Sunday, January 10

Jelavic sees Hammers through

West Ham 1 Wolves 0 (FA Cup)

It’s off to the Newham Bookshop where Brian Williams, author of Nearly Reach the Sky, is with his wife Di signing books amid Vivian’s Dickensian towers of literary tomes. Brian even buys a copy of my own Flying So High and between us we might soon have the complete lyrics to Bubbles in book titles. As we leave I nudge one of the piles of books and a literary avalanche causes momentary chaos as I’m buried in West Ham books and stocking fillers. Thankfully Vivian soon restores order to her shelves.

Then it’s on to Ken’s Café, where Michael the Whovian has actually got his big breakfast in early, but Matt, Lisa and Nigel are left waiting till 2.45pm. We’re joined by Nigel’s mate Adrian, a devoted Wolves fan (and reader of Hammers in the Heart) who travels from Exeter to Molineux for every home game. Such is his dedication that not even Ken’s big breakfast can delay his arrival in the away end. Then it’s a late dash to the East Stand for the rest of us.

The first half is pretty tedious, though astonishingly enough the scoreboard is working again. Presumably it’s a bit like my radio alarm clock, it’s taken four weeks for someone to re-set it, and then they had to get a teenager to do it.

Wolves have come to frustrate us and Afobe, their best striker, is out of the side about to move to Bournemouth. WHU have too many holding midfielders and Jelavic is starved of service and doesn’t look sharp. Obiang has a shot saved and late on Jenkinson — whose crossing has been poor— has a fine shot tipped over by Ikeme, and that’s about it.

At half-time the PA plays Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love with lead vocals by Robert Plant, a well-known Wolves fan who was once accused of Satanism at the US border because he had a Wolves sticker on his luggage, explains Nigel. Matt remains strangely positive and says the ref is having a great game. “Can we have the old Matt back, please?” asks Nigel.

When Mr Moon arrives and leaves the stadium early in the second half the Wolves fans amuse themselves by singing, “Who the fuck is Mr Moon?” and “Mr Moon is a wanker!” — which is a bit much.

“Just imagine, this could be the last time we watch West Ham struggle to beat a lower division side at the Boleyn,” I muse, with a tear in my eye. James Collins then has to make a fine last-ditch clearance to deny Wolves.

Payet comes on and so does Andy Carroll, which immediately improves the Irons. Payet hits a free kick on to the roof of the net and Obiang has a shot just wide.

Just as I’m saying that Jelavic is down to four out of ten and they’ll be dancing in the streets of Exeter, the curse of Mystic May strikes in the 85th minute. Carroll finds Jelavic on the edge of the area and the Croatian strikes a sublime half volley into the corner of the net. A class finish and more like the Jelavic we remember from Everton days. 

“We never doubted you, Captain Jelavic,” suggests Private McManus, who had earlier thought we’re all doomed. To think that the Vicar’s Son had suggested Jelavic would never score for the Hammers…

“How shit must you be, it’s only 1-0?” chant the away fans.

There’s time for Le Fondre to put a good chance wide at the end and then that’s it, we’re through to the next round. Fraser wonders if Millwall are still in the draw.

Nigel and Adrian are up for the Cuppa in Ken's
We head to the Central where for once they’ve got enough staff on. After all these years they’ve discovered why all these strangers keep turning up on a Saturday afternoon. 

Michael confesses that he’s resisted the January sale in the souvenir shop — even the WHU dog bowls. Adrian arrives from the away end and accepts defeat stoically before he and Nigel head off to a Swedish-themed pizza restaurant in Kew (perhaps they play Abba?) So, just another four games to go before it’s Cup Final breakfast round at Nigel’s…

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Jenkinson 5, Collins 7, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Antonio 5, Noble 5 (Payet 6), Obiang 7, Song 5, Zarate 5 (Carroll 7), Jelavic 6 (Oxford 5).

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