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Championship
Saturday, 19th May 2012

Blackpool 1
West Ham United 2

by Gordon Thrower


AKA Gnome’s Wembley diary...


Friday 18 May

Spent a relaxing day at Lord’s for the first test with Dad & Brother. Good day’s cricket took the mind off the match. In the evening we met up with Maltese Hammer who is over for the match and staying at the Gnome Hilton. After a bite to eat we had a sly eve-of match pint with Upton Girlie. UG has done a fantastic job in sourcing tickets for all and sundry but since she will be hobnobbing it with the celebs in the Bobby Moore Suite at Wembley it will fall to me to distribute tickets. The instructions seemed to make sense on Friday night. Got home to find that Maltese Hammer had bought up half the club shop to give to me as presents. Quite unnecessary – especially as he hasn’t seen the bill for the use of my sofa bed!

Saturday 19 May

Morning

Not the best of nights sleep-wise. Up early and elected to have breakfast at the Hamilton Hall. Spotted solitary magpie at Hither Green and had to remind myself again that it’s only my Mum who believes in that twaddle. Arrived at Hamilton Hall and, unlike most of those there, elected to have orange juice with breakfast rather than the pints of lager that seemed to be par for the course. Fionn turned up and took one of the tickets from me – that’s the easy one. Other instructions include taking tickets from two people and distributing them to two others whilst giving the first two people two other tickets.

Headed off to Dollis Hill with Maltese and Lorna. Romford got it spot on again with the size of venue & the exclusive (!) guest list meaning ease of access to beer was superb. Ticket distribution went swimmingly despite the complexities. Helped by people arriving in order. Thanks guys & gal.

The match

Headed off to stadium a few photos by Bobby’s statue. Met up with UTJ and family and Goes To Eleven. Queued for nearly half an hour to get into the “Club Wembley” entrance where they seemed surprised by the numbers arriving at 2pm – a mere hour before kick-off. The National Anthem was sung with gusto – note to scousers: THAT’s how to behave on a big Wembley occasion.

Team news – Collison was fit so it was as you were: Green, Demel, Taylor, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Collison, O’Neil, Nolan. Vaz Te, Cole

The early exchanges saw us look a little bit out of sorts – as if the two weeks or so since the last match had robbed us of some of the momentum that the recent good form had built up – and the two full-backs were a particular concern, Taylor was the first to not deal with a diagonal ball and Dobbie got round the outside of him to deliver a hard shot that Green diverted onto a post and back to safety.

We were nearly undone by a quick combination of passes on 13 minutes when Phillips (M) burst through the middle but, bearing down on goal he made a right mess of the attempted shot and Green was able to deal with what was effectively a back pass in comfort.

Demel, who was having a poor one, was next to mess up, completely misjudging a ball to allow Phillips (M) a run on goal on the quarter hour. However, although the Blackpool man’s cut-in and curving drive looked good the replay view from behind the strike suggested that, had the effort been on target, Green would have made the save.

Having allowed three chances it became our turn to have a go. Taylor found Vaz Te in space behind the full-back. RVT found Cole who laid off to Nolan who played RVT in. Unfortunately, the Portuguese man screwed his shot wide of the near post when either a shot to the far or a pass to Collison would probably have produced better results. O’Neil then combined well with Taylor before crossing for Cole only for the striker to nod over.

We then forced a series of corners, none of which were dealt with particularly well by the defence but the pressure was released when Vaz Te and Cole misread eachother’s wavelength and RVT played a through ball straight out for a goal kick. The game was opening up a bit and Ince was showing both pace and trickery from the right, pulling back to the edge of the box for Crainey to put an ambitious effort well over the top.

The game had evened out a bit and took a big swing in our favour on 33 minutes. Taylor halted a promising looking Ince run down their right and brought the ball forward. Looking up and seeing everyone had got out of his way he moved forward and attempted a one-two with Vaz Te. Angel intercepted (Captain Scarlet reference for the middle-aged there!) but his efforts only served to complete the wall pass, allowing Taylor to advance further before playing a fine diagonal pass towards Cole.

Cole’s first touch was sublime his second perfection as the ball was buried past Gilks from close range. The packed West Ham end erupted – and the first noise was heard out of the sparsely-populated Blackpool end was heard as pockets of Hammers who had obtained tickets in that part of the ground made themselves known.

Weshould have doubled the lead a couple of minutes later. Vaz Te got on the end of a fine diagonal pass but his first time shot was screwed wide of the post when the very least he should have done was force a save out of the ‘keeper.

The remaining 8 minutes (plus one minute of stoppage that was added by Mr Webb to prove that he was actually there, so little had he to do) were seen out with little to concern us and the half was over.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Blackpool 0


There was some sort of drumming thing going on in the corner for half time “entertainment” which, no doubt was very clever and stuff, but which most of us found a bit irritating. We were therefore relieved when the half time interval seemed shorter than usual.

