Wednesday, January 31

Last Hammers standing grind out gritty point

West Ham 1 Crystal Palace 1

The Clyde Best Café is “closed for refurbishment” — something that never used to happen at Ken’s Café. I’m joined by my daughter Lola and a bemused Lisa as we opt for the Best Kebab shop’s falafel wraps. Michael joins us having had a snifter or two due to the Theatre Royal’s irresistible “two pints for the price of one” offer and then gives up on buying a kebab after finding the two staff having a row.

Inside the stadium we’re joined by Scott who is showing solidarity with the West Ham squad by carrying a crutch. Alison has come fresh from some soulless corporate bowl called the Nou Camp, where she says Suarez, Coutinho and Neymar can’t possibly compare to Mark Noble. Steve the Cornish postie is here on his way to Bruges, while Fraser has re-written his new better than Gone Girl epic and enjoyed hearing the “sack the board!’ chants at Wigan.

We start with our only 11 fit players, while Antonio is not on the bench because he arrived late for a team meeting. Early on Hernandez’s header sets up Mario for a volley, which he slices wide. But the new midfielder has good feet, looks comfortable on the ball and improves as the game goes on. Kouyate goes down and returns to the pitch with a Basil Fawlty-style head bandage to add to his wrist bandage.

When I remark that Cresswell will have to play as a left back again, Fraser quips, “he’s been within spitting distance of it all season.”

The Hammers exert some early pressure and only a great saving tackle from Tomkins denies Chicharito. But it all implodes when Cresswell is caught upfield and Townsend eludes Declan Rice to cross for Benteke to get between our centre backs and head home. At this point you’d expect our scratch side to collapse. Indeed Adrian is lucky a parry doesn’t fall to a Palace striker.

But the spirit is much better under Moyes and this is epitomised by Kouyate. Lola suggests he looks like Mr Bump with his two bandages, but he has a storming game. It’s Cheikhou who wins a challenge and plays in Hernandez who in turn finds Super Mario. The new signing holds the ball up well before playing in Chicharito, who is scythed down by Tomkins. Mark Noble dispatches a typically calm penalty.  

Unless Hart can play up front there’s no-one on the bench who can change the game so the 11 out there have to remain resolute. Zabaleta does really well in an unfamiliar midfield role and prevents Zaha making many runs. Noble is tireless and passing well and Sam Byram causes lot of problems with his runs down the right. West Ham’s best chance is when Byram crosses and Chicharito’s header is well-saved by Hennessey, though it’s perhaps too close to the keeper. The bandaged Kouyate receives a standing ovation when he finally leaves the field late on and is replaced by Reece Oxford. A late free kick into the Palace box is just missed by Collins.

Respecting the pint
We hold on for the draw and with 11 players injured it’s a result to get anything out of this. In the Carpenters Road shouting tunnel the chants suggest the fans feel this is a point gained. It’s off to the Refreshment Rooms where we find Desperate Dan the Brentwood Man, a ghost from the East Stand past, who now knows more about wrestling than Robert Huth and took his poor son to his first away game at Wigan. Meanwhile Michael’s getting a little emotional about someone called the Brigadier from a TV science-fiction series and Fraser still wants to sack the board. Nigel needs another Peroni after discovering that West Ham have moved into the top ten…

We did well to get something from this and reinforcements are needed before the window closes today.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Byram 7, Collins 6, Ogbonna 6, Rice 6, Cresswell 6; Zabaleta 7, Noble 7, Kouyate 8 (Oxford n/a), Mario 7; Hernandez 7.

Tuesday, January 30

Rennes get Sakho in the morning

Diafra Sakho has finally left the building. It seems he's wanted to leave West Ham since about 1643, and now he's got his wish. With such an injury-prone player it's decent business to get £4.5 million up front and a possible £3.5 million in add-ons. It all rather sad too, as he was potentially the best striker at the club. 

Sakho started off really well in 2014, scoring in six successive games and looked just the mobile striker we needed. He scored 12 goals that season and had some fine games in 2015-16 too, including a great match working the channels during the 2-0 win at the Emirates and the third goal in the 3-0 win at Anfield. He was unlucky to miss nearly all of last season with a back injury. Yet there were always rumours of sulks and disagreements with the management, that self-appointed medical at Rennes in the summer and his lack of goal celebrations this season. Its all a terrible waste, but we're better off without him. 

