Sunday, October 23

Winston wins it for the Irons!

West Ham 1 Sunderland 0

It’s into the (Clyde) Best Café with Nigel, Michael and Matt, who’s seen the kids at Little Heath in the morning. We’re also joined by my brother-in-law Drew and his ten-year-old son Jago, attending his first match. Jago quizzes us on who is the greatest player we’ve ever seen and after going through Christian Dailly and Steve Potts, we agree it’s probably Messi or Ronaldo. Then it’s a late trek past gridlock at gate G and into the stadium just after kick-off.

West Ham start confidently and have a good 35 minutes. Payet goes close three times; shooting just wide, drawing a save from Pickford and then hitting the inside of the post. Fernandes is getting forward well as emergency left wing-back and on the right Antonio’s pace is causing problems. Zaza goes close with an audacious overhead kick. Defoe gets in a softish shot and you can see Sunderland coming into it more as West Ham’s failure to score brings back the old doubts

At half time Drew buys Jago a bargain £3.50 box of popcorn, which he is going to throw at the players if they don’t score soon.

Khazri gets clear early in the second half but shoots too close to Adrian. For the rest of the half West Ham attack but lack creativity, with even Payet struggling. Antonio crosses too low into the first defender on several occasions and is hooked for Feghouli. The Albanian man plays with urgency, but like Antonio struggles to beat the first defender with his crosses.

Young Jago learns some interesting new phrases such as “get up you tart!” from the man behind us. Though he’s pleasingly willing on West Ham to score. Zaza is surprisingly replaced with Calleri and Ashley Fletcher gets on for the last 10 minutes. Fletcher makes one good break down the left only to cross to a defender. The crowd get going with some “Come on you Irons!” as we get more desperate.

Moyes brings on more defenders and this one has a goalless draw written all over it. We’re into the fourth minute of added time when Noble wins a corner. From the short corner Payet finds Winston Reid, who manages to get the ball from under his feet on to his left foot and fires through a crowd of players past the unsighted Pickford. The London Stadium erupts in relief as Winston runs to the corner. Calleri looks like he might be offside but as we quip, he seldom interferes with play. Never in doubt!

It’s going to be a long journey home for the Sunderland fans. Fraser, Matt, Michael and myself retreat to the King Edward V11. It’s a nice old-fashioned boozer with low beams, although the central heating is turned up to 11 and after an impromptu sauna over a pint we retreat into the beer garden, where a mural tells us the pub was built in 1904 and was originally the King of Prussia before changing its name in a fit of pre-Brexit patriotism.

We discuss what was our worst ever home win and decide that it wasn’t today as we played well for the first 35 minutes; the general consensus is that it was the 2-1 win against Hull’s ten men. Fraser and Michael head off in search of the hipster bar on the roof of the Stratford Centre (it’s only open in the summer they discover) while Matt and myself opt for the Overground where a drunk fans sits slumped in front of the doors before falling off the train at Canonbury.

We’re unbeaten for three matches now and kept a clean sheet for two since Obiang came into the side. Not a great game but the result meant everything today and the good thing is the Irons never gave up. Now we can start looking upwards.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Antonio 5 (Feghouli 5), Kouyate 5, Ogbonna 5, Reid 7, Fernandes 6; Noble 6, Obiang 6, Lanzini 5 (Fletcher 5), Payet 7; Zaza 6 (Calleri 5).

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