Tuesday, April 17

Super sub Carroll saves Hammers

West Ham 1 Stoke City 1

This could be a bad omen. Nigel has two programmes, as I’ve bought him one after a missed call and he’s also got his own. It’s all about fine margins in programme buying.

It’s a timid team selection from David Moyes with Hernandez on the bench and a five-man midfield as Fraser and Matt suggest he’s picked a team not to lose.

The first half is a poor affair of misplaced passes and nervous players, which slowly subdues the crowd. West Ham’s best chance is when Zabaleta pulls back for Arnie to fire into the face of Butland. Cresswell tests Butland with a free kick and on a rare Stoke attack Diouf fires straight at Hart. Arthur’s crossing isn’t getting beyond Stoke’s three giant centre backs, though Arnie does pull a chance wide after good a link-up with Mario.

At half-time we’re reduced to discussing Nigel’s quiz question of naming two Beatles songs that don’t have the lyrics in the title. We get A Day in the Life, at least. Nigel then goes vaudeville with his quip about conjunctivitis.com, which is a site for short eyes.

The second half sees more West Ham pressure. Creswell has another free kick well-saved. Arnie heads home from a Cresswell cross but is marginally offside. Fernandes shoots home from the edge of the box but Arnautovic has dawdled getting onside and it’s ruled out. 

Declan Rice looks assured at the back and has some effect helping out in attack. But Stoke continually foul in midfield while ref Michael Oliver seems remarkably reluctant to issue yellow cards. The count of 36 fouls in the game is the joint highest in the Premier League this season.

Moyes is as usual glacial in making substitutions, but finally brings on Hernandez with 14 minutes left. There’s been a warning as Stoke break for Diouf shoot over. It all goes terribly wrong on 79 minutes as Hart spills Shaqiri’s tame shot straight into the path of veteran striker Peter Crouch who gratefully prods home. It’s a terrible bit of keeping.  In the last four games Hart has made errors against Burnley and Stoke, while having a great game at Chelsea and being untested against Southampton. Adrian should surely return for the rest of the season.

The crowd stick with the Irons and the side do keep relatively calm and carry on attacking. The Vicar’s Son starts to mutter about a “s**t team, s**t manager and s**t stadium.” Stoke seem destined to secure a scrappy away win and put us right back in it. In desperation Moyes brings on Carroll and Lanzini. It all looks over until Cresswell crosses and Andy Carroll expertly volleys the dropping ball into the corner. Great technique as the London Stadium erupts with relief. There’s even time for a disallowed goal as Hernandez nets only for Carroll to be penalised for handball. But a draw keeps us seven points ahead of Stoke and Southampton.

It’s off to the Refreshment Rooms, where there’s some Moyes-style dithering over who is in the round. Michael gets excited by the Bundesliga manager extolling “the high art of rotation” before going into a Withnail-esque diatribe against the Refreshment Rooms and Stratford in general. Nigel reminisces about legendary WHU reserve keeper Colin Mackleworth. We’re then joined by Gavin and Ilona. Gavin had expected us to win 4-0 but has been cheered by someone giving him a half and half scarf for tonight’s game and a fitting souvenir of a feast of defensive football.

It’s disappointing not to win, but also not the disaster it could have been. While the resurrection of Andy Carroll hopefully gives us another option for the rest of the season.

PLAYER RATINGS: Hart 4; Zabaleta 6, Rice 7, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 7, Masuaku 5 (Lanzini 6); Fernandes 5 (Hernandez 6), Noble 6, Kouyate 5, Mario 5 (Carroll 7); Arnautovic 6.


Anonymous said...

Tomorrow Never Knows, The Ballad of John & Yoko.

Pete May said...

Good call! Christ you know it ain't easy…