West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul, Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals and Goodbye to Boleyn
Sunday, November 6
Adrian's rush of blood costs Hammers
West Ham 1 Stoke City 1
First off it’s a Hardy-esque journey to Ken’s Café with
Michael and Matt, only to find its sacred portals closed. At least the Newham
Bookshop is open and the Betway Stand is still standing. So it’s the 330 bus
back to Stratford and the Clyde Best Café where Lisa bravely tries the veggie
burger and Nigel gets locked in the lavatory as we depart.
Our numbers are down; Fraser and Scott are both ill and Steve
the Cornish postman is working — though Michael
suggests that he should just deliver his letters a day late as people move to
Cornwall for a more relaxed pace of life. Meanwhile Alison’s back from seeing Pub
Landlord Al Murray instead of the Chelsea game and her sister Roz has been at a
Laindon golf club function with new besties Billy Bonds and Alvin Martin.
SO BEFORE THEY COME TO BREAK DOWN THE DOOR
The first half is a poor quality game. West Ham look much
more difficult to beat with three at the back and Obiang in front of the
defence, but also struggle to create against Stoke’s five-man midfield. Lanzini
tries a lot of dinked passes but nothing quite comes off while Ayew looks too
slight to play the lone striker role.
Kouyate has to make an acrobatic clearance from Walters’
dangerous cross early on. West Ham’s best chance comes from a corner when Grant
makes a great save from Ogbonna’s firm header. In added time Payet's free kick
goes just over the bar and that’s about it for the first half. The Stoke fans treat us to Delilah and the Christmas onesies on the big screen are quite entertaining.
Bilic has seen enough and brings on Fernandes and Fletcher with
half an hour left. Three minutes later West Ham take the lead as Noble feeds
Payet on the left and Dimitri’s delicate cross appears to be headed in by
Antonio, although his header has taken a deflection of Stoke’s Whelan and it’s
credited as an own goal.
West Ham start to look capable of getting a second until Adrian
dashes from his line to try to clear a hopeful pass from Adam. With four defenders back
there’s little danger but the keeper fouls Walters and should conceded a
penalty — but ref Andre Marriner plays the advantage allowing Bojan to produce a crisp
finish from Walters’ cross.
West Ham’s confidence dips and Fletcher, after producing
some neat touches, dwells on the ball too long in a couple of late
attacks. The ref tries very hard not to book Joe Allen, much to the outrage of the bloke next to us. At the end Charlie Adam almost
wins it for Stoke with a free kick that is rather nervously tipped round the
post by Adrian.
“I wish I’d stayed locked in the loo at the Clyde Best
Café,” quips Nigel.
The good news is that there’s no crowd trouble and none of
our players have been chased by armed motorcyclists.
“It’s starting to feel like a proper West Ham season,” muses
Michael as we trudge through the chill air past the riot police guarding the
shouting tunnel to Stratford, contemplating a relegation struggle.
Then it’s a pint in the Stratford East Theatre’s Workshop
bar and the sobering thought that our next four opponents are Spurs, Man United
twice, Arsenal and Liverpool.
Adrian 4; Kouyate 6, Ogbonna 6, Collins 6; Cresswell 5, Payet 6, Noble 6,
Obiang 6 (Feghouli n/a), Lanzini 5 (Fernandes 5), Antonio 6; Ayew 5 (Fletcher