Sunday, December 29

Point gained or two points lost?

West Ham 3 West Brom 3

At Upton Park tube Part-time Percy appears to be on the tannoy, welcoming customers to "West Ham v West Brompton." Must be a local derby then. Inside Ken’s CafĂ© the returning Michael the Whovian reveals his lucky Tom Baker scarf to Matt, Nigel, Fraser and myself. Though it might take his sonic screwdriver too to save the Hammers. Steve Rapport from San Francisco is there again, splashing out on a Mars bar and likening our season to the relegation seasons of the Lyall and Grant eras when we were distracted by Cup runs.

Inside Upton Park West Ham have the perfect start, taking the lead after three minutes. Jaaskelainen’s goal kick is nodded on by Carlton Cole to Joe Cole, who plays a one-two with Nolan and fires home a confident finish into the corner.  Jarvis gets in a number of threatening crosses and Demel hits the outside of the post following a Joe Cole cross and Carlton Cole header, but WHU don’t really threaten to extend their lead.

If it can go wrong it will go wrong, and James Tomkins has to go off with a muscle strain after ten minutes. “What would the odds have been on McCartney and O’Brien as our centre back pairing at the start of the season?” asks Matt.

West Brom haven’t looked that threatening until Brunt plays a simple ball through to Anelka who gets the wrong side of O’Brien, outpaces him and jinks home a simple finish. “How shit must you be? Anelka has scored?” sing the Albion fans. A little disrespectful: as Nigel points out, Anelka has had the best career out of any of the 22 players on the pitch, and he’s certainly out-thought the out-of-position O’Brien there to score his first goal for WBA. Yet again another player breaks his duck against the Irons.

It gets worse. West Ham win a corner but lose the ball, leading to an Albion break, with Morrison winning a disputed corner after a tackle with Joe Cole. From the corner Olsson wins a header that is chested off the line by Carlton Cole. Anelka reacts quicker than Rat and prods home before giving his now famous controversial salute. At half-time the new DJ puts on some loud Arctic Monkeys to disguise the boos. The team might be playing for Allardyce’s job in the second half.

Albion go close after the break as the impressive Berahino fires wide. But Nolan wins a corner with some determined running and raises the crowd as West Ham come back. Maiga is on for Cole and does well to cut inside and curl in a shot, producing a great save from Foster. Joe Cole finds Nolan with a good bit of two-footed skill. Nolan plays it in to Maiga and the maligned striker curls in a shot that Foster should maybe have done better with. Modibo kisses the Upton Park turn after scoring his first league goal in more than a year.

Maiga’s having a great game, winning crucial headers and finally looking like a decent striker. Noble does well to swivel and get in a cross, Modibo climbs brilliantly to nod down and Kevin Nolan acrobatically volleys home for his first goal since the opening match against Cardiff. Michael’s Tom Baker scarf might just have worked. The ground erupts and surely we’re on our way to a morale-boosting comeback victory.

But no, West Ham forget the basic rule of winning the next tackle after scoring a goal. Albion play three passes through midfield, Berhinho twists past Demel and fires in a great shot off the far post. Bugger. It’s almost much worse a few minutes later as Diame gives away a free kick and Berahino hits a screamer against the angle.

There’s still time for the Vicar’s Son to get very angry with Diame and then Maiga for trying a silly backheel in his own half, as both sides press for a winner in the fashion of a Sunday league match. It ends with West Ham drawing a must-win game against managerless Albion.

Not sure what to make of this. The two players we wanted to score to boost their confidence have in Maiga and Nolan. And the injury crisis is now ridiculous. Tomkins, Collins, Reid, Carroll, Downing, Morrison, Vaz Te and Petric are all out. Though it still feels like a defeat having done the hard work and then conceded a sloppy equaliser. On the other hand, we’ve at least drawn while playing four full-backs in defence and eight players out. As Allardyce says, the return of the injured players will surely be the key. And please, Deity of dodgy groins and iffy heels, can we have one or two of them back against Fulham?

PLAYER RATINGS: Jaaskelainen 6, O’Brien 5, Tomkins 5, McCartney 5, Rat 6, Noble 7, J Cole 6, Diame 5, Nolan 7, Jarvis 7, C Cole 6.

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