Tired. Very tired.
That felt like a loooong weekend. Crammed a lot in including a visit to the ex for lunch, over to Blackpool for visits to a Catholic Club and a Karaoke Bar (which was “fun” having as an intense dislike for organised religion as I do for karaoke), a splendid Thai meal and a few beers in pleasant company. And that was just Saturday.
After breakfast and a trip to the souvenir shop to pick up this season’s entry in the Gnome/Lovely Samantha/Eleanor “who can pick up the tackiest souvenir” competition (I warn you girls I have a contender this year!) we hopped on a mini coach to take us over to Preston.
On the outskirts of Burnley we were met by the Lancashire constabulary where we were kept at a junction in advance of being given an escort for the last few miles for the ground. This was not the bad thing one night have thought. Indeed, when enough coaches had mustered the escort we were given was more akin to that afforded to royalty. Red lights?
No problem. Skip queues down the wrong side of the road? Of course- just follow us.
The journey was enlivened by the presence of some suspiciously identical looking kiddies who had clearly escaped from the “Duelling Banjos” scene in “Deliverance”. Remember when it was considered “rude” to stick two fingers up at people rather than it being the mildly insulting thing they used to do in '70s sitcoms? Vaguely? Yes that’s because it’s 2017 and we’ve moved on.
Not Burnley though. Such was the number of kiddiwinkies hilariously and bravely flashing the Vs at us, Spud came up with a theory that this may have been because they were showing off some of their six fingers, a joke that was mildly amusing at first but became increasingly less so the more it was repeated. And it was repeated. A lot.
Deposited outside the away entrance ensuring a walk of, ooh, all of ten feet to get into the ground we were greeted by a beer tent. Which was nice. Team news was that post travelling additions to the injury list had removed Nortdveit and Calleri from the selection process and such was the lack of depth we were only able to name six subs.
I would have made it seven but walking for bloody miles around Blackpool trying to find which bar we were meeting in the previous night had given me a tight calf muscle I wasn’t willing to risk. This left us with a starting line up of Adrian, Ogbonna, Fonte, Collins, Byram, Cresswell, Snodgrass, Fernandes, Feghouli, Lanzini, Ayew.
The sides swapped early chances. Collins misjudged an airborne one allowing Gray in on goal. Gray elected to try a lob from distance but got the trigonometry all wrong, which was just as well with Adrian well off his line. Up the other end Feghouli controlled a clearance with his chest and hit a low volley that was well-saved by Heaton.
Crosses were causing us a problem with Vokes messing up one from Brady and Tarkowski putting a corner over from inside the six-yard box. Meanwhile Collins was incurring the wrath of the ever unreliable Madley who issued a free-kick every time a home player went to ground, which was a lot. Brady lined up a free-kick taking the time and precision once familiar when watching Jonny Wilkinson. With much the same result.
Collins got booked for a tug on Gray which Gray made the most of and five minutes later we were behind. A long ball from the back found Ogbonna out of position and struggling to catch up. Gray crossed low. The first Burnley player missed it completely, having the same effect as a clever dummy, as opposed to a stupid one, and Vokes had the easiest job to tap home from six yards.
On past form we were expecting a bit of a cave in but if this season has told us anything it is that an equaliser before we have time to realise we are behind always comes in useful – Southampton away springs to mind. Ayew was cynically tripped by Westwood earning the Burnley man a yellow card for his efforts. Lanzini exchanged passes with Ogbonna before feeding Fernandes. Fernandes played it into Ayew whose backheel was sublime. Feghouli ran into the space bought by Ayew’s skill took a touch and gave Heaton no chance to level the scores.
Well no match is complete without a baffling decision from PGMOL’s finest and Madley didn’t let us down. A thigh high studs-high challenge on Collins was deemed to be not worthy of a yellow card. That was half right I suppose – usually they are worth straight reds. Dreadful decision from someone who clearly couldn’t be arsed to do a proper job. As usual. Just to compound things, Lanzini picked up a yellow for a regulation trip that, for some reason, was deemed to be less serious than stamping studs into somebody’s thigh.
Half Time: Burnley 1 West Ham United 1
Well most of the second half was pretty dreadful stuff. Keeping the ball on the deck seemed to be outlawed and most of the entertainment was to be had at the expense of the escapees from the “Duelling Banjos” scene in “Deliverance”. It’s a bit rich to claim your visiting support only has one song when the only one of your own that doesn’t mention Blackburn was nicked from Millwall. Oh and by the way, it’s not that “no-one likes you”, it’s more “nobody cares”.
The game was so poor at this point that when a ball went onto the roof there were probably more in the ground watching the ball bouncing along the roof on its way back down to the pitch than were watching Ayew dribbling its replacement down the wing.
So with the game looking set for a draw we go and do what on the form of this season was probably the least likely thing to happen: we took the lead. Lanzini and Ayew combined well despite both being fouled in the build-up. The ball broke to Fernandes who played in Byram down the right.
Byram’s low cross was cleared back to Fernandes who put in a blistering shot that was well-saved by Heaton on to the bar the ball went straight up and hit the bar again – on the top – before landing on the head of Ayew. I’m hesitant to say “he couldn’t miss”, but really he couldn’t. And he didn’t.
