Saturday, 21st April 2007
A (drunken) message from Upton Girlie the previous night had indicated that she and Blueboleyn would be picking me up from Gnome Towers at about 12.20pm. Given that there were two women involved in the travel arrangements I was not surprised when Upton Girlie’s tank arrived an hour late. (One paragraph into the report and already a cheap dig at female stereotypes – I’m back in the swing already!)
Now as I may have mentioned elsewhere a few (million) times I’m a bit indisposed at present following the sudden appearance of a two-inch gap between the ends of my Achilles tendon. This has made attending matches difficult, especially since my normal seat is in the upper tier of the West Stand. Thankfully the good people at the club have arranged a temporary transfer to the lower tier and thrown in a parking space for good measure leaving only the traditional pre-match pints to sort out.
This particular problem was solved by the loan of a wheelchair sorted out by Upton Girlie. The Duke was the preferred pub option. I have to say that, being pushed against the crowd-flow up Green Street at break-neck speed was terrifying. More worrying was the prospect of not being allowed into the pub by the somewhat humourless woman on the door.
I’ve thought long and hard about what I found offensive about the woman’s manner. Clearly she had a point about the place being too rammed to get a wheelchair in and I assume that her comments about the Met banning outside drinking were correct. However, what was irritating was the way in which she communicated this to everyone except me – constantly referring to “him” as if I was some zombie, incapable of comprehending my surroundings. Ok again she may have had a point but clearly we have some way to go in this country in the way we treat disabled people.
Eventually we negotiated access to the optimistically-named “beer garden”. There was only time for the one pint – I’d have liked a few more to brace me for the horrors of the return trip down Green Street but time was against us.
Following a brief pause to swap chair for crutches and a chat with the ever-wonderful Milly in the press room who saved me a couple of team sheets I adjourned to my temporary home near the dugout. Team news was that Ferdinand was back from a groin strain – though some guy called Upson was still injured. We thus lined-up as follows: Green, Neill, McCartney, Ferdinand, Collins, Noble, Benayoun Reo-Coker, Etherington, Zamora, Tevez.
We started brightly and the first shot on goal came courtesy of a surge forward by Reo-Coker. The skipper never quite caught hold of the shot which bobbled harmlessly wide. Of more significance to the visitors was the fact that Johnson had picked up a knock in losing the ball at the start of the move, the injury being serious enough to end his game after only five minutes, McFadden being the replacement.
The opening exchanges were largely in our favour and we took the lead through a marvellous goal on 13 minutes. Zamora commenced a passing move on the right and his intelligent run was rewarded by a sublime backheel from a rejuvenated Benayoun. Zamora’s 25-yarder screamed into the top left-hand corner past the motionless Howard.
Everton’s comeback was strangely subdued for a team with pretensions on Europe, though a harshly awarded free-kick might have caused concern. Thankfully Arteta’s shot cannoned back off the wall and McFadden’s follow-up was woefully wide. Of more concern was the ball that fell at the feet of Beattie on the edge of the six-yard box a few minutes later. Collins’ marvellous last-ditch block saved the day.
Back up the other end Neill came close to doubling the lead with a shot from territory similar to that from which Zamora had scored. In truth the low angle of my temporary home at the front of the West Stand made it difficult to see how close it had been, especially with messrs. Curbishley & Day stood in the way. Further efforts from Reo-Coker and McCartney took deflections to safety.
The main concern defensively came when ref Clattenburg missed a rather blatant push on Collins and Green had to be alert to pull off a brave save at the feet of the hapless Beattie. Green caused further concern by picking up a finger injury shortly after, the worries being magnified by the fact we had no sub ‘keeper on the bench. Thankfully Green managed to treat the problem himself and we went into the Kit-Katless interval good value for the lead.
The second started in similar vein. Zamora, whose confidence is clearly up at present, shot over from distance though Tevez may have been better placed. Everton, who had possibly been on the receiving end of a few choice words from boss Moyes, pushed forward more after the interval. However, for once the defence was looking fairly solid. Collins in particular won most of the aerial challenges, though it should be said that Beattie wasn’t much of a challenge; achieving as he did the somewhat difficult trick of putting the ball high into the upper tier of the Centenary stand from about five yards out!
