Thursday, December 15

Nobes and Carroll edge it for nervy Hammers

Mark Noble scores from open play…
West Ham 1 Burnley 0

Andy Carroll playing a midweek game against a team that has only taken one away point all season — what could possibly go wrong? For once nothing, which is an odd sensation.

I’m joined in the East stand by Fraser, the newly-wed Gavin ("you're not single anymore"), Michael, a tardy Nigel and Scott, who’s predicted a 5-1 win. There’s a moving minute of applause to mark the death of Peter Brabrook and although the crowd is down it ‘s more like the hardcore support and the atmosphere is a bit better, even if the noise still drifts away in our new home.

West Ham play pretty well in the first half against an unambitious Burnley. Antonio just fails to connect with Noble’s cross early on. Nobes then hits the post with a fine curling effort from the edge of the area. Lowton makes a great block to deny Cresswell’s goalbound shot and Obiang hits the outside of the post with an effort from distance.

In added time at the end of the first half Carroll gets his head to Payet’s corner, Heaton flaps at the ball under pressure from Kouyate (Sean Dyche claims it’s a foul) and Winston Reid is pulled back as he tries to poke home the rebound. Penalty! Mark Noble’s effort is saved but the rebound falls nicely for him to slot home. Finally we’re getting a bit of luck.

West Ham look nervous in the second half as Burnley start to look dangerous from set-plays. Vokes somehow heads over after Randolph has made a fine save and the West Ham keeper makes another great stop to deny Arfield’s free kick. Referee Bobby Madley ignores a series of cloggings on Payet and must be thankful Matt is in La Palma as such assaults would stretch the patience of a vicar’s son.

Towards the end sub Ayew almost gets a second, cleverly getting through the Burnley defence only to fire just wide. We survive five minutes of added time and take the ball into the corner. It’s not pretty but at this stage of the season the result is everything. We text the result to Matt, who is dancing in the aisle of the Los Llanas bus after a mega mountain hike.

Andy Carroll has made a big difference up front and worried the Burnley defence all night. He’s not completely sharp yet, but finally we have a striker holding the ball up and wining aerial battles. Credit to Dimitri Payet too. A lot of what he tried didn’t come off but he drew a lot of fouls and even put in some tackles. Crucially this result might give us a bit of confidence. And as Fraser, the Raymond Chandler of E20, points out, we’re on an unbeaten run of two games.

Post-match Fraser suggests the Railway for a drink and I’m tasked with leading our party through the Olympic Park. We miss Penny Brookes Street and end up on Victory Parade half way to Shenfield. Just as we’re wondering if we’ll still be looking for a pub as the Hull game kicks off Nigel spots The Eagle, an oasis in a dimly-lit post-industrial dystopian maze of streets. It’s not a bad pub, despite the lack of real ale. Gav approves of the Guinness, we get a seat and Nigel expresses his relief that no-one will ever ridicule his short cut to the Black Lion after my own Mark Thatcher-esque attempts at navigation. The it's a trek down Leyton Road — where we finally find The Railway — and back to Stratford.

A very welcome win and now we play a team who look certain to go down on Saturday. What could possibly go wrong?

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 7; Antonio 6, Kouyate 6, Ogbonna 6, Reid 7, Cresswell 6; Obiang 6, Noble 7 (Nordtveit n/a), Lanzini 6 (Ayew 6), Payet 7; Carroll 7 (Fletcher 5).

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