Wednesday, September 25

Vaz wraps it up

West Ham 3 Cardiff City 2 (Capitol One Cup)

It’s the smallest queue ever at Ken’s and inside the ground it’s just Fraser and myself in a crowd of 18,611 for Big Sam's 100th game. Nigel’s in Brighton, Matt’s doing family stuff in Widecombe, Lisa is at John Hegley, and Michael the Whovian is recovering from his Warsaw knees-up.

Luckily we get there early, as WHU score after 20-odd seconds. Morrison cuts in from the left and curls a lovely finish beyond Cardiff’s reserve keeper Lewis. After eight minutes we’re two goals up as after good work by Maiga, Jarvis prods the ball over the line. Leo Chambers was involved in the build up and the right-back looks promising, showing a good touch and ability to overlap. “Andy who?” texts Lisa.

Mind you, Cardiff have made 11 changes from the weekend and hardly appear to know each other. Maiga almost chases down a chance but shoots wide. The keeper makes a good save from Vaz Te and Collins misses an open goal. Matt refuses to believe my text that it’s the greatest game ever seen, replying, “West Ham can still lose from here, believe me.” He might be right, as on 44 minutes Noone cuts in from the right and sends a brilliant shot past Adrian. Undeserved, but they’re right back in it.

Cardiff are much better in the second half and instantly force Adrian to make a sprawling save. Collison has a great long-distance volley saved and Jarvis fails to find Vaz Te as we seem certain to get a third. Sure enough Peter Odemwinjie has left QPR’s car park and pokes home after our defence unravels. “Two-nil and you f••ked it up!” chant the Cardiff fans.

Diame comes on for the influential Morrison, Petric has replaced Maiga at half-time, and finally we realise we’re in a game. It looks like extra time until two minutes from the end when Collison crosses and Vaz Te, who has looked hungry after his transfer window embarrassment, rises to head home. Phew. Even so Cardiff contrive to miss a great chance in added time.

We head to the Boleyn after the game, where I haven’t been since 1980, though quite possibly Fraser’s dad and my granddad used to drink there in the days of cockney knees-ups. Despite the sticky carpet it has lovely old wooden interiors – ripe for a gastro-pub makeover if this was Islington. Though don’t think the clientele here – decidedly earthier than the Central — would quite appreciate seared polenta.

My first pint of John Smith is horrible, but after a trip to the heaving front bar, where Bubbles is on the stereo, I’m astonished to discover London Pride from a hand pump. Real ale in close proximity to Upton Park after another five-goal thriller ends another strange, but ultimately satisfying, evening in E13. 

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6, Chambers 7, Collins 6, Tomkins 6, McCartney 6, Taylor 5, Collison 6, Morrison 7, Jarvis 7, Vaz Te 7, Maiga 6.

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