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
Wednesday, February 3
Below-par Hammers see off Villa
West Ham 2 Aston Villa 0
Inside Ken’s Café Lisa is ordering cheesy chips and Billy is
shouting, “I can’t get through I’m trapped!” as he tries to return with his
plates past a burgeoning queue. Michael the Renaissance Man arrives late and in
a triumph of optimism over experience orders a big breakfast thinking he’ll
make the kick-off. His Irons constitution manages to cope with some remarkably rapid
ingestion before we leg it down the alleyway. As the café empties Carol offers to
give Michael special treatment next time and ensure he makes the kick-off,
while there’s a rare appearance of Kenneth himself from the back of the kitchen
to greet his best customer.
YOU'VE ONLY GOT TEN MEN
Inside the East Stand the big news is Fraser’s opted for the
Steptoe and Son look with a rakish neck
scarf. West Ham start very slowly and the whole side looks jaded — possibly not
surprising after a testing game at Anfield and with Tomkins playing with 13
stitches in a head would and Kouyate still feeling Saturday’s injury — with
Villa shading it in the first ten minutes. An optimistic penalty appeal against
Antonio is turned down after the ball hits his hand. Villa’s gameplan is ruined
when Jordan Ayew stupidly elbows Cresswell in the face after 17 minutes. The crowd in
the corner certainly spot it and the ref gives Ayew a straight red. He wasn’t
provoked and it’s absolute stupidity. It’s noticeable he didn’t try to do it to
Collins or Tomkins.
Nothing much else happens in the first half. Tomkins’ shot
is headed over by Valencia and Enner hits a 40-yard free kick just wide and that’s
it. Even Payet is anonymous. Playing against ten men who are bottom of the
league, what could possibly go wrong? Surely it won’t be like the Hull game two
WHEREFORE ART THOU, ANTONIO?
Part-time Nigel turns up in the bowels of the East Stand at
half-time complaining about the tube and saying he’s almost glad we’re going to
the superior transport hub of Stratford. He hasn’t missed much. Matt is
preparing for his night shift by watching the game in the pub and seems to have
lost all his positivity, texting “Have our players bet on who can play worst?
Think Antonio is winning but it’s very close.”
But the Hammers start much more positively in the second
half, penning Villa back. Mark Noble produces a tremendous volley straight from
a corner only to see it brilliantly saved by Bunn. Payet hits the post with a
free kick and Richards makes a great clearance from Collins’ header.
Just as we’re thinking WHU will do everything but score, the
breakthrough comes. Mark Noble swings in an inviting cross and Antonio does
really well to head the ball into the far corner. Bunn appears to think it’s
going wide as he barely moves. Phew. Mystic Matt has worked his magic on
We still struggle to get a second, with Cresswell going
close and Noble shooting just wide and Payet much more involved. The game
drifts as Nigel asks me to tell the bloke from the Treasury in front of us that
Carlton Cole scored for Celtic against Stranraer. Meanwhile having to drink
soft drinks in the pub is clearly affecting Mystic Matt, who is texting, “Bilic
could substitute 8 or 9 of them. Song, Valencia and Kouyate could all be
hooked.” He’s done it again. From a Villa corner Valencia breaks and plays a
perfect pass through to Kouyate who chips over the keeper to make it 2-0.
The Villa fans unveil a couple of anti-Lerner banners and we
join in their chants of “sack the board!” They’ve been pretty noisy for fans
of a team that are doomed and deserve better.
After three very late substitutions from Slaven, we head to
the Central where Nigel is befriended by two angry cockney Villa fans raging at
their defending for Kouyate’s goal. Michael the Whovian has an anecdote about
holding a pub door open for Steven Moffat. As Nigel and Michael discuss David
Cameron’s problems over an in-out referendum and whether British teams will still be able to play in Europe after Brexit, I’m able to quip, “It
only took West Ham six games to get out of Europe this season.”
An important three points. A poor performance in the first half, but we’ve seen off a struggling team with ten men. That’s
progress and we remain sixth. And on 39 points I think we’re safe…
Adrian 5; Tomkins 6, Collins 6, Reid 6, Cresswell 6; Payet 7, Song 6, Kouyate 6
(Obiang n/a), Noble 8, Antonio 7 (Jelavic n/a); Valencia 6 (Moses n/a).