Thursday, April 14

WHU Cup dream over as United ruin Boleyn farewell

Pearly King at the gates of the Boleyn
West Ham 1 Man United 2 (FA Cup)

It’s a little worrying that the programme has pictures of our three FA Cup wins on the front cover and the Evening Standard has a double page spread on “One Last Knockout Night,” with Cup memories from Peter Brabrook, Billy Bonds, Ray Stewart, Tony Gale and Aaron Cressswell. It’s never going to be an easy game against a Man United side fighting to save LVG’s job.

Matt, Lisa and her pal Sue, Michael and myself are in Ken’s Café ridiculously early thanks to the 7pm kick-off, feeling nervous and causing consternation to Billy by pulling a fifth chair round our table. Even DC and his wee man arrive early, suggesting something’s in the air at Upton Park.

We arrive in the East Stand unusually early, beating Fraser for once. Michael is tempted by a plastic bottle of stadium Carlsberg as they’re right out of craft beer.

There’s a great atmosphere at the start, but it’s soon evident that the expectation might have got to West Ham. United look solid with Rashford and Martial impressing up front and Fosu-Mensah looking a real prospect at the back. As usual, Fellaini, hated by the Mancs fans, looks really impressive against us.

“Where’s your famous atmosphere?” chant the Mancs fans

“You only live round the corner!” comes the response from the Bobby Moore Stand.

Valencia puts a tame effort straight at De Gea early on while Randolph makes fine saves from Fellaini’s deflected shot and Lingard’s low effort. It’s goalless at half-time and Matt sitting in Row D tonight, gives us a long tactical analysis of what’s going wrong with Noble, Payet and Valencia. Geno by Dexys comes on the PA, presumably as a tribute to Slaven’s beanie hat.

United take the lead after 54 minutes. Antonio’s pass is blocked and Martial finds Rashford, who shows brilliant footwork to jink between Tomkins and Ogbonna and curl a brilliant effort into the top corner. Thirteen minutes later it’s 2-0 as Lingard crosses and Martial’s shot deflects off a defender on to Fellaini’s thigh and into the net.

We play a lot better when the pressure’s off. De Gea makes a fantastic save to deny Antonio’s prod towards goal from Payet’s corner. On 79 minutes West Ham pull a goal back. From another Payet corner Carroll gets in a towering header and Tomkins bravely stoops to head home.

Suddenly there’s hope we can eke out another 30 minutes of Cup football at Upton Park. Carroll flashes a header just over from Cresswell's cross. In added time Payet’s cross is deflected into the path of Kouyate and De Gea makes a great save. The ball rebounds to Carroll who fires in anther stinging shot only to be denied by the keeper again. Kouyate heads home from De Gea’s parry of Andy’s shot but is marginally offside. Our final corner sums up the evening as Payet finds Noble on the edge of the box but he volleys wildly wide. The Mancs keep the ball to a chorus of “oles” from their fans as the whistle blows.

We slump towards the Central. Perhaps the deflating of dreams is a more fitting historical tribute to the Boleyn Ground. At least we can’t mess it up against Everton, Watford or Palace now. And Payet might be less in demand. Michael will be able to go a day of events celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and Fraser will be able to pitch to a meeting of literary agents on May 21. And I might be able to plan a mini-break in the Lake District. Take the positives. It’s a devalued competition and big teams concentrate on getting into the Champions League.

The mood is thoroughly deflated in the Central. There’s hardly anyone in there.  

“It’s the first time we’ve felt like this since August,” says Fraser, which is a good point, we’ve had a fantastic home run since losing to Bournemouth.

After the third pint of Old Speckled Hen Michael the Whovian offers advice on my moral dilemma of whether we want to beat Leicester on Sunday and hand the title to Spurs or should we be wanting Leicester to win the league for the greater good of football. I’m agonising like Tom Baker in Genesis of the Daleks when he has the chance to destroy the Daleks at birth but asks “Have I the right?”

“You the chronicler of West ham should not be entertaining these thoughts… if the price of West Ham qualifying for the Champions League is Spurs winning the league which is the greater good?” intones Michael like a latterday Prospero to my Hamlet. Though knowing West Ham we might win the league for Spurs and then fail to get into both the Europa League or the Champions League

Fuddled by ale and despair and moral quandaries I forget my bag and dash back to retrieve it from the breakfast tables for the backpackers and head to the station past police dealing with an argument outside the Boleyn and the bouncers at the Queen’s having a row with some punters. Not the way we wanted to say farewell to Cup nights at Upton Park.

But there’s six games left. If we can win the home games against Watford, Swansea and Man United and get something at WBA and Stoke then we can still achieve something special. But for now our Cup Final breakfast at Nigel’s is going to have to be postponed for another season. Thirty seven years of hurt never stopped me dreaming.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 7; Antonio 6, Ogbonna 6, Tomkins 7, Cresswell 6; Noble 6, Kouyate 6, Payet 6, Lanzini 6 (Emenike 5); Valencia 5 (Moses 6), Carroll 7.


mj said...

Yeah it took the edge off the Black lion as well. It's clear from the last few games that Antonio isn't a full back although he has done well. Last night, Tomkins right back, Ginge in the middle and Antonio instead of Valencia?

Pete May said...

Yep MJ, I'sd rather see him as a winger. We could play Byram at right back to as he's nearly fit..

matt said...

About the only way the evening could have been worse would be if some poor sod had to leave after Tomka's goal, and go and work all night...

Still, at least the ref didn't beat us this time. We've scored 8 goals in 4 games, and won none of them, because we've conceded 9 goals. Clear where the problem is. Part of the solution - in a 4 2 3 1 the 2 - ie Nobes and Cheikhou - have primarily to defend.
If Super Slav doesn't address this, we won;t have a prayer at Leicester against Mahrez and Vardy.

matt said...

And re the moral dilemma, if we'd beaten Man Utd it might have been different, but I'm desperate to win tomorrow now....