first half and looked the better side, Saint Will, but I think Carroll was manhandled a lot at the back. The ref seemed to agree and gave a lot of free kicks against Hooiveld. Carroll did look a bit slow at times though, but has just returned from a long lay-off.

Yes, it might be part of Sam's game plan to win free kicks, but for us Hammers it's refreshing to see a West Ham side punish a side for poor defending - never used to happen under Avram.