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, April 12
Arnie terminates Hammers' hopes of three points
West Ham 1 Stoke City 1
Best part of the day is showing Terry and David, my mum’s
Stokie relatives, the sights of the East End. First it’s Ken’s Café where they
find the bacon egg and chips almost as palatable as oatcakes and then a stroll
to the Central, where I explain the rubble in the beer garden is surely a
distressed design feature introduced by hipsters (possibly). We sup from
plastic skiffs in a garden full of Stoke fans drinking from pitchers of ale and
Terry bumps into a pal from Leek. Then it’s on to the ground to take in the
The game has an end of season atmosphere in the sunshine and
the crowd is unusually subdued as the Stoke fans ask, “Is this a library?” West
Ham have a good opening 15 minutes. Collins gets his head on a corner and Kouyate
blazes across the goal. After 12 minutes Valencia is fouled by Whelan on the
edge of the area. Nigel offers to bet Matt £100 that we’ll score. Being a
vicar’s son opposed to all vices, Matt foolishly declines, as Aaron Cresswell
curls a screamer into the top corner. A great start for the Hammers.
of capitalising on an early goal we allow Stoke into the game as Moses and
Walters get in dangerous crosses and N’Zonzi and Adam dominate midfield. Moses hits
a shot wide and manages to injure himself in the process. A swift break just
before half-time sees Valencia do well and Kouyate scuff his shot wide of the
LAZY SUNNY AFTERNOON
The second half is our worst performance of the season, with
the entire side donning flip-flops and the midfield disappearing. Song and
Noble have faded after a promising start and Downing has hardly been in the
game. Arnautovic has the ball in the net from Adam’s through ball, but it’s
disallowed, correctly, for offside. Allardyce takes off Song for Nolan in a bid
to restore some leadership. Sakho goes off injured and is replaced by Cole after
59 minutes, which doesn’t help us. Cole’s nuisance value does allow Kouyate to
burst through and hit a decent shot that Begovic parries, but it’s our only
effort of the half.
Stoke enjoy an astonishing 65 per cent of possession in the
match as we try to sit back and play on the break. Valencia isn’t fit to last
the game and is replaced by Amalfitano after 78 minutes. West Ham receive
another warning as Ireland Crosses and Diouf hits the inside of a post with a
header. Cole has a rare header wide from Downing's cross and then it's back to Stoke domination. It looks like we might limp home to an undeserved win until the five
minutes of added time. West Ham are second to the ball all afternoon and the
lack of pressing is terrible. The players don’t look like they’re playing to
save Big Sam’s job and it seems astonishing that this was the side that beat
Man City and Liverpool.
LATE LATE SHOW
We escape again as Ireland crosses for Arnautovic to net,
only for the goal to be again ruled out for being marginally offside. It’s into
the fifth added minute and we lose two headed challenges, allowing Arnautovic
to run at our defence, outspeeding Reid and Cresswell and finishing well with a
shot into the corner in the corner. The away end erupts and it’s a deserved
equaliser. It’s hard to even be disappointed, as we’ve so manifestly not
deserved to win.
“On the positive side, we’re now safe on 43 points,” I quip.
At least there’s another drink in the Central afterwards and
the chance for the Stokies to see Amir Begovic getting into a black people
carrier in the car park. We can’t switch off with six games to go, and this was
an unprofessional performance. Some of the team might be new to the Premier League but other teams have that problem too. Players should be dropped/rested and posteriors kicked
before we play at Man City.
TEAM RATINGS: Adrian
6; Jenkinson 5, Reid 5, Collins 6, Cresswell 6; Song 5 (Nolan 5), Noble 5,
Kouyate 6, Downing 4; Sakho 5 (Cole 5), Valencia 5 (Amalfitano 4).