Tuesday, November 20

Joey makes his point

West Ham 1 Stoke City 1

West Ham can go fifth if they beat a Stoke side that has yet to win away. What can possibly go wrong? Everything as it’s West Ham, we agree in Ken’s CafĂ©.

Matt has taken Lisa for a romantic mini-break to Antwerp versus St Truiden while Nigel’s been watching 67-year-old Lemmy and Motorhead. I manage to meet my old schoolmate Mark who’s a helicopter-pilot trainer and as a man who has flown air-sea rescue missions has plenty of experience saving sinking ships – all good preparation for watching West Ham.

Bad news is Jarvis and Benayoun are both out, with Maiga and O’Neil replacing them. Early doors Crouch heads down for Adam to volley over, but it’s a warning. On 13 minutes the West Ham defence is expecting a high ball, but instead Stoke’s short corner is cut back for Walters to sweep home first-time. The referee has missed the fact that Adam is obstructing McCartney, a tactic that Tony Pulis admits Stoke have been working on in training. “How shit must you be we’re winning away?” sing the small group of Potters fans.

Stoke have the better of the first half with Etherington and Adam prominent and are unlucky not to go two up when the impressive N’Zonzi hits the underside of the bar. Our best effort is a Nolan volley that Begovic does well to tip past the post.

Whatever Allardyce says at the break works. West Ham play a much higher tempo and Maiga is looking skillful and creative in the half-winger half-striker role. The equalizer arrives on 48 minutes

The underrated Gary O’Neil plays in a low cross from the right and Joey O’Brien of all people is in the box to sweep home. A nice moment for Joey, who’s on the front of the programme and in the Standard revealing how no-one wanted him apart from Big Sam following his career threatening knee injury. And it's his first ever Premier League goal, though he did score at Watford last season.

"We've never lost when Joey O'Brien has scored," I point out.

We batter the Stoke goal for much of the second half as the crowd is roused. And do they not like orange. The tangerine-clad Begovic holds the ball for ten minutes at a time and winds up the Bobby Moore Stand no end.

“Oh no, not a short corner,” sighs Mystic Morris as West Ham produce the best move of the game with Noble and Nolan teeing up Gary O’Neil for a curler that drifts just beyond the post. Carroll’s header is nearly turned in by Maiga but his effort is cleared off the line. McCartney is prominent on the left and he cuts inside from the byline only to fire straight at Begovic.

“Come on Hamas… now you don’t want to be saying that in Tel Aviv,” quips Nigel.

Reid and Tomkins make some splendid last-ditch interventions to foil Stoke on the counter-attack and a draw is possibly a fair result. The important thing is we don’t lose this and the points total keeps ticking over. It’s also refreshing to see a lot of fair but crunching tackles in midfield, something of a lost art these days. Stoke’s defence is less pretty though, with arms around necks, holding and pushing going on most of the time. Nolan has a fine game up front but is frequently clattered.

Andy Carroll is substituted by Cole after a tough evening against Huth and Shawcross and is caught swearing at Sam by the cameras. He’s given a good performance for the team and the goals will surely come.

Four minutes of injury-time fail to produce a winner. Outside the East Stand perfectionist Matt has a Chelsea style bust-up with Nigel, Fraser, Michael and myself as he berates the lads for indecisive decision-making, tardiness getting to the pub and settling for one pint when we could have had three. Still, it just shows the professionalism we have in this squad of fans and it’s a passionate game.

We make the Black Lion by 10.20pm for some Captain Bob ale and on Sky we glimpse Big Sam’s bristling Movember moustache, which is frankly a little sub-Windsor Davies. It’s been disappointing not to win, but five points from Man City, Newcastle and Stoke is more than we expected: 19 points from 12 games — we’ll be having that. 


matt said...

Just like Stoke's goal showed, when it comes to getting to the pub it is all about the preparation. Although at least we didn't have Stoke fans blocking us on the Barking Road. Are you a tad generous to the ref here? He failed utterly to stop the timewasting by Begovic, and allowed Stoke to get away with grappling tactics that would be outlawed in rugby. Still, shows how far we have come when an established Premier League team is that desperate to cling on for a draw.

Pete May said...

Yes, there was one blatant push on Carroll in the box and Nolan was held at every corner. And how does Huth get away withy it every game? Needed a stronger ref but as you say, at least we rattled Stoke and put them under pressure...

matt said...

I am not saying Chris Foy is the worst ref in the league - but he is in the top one...