Sunday, October 2

Perfect Payet goal lifts the Hammers

Hammers 'goal' disallowed for push on Valdez
West Ham 1 Middlesbrough 1

The (Clyde) Best Café serves egg, chips and beans with disturbing alacrity and Nigel and Matt say the real coffee is actually quite decent. Then it’s a 20-minute dash through an estate, under the tunnel and towards the Orbital.

Having dropped Zaza we’re playing no strikers, possibly as a tribute to Sam Allardyce. After four minutes Byram goes for a diving header and looks like he’s pulled a hamstring. There’s a big cheer as a bizarre Wacky Races-style vehicle enters the pitch and carries poor Sam off. Arbeloa comes on.

Fischer fires just past the post for Boro, but after that it’s a decent first half from West Ham. Obiang, in for Lanzini, stiffens the midfield, Reid and Collins make some fine defensive blocks, Ogbonna is solid at left back and the side works much harder than in previous games. Seems like the team bonding might have worked. Everything comes down the left and Payet gets through to produce a good save from Valdes (who is he most decorated player on the pitch, says Matt). Dimitri has another effort just wide. Noble fires past the post and goes even closer when he chips an effort on to the bar having been set up by Antonio.

After half an hour we’re joined by Alison’s sister Roz who has been having her eyebrows groomed — which may well be preferable to watching West Ham in recent weeks.

Today is better though. A relegation struggle seems to create a much better atmosphere at the London Stadium as the crowd make a lot of noise to try and inspire the Irons. The main downside is the performance of Tore. He repeatedly loses possession and looks lightweight. When he balloons an effort over the bar  the normally mild-mannered Nigel launches into an expletive-laden rant at the Tore-ible winger. We’ve not seen Nigel this angry since he almost missed out on Deep Purple tickets.

Having got to the break level we then concede from a corner after 51 minutes. Antonio allows Stuani too much space to get in a header that is cleared by Noble, but has already crossed the line.

But West Ham keep going and Zaza, on for Tore, works hard. To their credit the fans stick with West Ham and are rewarded with a sublime goal. Dimitri Payet gathers the ball on the left, spins away from Barragan, then slaloms across the box beating four defenders. He appears to have gone too wide but with the keeper and defence off balance threads the ball into the far corner. The stadium erupts and Dimitri runs towards Slaven. We’ve just seen the goal of the season. “We’ve got Payet!” echoes around Stratford.

A fine through ball from Zaza sends Payet through again and he’s stopped by a professional foul on the edge of the box. The free kick comes o nothing and then the game goes back to a stalemate. Zaza and Antonio shoot wildly over the bar and after Antonio beats his defender for speed he’s left facing the keeper from a tight angle but blazes over. Forshaw has an impressive game for Boro in midfield and the Smog Monsters worry us a little in the five minutes of added time.

But it ends a draw and while that’s disappointing at least it stops our losing sequence and will instil some confidence.

Michael (who has been tea-total for September but is now back on the booze), Fraser and myself head off to the bar at the Theatre Royal, where Michael is watching Glasgow Girls, perhaps a musical tribute to Frank McAvennie. The Workshop Bar does a nice fruity IPA in White Rock and it’s a lovely old theatre. So not too bad an end to the day, even if there has apparently been some crowd trouble in the Park, perhaps caused by Matt and Nigel lobbing statistics at the Boro fans.

We still have to get a result at Palace, but this suggests the team is at least getting back to something like last season’s level of desire. Two weeks’ break now and Cresswell will soon be fit and maybe even Big Andy. Will that Payet goal prove a turning point?

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Byram n/a (Arbeloa 6). Reid 6, Collins 6, Ogbonna 6; Kouyate 6, Obiang 7, Noble 6 (Lanzini 5); Tore 3 (Zaza 6), Antonio 6, Payet 8.


mj said...

Are the doors open at half time? Seemed a few new people looked for seats in the second half, who weren't there in the first half? Anyway, we looked better with Obiang in the middle, must be the way to go?

matt said...

Agree re Obiang. On a second view Noble was unlucky when he hit the bar; on the other hand, he should really have cleared their goal, as that's what he's on the line for.

But we've seen one of the goals of the decade from our world class player, so we do have to take the positives and move on

Pete May said...

Obiang needs to stay in. He was bought prior to Bilic arriving but even though he's not his signing, Slaven has to now give him a run…