With 20 left the apparently tired Zamora was replaced by Cole and we pushed forward in search of the goal that would clinch the three points. Merv bellowed at Reo-Coker to “get in the box” whilst the bloke sat in front of me helpfully offered to “nail it shut” for him.
Our best chance of the spell came following some good work on the right from Tevez, Yossi’s shot on the turn from the cutback going narrowly wide. Boa Morte then replaced Etherington. Everton’s best chance came when the ball fell kindly to Arteta who, whilst not quite achieving the height attained by Beattie’s effort, still managed to put the ball comfortably over from worryingly close range.
In the closing minutes we were treated to the sight of some (presumably drunken) idiots running onto the pitch thus contributing to the 6 minutes added on by Clattenburg at the end of the match. The bloke in front somewhat harshly commented that they had been hoping for a lifetime ban. The 6 minutes seemed excessive but I wasn’t too surprised in view of the ref’s audible comments aimed at Neill that he would be adding on a minute for every throw-in that the Aussie didn’t sprint 20 yards to take. Unusually for us, whenever the ball ended up in the corner we seemed fairly capable of keeping it there and, whilst such a lengthy spell of added time inevitably added to the tension, in fact the 6 minutes passed by without too much worry and the three points were ours.
We adjourned to the Wakefield for post match pints in the beer garden on the grounds that it would be a lot easier on my blood pressure to be driven to the pub than be pushed through the streets at terrifying speeds by Upton Girlie and a few cheap laughs were obtained at the expense of Blueboleyn’s Wiltshire accent – I think she was talking about barn dances and tractors but it was was difficult to tell.
Staying up? Well it’s typical West Ham to provide hope and keep us on edge right up to the end. To be blatantly honest I’d rather go into the Old Trafford trip knowing our fate one way or another. In the meantime I’m working on building up my upper body strength so I can negotiate the stairs up to my normal seat for the Bolton match – I miss my half-time Kit-Kat and I must be owed an absolute fortune from the “guess the amount of added time” jackpot by now!
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Not overly tested but brave when required.
Strong match and is getting closer to the scoring his first goal for the club.
A decent game. I’m not 100% convinced by his Premiership pedigree but he played well today.
A better game – no silly free-kicks in dangerous positions and he wisely opted for safety first.
Excellent match. The last ditch tackle on Beattie was superb.
If nothing else the trials and tribulations of this season have at least prompted the reintroduction of Noble into the first team following spells on loan and on the treatment table. A good solid game.
Improved form – still needs to learn when to release the ball and when to hold on but he showed a degree of commitment that appeared to be missing earlier in the season.
More like his old self. Some nice combinations with Tevez and a fine backheel to set up Bobby’s goal.
A better performance from the point of view of the impressive amount of hard work put in. Even tried to take on his full back from time to time.
This was an impressive performance in a different way from the usual eye-catching stuff. Did a hell of a lot of closing down and chasing back.
Bobby is obviously what the pundits like to refer to as a “confidence” player. Clearly he is on a high and his excellent goal was just reward for a fine performance.
(Replaced Zamora, 71) I’m not a big fan but he was sent on to do a job by making a thorough nuisance of himself and, whilst he didn’t really look like scoring, he caused a few problems in the 20 or so minutes he was on.
Luis Boa Morte
(Replaced Etherington, 74) Nothing of note to report in the last 15 or so he was on.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Bobby Zamora.
West Ham United
Robert Green, Lucas Neill, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand, James Collins, Mark Noble, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.
Goals: Bobby Zamora 13 .
Booked: George McCartney 62 Yossi Benayoun 90 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Lescott, Arteta, Neville, Carsley, Osman, Johnson, Beattie.
Substitutes: McFadden (Johnson 7) Fernandes (Neville 65).
Subs not used: Wright, Naysmith, Anderson da Silva.
Booked: Arteta (90+2).
Sent Off: .