Wednesday, February 27

Hammers succumb as Gareth Bales out Spurs

West Ham 2 Tottenham 3

In Ken’s Cafe, Jo from Whitstable is nursing a broken arm. Apparently it happened “weeding in the Caribbean”. So warm weather training hasn’t worked for her either. She’s waiting for DC who has left work to get the motor and drive the Sweeney route through Hackney, ETA 9pm. Matt’s been working Back in the Night, while Lisa’s got Michael the Whovian’s ticket as he’s gone “out to dinner”, perhaps with some luminary from the Jon Pertwee era.

We leave Ken’s early for the Bobby Moore tributes, which are mainly videos of his team-mates. We get to see Roberta Moore tell Jeremy Nicholas about Mooro’s qualities as “a gentleman and a gentle man” and then it’s Viva Bobby Moore by Serious Drinking on the PA and then If the Kids Are United (was Bobby a Sham 69 fan?). The cards making a giant “MOORE 6” in the Bobby Moore Stand are impressive and there’s a rousing chorus of “Bobby Moore’s claret and blue army!” at the kick-off.

“So much for warm weather training!” muses Matt as we learn that Noble’s done his arm in and Tomkins isn’t even on the bench.

“You never know where Lennon’s going to be,” suggests Matt, reflecting that at least he isn’t facing McCartney.

“Yes, it’s hard to Imagine,” I agree.

It’s sad to hear some boos for Scott Parker (what more could he have done for the Hammers?) and I’m not sure if it’s wise to chant “Gareth Bale he looks like a chimp!” at their best player. Jarvis has a dangerous run thwarted, Collins makes a typical block, but Bale threatens with his speed from the kick-off. Almost inevitably he puts Spurs ahead when Demel miskicks and the simian-faced Spur steps around Collins to slide home a shot into the corner after 13 minutes.

Part-time Nigel turns up to find us a goal down. It’s looking bleak, but to Hammers’ credit we keep at it, with even Gary O’Neil putting in a decent shift and Demel dangerous down the right. Nolan fights for a loose ball in the box, Parker slides into Carroll and the ref awards a penalty. There’s general panic about who will take it, but Andy Carroll shows enough confidence to blast it home and then run to the Spurs fans with his Dambusters arms outstretched celebration.

Nolan goes off injured after half an hour to be replaced by Taylor which is a blow, and Dembele isn’t sent off for a second bookable offence. Jussi Jaaskelainen makes a fine save from Caulker’s header before the break and it’s 1-1 at half-time. Nigel regales us with tales of going to freezing Sunderland for the first game after Bobby Moore’s death.

We have some dangerous attacks early the second half in an end-to-end game. On 58 minutes West Ham go ahead. O’Brien plays the ball over the Spurs defence, Joe Cole times his run perfectly, controls with his left foot and slides home with his right. It’s a finish of some class. Joe removes his shirt and runs to the Aviva stand as the stadium goes barmy.

But Spurs look a very good side and besiege our goal. Jaaskelainen does a passable impersonation of Sylvester Stallone in Escape to Victory, brilliantly saving another two Caulker headers, tipping Sigurdsson’s drive on to the post and then holding on to Adebayor’s header from the rebound. Then he superbly tips over a Bale piledriver. We give away numerous free-kicks in Bale territory, but luckily he hasn’t found his range.

We all sense the crucial moment is when West Ham break and Taylor is left in a one-on-one with Lloris. Instead of rounding him, Taytlor shoots into the keeper’s body.

Spurs equalize from a Bale free kick out wide after 76 minutes when O’Brien heads the cross into the back of Reid and in an almighty melee Sigurdsson prods it home. Bugger.

Crucially at this stage Diame looks tired and is subbed with ten minutes to go, while we also replace Demel with the unimpressive Pogatetz. “Taylor’s having a nightmare!’ bemoans Matt as we’re penned back.

Can we hold on to a point? It seems likely until the 90th minute when O’Neil, already booked, stands off Bale and he fires a sumptuous strike into the top corner. If it’s any consolation, Bale looks like Ronaldo on this form. “2-1 and you fucked it up!” chant the Chas and Dave lovers in the away end.

We’ve played as well as we can with these players against a top three side, the spirit has been good, the goalkeeper has been inspired, but failing to get even a point will surely affect confidence. We retreat to the Central and watch the highlights on some dodgy Abu Dhabi channel. At least with the league table written in Arabic we can’t tell where we are, which is just as well. Lose to Stoke and Chelsea and we’re right back in the relegation mix thanks to sodding Gareth Bale. 

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