Sunday, January 15

Who needs Payet when we've got Andy Carroll?

West Ham 3 Crystal Palace 0

Plenty of colour before the kick-off. Nigel reports choruses of “F**k off Payet!” in the shouty tunnel near the Carpenters Arms, while he’s discovered a plaque marking the meridian line near the Builders Arms. Michael’s been to Upton Park to see the rubble of the East Stand and had lunch in Ken’s Café after picking up his signed Clyde Best book from the Newham Bookshop. Steve the Cornish postman is here to deliver a missive to Mr Payet, along with Scott and Joe, while Alison is rumoured to be in Maldon on strike wondering if the East Stand can match her ambition of a game without any glare from the sun (it can’t).

It's not a great first half. Feghouli releases Noble who gets in a cross that Andy Carroll volleys over the bar when he might have hit the target. At the other end Tomkins prods a dead ball across our goal-line, prompting a chant of “James Tomkins he’s one of our own!” But the positive signs are that Lanzini looks up to make the playmaker role his own and the side is working hard. Big Sam will be satisfied with a goalless first half.

At the interval I suggest that if Carroll scores Big Sam will be hoist by his own petard. “It would take a very strong petard to hoist Allardyce,” quips Nigel.

Bilic takes off Ogbonna and brings on Byram, reverting to a back four and pushing Antonio further forward. Young Byram has a fine game, getting forward well and also making some solid tackles.

Suddenly West Ham look fired up. Carroll fires wide almost from the kick-off. Feghouli starts to play really well, getting in a great cross that Tomkins heads away under pressure from Carroll. Feghouli then beats two players and wins a free kick. From the dead ball Big Andy fires into the side netting. A great ball from Obiang finds the overlapping Byram who sends a half volley just past the post. “Come on you Irons!” chant the fans as we start to find some belief.

After 68 minutes Noble finds Antonio who gets behind the Palace defence to send in an inviting cross and Feghouli has the desire to prod the ball over the line. The Algerian winger then kisses the turf — unlike his goal against Domzale where he kissed the plastic by mistake. Great moment for Feghouli, who is looking a different player when he’s confident.

“I never doubted you for a moment, Sofiane…” declares Mystic Matt. 

Will Big Sam’s men come back and sneak a point? Andy Carroll makes some great defensive headers and Collins and Reid are solid. Then on 79 minutes Lanzini finds Antonio who crosses into the box. Andy Carroll winds himself up like a medieval siege engine, connects perfectly with the ball and propels an unstoppable projectile into the top corner.

The ground erupts as Andy slides towards the corner flag, nearly taking the East Stand with him. Now that gives the stadium a bit of history. “Dad, how did he score with a backward kick?” asks a disbelieving Nell. Who needs Payet?

Suddenly our ‘soulless corporate dome’ is rocking to “SUPER SUPER SLAV, SUPER SLAVEN BILIC!” All the rubbish we’ve suffered this season seems to disappear, as finally, thanks to a certain Gallic prima donna, the club appears united once more. For the first time the London Stadium is starting to feel like a home. And Slaven must be moved by the support. He's a decent man who has supported Payet all the way and has not deserved the events of the past week.

West Ham stop another Palace foray and suddenly Antonio is running from his own half. He finds Lanzini who races towards the goal pursued by two defenders. With supreme nonchalance he produces a Payet-esque dink over the keeper and runs into the arms of the fans to celebrate, earning a booking, but who cares?

The team’s performance suggests that Dimitri had become a big pain in the dressing room. Antonio has set the tone by playing through flu and making all three goals.

For once there’s a happy hubbub on the way to Hackney Wick. After putting my daughter Nell on the train, I take the Overground back to Stratford, escaping the Stop/Go signs and making it to the King Edward, where Nigel, Michael, Matt and Fraser and joined by Gavin, who’s been to the club shop, getting a track suit for Stanley and quite possibly buying up all the Feghouli shirts he can find. All the Payet shirts have been removed. Strange days indeed. We might have lost a player and found a team.

PLAYER RATINGS: Randolph 6; Antonio 8 (Fletcher n/a), Ogbonna 6 (Byram 7), Collins 6, Reid 7, Cresswell 6; Feghouli 8, Lanzini 8 (Fernandes n/a), Noble 6, Obiang 7; Carroll 8.  


Shane Barber said...

Fantastic to finally see and hear the roar of a crowd loving what they're seeing in the new stadium. Nobody moaning about gaps in the stands, the stewards or the segregation - although there were plenty of comments about how Palace's self-styled 'Ultras' got a drum into the ground we can't get a hip flask. Just the hum of a contented bunch who had finally seen what they'd been paying for.

As for the individual performances; Lanzini being released from the French twat's shadow, Carroll bullying the Palace defence, Byram finally showing he could be the answer at right-back and Feghouli shining on the wing.

All in al a good day's work and great to see everyone pulling together to support Slav. The famous East End spirit prevails!

Pete May said...

Agree with very word Shane. And Byram might be the right back we're looking for on that form.