Wednesday, February 12

There's only one Ginger Pele!

West Ham 2 Norwich 0

Disaster! Ken’s Café is shut as Carol and co are away on holiday — hopefully not on a trip to the Somerset Levels. There are huge queues outside the Ercan chip shop and Nathan’s Pies, but the Friends café by the Newham Bookshop proves to be a good find – and produces an omelette and chips in ten minutes, eaten under a gazebo in the Tardis-like garden.

Inside the stadium Michael the Whovian has turned out after a sinus operation wrapped in scarves, felling groggy and disoriented, which is frankly how most of us feel during a home game. While Matt has ditched his Dukla Prague away kit for a 1960s replica home shirt and Fraser has reprised his Dexys coat and cap.

The crowd is officially 35,153 but with a lot of empty seats, many fans apparently put off by the tube strike that hasn’t now happened. Norwich pass the ball reasonably well and create the better chances, while West Ham look jaded. Early on Redmond dances past Demel and crosses for Hooper to head goalwards, only for Adrian to make a fine reaction save. The keeper produces another great save after 18 minutes as Snodgrass races clear after a ball over the top. Adrian appears to hesitate but manages to block the shot by staying big,

Jarvis finally has a tame shot saved as West Ham rally a little. Only Noble is having a decent game in midfield. Nigel arrives half an hour late clutching a baguette and tempting providence by saying that victory could see us climb to tenth. Carlton Cole turns and shoots into Ruddy’s arms and WHU at least muster a few attacks. But there’s still time for Adrian to pull off a third fine stop from Tettey, diving to turn away his shot from the edge of the area.

It’s too much for the Vicar’s Son next to me: “Taylor is having a nightmare… how bad is Demel? Why can’t Downing cross it properly? What is Collins doing?” The only good thing is that we’ve kept a clean sheet for another half a match and the defence is still blocking and showing signs of team spirit.

At half-time we predict the final result. Some of the lads predict an away win but I opt for a 1-0 win with a late goal, thinking that Norwich might rue those three missed chances.

West Ham start off the second half slowly too, and Adrian has to produce another Superman-like save from Hooper. Matt’s pledge to stay positive lasts 30 seconds. West Ham create a chance with a quick free kick from the right, but Nolan tries to beat one man too many and fails to get a shot in. The crowd are getting noisier under the lights, trying to rouse the Hammers. Borriello is on for Cole but looks way off the pace, jumping for headers when the ball in nowhere near.

Diame comes on for Jarvis after 61 minutes and Taylor is replaced by Nocerino after 77 minutes. Our chance to win it comes when the previously anonymous Nolan finds Diame with a great lay off in the box, only Mo shoots at Ruddy when a chip might have beaten him. That’s better though.

Looks like we’re going to have to respect the point. In the 84th minute just as I’m thinking that Diame is not a winger and wondering why he is he playing on the left, Mo cuts inside to send over an inviting cross. James Collins gets in front of Ruddy to glance the ball home for his first goal of the season. “There’s only one ginger Pele!” chants the joyous Bobby Moore Stand. Never in doubt – apart from the four great saves from Adrian and the previous 84 minutes.

The ref adds four minutes, and Noble sensibly takes the ball into the corner. Diame has made a difference with his strength and running ability and as Norwich press he takes the ball from his own half and runs into the Norwich box, before poking home a deflected shot. Blimey – 28 points!

Fraser, Matt and Michael respect the pint
It’s more a mugging than a victory, but when Man United were playing badly and winning last season everyone said it was the sign of champions. You have to feel sorry for Norwich, though also praise West Ham’s resilience.

We miss Jeremy Nicholas on the PA at this point, Upton Park is not the same without him declaring: “We go above Crystal Palace! We go above Stoke! We go above Aston Villa! We go above Hull! We go above Swansea! We’re tenth!”

Michael must be worried about more nose bleeds. Four clean sheets in a row for the first time since 1986, and three successive wins for the first time since the Great Escape of 2007.

A surreal evening ends with even more incredible happenings. There’s bottles of Old Speckled Hen in the Central. Real ale in the Central? Our luck really is in. Nigel suggests that we should put Adrian in charge of flood defence as he’s good at stemming the tide. There’s no doubt about it – we’re leaving our charge for the Champions League late, but another three wins and a couple of draws and we should survive.

TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 9, Demel 5, Collins 7, Tomkins 6, McCartney 6, Downing 5, Nolan 5, Taylor 5 (Nocerino 5), Noble 6, Jarvis 6 (Diame 7), Cole 5 (Borriello 4).

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