Meanwhile it's interesting to hear rumours that West Ham are after Everton's Morgan Schneiderlin, who was a really good holding midfield player at Southampton. He was frozen out at Man United before moving to Everton, where he played quite well last season. If we could restore his confidence then he might be a decent signing.

Monday, January 29

Masuaku will be punished enough for spitting

Some West Ham fans have been saying Arthur Masuaku should be sacked, which is a little  over the top. Spitting is horrible and he was incredibly stupid to do it. But it was out of character and he has apologised. Masuaku will suffer a six-match suspension and a  club fine and will then have to earn his place back and the trust of the coaching staff. That seems like punishment enough. He seems to be quite a laid back character and has never been sent off before, so it's not a recurring problem. 

To put it in perspective, although spitting is reprehensible it's still not as bad as a leg-breaking tackle. Cardiff's Joe Bennett received a yellow card for a foul that put Man City's Sane out of the game for a month, while Masuaka has a red card and a six-game suspension. Luis Suarez is now a hero at Barcelona despite serial biting. Arthur's done wrong and been punished severely, which is surely enough.

Saturday, January 27

Will Grigg's on fire as Hammers are dire

Wigan 2 West Ham 0 (FA Cup)

Well, an injury-ravaged Hammers side was never likely to get much out of this and it hardly ranks as a shock. Burke allowed Grigg to get on the wrong side of him for the first, but was unlucky to have a penalty awarded against him for the hadball. Something happened when Masuaku clashed with Powell on the touchline, but there was no excuse for spitting and Arthur earned a stupid red card. Out of character, but indiscipline now means we lose a vital player for a number of games. Oh and Obiang was carried off as well, while Oxford mussed our only chance. The travelling fans deserved better. Cup Final breakfast at Nigel's is now postponed until 2019. As my pal Matt texted: "Apart from 11 players too injured to start, and two more in the game, a player sent off for spitting, a dodgy penalty and a 2-0 defeat, what could possibly have gone wrong?"

Friday, January 26

Heavy metal Zab

Pablo Zabaleta is a bit of a heavy metal headbanger judging by his choices in the WHU v Bournemouth programme's Play List. My pal Nigel is ecstatic that Pablo has chosen some of his favourite songs, such as AC/DC's Highway to Hell, Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast and Metallica's excellent cover of Thin Lizzy's Whiskey in the Jar. In fact Zab could almost be Nigel, as he's also selected Queen's I Want To Break Free and Status Quo's Rockin' All Over The World. The Argentine full back even knows that Iron Maiden are a local band and that Stevie Harris is a West Ham fan. While I'm quite impressed he chose a Ramones song. In fact Zab plays a bit like a heavy metal fan and his performances often make opposition wingers want to Run To The Hills

Thursday, January 25

Hammers closing in on super Mario

West Ham are close to signing Inter Milan's Joao Mario on loan for the rest of the season and he's currently having a medical (two legs and an untweaked hamstring is the basic requirement). The Portuguese midfielder looks a Lanzini-like creative midfielder who can create and score goals. He's got a 2016 European Championship winners' medal with Portugal (mind you so has Jose Fonte) and had a promising career at Sporting Lisbon. He's struggled a bit at Inter after a £35m move, but hasn't been helped by Milan's changes of manager. It's worth noting that his Portugeezer teammate Renato Sanches has struggled at Swansea, but the 25-year-old does look a proper number ten who can give the Hammers something extra, and also play in the same team with Lanzini when Manuel recovers from his hamstring injury.

Tuesday, January 23

Irons need creative midfielder as injury crisis hits

More bad news on the injury front. Andy Carroll is out for three months following an operation on his fractured ankle, while it's reported that Manuel Lanzini could miss four to six weeks with his hamstring injury and Arnautovic is out for three weeks with a hamstring problem. We're down to Hernandez up front, while West Ham urgently need a replacement for Lanzini, as there's no-one at the club who can play the number ten role. Not replacing Payet, sold a year ago, has made the situation even worse. 

One solution might be David Moyes' pursuit of Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier, who is not a prolific scorer but can play the creator role. Though knowing West Ham we might sign Paul Clement the former Swansea manager by mistake. Lanzini's injury could be a chance for Ayew to play behind the main striker, but he's always looked more of a winger or striker than a midfielder (and without an injury crisis he would surely have gone back to Swansea after a reported £14m bid). 

