West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul, Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals and Goodbye to Boleyn
Sunday, September 21
Crisis club Liverpool Hammered!
West Ham 3 Liverpool 1
In Ken’s Café Michael the Whovian is discussing theatrical
matters with his pal Nick (who comes to Ken’s but doesn’t go to games, such is
the attraction of Carol’s salon), before revealing that Giles Watling the Tory
candidate in the Clacton by-election is the brother of Doctor Who actress Deborah Watling (who played Victoria) and the
son of Jack Watling who played Professor Travis in the Yeti stories. Not a lot
of people know that.
I’m with my daughter Lola, who is enhancing her sixth-form
studies with a trip to the Upton Park Academy. Nigel arrives breathless from
Edinburgh having saved the Union after being in the front row at Kate Bush. Matt
is away at a gig by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, who is performing his
concept album about his Welsh ancestor who went to America in 1792 to find a
Welsh-speaking Native American tribe, as you do.
WHO PUT THE BALL IN THE SCOUSERS' NET?
At 5.30pm the atmosphere is buzzing under the lights inside
Upton Park, as the Liverpool fans are regaled with, “Sign on with a pen in your
hand…” In the first minute West Ham gain a free kick wide on the right. "We
always score from free kicks…” I tell Lola. Bizarrely, we do. Downing crosses
to the back post, Tomkins heads across goal and Winston Reid can’t miss with
his header. Blimey. That wasn’t meant to happen. “Who put the ball in the
Scousers net?” asks the Bobby Moore Stand.
WE'VE GOT SAKHO IN THE MORNING
West Ham are taking full advantage of any tiredness
Liverpool might be experiencing from their midweek Champions League game. After
seven minutes Sakho breaks down the right and scores with a brilliant chip over
the keeper. What sort of thing is happening here? Can we play Liverpool every
week? Sakho is stating to look like a real bargain and he and Valencia are
working the channels and bemusing the Scousers’ defence.
“Dad, have West Ham been replaced by aliens?” asks Lola.
This is very strange. Matt texts to remind us that we have
previously effed up a two-goal lead against Liverpool. Still, we play really
well in the first half. Downing is playing at the tip of a midfield diamond and
looks much better when he sees more of the ball. Song is strong and mobile,
Kouyate gives solid support and Noble has a fine game with two anchor men
Downing wins several free kicks, Cresswell has a shot saved
by Mignolet. There’s a
fracas as Adrian is clattered by Balotelli and confronts the Italian. Both
players are booked and Noble sensibly tells Adrian not to risk getting sent off
when we’re 2-0 up — though it’s also quite reassuring to think we have a bit of
a nutter in goal who won’t let forwards rough him up.Liverpool pull a goal back after 26 minutes when
Balotelli turns and shoots, the ball is blocked, and Sterling fire home the
rebound from the edge of the box. West Ham almost make it 3-1, as Valencia has a free kick saved and then a low snap shot tipped away for a corner.
THREE ONE TO THE COCKNEY BOYS!
It’s been really entertaining and at half-time we wonder
what we can moan about. The second half is a different kind of game with
Lallana on for Lucas and Sterling causing problems. Liverpool have much more of
the ball. Balotelli twists past Tomkins to get in a hard effort that Adrian
tips away and Borini has a couple of tame efforts, but the Reds don’t trouble
the keeper too much. The biggest scare is when Adrian risks getting booked
again after collecting the hall with his foot up. West Ham have to regroup and
Song is replaced by Amalfitano and Enner Valencia goes off to be replaced by an
extra defender in James Collins. Sakho pokes one effort over but Lambert comes
on and Liverpool normally go on to get a late winner in these situations.
Yet our defence plays excellently and with two minutes to go
Liverpool’s Sakho makes a poor clearance that goes straight to Stewart Downing.
The rejuvenated midfielder plays a finely weighted through ball to Morgan
Amalfitano, who cleverly pokes the ball past Mignolet, before running along the
front of the Bobby Moore Stand as the place goes mental.
This is incredible. Two-nil and we haven’t f***ed it up. I
text Matt to suggest that West Ham have just performed a 90 minute concept
album where they rediscover their ancestral attacking roots. Fraser goes to the pub to smoke three cigars. Never in doubt. Football on the ground. We
go eighth! And the best home performance since we returned to the Premier
TEAM RATINGS: Adrian 6, Demel 7 (Jenkinson 6), Tomkins 7,
Reid 7, Cresswell 6, Kouyate 7, Song 8, (Amalfitano 7), Downing 8, Noble 7,
Valencia 6 (Collins 6), Sakho 7.