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, December 13
Keepers on top in entertaining draw with Potters
West Ham United 0 Stoke City 0
In Ken’s Café the Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads’ Christmas Special is on the
TV as another likely lad, Michael the Non-Whovian, regales Nigel and his mate
Michael the Plymouth Fan with the tale of how the Lord High President of the
Time Lords (aka actor Donald Sumpter) was spotted in the East Stand. If he really
is a Time Lord perhaps Donald could extract Lionel Scaloni from his timestream a second before he
boots the ball towards Steven Gerrard in the 2006 FA Cup Final…
Meanwhile messages are coming through from Matt in
California, who appears to have spent a little too long in Haight-Ashbury and
now thinks that referees are beautiful people and that every West Ham injury
happens for a karmic reason.
On the way to the ground, Michael manages to drop my
Christmas card under a Stoke coach— the Stokies will probably assume it is a
cryptic message from the ICF. Inside the East Stand we meet Fraser, who is
wearing his best Dexys Mac and planning to write the final 4000 words of the
first section of his novel after a cockney knees-up in the Central.
FIVE MEN WENT TO TRAIN AT CHADWELL
We’re without Payet, Lanzini, Sakho, Moses and Reid, while
James Collins comes into the defence in preference to Jenkinson and Antonio and
Song start. Kouyate has a long-distance shot parried by Butland early on, but
after that Stoke have a good half-hour with Afellay prospering against the
unprotected Cresswell. Van Ginkel pokes a great chance wide and then Arnautovic
meets Affalay’s cross and prods it just wide underpressure from Ginger Pele Collins. This gets
a few Delilahs going in the away end.
Antonio has one surging run on the right only to dither in the
box, but slowly West Ham come back into it at the end of the half. Noble has a
penalty claim after picking up a poor Shawcross pass and surging into the box.
Before the break Zarate dribbles in from the right, the ball breaks to Song,
who finds Cresswell on the left. Aaron's cross nearly reaches Antonio, who is thwarted
by a desperate Stoke clearance.
Half-time sees Nigel get out his lucky banana and Matt text
to say his whale watching trip has been cancelled due to stormy weather, therefore, he quips, "no chance of seeing Benni or Mido." West
Ham really give it a go at the state of the second half. Ogbonna’s long ball
sees Antonio acrobatically volley only for Butland to make another good stop. Butland shoves Carroll's header wide. Stoke’s
Arnautovic has a free kick deflected against the bar and then Creswell’s
cross-shot has to be palmed away by the excellent Butland.
It’s turning into a really entertaining goalless draw as the
festive crowd holler Bubbles and “Come
on you Irons!” Zarate makes some fantastic dribbles into the box and steps
into Payet and Lanzini’s boots, while Antonio is causing problems when switched to the
left. Song appears close to returning to the form of last season, while Andy Carroll is
looking fitter and more mobile, laying the ball off well and enjoying a good
battle with Shawcross.
Both sides make attacking substitutions, with Valencia coming on for Song and strikers Diouf and Walters on for Stoke. Old boy Glen Johnson crosses for Diouf to shoot, only for
Adrian to make a great stop with his feet. With ten minutes to go in a
finely-poised game, some strange people are leaving early, causing a row in
front of us, as Zarate plays a one-two with Antonio and dribbles across the face
of the area and fires a great effort against the foot of the post. That
would have been a great goal. From the second phase of that attack Tomkins crosses,
Carroll wins the header and Valencia’s poke towards goal is smothered by
the City keeper again.
Antonio gets a big round of applause when subbed and he’s the
sort of trier the crowd will take to. His best performance since Twelfth Night. Stoke almost win it at the end as Arnautovic
finds Diouf but Adrian pulls off another great save. The excitement lasts to
the end as in the fourth minute of added time Butland spills a cross; Tomkins
heads back into the box and Kouyate’s header is cleared off the line. West Ham
might not have won in six, but it’s been a game where both sides have given everything
and West Ham are deservedly applauded off.
So it’s the long walk to Plaistow with Nigel and Michael the
Plymouth Fan, and then on to dinner at WHU legend DC. Fraser and Michael
the Non-Whovian head to the Central, with Michael set to see Chas and Dave live, though the real attraction is the support, Darts. An entertaining game
and at least the points are still ticking over in the midst of an injury crisis.
Swansea away next and if we play with this spirit we might finally get that
Adrian 8; Tomkins 7, Ogbonna 6, Collins 7, Cresswell 6; Antonio 7 (Jelavic 5), Song
6 (Valencia 6), Noble 6, Kouyate 7, Zarate 8; Carroll 7.