The rest of the squad is over-stocked with defensive midfielders, though Kouyate did play better in a more advanced role on Saturday and Antonio would be a boost if he was ever fit, though again his injury sounds serious. Another four wins are needed for survival and action needs to be taken in the transfer window now.

Sunday, January 21

Hernandez rescues point for Hammers

West Ham 1 Bournemouth 1

Hackney Wick is damp and grey on the way to Forman’s, where my pal Jackie joins me for coffee next to the smoked salmon eaters. We watch the rain ripple the River Lea rather like we’re in a Smiths video. Inside the stadium we find Michael, who’s just dined at Ken’s Café and has been talking about pandas on Radio 4, as you do, Nigel in Churchillian mode after Darkest HourFraser about to re-write the great crime novel and Alison and Scott contemplating a move to Clacton. Lisa’s there with Matt, who is wearing his Ecuadorian hat and has lost his voice — much to the relief of the ref and Arthur Masuaku. He’s feeling so ill he’s not even planning to take Lisa on a romantic mini-break to Wigan.

The Hammers have a decent first 30 minutes, with Kouyate's good work and Zabaleta’s cross setting up Arnautovic, whose shot is tipped over by Begovic. There’s one great passing move down the left, Lanzini and Kouyate looks more energetic than of late and has a good game. But Slowly Bournemouth come into it with neat passing moves and from a training ground corner routine Cook shoots just wide. The Hammers fans themselves booing Wilson.

At half-time Nigel struggles to find a place to put his banana-skin, sparking a series of quips. Lanzini goes close as West Ham make a decent start to the second half. Sub Stanislas comes on. “What could possibly go wrong?” asks Nigel. Most of the action tales place in the 71st to 73rd minutes. Not-so Junior Stanislas plays a through ball to Fraser who has drifted behind the defence. Adrian comes out but then hesitates and back pedals slightly as Fraser smashes home. It looks like a miserable defeat in the swirling rain. But from the kick of Ogbonna plays it long, Kouyate and Hernandez win headers, Arnautovic’s shot is blocked and Hernandez flicks home the loose ball. That’s what he’s good at and it's the second game in a row where WHU have scored from the kick-off.

The Irons almost grab a second as sub Byram’s pull back evades Arnie and co, but it’s a nervous final ten minutes as Adrian has to tip away a Stanislas shot and the Cherries mount a series of attacks. Lanzini goes off with a dodgy hamstring and Cresswell goes down with cramp as the Hammers hold on for a point. It’s not a disaster; under Bilic you feel we might have lost this and it keeps the points total ticking over, while Bournemout look a decent outfit under Eddie Howe.

So it’s off to the Refreshment Rooms with Michael, Fraser and Jackie for a pint of Blue moon with added fruit. So now it's an FA Cup tie at Wigan with an injury-ravaged squad to look forward to… and then a vital game against Palace. The unbeaten run is encouraging but WHU need to get some more bodies in before then.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 5; Zabaleta 6, Ogbonna 6, Collins 6, Cresswell 6 (Byram n/a), Masuaku 5; Kouyate 6 (Rice n/a), Obiang 5, Noble 6, Lanzini 6 (Hernandez 7); Arnautovic 7.  

Friday, January 19

Oh Carroll

So Andy Carroll is injury prone. Who knew? Andy's ankle has intervened in the strange tug-of-love with Chelsea. He's going to be out for at least five weeks with his latest ankle injury, after a scan revealed a hairline fracture, and that should be enough to kill any deal with Chelsea. In fact now the Blues are considering Peter Crouch… Meanwhile it would be interesting to know when Carroll did his ankle in. Was it due to coming on against Spurs or something from earlier games?

But thinking about Andy has made me realise that although he hardly ever plays he has given us a lot of memorable moments. That overhead kick against Palace, his hat-trick against Arsenal, towering headers against Chelsea and Liverpool in the final season at the Boleyn, a great dribble and shot into the top corner away to Swansea, his late winner against West Brom. Andy's not played enough of course, but it's still quite pleasing he's likely to stay and restore full employment to our medical team. 

Wednesday, January 17

Reece lightning strike tames Shrews

West Ham 1 Shrewsbury Town 0 (FA Cup 3rd round replay, after extra time)

It’s into the Clyde Best Café to meet Lisa, where we admire the menus for the “Stradford coffee house”. We’re joined by old school pal Mark and his son Duncan. Mark has to get up at 5.45am the next morning and hopes it doesn’t have to go to extra time. As if…

After a long wait for searches, we get in a minute after kick-off to meet fellow diehard Fraser, who surprisingly will pay £10 to watch a Moyes side. Matt’s working, Michael’s watching Girl From The North Country for the fourth time and Nigel’s out watching Darkest Hour. We reassure him that West Ham will never surrender.

