Monday, May 1

Adrian's wall ensures clean-sheet for Hammers

Stoke City 0 West Ham 0

I’ve managed to acquire a ticket in the Boothen End thanks to my second cousin Terry (my mum came from the Potteries before marrying an Essex Man). First up it’s a trip to the Gardeners Retreat where we buy copies of the Oatkake fanzine, drink Pedigree and meet Stokies Andrew and Ed from Leeds and Keith, who’s celebrating his 77th birthday by wearing a plastic yellow construction helmet. After two and a half pints, it’s off down the motorway, over the canal, up Cardiac Hill and across the disused colliery to the Bet365 stadium. Here we find David Gold and David Sullivan’s Rollers with personalised number plates parked prominently outside.

We’re behind Adrian’s goal for the first half. Early on Reid blocks Berahino’s goalbound shot and Fernandes does well to get in a cross but Calleri blasts wastefully over. For probably the first time in his career, Calleri is called a “cockney wanker!” by the home fans.

From the on it’s a game of two goalkeepers. Calleri certainly works hard up front and his lay-off finds Masuaku, whose cross is met by an acrobatic overhead kick from Andre Ayew. Jack Butland, back after a year out, pulls off a fantastic reaction save. Fonte blocks Berahino again at the other end, though West Ham are moving the ball well. Calleri gets in a dangerous cross and when the ball rebounds to him on the six-yard box he bizarrely tries to score with a rabona instead of giving it some welly.

Encouragingly for the Hammers our three centre backs look solid, the wingbacks are getting forward and Nordtveit and Kouyate are protecting the defence well.

The second half begins with Kouyate shooting just wide of the far post. Shaqiri looks a bit of a West Ham type of player, a frustrating mix of skill and over-elaboration. He steps inside his man and gets in a curling shot that Adrian does well to tip over. Berahino looks certain to break his Stoke duck as he gets in a fine low shot that produces a great one-handed stop from Adrian.

At the other end Kouyate wins a second ball and sets up Ayew, whose shot is parried by Butland. From the resulting melee the keeper then makes a great stop from Lanzini with his feet.

It’s all proving too much for the angriest Stoke fan in the world behind us. He makes my pal Matt sound like a vicar’s son. “Same old f***ing s**t every week Hughes! We’re drawing with a team with nine men out! Run for it Adam you fat bastard… our goalkeeper's the man of that match that says it all…  f***ing cheating cockney w***ers!” it seems West Ham fans aren’t the only supporters to get a little het up.

Sub Noble gets terrible stick for winning a free kick. Whenever a West Ham player goes down the home fans pressurise the ref with a chant of, “that’s just embarrassing!”

The Gardener's Retreat
Bilic comes up with the cunning plan of taking off both Ayew and Calleri and leaving the Hammers with no strikers. Stoke pile on the pressure as Collins make a great clearance from under the bar. Shaqiri finds Arnautovic running through but Adrian heroically manages to save with first his chest and then tip the ball away with his outstretched hand.

After a nervous four minutes of added time the Irons hold out for an away point. It’s been a reasonably entertaining goalless draw. So it’s back to the station where the news comes through that the Gav is in the Globe drinking Titanic ale and that the new Mrs Gav has made her WHU debut in the Potteries. Back at Euston there are chants on the concourse of "Irons!" and "We're not going on a European tour!"

It’s encouraging to keep a second clean sheet after so many defensive lapses this season, though 39 points might not be quite enough with Swansea and Hull still to play relegated Sunderland. Another point should ensure survival. All we have to do next is stop Spurs winning the league.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 8; Collins 7, Reid 7, Fonte 7; Fernandes 6, Kouyate 7, Nordtveit 6, Lanzini 7, Masuaku 7 (Cresswell 6); Ayew 7 (Noble 6), Calleri 5 (Snodgrass 5).


matt said...

Well, personally I think you should exude positivity and support your team at all times, but each to their own. In other news, I had Stoke in the Adrian's Wall sweepstake.I'm on a roll, and think I'll go double or quits in the Spurs Get Up You Tart sweepstake...

Pete May said...

Think it will take one tumble from Kane after about three minutes before hat phrase is uttered!