Sunday, March 16

Arnie terminates West Ham

Stoke City 3 West Ham 1

It’s on to the 11am train from Euston to Stoke, arriving at 12.24. As my late mum came from Stoke I’m in the home end today with Terry, my second cousin once removed. We enjoy a pint or three of Marston’s Pedigree with Terry’s pals Andrew, Adam and Mark in the Gardeners Arms and buy copies of The Oatcake, Stoke’s rather good fanzine, from the behind bar. Then it’s a beery walk along the canal and by the incinerator, past The Oatcake Barge that sells, surprisingly enough, oatcakes, and over more industrial wasteground to the Britannia on a windy hill overlooking Stoke. It’s a clear sunny day in the Potteries.

Quite a strange selection from Big Sam, replacing Collins with Reid, Taylor with Nocerino and Jarvis with Diame. All these players need games but is it wise to change a side that has only lost one in six?

Hammers look good early on with Carroll having a shot blocked and Diame making incursions down the flank. After four minutes Noble is brought down in front of the box. He flights the free kick to Sandy Carroll who bravely beats Begovic to the punch and heads into the unguarded net. One-nil to the Cockney Boys. I try not to smile among the Stokies. AC runs arms outstretched towards the Stokies.

“Is this a library?” chant the away fans. Bubbles sees a response from the Boothen End of “You’ve only got one song!”

Soon after West Ham’s goal a low cross and Ireland’s shot forces Adrian into a fine save. But Carroll is causing Shawcross problems every time the ball is played to him and West Ham have a decent first twenty minutes, spraying the ball around quite well and winning several free kicks. Random Shouter behind us bellows, “It’s f***ing football not f***ing netball referee!” as Noble wins yet another decision. Carroll fires another shot wide.

But Stoke start to dig in and win a corner on 28 minutes. Crouch gets above Tomkins to send a header into the ground that bounces up on to the bar. He acrobatically manages to scissor kick the ball back into goal as it deflects off Odemwinjie's shoulder into the net. All even. In added time of the first half Ireland gets though again but fires against Adrian.

It’s all West Ham for the first ten minutes of the second half. Tomkins hoofs the ball upfield and Nolan and Carroll play a great one two to send the big Geordie clear on the right. His shot is low and hard but Begovic makes a great save with his feet. Allardyce replaces Downing, who was at least getting crosses in, with Joe Cole, which seems a strange move.

Then Begovic flies from his goal to punch, Nocerino lobs it back and Nolan prods home, but is correctly ruled offside as he only has one defender between him and the goal. West Ham are having the better of the game, though Nocerino is giving the ball away too often and looks yet to get used to the pace of the Premier League.

It all goes wrong on 69 minutes, as Shawcross heads clear and Stoke begin a flowing passing move through Stephen Ireland, The ball finds Arnautovic on the edge of the box. Reid doesn’t tackle solidly enough, the Stoke man jinks between Tomkins and Demel to prod home. Possibly Adrian should have got a stronger hand to the ball too. Big Sam later describes the defending as “pathetic” and it makes you query the wisdom of dropping Collins. Delilah echoes around the Boothen End and cries of “Arnie! Arnie!”

West Ham make a determined bid to equalise as the Stoke fans enjoy shouting “Hoof!’ whenever Tomkins lobs it upfield. Carlton Cole joins Carroll in attack. Noble crosses and West Ham have a blatant penalty turned down as Muniesa challenges Carroll and clears the ball with his arm.

Demel wins a corner on 78 minutes but Stoke manage to score from it. The ball is cleared then returned by Noble and Shawcross heads out and Ireland advances on the break. He finds Odeminjie on the right side of goal who scores with a brilliant shot from a tight angle. Game over, and to make the point Allardyce takes off Andy Carroll for Armero. “You can stick your f**ing Bubbles up your arse!” sing the Stoke fans, followed by "One-nil and you f**ked it up!".

Terry thanks me for the points donation as the Happy Potters trek back towards the Gardener’s Arms. West Ham should have got something from this game, but ultimately lost through poor defending for the second and ref Craig Pawson’s failure to spot a blatant penalty decision. But Stoke away is difficult for most teams and at least Carroll is back and looks in the mood again. We have virtually ensured Stoke’s safety, but need to ensure our own by beating strugglers Man United next week.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Demel 6, Tomkins 6, Reid 5, McCartney 5; Noble 7, Diame 6,  Nocerino 5, (C Cole 5), Nolan 6, Downing 6, (J Cole 5); Carroll 7 (Armero, N/A).


Anonymous said...

The ref clearly saw the penalty incident. He decided. It wasn't one.
He was in a good position and after can clearly be seen telling a west ham player "no way was that a

Pete May said...

Which is odd as the Stoke player's arm was high and clearly diverted the ball… don;'t think we'd have caught for the third if we'd got it back to 2-2