Monday, August 22

Antonio makes history for the Hammers

West Ham United 1 Bournemouth 0

First-off it’s a cultural tour of Stratford where I discover that the Best Café on the Broadway does a Ken’s Café-style egg chips and beans (though sadly there’s no shouting of numbers at the customers). Then it’s a journey down The Grove to view Iron Maiden’s old local the Cart and Horses and then the Railway on Leyton Road, which has a pie and mash and Mrs Flipper stall in the beer garden.

Inside the stadium Michael announces that he‘s been to Ken’s Café. He found it was closed as Ken and Carol were doing the catering for a music festival, but did have an audience with the E13 legends. He also reports that there’s an RAF helicopter parked outside the Boleyn in preparation for the filming of Final Score.

Nigel’s returned from cycling in Burgundy and behind us there’s Alison, her nephew Joe with a pre-hipster beard and Steve from Cornwall who decided at 1.30am that sleep was for wimps and drove up to London. We’re also joined by Nigel’s old mate who used to sit with us at Upton Park, the bloke from the Treasury whom he bumped into at a Stranglers concert.

At first I think Matt is joking when he says Andy Carroll is out for six weeks. But no, a long-term Andy Carroll injury is as sure a sign of football returning as half and half scarves, Mourinho mind games and Wenger parsimony. It seems Andy’s done his knee in during a substitute appearance in Romania. We didn’t even need to bring him on. His last big injury came after playing in midweek at Southampton so surely it would have been safer to rest him at Astra?

Payet is missing too, with a slight knock. Matt worries that this means he’s going to be sold. You wonder if Harry Redknapp will be returning as we’re already down to the bare bones; our squad is minus seven players in Cresswell, Lanzini, Payet, Ayew, Carroll, Feghouli and Sakho.

Bournemouth’s Adam Smith has a tame effort saved and Matt wonders if he was a free market transfer. The first half is memorable only for a decent Valencia effort saved by Boruc. And for Nigel asking us to name the number one 1979 hit from the Charlie Daniels Band. The answer is of course The Devil Went Down to Georgia. For the Cherries Jordan Ibe inexplicably opts not to shoot when through and a great shot by Joshua King is acrobatically tipped over the bar by Adrian.

The side work hard with Masuaku and Byram solid at the back, but Noble and Kouyate struggle to create much, Tore doesn’t get quality crosses in and lone striker Valencia is outnumbered. The atmosphere is more raucous for a league match though, and it helps to have away fans, even if they are chanting, “Is this the Emirates?”

In the second half it takes some heavy-handed stewarding down in the corner by the Bobby Moore Stand to rouse the crowd with hearty cries of “We’ll stand when we want!” as the stewards eject a persistent stander and it all threatens to kick-off.

Michael suggests that Tore might be the next Vaz Te. The game increases in intensity as Antonio crosses and Tore fires a difficult chance into the side netting. Antonio switches  wings with Tore and our formation looks more effective. 

Harry Arter (Scott Parker’s brother-in-law) brings down Kouyate after 77 minutes and is sent off for a second yellow card. Finally West Ham have two strikers as Calleri and Fletcher come on.

It looks like it might still end 0-0 until five minutes from time, when Antonio beats his full back but overhits the cross. Tore retrieves on the left, skilfully beats his man and stands up a superb cross for Antonio to rise above Charlie Daniels and head home. The isle really is full of noises as the fans celebrate the first league goal at the London Stadium. Good end to a difficult week for Michail, who’s finally playing in his correct position.

“One-nil up against ten men what could possibly go wrong?” asks Nigel.

As added time arrives Bournemouth send in a long throw, King gets in a shot and Adrian makes a brilliant save. From the follow-up Winston Reid makes a fantastic block with his head. Phew. Bournemouth’s next long throw sees them lose the ball and Mark Noble set Calleri clear. He cuts inside the defender well but then shoots wide when it should have been 2-0.

Respecting the non-pint
But it’s a gritty win in the end and credit to Adrian for making two outstanding saves. Four years after London 2012 more history has been made at the Olympic Stadium. Fraser, Michael and myself make some more history after that by persuading Nigel to try a hipster bar at Hackney Wick. Crate is too crowded to get served so we try Tank. Indeed, huge tanks of craft beer stand behind the bar. Nigel asks if they do pints. “That’s so last century,” quips Camra-member Michael as we sip our two thirds of a pint glasses of Howling Hops ale. Yes, Tank is so hip it is no longer respecting the pint.

Then it’s on to Number 90, where the lads drink pints of 'Shithouse' and Grolsch and we sit by the canal and watch the Hoegaarden garden barge moor, which is all very different to the Central. In the gents we discover there’s a man handing out towels. We concur that the person handing out towels in the gents at the Central would have had the worst job in the world.

We retreat on to the Overground happy with three points and slightly bemused by Hackney Wick’s Sweeney-esque aura of gentrification. We’re up and running at our new home.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8, Byram 6, Reid 7, Collins 6, Masuaku 6; Nordveit 5 (Fletcher 5), Antonio 7, Noble 6, Kouyate 6, Tore 6 (Obiang n/a), Valencia 5 (Calleri 5).

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