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
Monday, December 29
Kicked up the Arsenal…
Nigel's red nose day — or is it the ref?
West Ham 1 Arsenal 2
We’re in Hertfordshire post-Christmas, so it’s a train from
Bishop’s Stortford to Liverpool Street, then a visit to the Newham Bookshop
having been summoned on twitter by Vivian to meet Stef from the Bishopsgate Institute. Then it's on to Ken’s Café. where Nigel has found a flashing red nose in his
stocking, Michael the Whovian is still trying to remove a brain crab from his
temple and Matt says we’ve never lost a game when Alex Song was captain, only
to be out-anoraked by Fraser, who points out that Song captained the Irons for
the defeat at Old Trafford. Matt’s Christmas has been ruined. Meanwhile Fraser
is a happy man having received a West Ham dressing gown from Santa.
Jenkinson isn’t allowed to play because he’s on loan from
the Gunners so Joey O’Brien deputises. Suddenly you realise just how much we
miss Carl’s crosses, as O’Brien, sound enough defensively, slices the ball into
the Trevor Brooking Stand and later sub Demel balloons one into the Bobby
ONE NIL TO THE REFEREE
West Ham start off well, with Downing forcing a corner after
five minutes. The ball is headed clear and Alex Song fires home a fine volley
from the edge of the box. We’re all celebrating before realising that ref Neil
Swarbrick has disallowed it on the grounds that Sakho was in the line of vision
of the goalkeeper, even though he never touched the ball. Refs are supposed to
give the attacker the benefit of the doubt these days and even Arsene Wenger
later admits that it should have been allowed. Even worse it ruins Song's spectacular non-celebration of his goal. Though personally I'd have preferred him to run to the away end and flick some V-signs, though I might be biased.
Hammers continue to attack with Amalfitano prominent and
Tomkins volleys a good chance over the bar when he could have controlled it and
shot. But then Arsenal break, Cazorla makes a run into the box, Reid kicks the
ball into Cazorla’s legs and falls over and Cazorla tumbles over the prone
defender. Swarbrick points to the spot and Winston is clearly incensed — it
looks a completely accidental coming together to me. Cazorla duly converts the
penalty and the crowd chant “One-nil to the referee!”
Just as Matt is saying we need to consolidate and not panic
before the break, Oxlade Chamberlain weaves into the area and crosses through
Reid’s legs. Tomkins has lost Welbeck and the son of Stan Welbeck of the Bomb
Disposal Squad (that joke is copyright Nigel) converts. Two goals in three
minutes just before half-time.
It looks bleak at the break, but our morale is raised by
Nigel dispensing CQ’s lucky aniseed balls. It seems to work as West Ham exert
plenty of pressure after the break. Sakho gets in a cross from the right and
Mertesacker makes a great header to deny Carroll. From the cleared corner
Amalfitano finds Tomkins who does really well to ride a tackle and chip in a
cross that Kouyate (inspired by a rollicking from Michael) converts via the
shoulder of Debuchy.
It’s turning into a good game for the cameras, as Arsenal
still look immensely dangerous on the break. Sanchez finds Cazorla and Adrian
makes a good one-handed stop. Kouyate then gets in a great cross from the left
and Sakho just fails to connect as the volume rises from the home fans.
Arsenal look much stronger with Koscielny back alongside the big effing German Mertesacker. Szczesny dominates his box, repeatedly catching crosses aimed
at Carroll. Welbeck runs from the halfway line, outpacing Tomkins and producing
another fine stop from Adrian. The West Ham keeper then produces a brilliant
stop with his feet to deny Oxlade Chamberlain’s header and another decent save
to deny Sanchez.
Valencia comes on for a worrying cameo, where he repeatedly
tries to take on too many men rather than play it simple, causing the Vicar’s
Son to wonder if he’s effing Modibo Maiga in disguise. Amalfitano appears to be
brought down in the Arsenal area and Michael the Whovian gets angrier than
Davros after a failedreality bomb plot.
Carroll heads back to sub Kevin Nolan who gets in a meaty shot that is held by
Szczesny. Adrian, all in white, advances for a corner and from the resulting
break Andy Carroll has to mop up at the back. The Hammers’ custodian advances
again for a free kick. Arsenal clear, it’s headed back into the box and Valencia
mistimes his jump to head on to the roof of the net rather than in. Game over.
We retreat to the Central and try to look at the positives,
in addition to Mike getting some cheap West Ham dog bowls, a Hammers rug and a
puffer jacket from the club shop. We’ve worried Arsenal so much in the second
half that Wenger has brought on two full backs in Chambers and Gibbs to boost
his defence. Adrian has had a great game and Andy Carroll looks hungry, though
Song and Sakho didn’t look entirely fit and our defence was at fault for the
second goal. A reality check today, but at the halfway stage we still have 31
points and lie in sixth place. That’s progress. Though now we have to beat West
Brom to ensure we don’t come down with the Christmas decorations.
TEAM RATINGS: Adrian
8; O’Brien 5 (Demel 5), Tomkins 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Kouyate 7 (Nolan 6),
Song 6, Amalfitano 7, Downing 6; Sakho 6 (Valencia 4), Carroll 7.