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.

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 under  pressure 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 win.

PLAYER RATINGS: 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.


mj said...

We didn't get a good view of the shawcross alleged forearm into AC's boat. Match of the day didn't mention it. Anyone reckon it should have been a red?

Pete May said...

Didn't see it from the East Stand but Shawcross was very physical all game...

Chrissy Brand said...

Sounds a great game and I'd rather we drew 0-0 than take the lead and end up drawing 1-1- conceding cruel equalisers after the jubilation of scoring first always cuts me deep ... Am determined to get along to the Boleyn before it is gone- is it easy to buy a ticket in the home area (but with a Manchester postal address!)?

Pete May said...

If you're a member you can buy from any address Chrissy or you can get a member to buy an extra ticket for you. Wolves cup game might be easy to get into too...

Phil Nichols said...

A point was about fair. I thought Song was really poor... I know he's coming back from injury but he looks a shadow of what he was like early last season. His passing and general contribution was very poor.