Not a lot happens in the first half, with the West Ham side looking unfamiliar with each other. Cullen and Martinez work hard but to little effect as Shrewsbury close down space. Ayew struggles and Arthur has one of his more erratic games, as we reflect that it’s lucky Matt’s not here to shout at hm. "Is this a library?" ask the sizeable contingent of Town fans. Lanzini’s free kick at least produces a save from Henderson. 

At half time, upon being told that Mark’s son has got him tickets to the game as a Christmas present, Fraser quips, “Doesn’t your son like you?” My other old school friend Mr House the architect is making his debut at the London Stadium. We expect people make jokes about his name all the time. “Funny, it’s never struck me before,” he says in Python-esque mode.

The second half sees Shrewsbury almost take the lead after a loose ball from Oxford allows Payne to break through but Joe Hart saves the one-on-one. Moyes brings on Arnie and Noble with twenty minutes left and it raises the side. Arnie fires a couple of efforts just wide, but the Shrews almost win it at the death as Nsiala heads over the bar.

We await extra time and some Churchillian oratory from Moyesy and Stuart Pearce, as the bitter cold starts to bite in what might be our darkest hour of Cup football. Noble has a looping header cleared off the line. Then Arnie bursts into the box to feed Lanzini, who twists and turns past four defenders only to se his effort chested off the line by Bolton

It looks like it’s penalties, as we ponder warming up with the Shrewsbury subs. But in the 112th minute Martinez performs some skilful ball juggling in the six-yard box to play it back to Reece Burke, who fires a fine half-volley in off the bar. Massive relief all round and it’s good to see youngsters Burke, Cullen and Martinez running to the crowd and enjoying the moment.

We see the game out and find that Carpenters Road is closed due to, “a police  incident”. So we manage to enter a deserted Westfield and make our way to the Tap for a palatable pint of Red Pye.

So we’re through to face either Wigan or Bournemouth. Not a great match but notable for very respectable attendance of 39,867. The planned Cup Final breakfast round at Nigel’s gaff in Kew is back on.

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 6; Byram 6 (Zabaleta 6), Burke 7, Ogbonna 6, Masuaku 5; Lanzini 6, Oxford 5 (Noble 7), Obiang 6, Cullen 6; Ayew 5, (Arnautovic 7), Martinez 6.

Monday, January 15

We don't want to sell to Chelsea

One of the more outlandish transfer rumours seems to have some currency, with the Evening Standard reporting that West Ham will block any move by Chelsea to bring in Andy Carroll on loan. It does make some kind of sense from Chelsea's viewpoint. Carroll would be an impact sub and play when Morata needed resting, and might benefit from Alonso's crosses. But as his goals against West Brom proved, we need Andy at West Ham for the rest of the season, particularly as Antonio is injured and Sakho and Hernandez might leave. 

If Chelsea were to offer a large fee for a permanent move it might be tempting to sell such an injury-prone player, but that's unlikely to happen with his contract running out in 18 months. The only way a loan might happen would be if Chelsea were to loan Michy Batshuayi to West Ham in return, which could be interesting as he was a Hammers target in the summer of 2016. 

From Andy's viewpoint he will get more game time at West Ham, though of course he might pick up a medal or two from the bench at Chelsea. But when fit, I've always liked Andy, and we don't want to see his man-bun depart just yet. And there's another risk; as one person quipped, if Andy's head has been turned by Chelsea then he might get a neck injury.

Sunday, January 14

Arnie and Lanzini hammer Huddersfield

Huddersfield Town 1 West Ham 4 (four)

A great result up in Yorkshire — it seems an age since West Ham tonked anyone. Admittedly the Terriers helped gift West Ham the opener with a misguided goalkeeping clearance from Lossi. But credit to Arnautovic and then Noble for closing down so quickly. We even saw a new Shiqiri-style folded arms celebration from Nobes. A needless rabona from Lanzini when he could have played in Arnautovic nearly saw a second. But it was level at the break after Lolley cut inside from the right and curled an unstoppable shot into the corner. 

