Sunday, September 11

West Ham fail to plug Watford Gap

West Ham 2 Watford 4

The news in the Clyde Best Café is that Nigel likes the grub and is muttering approvingly about coffee machines and the café having a gents, as Michael the Keeper of the Moral Compass accuses him of possible disloyalty to the memory of Ken’s Café. My daughter Nell still thinks the chips were better in Ken’s but seems happy with waitress service. Michael's been in his lock-up and presents Nigel with a new WHU lanyard, attached to a claret and blue stick of rock in the shape of a child's dummy. We then go the backstreet way to the stadium, discovering a new pub the Carpenters Arms and feeling relief at being off the concrete walkways.

Inside the stadium Steve the Cornishman is away starting his new job as a postman (he’s rumoured to be better at delivery than Payet), while Alison and Scott are up the Empire State Building in New York. So we’re joined by Alison’s sister Roz, fresh from her Laindon Hills golf course, and her pre-hipster bearded son Joe. We’re joined by Fraser and Matt, who arrives after kick-off having taken in WHU’s Premier League 2 side’s 2-2 draw with Wolves at noon and the Under-18s 2-2 draw the previous evening.

It all starts off with 40 minutes of great football. Zaza’s overhead releases Antonio who draws a save from Gomes. The keeper then stops Payet’s follow-up effort. Watford threaten going forward though, as Masuako’s intervention denies Ighalo.

WHU take the lead after five minutes when the prolific Antonio heads in Payer’s corner. Janmaat hits his own post, Lanzini shoots with a rabona flick and Antonio has several attempts before West Ham double their lead on 33 minutes. Payet produce the assist of the decade to cross with a rabona leaving Antonio with a simple header. The whole ground rises in a chorus of “We’ve got Payet!” and it’s the best atmosphere we’ve had at the Olympic Stadium.

“Dad, have West Ham turned into a good team?” asks a puzzled Nell.

”Steady on, we can still lose this,” I quip, secretly looking forward to a tonking of the Hornets.

West Ham’s collapse is heralded by two blokes behind us is having a handbags confrontation over impoliteness when asked to move. Seems we’ve recruited a few Herberts among our new fans.

On 41 minutes Ighalo twists and turns past Byram before getting in a shot that deflects into the net off Collins. it gets worse for James. As we reach the second minute of added time he tries to head a routine long ball to Adrian but misses the onrushing keeper, giving it straight to Troy Deeney, who scores with a clever chipped finish. Adrian must also share the blame for rushing from his goal, but Collins really should have aimed for Row Z.

“Well, we’ve silenced the crowd,” I mutter. Forty minutes of domination ruined in six minutes.

Watford have all the psychological impetus in the second half. They score a third as Reid backs off Pereyra who crosses for Capoue to chest and volley home off the post — Adrian gets a hand to it and should possibly have saved it. That’s three in 12 minutes. Heads really go down. Watford surge forward and after 63 minutes West Ham appeal for a foul on Payet, as Watford play on and Holbas fires home with a shot that Adrian should save.

Bilic doesn’t react either. With Payet and Lanzini tiring and huge haps in front of the defence he doesn’t bring on Obiang or Nordveit to offer a midfield shield.

Watford nearly get more as Kaboul has a goal disallowed for offside and Pereyra dribbles right through our defence only to be foiled by Adrian. Sub Calleri is wrongly ruled offside when he heads against the post, but we offer little in the way of a fightback. And we should never have sold James Tomkins.

It’s so bad Matt doesn’t even get angry, instead, possibly suffering a system error after three games in two days, insisting we take the positives, like we kept it down to four.

The ground is half-empty at the end. An absolutely bizarre game has left the crowd stunned, though the terrible defending has at least made me forget all about moving stadiums. As Slaven says after the game, we won’t win any games defending like that. In mitigation, Lanzini, Payet and Zaza were playing their first full games of the season and Watford have some good players, but it’s all still very worrying. Nigel muses sagely that all managers are only ever six games away from a crisis. We haven’t played well for a full 90 minutes all season.

At Hackney Wick Overground we spot Doctor Who actor Donald Sumpter looking as if he wants to disappear into his Confession Dial.

On Facebook Brian Williams, author of Nearly Reach the Sky, publishes a picture of Westfield with the word ‘Mordor’. Continuing the Tolkein-esque theme it seems our defence went on an unexpected journey. A worrying afternoon.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 4, Byram 4 (Tore n/a), Collins 4, Reid 5, Masuaku 5; Payet 6, Noble 4 (Calleri 5), Kouyate 5, Lanzini 6, Antonio 7; Zaza 5 (Fletcher 5).


matt said...

Seems to be a lot of doom and gloom about this, but it is not our worst home defeat to Watford in the last decade:

I see at this season's Bournemouth, an inexplicable defeat where we ship four through terrible defending, but a one-off, that Super Slav can and will sort out.

mj said...

After nearly 50 years I am used to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but yesterday left me nonplussed. I recall ropey defending last year but we had momentum. I'd love a 0-0 next week away to west brom and I'll take 1-0 v Accrington. We need some defensive overhaul!

Pete May said...

Guess we have to remember we looked ropey losing at home to Leicester and Bournemouth this time last season. But agree MJ we need a result and clean sheet. Could be a case for hanging most of the defence...