Thursday, January 3

Arnie salvages point for Hammers

West Ham 2 Brighton 2

It's into the London Stadium where Matt has a free copy of the Watford programme, provided by Clarence his guardian angel from It's A Wonderful Life. Clarence has shown Matt a vision of what Stratford Falls would be like if he had never lived — the Broadway would be full of dodgy pubs, Lisa would be a librarian and West Ham would be a mid-table side struggling to defend set pieces.

The first half is very scrappy and the 60,000 crowd is quiet. Andy Carroll, making his first start for a year, looks rusty and not on the same frequency as Arnautovic. Obiang often passes straight to the opposition and as at Burnley, the WHU side looks jaded. Arnie has a penalty shout, Anderson fires a half-chance into the keeper's gloves and Arnie has a good curling effort saved by Button, but that's as good as it gets. Brighton look well-coached by Chris Hughton and difficult to break down.

Pellegrini takes off Carroll at half-time (to be fair to Andy he's not received one high ball) and brings on Perez. The Hammers make a better start as Anderson weaves through the Brighton defence only to shoot just wide. "At least we're not 2-0 down like at Burnley," suggests Mystic May.

Just as Nigel is saying Brighton are dangerous at set-pieces Fabianski punches a corner straight out to Stephens, who fires home as Snodgrass and Perez fail to close him down. And what has happened to having a man on the post at corners? A defender on the line might have kept it out. 

Two minutes late Brighton score from another corner. Diop is caught ball-watching as he loses Duffy, who hooks home from a tight angle. This could be embarrassing against our bogey side. Bernardo ghosts past Zabaleta and almost makes it three as Fabianski saves. Pellegrini acts by bringing on Antonio and Noble and it makes an instant difference. 

On 66 minutes Nobes plays a well-flighted long ball into the path of Arnautovic. It's all about strength as the burly Austrian holds off Dunk and prods beyond the keeper. Then, being Arnie, he gets involved in a tug-of-war for the ball with Dunk. The crowd senses a comeback. 

Two minutes later Noble finds Antonio with a crossfield ball and the winger, who seems to have found his speed again, powers past two defenders, almost runs the ball out of play, but pulls it back to Arnie who fires into the roof of the net. Two goals in two minutes! Matt suggests Marko is going to enjoy proving he's top man above Anderson.

The Hammers always look vulnerable at the back, but for the final twenty minutes the Irons try hard to forge a memorable winner. Antonio brilliantly cuts in from the wing, beats two players, and then fires wildly wide with his left foot. Rice has a fierce effort go just wide, but everything else flounders on Dunk and Duffy. But we'd have taken a point after 58 minutes.

It's been a poor but entertaining game in the second half and at least we haven't lost to bloody Brighton again. We retreat to the Black Bull and debate as to whether it was ever owned by Bobby Moore — Fraser says as there are no scorch marks it can't have been Mooro's pub. The St Austell Proper Cracker is palatable (though Michael is newly-abstemious) and we even manage to secure a 'reserved' table. Strange, as even in the heyday of Ken's Cafe, we were never offered this privilege. 

The TV is playing endless re-runs of Man United's goals at Newcastle as we reflect that at least West Ham are unbeaten this year. Though a little defensive coaching might not go amiss.

PLAYER RATINGS: Fabianski 5; Zabaleta 5, Diop 5, Ogbonna 5, Cresswell 5; Anderson 6, Rice 6, Obiang 4 (Noble 7), Snodgrass 5 (Antonio 7); Carroll 5 (Perez 5), Arnautovic 7.


Mj said...

Another poor performance for an hour, be nice to start on the front foot, although 2-0 up isnt enough for us

Pete May said...

We need to be 4-0 up before I feel secure!