For once West Ham scored immediately after the break, with Arnautovic gathering Kouyate's header and brilliantly flicking the ball round Smith before rifling home, followed by a dodgy dancing celebration. Some neat triangles followed by Arnie powering inside saw the Austrian release Lanzini for the third. While the fourth saw the incrasingly unplayable Arnautovic bamboozle his full back on the half way line and charge into the box, with a desperate tackle from the listing Schindler only setting up Lanzini for his second. Credit to Zabalata late on for a goal-saving tackle too. 

To think that at kick-off I thought it looked like a very defensive side with three holding midfielders. It's Moyes' 200th win the Premier League and he's got Arnautovic and Lanzini firing up front and has turned it round. We even go 11th… and more importantly have overtaken the likes of Huddersfield, Newcastle and Brighton. Oh what fun it is to see West Ham win away. Irons!

Friday, January 12

Palace getting Sakho in the morning?

The Evening Standard claims that West Ham have agreed a fee of £10-£12 million with Crystal Palace for Diafra Sakho. It seems that Sakho is so homesick for France he might move to south London — which is at least a bit closer. It's always risky to sell to rivals, but there seems little choice but to trade in the disgruntled striker. 

He'll be remembered for a well-publicised car crash when his Lamborghini hit the garden wall of a West Ham fan in Hornchurch in 2016. Later there were rumours of dressing room bust-ups, while the self-imposed trip to Rennes for a medical last summer was the end. Really, his last decent season was 2014-15 in which he scored ten league goals. He only scored five in the final season at Upton Park when we finished seventh, while Sakho missed virtually the whole of last season with a back injury. 

He's scored twice in the league this season when coming on and twice in the Carabao Cup, but personally I don't want a player at the club who doesn't celebrate when he scores. A shame because he's still potentially a very good striker. 

Wednesday, January 10

LA shelling out for Little Pea?

Tonight's Evening Standard reports that new MLS club Los Angeles FC is interested in signing Javier Hernandez, though West Ham would want to recoup his £16m fee. Now Hernandez might not be in the starting line-up regularly, but I'd rather see him stay until the summer. It's taken us years to recruit a proven goalscorer so it would be a mistake to ditch Chicharito so early. Hernandez isn't Moyes' sort of player — he clearly prefers Arnautovic and Antonio working and pressing up front. But Hernandez is a very useful option to have coming off the bench. 

Javier's body language didn't look great against Spurs and Shrewsbury (in fact he looked a Little Pead off) but we do know that if he gets a chance in the box he's likely to bury it. While the possible combination of Carroll and Hernandez is as yet untested. If West Ham also sell Sakho it would leave the club relying on a converted winger in Arnautovic, the erratic Ayew and the injury-prone Antonio and Carroll. With Premier League survival at stake we need goalscorers like Hernandez. 

Monday, January 8

Top hat banter

Love Joe Hart's explanation for being capless at Shrewsbury, given in today's Guardian. Seems it was all a result of banter. Hart explains: “We have one [cap] in the kit but Aaron Cresswell’s hair is that bad that apparently after the last game he took it and he is rocking the Umbro cap. I would have taken a hat, sunglasses and all sorts, I couldn’t see a thing.” If only Jimmy Walker was still around to record Cressy "having himself" with dodgy gear and hair in his legendary Walker's World column.

Sunday, January 7

Bore draw at Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury Town 0 West Ham 0 (FA Cup)

The only positive is that West Ham are still in the 4th round draw. It's off to the Stapleton Tavern to meet Matt and Lisa who have just been dining on Ken's Cafe-style sourdough hummus toasties in The Deli at 80.

Shrewsbury have two good chances in the first half with Hart forced to make decent saves, though on both occasions he palms the ball back into the danger area. West Ham look lethargic, with Kouyate playing almost at walking pace. A total lack of creativity in midfield means Hernandez and Ayew don't get a kick up front. Yes, it's the Hammers' third game in six days, but even the squad players are poor.

The most interesting incidents are the injuries. Ayew clashes heads with Town's Sadler, who plays on on in a blood-soaked bandage, while poor Josh Cullen has two teeth knocked out after a high boot connects. Cullen bravely plays on but should surely have been subbed at that point. And while Josh is being treated the cameras also get a prime-time shot of his pants as he changes his shorts. The other bizarre incident is Joe Hart having to borrow a cap from a home fan in the first half — couldn't he have used one his England ones?