So one nil up and having finished the stronger of the two sides it was all set fair to wrap it up in the second half. Er, not exactly. Only a couple of minutes of the second period had gone when Carlton tried to lay a ball off into the path of a colleague but gave it away to Philips (M) who played a long diagonal to Ince whose first-time finish to level the score was equal in both looks and quality to Carlton’s.
This prompted the first bit of singing from the Blackpool end all day, though the “you’re not singing anymore” chant was a bit rich given the silence that had come from that end all afternoon.

The goal shook us and for about 15 minutes we were all over the place. Baptiste got forward and burst into the box to lob over Green but, thankfully, Taylor was on hand to clear from just in front of goal. Angel then put Dobbie through but Reid capitalised on the striker’s attempt to be over –clever and was able to clear.

Something had to be done and on 53 minutes O’Neil left to be replaced by McCartney. It was the standard move in such occasions, with Linda slotting into the left-back berth and Taylor pushing on to fill the midfield vacancy. The changes were rung again a few minutes later as Demel, who had been having a bit of a ‘mare, limped off with an injury to be replaced by Faubert.

The game begun to swing a bit more end to end and some good work from the now more advanced Taylor saw Collison touch over at the near post. Worryingly he remained on the floor holding his shoulder but the pain was temporary and he was able to continue. A Nolan burst forward then saw Vaz Te pull back but the ball got stuck between Collison’s feet and by the time RVT went to retrieve the loose ball he’d wandered offside.

Faubert then went down the right and played a low ball in to Cole, whose turn and snapshot were superb and it took a fine one handed save from Gilks to keep the scores level.

We hadn’t had a scare for a bit so it was no surprise that Linda had gone walkabout leaving Eardley on his todd, the latter’s pull-back finding Dobbie who managed to mis-kick with one of those efforts that occasionally turns up on those cock-up DVD’s that only ever seem to be on sale at really rubbish petrol stations.

Blackpool won a corner with 20 left and the Evatt’s shot was diverted en route by Phillips (M), Noble cleared and Baptiste’s follow-up was well over. Dobbie then had an effort from 20 yards or so turned round the post by Green. About this time a load of stewards came out of the entrances at the Blackpool end and sat down – whether this was because of some perceived security threat or simply an attempt to make that bit of the ground look a bit busier we may never know.

Cole then played in Collison whose first touch took him a bit wide, which was unfortunate as a straighter touch would have seen him clear through. Picking up the ball on the left he then cut in but his shot cleared the bar.

It was our go and on 79 minutes we were unlucky not to regain the lead. McCartney & Taylor linked up on the left and Linda’s deep cross was superbly volleyed by Nolan, whose effort deserved more than the reverberating crossbar than it got.

With 8 left on the clock Blackpool won a free kick outside the box and, after a farcial delay while a player stood in front of Green in an attempt to do a Sammy Lee on us Dobbie put a tame low shot in which Green gathered comfortably.

Then, with about three minutes left before the menace of extra time, heaven. Nolan chased a ball into the wide left channel. Cole burst through the Blackpool line. Gilks came out to meet the striker Cole did marvellously well to divert the ball to Vaz Te who thumped the loose ball high into the net to send everyone loopy.

Vaz Te picked up the standard yellow card for removal of shirt which, in a game with barely a foul worthy of the name was a shame as but for the celebration there would have been no cards at all. As far as I’m concerned if you’re a player who’s scored in the last couple of minutes of a game of such importance you can celebrate however you like. At least Howard Webb had the good grace to look embarrassed when showing the card, though it would have been an ideal point at which for a ref to make a stand against one of the more ludicrous instructions issued to them.

We’ve had a trend of letting in late ones this season so nobody was taking the win for granted. Crainey crossed and Dobbie’s flick eluded everyone. Up the other end, as four minutes of stoppage were announced, Cole flicked on to Taylor whose effort told the story that, if the shot wasn’t going in it was going far, far away. It went far, far away and the ball is probably on ebay as we speak.

There was a moment of high comedy as the match entered the second minute of stoppage. Green allowed a ball to run out for a goal kick and received a shove in the back from Phillips (M). Green performed a nice swallow dive for effect (and no doubt with a bit of clock running down in mind) and the grin on his face spoke volumes.

We did try a spot of that holding the ball in the corner stuff but, as ever, it didn’t work. Collison then induced a spot of mild panic by losing the ball when dribbling across pitch. Reid did superbly well to shepherd the ball back ad Dicko’s theatrical tumble fooled nobody. A number of players explained to Collison how they felt about his error, in what appeared to be pretty strong terms.

A long hopeful punt was allowed to run out and that was that. We all went misty-eyed and sung ourselves hoarse and I made a mental note to tell Mum that her theory on magpies could be consigned to the bin once and for all. We hung around for ages as the presentations took place and sung bubbles for as many times we could manage. And some other stuff. The bloke who is even older than me who I sit next to at away matches and I were seen to be linked arm in arm doing some sort of shuffle to “Rockin’ All Over The World” despite the obvious danger to our knees.

