Sunday, September 27

Kouyate inspires Hammers' comeback

West Ham 2 Norwich City 2

Inside Ken’s Café our team of Matt, Lisa, Michael and Nigel is discussing initiation ceremonies at drinking societies. “I joined the BullingDon Hutchison Society,” quips Matt. 

We’re joined by Matt’s brother Adam, who’s over from Melbourne. His mates in Basingstoke are putting on a special geezerpunk gig for him, as you do, so surely the Irons will also do their bit for a man who’s travelled 12,000 miles. Though maybe not, as Nigel starts saying that we’ll be top if we win and Man City lose and therefore jinxes us, according to Matt. 

Meanwhile Michael the Whovian is carrying a mysterious West Ham bag, which contains the costume he plans to wear to the evening’s performance of The Rocky Horror Show. The stewards’ search outside the East Stand should be interesting.

“We’re Norwich City, we’ll sing on our own!” chant the away fans inside the stadium, only to be met with a chant of “You’re shagging your sister!’ from the Bobby Moore Stand.

West Ham look fairly lively for the opening nine minutes, until Mark Noble on the left tries to find James Tomkins with a crossfield pass. Brady nicks the ball and scores. Bugger. Norwich gain in confidence and look like adding a second as Jerome fires into the side netting, while the home side appear tired after playing extra-time at Leicester.

“Losing at home to a newly promoted side, it feels like we’re doing the timewarp again,” I suggest to Michael.

“Our defence is certainly rocky and it’s a bit of a horror show,” he concurs.

Even Payet is misplacing passes, but suddenly we equalise after 33 minutes. Sakho finds Payet out on the right and the Reunion magician races down the flank to send in a low cross that is met by Sakho’s well-timed run and results in a tap-in for Diafra (not Biafra as the programed called him).

Lanzini has a free kick just wide, but it’s 1-1 at the interval. The second half sees more Norwich chances as Adrian flies to his top corner like Superman to tip over Howson’s effort.

There’s a bizarre stoppage as an injured pigeon lands on the pitch. Making the catch of the day, the Canaries’ Howson picks it up and removes it to the touchline to big cheers. Though one fan suggests it’s going straight into one of Delia Smith’s pies.

Victor Moses sends in a great cross from the right and Sakho gets a firm header at goal, but too close to Ruddy, who makes a fine stop.  Kouyate blasts the loose ball out for a throw-in. Moses is then replaced by Obiang.

A misplaced pass allows Sakho to run at the City defence and surrounded by four men he does really well to pick out Payet, who cuts inside a defender and is denied by a good Ruddy save. It’s end to end and Howson pulls the ball back for Jerome who looks certain to score, only for Adrian to save with his face, which stuns the keeper, who eventually recovers.

Andy Carroll comes on and within a minute goes down after stretching for the ball. The whole stadium is united in trepidation, fearing yet another injury, but thankfully he gets up and plays on.

It’s Norwich who look likely to win as Brady’s free kick is tipped round the post by Adrian. The corner is cleared but the ball returns to sub Redmond who cuts inside Mark Noble too easily and fires into the corner. With seven minutes to go it looks like we’ve now lost to two newly-promoted teams at home.

We revert to lumping the ball towards big Andy up front and on 90 minutes he also takes the ball past the keeper only to be foiled by a good catch by Ruddy. It’s always other teams that score against us in added time, never us. We’re in the third minute of added time when Reid is fouled on the right. Payet plays in a hopeful free kick. Ruddy is so concerned by the presence of Carroll that he punches the ball weakly, it rebounds of Big Andy and falls to Kouyate who fires home, running into the arms of the fans in the corner as he celebrates. Phew. Feels like a win now. Credit to Carroll for being a big lump and scaring the Norwich defence.

As If The Kids Are United and Teenage Kicks reverberate from the PA we retreat to the Central. It was important we got something out of the game today, and looking at my glass half-full of Old Speckled Hen, we’re unbeaten in four league matches and still third. It was a tired looking performance, but there’s no denying the spirit to get something out of a game where we looked likely to lose. And hopefully that pigeon will be fine.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8; Jenkinson 5, Tomkins 6, Reid 7, Cresswell 5; Payet 7, Kouyate 6, Noble 5 (Zarate n/a), Lanzini 5 (Carroll 6), Moses 6 (Obiang 5); Sakho 7.

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