Shrewsbury nearly win it at the end as Nolan blazes over when well-placed. So now it's a replay Moyes didn't want and a much better performance is needed from our side. Full marks to Joe Hart for giving a rare honest assessment from a footballer — "We were terrible."

Parking the coracle

Thanks to my trivia expert Matt for wondering if Moyes will be parking the coracle at Shrewsbury. A swift Google reveals that a coracle is "a small round boat made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material, propelled with a paddle." It looks a bit like going to sea in an upturned washing-up bowl. They are popular in Wales and on the River Severn in Shrewsbury, where world championship coracle racing is held. Indeed a coracle was used by local hero Fred Davies to retrieve the footballs that ended up in the River Severn after being booted out of Shrewsbury's former Gay Meadow stadium. There's also a pub called the Coracle in the town. So let's hope West Ham are not left in a coracle without a paddle after fielding a weakened side in the Cup today.

Friday, January 5

Obiang's rocket wins point at Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 1 West Ham United 1

Another two days, another game… It's off to the World's End to watch this one over a pint of Camden Pale Ale. The first half is a solid defensive performance with Kane restricted to one shot that Adrian does well to tip away and the defence blocking everything Spurs can throw at them. Adrian also  has to make a great tip-over from Eriksen's deflected shot.

Ogbonna is absolutely immense throughout the game and young Declan Rice also plays really well against top class forwards. West Ham show very little going forwards though, with Hernandez looking unsuited to paying the lone striker role and Lanzini invariably getting clattered whenever he receives the ball. 

The second half goes the same way with West Ham's defence frustrating Spurs' attack. That's until the 70th minute when in a rare Hammers attack Obiang drifts in from the left. Almost in despair at the lack of options in front of him, Pedro drives forward and unleashes a mighty shot that rockets into the top corner giving Lloris no chance. It's happened again! 

For 14 minutes we can dream of another Irons victory at Spurs as Kouyate fails to connect with a great headed opportunity. That's until Son picks up the ball 30 yards from goal. The otherwise excellent Noble can't get close enough to him but normally you don't mind frustrated teams having long-shots. Only Son unleashes another worldie which whistles into Adrian's net.

After great work from King Arthur sub Ayew then almost gets a second as Lloris saves his effort with his foot. The four minutes of added time sees a rally gritty defensive performance from the Hammers as Spurs seem to have about seventy shots blocked in the box. But the Hammers hold out and although as Moyes says, the side are still "a million miles from the way I want us to play" and it's not the West Ham Way, it's a great point two days after the West Brom game. 

We used to get thrashed by the top six. Getting results against Chelsea, Arsenal and now Spurs represents progress. Irons!

Thursday, January 4

Club right to act against Livermore abuser

A shame that much of the media coverage after the West Brom game centred on Jake Livermore's altercation with a Herbert in the Betway Stand. The actions of one idiot have detracted from a good night. If he's guilty the club are right to act against whoever it was. You can understand why Livermore reacted the way he did and he should be exonerated by the FA. Players can expect general abuse in football. But fans who taunt anyone about their dead child are the same as people who issue death threats on social media, losing all sense of perspective and decency. This miscreant is better off out of our club.

Wednesday, January 3

Der der der der der, Andy Carroll!

A late Christmas Carroll. Andy celebrates his winner  Picture: Michael The Whovian
West Ham 2 West Brom 1

It’s early into the London Stadium with daughter Lola, where we find Alison and Scott watching the warm-up and thinking that everything must surely go wrong against a team that hasn’t won in 19 games and played just two days ago. We’re joined by Matt, back from his December sabbatical, Lisa, Fraser and Nigel, who has met Neil Orr’s brother-in-law at the supermarket, as you do. Meanwhile Michael the Whovian is making a thinly-veiled attempt to get in the blog through letting slip that he’s been out drinking with Tom Baker, who was once in a science-fiction show.

It’s a slow start from the Hammers, with West Brom looking the fresher side. Andy Carroll is back in the side and his header from Zabaleta’s cross sets ups Lanzini, whose fierce shot is parried by Foster. But Rondon has already chipped just over and Albion take the lead when McLean drifts inside a tired challenge from Reid. His shot takes a wicked deflection off Obiang and loops up over Adrian. The Baggies fans start boing boinging.