Things were delayed by the actions of an idiot throwing a smoke canister onto the pitch. The ref refused to restart the game until the thing had been removed. Unfortunately the Burnley groundstaff didn’t seem to twig that this meant them, until finally someone cottoned on that the bloody thing wasn’t going to get up and walk away by itself and removed it.
From that point on we never looked like relinquishing the lead. Indeed we had opportunities to increase the lead, a Lanzini free-kick brushing the top of the net from the wrong side. With six left Fletcher replaced Snodgrass and on the stroke of the end of normal time there was a debut for Declan Rice who came on for Fernandes.
The suspicion that Madley had a flight booked somewhere warm and couldn’t be bothered with doing his job properly was confirmed when he added a suspiciously short four minutes of stoppage time – the bloody smoke thing had taken nearly three to sort out before you even bring in the substitutions.
Had we bothered to actually taken a shot in some of the more promising positions we found ourselves in we might have increased the lead. We didn’t and the match, and season came to a close.
Full Time: Burnley 1 West Ham United 2
The young element of the home support ran onto the pitch at the end. It was good-humoured stuff apart from the escapees from the “Duelling Banjos” scene from “Deliverance” who hilariously and bravely started gesturing from 30 yards away. It was almost as if they genuinely thought grown-ups might be interested in what they had to say.
A swift chorus of “you’ve got school in the morning” treated them with deserved contempt and we left to walk the ten feet back to our coach which was given another royal escort by a slightly circuitous route back to the motorway, giving Spud the chance to make the “six fingers” joke another 500 times.
So a disappointing season ends. It didn’t come as too much of a surprise really – the stadium upheaval meant we were going to be playing 38 way games for a start. Enough injuries to triple the size of the NHS budget deficit didn’t help and the Payet thing was the soap opera icing on the cake.
And the league was so average this season that despite all that we finished 11th. Next season? Some new players with no injuries and punishments for dishonest referees would be a start. One can but dream.
Thanks to Ann, Adam & the boys, nan & Dan, Trevor and (when she could be bothered) Upton Girlie for home match company. Romford, Bamber, and the usual suspects for pre-match and away trip company. Max & Adam at the club for press room assistance and hospitality. Ken, Dave & the guys for press room company.
Preview Percy for being an arse (forgiven for annoying Spurs fans so easily), Graeme & Claire for indulging me in all this and still never once complaining when real life gets in the way of all this. Finally, to Mum, Dad, Derek, Geoff, Anne, Matthew & Daniel for being family – special thanks to Dad for getting better allowing me to go to away matches. See you all next season.
Forest Green away in the league Cup anyone?
Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo (7) Left exposed for the goal. Not sure he had a shot to save after that.
Sam Byram (7) Looked ok – particularly going forward.
Aaron Cresswell (6) Will be glad to get this season out of the way. Decent run-out but an injury-free pre-season will be key for him. So as long as he can avoid two-bob German second division defenders wanting to make a name for themselves that would be nice.
James Collins (6) A couple of heart in mouth moments interspersed with strong defending. Typical Ginge really.
Jose Fonte (6) Won a lot of ball even if he didn’t then have an awful lot of a clue as to what to do with it.
Angelo Ogbonna (6) Some good blocks in there and played some good football. However, he did look a lot like a player who had been out for a month or two and was well off the pace at times.
Edimilson Fernandes (7) Mature performance from one of the better signings of the season.
Robert Snodgrass (5) Can’t think of any significant contribution in this match.
Andre Ayew (7) Great work for the first. Poacher’s eye for the second and provided a lot of threat on the ball. MOTM.
Manuel Lanzini (7) Classiest act on the pitch in a match that was desperately short of class. Just pipped for MOTM by Ayew.
Sofiane Feghouli (7) Enjoyed himself. Apart from the goal he caused Burnley a few problems.
Ashley Fletcher (6) (Replaced Snodgrass) No real time to do much.
Declan Rice (6) (Replaced Fernandes) A couple of good touches in a brief cameo. Hopefully first of many for the lad.
Darren Randolph (6) Did not play.
Dan Kemp (0) Did not play.
Moses Makasi (0) Did not play.
West Ham United: Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo, Sam Byram, Aaron Cresswell, James Collins, Jose Fonte, Angelo Ogbonna, Edimilson Fernandes, Robert Snodgrass, Andre Ayew, Manuel Lanzini, Sofiane Feghouli.
Substitutes: Ashley Fletcher, Declan Rice, Darren Randolph, Dan Kemp, Moses Makasi.
Goals: Sofiane Feghouli 27 Andre Ayew 72
Booked: James Collins Manuel Lanzini
Sent Off: None sent off.
Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward, Brady (Gudmundsson 66), Hendrick, Westwood (Defour 78), Arfield, Gray (Barnes 78), Vokes..
Subs not used: Pope, Flanagan, Darikwa, Agyei..
Goals: Vokes 23
Booked: Lowton 27, Gudmundsson 86
Sent Off: None sent off
Referee: Bobby Madley
Man of the Match: Andre Ayew