Post Match

Arrived at the Dollis Hill club to hug everyone in sight. Upton Girlie turned up somewhat the worse for wear dishing out hugs and kisses to anyone who wanted them. And loads who didn’t. Quite what the family celebrating their daughter’s first Holy Communion made of it lord alone knows.

Received ‘phonecall from the BBC who seem to have heard that my plans involve having to get up at 3am on Sunday to get Maltese Hammer on his flight and that I am therefore likely to be the only Hammer on the planet capable of coherent thought on Sunday morning. Agreed to do ‘phone interview for the 5 Live breakfast show. At 8.15am.

Reluctantly decided to go home earlyish and avoid the beers due to the driving. Exchanged good-humoured insults with the Mayor Of Newham at London Bridge (Kilmarnock supporter!) but declined offer from his party to go for a pint or several due to the driving.

Takeaway in front of the so-called Champions league. I forget who won.

Sunday

3.30am – drove to Gatwick. Sent Maltese Hammer on his way. Drove home. Arrived back at 5am. Decided to have a few hours kip before the radio. Radio rang up early and asked if I’ll do it an hour early. I respond that it’s ok – I was awake anyway to answer the ‘phone. Did interview. Fell asleep.

Epilogue & Credits

This being the last one of the season, as usual there are any number of people who I need to thank for help, assistance, kindness and friendship over the course of the season. Cheesy perhaps but hey, tough.

So thanks to Romford for sorting out all sorts of stuff, particularly on away trips. To Upton Girlie (& TG), partly on behalf of all those for whom she did so much to get tickets for over the last couple of weeks, but mainly for all the half-time confectionery, hugs and for generally being a great friend. To Alan & Trevor in Row N for being great pals and not moving to another part of the ground.

To Preview Percy and all the inhabitants of The Avram Grant Rest Home For The Terminally Bewildered for not dying yet. To Paul Stringer, Ian Tompkins and everyone else who helps us out in the press room, particularly Milly and Doris for feeding and watering us. To Up The Junction for being a good mate and publishing this stuff irrespective of quality or timing of delivery. And, finally to my family for, well, just about everything.

Have a good summer & see you all in the Premier League! Can I go to sleep now?



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
A couple of times we were screaming for him to come and collect but by and large this was a good game from the ‘keeper. New contract anyone?


Guy Demel
A bit of a shocker really. Looked well off the pace before his injury-prompted substitution. Maybe a full pre-season will help .


Matthew Taylor
Looked a lot better going forward than he did defensively. Played an important part in the opening goal.


James Tomkins
Another MOTM performance from the defender who also posed his usual threat from set pieces up front.


Winston Reid
Good end to a fine season for the Kiwi. Benefited from actyally getting a run in the side.


Mark Noble
Not his usual influential self but put in a good shift nevertheless.


Kevin Nolan
Good game from the skipper who was involved in the build up to the winner.


Gary O Neil
Quietly effective before being sacrificed to stop the threat of Ince.


Jack Collison
Not much worked for him in this match – and a bit of recklessness near the end could have proven costly.


Ricardo Vaz Te
Not his greatest of games – had a frustrating afternoon for 87 minutes. Most of his mark is awarded for his contribution in the 88th minute.


Carlton Cole
Constant thorn in the side of the opposition defence. Scored one, made the other. Higher mark prevented by the horrible error that cost us the equaliser.


Substitutes


George McCartney
(Replaced O'Neil, 53)
Whilst he didn’t totally nullify the threat from Ince when he came on, he certainly reduced it.


Julien Faubert
(Replaced Demel, 57)
I thought he looked good at right back – certainly had more pace than his predecessor and there was infinitely less threat from that flank for most of the period after his introduction.


Stephen Henderson
Did not play.


Henri Lansbury
Did not play.


Nicky Maynard
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Howard Webb.

Attendance: 78,523.

Man of the Match: James Tomkins.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Guy Demel, Matthew Taylor, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Gary O Neil, Jack Collison, Ricardo Vaz Te, Carlton Cole.

Goals: Carlton Cole 35 Ricardo Vaz Te 87                .

Booked: Ricardo Vaz Te 88          .

Sent off: None.

Blackpool

Matthew Gilks, Neal Eardley, Alex Baptiste, Ian Evatt, Stephen Crainey, Barry Ferguson, Stephen Dobbie, Martinez Angel, Thomas Ince, Matt Phillips, Kevin Phillips.

Substitutes: Ludovic Sylvestre (Kevin Phillips 71), Nouha Dicko (Stephen Dobbie 90), Roman Bednar (Martinez Angel 90).

Subs not used: Craig Cathcart, Keith Southern.

Goals: Thomas Ince (48).

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: James Tomkins


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