It’s a subdued atmosphere, so quiet that we can hear Adrian hollering at his defence. The leak in the roof drips on to our party seeming to match our leaky defence. West Ham look strangely lethargic for much of the half, with Obiang particularly out of sorts. Masuaku often runs into cul-de-sacs (Lisa suggests his confidence has been affected by the return of Matt). There is time for Foster to make another great save, getting down smartly to palm away Lanzini’s effort after Manuel has done really well to bring the ball down.

Lola says it’s all my fault for making her support West Ham, couldn’t I have been a Man City fan instead? Nigel points out that City used to be worse than us. We assemble downstairs at half-time where Fraser says it will all be fine once we appoint Neil Warnock.

With all the talk of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un’s nuclear buttons, Nigel produces his own nuclear option, announcing that he’s not renewing his season ticket if we go down, as he can’t face playing at Barnsley and Burton. Matt looks visibly shocked at a man eschewing obscure away grounds.

At the start of the second half Arnautovic gets in a great cross that Carroll prods over the bar when he should score. But Noble is on for Obiang and the Hammers show more urgency in the rain. The equaliser comes when Cresswell at last curls in a great cross. Andy Carroll rises several kilometres above two Albion defenders to power home a trademark header. His first of the season and perhaps he might now go on a goalscoring run…

Lola has been won back to the cause. But Albion still look solid at the back and dangerous on the break. Twice sub Olly Burke gets through, on the second occasion only being robbed by a match-saving tackle from Ogbonna. I start to wonder what the odds are on us losing to West Brom and then beating Spurs.

Lanzini plays in Arnie, whose close-range short is stopped by another fine Foster save. It’s going to be another draw, or worse. Mystic Matt and Mystic May remark that West Ham never seem to get winners in the 94th minute.

Albion are even threatening to get a winner themselves with four minutes of added time played. Lanzini makes one final run from his own half. He surges towards the box and plays in Arnautovic on the left. Arnie crosses, Hernandez fails to connect, but there’s Andy Carroll all alone to stroke into the net from a tight angle. Moyes punches the air. Andy lies down in front of the East Stand and in a lovely moment Adrian runs the length of the pitch to join in the celebrations. “Der der der Andy Carroll!!” chant the jubilant Irons fans. It’s tough on Pardew’s men, but some payback for the late goals WHU conceded at Palace and Bournemouth.

We celebrate at the Refreshment Room, where the Blue Moon comes with a slice of orange, by discussing football trivia such as which is the biggest city never to have played Premier League football now Hull have been up. Nigel thinks it’s Plymouth.

An ugly win but a vital one and a game that could change our season. Now it’s just the small matter of Spurs in two days’ time.

PLAYER RATINGS: Adrian 6; Zabaleta 6, Ogbonna 7, Reid 5, Cresswell 6 (Rice 6); Kouyate 5, Obiang 4 (Noble 6), Lanzini 7, Masuaku 5 (Hernandez 5); Arnautovic 7, Carroll 8.

Monday, January 1

What do West Ham need from the window?

So the transfer window is upon us and Moyes is rumoured to have a budget of £20 million. One thing the Hammers need is another creative midfielder to take the pressure off Manuel Lanzini. An intriguing name mentioned is Newcastle's Jonjo Shelvey, who has a suspect temperament but at his best can score long-range goals and play penetrating through balls. He's also a Harold Hill lad so might fancy a return home. A bit of power in central midfield from the likes of Watford’s Doucoure (though he'd take some prising away) would be useful. Bournemouth's Harry Arter is also a name that keeps coming up and he's an underrated player who might do a job for WHU. 

The squad is also struggling with ageing and injured centre-backs and Swansea's Alfie Mawson might be a promising signing. Could the enigmatic Andre Ayew be used as bait? Sunderland's Lamina Kone would be a gamble. He looked a great defender for Sunderland under Allardyce but then seemed to sulk for most of last season under Moyes when denied a move. 

With Byram out another right back to cover for Zabaleta might be a target. It's possible Moyes will opt for a striker too. Ex-Chelsea star Andre Schurrle has been mentioned, a World Cup winner who has scored in a World Cup Semi-Final. A big name, but he might not be the out and out goalscorer we need. Danny Ings looked a good prospect at Burnley, but after his long-term injury at Liverpool might not instantly adjust to regular football.

The other thing we need to do is unload clearly unhappy players like Diafra Sakho, who must be affecting squad morale. With a good window West Ham should be capable of getting up to mid-table in a congested bottom half. Though a bad window will mean a relegation struggle.