Sunday, February 2
Andy Carroll is innocent, OK?
Nigel and CQ arrive in early in Ken’s Café jet-lagged from a romantic mini-break in Boston, where they’ve been watching the Boston Bruins ice hockey team. I’m with my daughter Nell and her friend Fernanda, fortified by Pret a Manger sandwiches at Kings Cross and a Kit-Kat in Ken’s before the 12.45pm kick-off. Carol’s holding Michael the Whovian’s hand as he counts out his change, while Matt’s musing about the missed opportunities of the window and claiming that Rat has deserted a sinking ship. Big Joe arrives with Big Phill from Leigh and various sundry comedians.
Inside the stadium it’s an encouraging start from West Ham. Noble plays a great ball into Jarvis but Downing can’t connect with his cross. Carroll is winning balls in the air and Nolan is sticking close by him. West Ham take the lead after 26 minutes. McCartney crosses from the left and Carroll meets the ball with a cushioned header into the path of Kevin Nolan on the edge of the area. The Hammers skipper controls the ball on his chest and produces a good finish into the corner before resurrecting his chicken dance.
JAMES TOMKINS HE TACKLES WHO HE WANTS
Swansea’s best chance then falls to Bony from a long ball by Jonjo Shelvey (the Voldemort lookalike also gets a reprise of the chant, "Harry Potter he's coming for you!"). Bony looks certain to score until James Tomkins produces a magnificent tackle to deny him at the last. Had he timed it wrong it would have been a penalty and red card.
Carroll, chests down and volleys wide, but is looking confident and has been a nuisance to the Swansea defence all half. For once it’s West Ham who score right on half-time. Keeper Tremmel rolls the ball out to Williams, but Carroll closes down the Swansea defender to win a corner from nothing. That’s better than Maiga has done in a whole season. From Downing’s corner Carroll does really well to jump high and cushion another header into the path of Nobby Nolan. Shelvey has deserted his post and Nolan’s header is well placed into the corner. Matt reveals it’s West Ham’s first headed goal of the season, which is bizarre for a supposedly direct side.
The Irons start off confidently in the second half as Carroll finds Jarvis, who rounds the keeper and crosses to force a hasty clearance. Then the game is transformed by the battle of the man-buns as Carroll leaps with Chico Flores. The Swansea man is all over AC and as they fall to the ground Carroll tries to disengage himself. He appears to be trying to appeal to the referee, but as he swings his arm round it catches the top of Chico’s head, who promptly falls to the ground and rolls over clutching his face as if he’s been hit by both Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. It’s an accidental clash but Howard Webb gets it all wrong and sends him off. Sod it. Carroll’s suspended for most vital three games of the season. Surely it must be rescinded?
CHICO CHICO WHAT'S THE SCORE?
Nell and Fernanda hear lots of interesting new words. Can West Ham hold on for half an hour? Chico is booed whenever he touches the ball and the sending off fires up the crowd. Carlton Cole comes on to provide an outlet and Stewart Downing uses his footballing intelligence to hold the ball up. The defence blocks in similar fashion to the game at Chelsea, with Tomkins and Collins again excelling. With 11 minutes left Winston Reid comes on to make a welcome return to the defence. Swansea make it easier by always playing a short passing game against ten men. Their best chance is when Bony volleys over.
Slowly the game edges into added time. Nocerino comes on and looks confortable on the ball. “Chico Chico, what’s the score?” chants the home crowd.
A fine 2-0 win and vital three points, particularly as Sunderland, Cardiff and Stoke all win. My kids for a quid party retreats to the Who Shop where a Whovian West Ham fan is asking if he can go back to the 1923 Cup Final (might be a bit pushed to find room for the Tardis on the pitch mate) and if he can then go forward in time to see if we stay up. We round the day off with a trip to the Newham Bookshop for pens and literary banter.
A satisfying win almost ruined by a silly red card. Our season may well depend on the FA rescinding Carroll’s sending off.
TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 6, Demel 6 Tomkins 7 Collins 7, McCartney 7; Downing 7, Noble 7, Taylor 6 (Reid 5), Nolan 8 (Nocerino 5), Jarvis 6 (Carlton Cole 5); Carroll 7.