Sunday, November 29

Drawing drawing West Ham

West Ham 1 West Brom 1

There’s a big queue outside the Newham Bookshop for Danny Dyer’s book signing before the match. Vivien at the shop says he's been a real charmer. Then it’s on to Ken’s Café, which has been mentioned in an Observer feature, including my comment that Carol is the best manager West Ham never had. Diego Costa wouldn’t dare throw a bib at her.

Matt’s arrived at 1am in his not-very-lucky Dukla Prague away shirt. He’s been working nights and is about to fly to San Francisco for a fortnight. Meanwhile, Michael the Renaissance Man, Playwright and Whovian is arriving back from New York, but is currently marooned at Heathrow. Nigel arrives later, telling us the tragic news that CQ has dropped and broken his favourite Enfield FC mug. I remind Matt about my bet that that Rickie Lambert will score more goals than Modibo Maiga — a wager that will come back to haunt me. Thanks to the 2.05 kick-off time Matt’s food arrives late and he is forced to miss the kick off.

Inside the stadium none of the clocks are working. Added to the demolition of the “Don’t kill your wife, let us do it” sexist clockface outside the dry cleaners in Green Street, it’s growing evidence of a time rift in E13 caused by West Ham’s impending move. Carroll and Tomkins have been dropped for Ogbonna and Zarate.

We start off fairly well against a team with four giant centre backs in defence, with Obiang looking solid in front of the defence, having replaced the suspended Noble. Rondon shoots just wide for WBA but that's their only threat. Lanzini sets up Zarate who fires into the side netting when he should hit the target. On 17 minutes the ref does well to spot McAuley holding Sakho and Zarate curls a lovely free kick into the top corner. When he plays he usually scores and it’s the best goal of Zarate’s Hammers’ career, Fraser says we’ve now won it, as in every game under Pulis, only one team has scored.

Kouyate heads a good chance wide and Myhill saves with his legs as Lanzini shoots from distance after picking up a misplaced Albion pass. The rebound could easily have fallen to a WHU striker. Zarate skilfully sets up Lanzini, who produces another good save from Myhill. Can’t Get Enough by Bad Company comes on the PA half-time, which impresses Nigel, and it all seems to be going well.

Albion bring on Rickie Lambert after the break and the big striker’s arrival immediately brings results. The burly striker fires a hopeful shot that deflects off Winston Reid’s arm and veers into the net. It’s a fluke goal, but boosts Albion as West Ham’s confidence falters.

Michael the Transatlantic Whovian arrives like an impending harbinger of dropped points just after WBA equalise. Lambert has a free kick palmed wide by Adrian and the keeper then saves Rondon’s free header with his chest.

Plan B is resumed with Carroll coming on for Obiang. At least West Ham come back into it as Moses makes a great run from his own half and finds Sakho who looks sure to score. But McAuley makes a great challenge and Sakho goes down with what looks like a hamstring problem, and is replaced by Jelavic.

A week of night shifts, a late lunch, missing seeing Greenland’s top indie band Nanook (unlike CQ) and watching West Ham trying to break down an eight-man defence proves too much for Matt, who memorably tirades at the ref, Jenkinson, Jelavic and me for predicting that Lambert would turn his season round against West Ham. Will a fortnight in the Hotel California with Lisa see him return with a more chillaxed attitude to West Ham’s frailties and the negative karma of no Payet? Probably not if he has to still visit E13.

Near the end Moses flashes a volley wide and it ends at 1-1. We walk to the Black Lion, where Gary O’Neil is on the box playing for Norwich and the Ridley's Old Bob is like nectar compared to the Central’s offerings. We retreat to a windswept back bar covered in tarpaulins as the remains of Hurricane Barney batters the East End.

Fraser wonders if we will we win any games without Payet. A draw against a difficult Tony Pulis side isn’t a disaster, but West Ham should surely have scored more in the first half. Now we just have to win at Old Trafford.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 7; Jenkinson 6 Ogbonna 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Obiang 6 (Carroll 5), Lanzini 7, Kouyate 6, Zarate 7 (Antonio 5), Moses 6; Sakho 5 (Jelavic 5).

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