Sunday, December 1

Cole comfort at Upton Park

West Ham 3 Fulham 0

Inside Ken’s Café Matt has been up all night, either working the night shift or possibly being kept awake by nightmares about strikerless home sides. Michael the Whovian and myself reminisce about last week’s Doctor Who bash at the Excel and my daughters, who have a great record at WHU home games, enjoy their isotonic chips. While Nigel's on a mini-break with CQ near Beachy Head, threatening to jump off if we lose. Then it’s on to the Newham Bookshop, where I bump into Shane Barber, legendary former editor of On A Mission From God. Followed by a quick look in the Who Shop on Barking Road to peruse the Lego Doctor figures and Tardis dresses (for the kids, not me…).

Interestingly, Allardyce has dropped Morrison and Joe Cole and given Maiga a start up front, while McCartney replaces O’Brien at left-back for this six-pointer. Early on Noble plays a great ball through to Downing who is clattered by Richardson, earning the Fulham man a booking. That sets the tone for the game as West Ham press. Maiga heads a free kick against the post, which is typical of his luck at the moment, while Collins heads just wide from a corner.

Apart from a couple of mazy runs from Taarabt that draw free-kicks, Fulham offer little beyond a free-kick ballooned over the bar. Even Super Scotty Parker looks muted, while Darren Bent is isolated and appears a little podgy. Downing, who is having his best game for the Hammers, cuts inside to unleash a fine shot that Dutch World Cup Final goalkeeper Steklenberg does well to push away. Another good move sees Downing and Jarvis find Nolan, who scuffs a flying volley.

We look better for having a striker and the maligned Maiga provides a focal point, pulling the Fulham defence out wide and providing space for midfielders to run into. He can be infuriating at times, appearing to pull out of challenges and not close down defenders, but overall he makes a difference. Without Morrison in the side, Diame has a much better game in his favoured central role.

It’s goalless at half-time though, which is worrying. We’ve just been saying that we need a lucky goal and Diame provides it two minutes after the break. Maiga challenges Parker — Fulham claim a foul — and the ball breaks to Diame, who brushes aside Sidwell and runs at the centre of the defence. His shot takes a hefty deflection and wrong foots Steklenberg. So that’s what a goal looks like. The West Ham players celebrate wildly in front of the Bobby Moore Stand.

West Ham have a wobbly ten minutes when we sit back on the lead, but the best Fulham can offer is a shot wide by Kasami. Maiga turns inside to unleash a curling shot that Steklenberg parries. Downing controls the rebound, beats his man, and then fires over the bar when he should score. Next a Downing cross drifts on to the angle of bar and post.

Big Sam brings on Carlton Cole for Maiga and Joe Cole for Jarvis and Morrison for Nolan, with instant results. On 82 minutes Morrison finds Downing with a great ball and the winger’s cross invites Carlton Cole to thump it in from close range. “Always believe in Carlton Cole!’ sings the Bobby Moore Stand. It’s starting to be enjoyable now, an unusual sensation at Upton Park. And the kids instantly identify Morrison as someone who’s a bit special.

Morrison has a good claim for a penalty before poking wide of a gaping goal after a melee. The Mancunian then produces another great dribble from the left touchline to get into the box and set up Joe Cole for an easy finish. “You’re getting sacked at the morning!” is soon being directed at poor Martin Jol. A resounding home win should be good for our confidence. And we move up to sixth from bottom.

After the game my daughter Nell finally buys a Peter Davison Lego Doctor figure in the Who Shop. The woman in the Who Shop can cope with the idea of three Doctors going back into their timestream to save Gallifrey, but is incredulous that West Ham have scored three without reply. We move on to meet Her indoors for Christmas Carols at St Martin’s-in-the-Fields. Though there’s no Carroll called Andy. A satisfying day at last. Now we have to win at Palace and our season might start to look a lot healthier. 

PLAYER RATINGS: Jaaskelainen 6, Demel 6, Tomkins 7, Colins 6, McCartney 6, Nolan 6, Noble 8, Diame 8, Jarvis 6, Downing 9, Maiga 7.


matt said...

And there were was more good news in the programme, which describes Luis Boa Morte as a "current West Ham United player". So could there be a Boa Selecta?

Pete May said...

Nigel doesn't get that…