West Ham United v Macclesfield Town

After four points from the last six we faced the prospect of having to face a nearly happy Preview Percy. Thankfully the cold mornings have played havoc with his arthritis so it's pretty much business as usual. Here's his take on the forthcoming visit of Macclesfield Town in the third round of the League Cup......

The games come thick and fast as we venture into the third round of the League Cup where we will play host to Macclesfield Town. Kick-off is at 7:45 and, as is the way with this particular competition, should the scores be level we will go straight to "kicks from the penalty mark" as the laws of the game quaintly used to call them. There will also be an appearance of the VAR system which might stand a chance of working one day if they actually put someone in front of the screen who wont spend 15 minutes trying to find a way of justifying the latest cock-up made by one of his drinking buddies.

So the Silkmen then. Although they can trace their roots back to the 1860's they are relatively young side in Football League terms. They first finished top of the Conference back in 1994-95 but their ground failed to meet the criteria for promotion by the due date so they stayed down. Two seasons, a lick of paint and a few new seats later and they were promoted.

They managed to stay in the league until 2011-12 when they were relegated back to the Conference. There had been a number of flirtations with the drop prior to their demise including a last-day survival in 2006-07 so I guess it was coming. They returned to the Football League this season after finishing ten points clear at the top of the National League, which is what we are supposed to call what we used to call "The Conference" these days.

The relatively short time they have spent in the league means that this will only be the third meeting of the two clubs. The previous two were both in the cups including a 3-0 win up at their place in the FA Cup in 2002, which came against a side featuring Kevin Keen who, despite now being in his fifties probably still looks as if he is 12 years old.

It's fair to say that it's not been the brightest of returns to League 2 (which is what we're supposed to call the fourth division these days). They currently sit bottom of the pile with but two points from the nine played so far. Their latest runout saw them go down 2-1 at Morecambe against whom they had Michael Rose sent off for a straight red shortly before the interval. Well at least they have gotten through to the third round of the League Cup so there's a couple of wins there to celebrate, right? Well, arguably, no actually. They opened their League Cup campaign with a 1-1 draw at home with Bradford City, eventually prevailing 4-2 on "kicks from the penalty mark". They then went to Walsall where they drew 3-3, winning 3-1 again on kicks from the penalty mark. So even taking the League Cup into account they haven't got a win.

"Aha!" I hear you say because you're the irritating sort of person who says "Aha!". "What about that odd EFL Trophy tournament for the lower leagues that the U21s get roped into? They appear to be top of that group. Surely they must have a win there?" Well, again, sort of. They drew 3-3 with Blackpool but the rules of that competition provide for kicks from the penalty mark to settle drawn games with the winners getting 2 points and the losers just the one. So to summarise, they are good at penalties. Or, more accurately, their 'keeper Kieran O'Hara, who is on loan from Moan Utd, is good at saving them, something he helpfully ascribes to being good at guesswork.

The current manager is Mark Yates who Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, tells me was only appointed in June this year. This followed a spell of managerial musical chairs whereby John Askey, the manager at the helm during the successful promotion run left to go to Shrewsbury, whose boss had gone to Ipswich. Yates himself arrived from Solihull Moors who he had only joined last November.

Amongst the more experienced members of the squad is midfielder Danny Whitaker. The 37 year-old midfielder has notched up over 400 appearances for the club, spread over two spells, returning in 2013 when they were in the Conference, which is what we had to call the National League back then. Whitaker is their joint top scorer in the league with two goals and was on target in Saturday's defeat to Morecambe.

Whitaker's companion at the top of the league scoring charts is Koby Arthur. However that stat is a little bit misleading - the midfielder picked up a brace on the opening day of the season in the 3-2 defeat to Swindon Town. In fact he has been on the bench for the last month and was again an unused sub up at Morecambe.

Across all tournaments the aforementioned Michael Rose is top scorer with two goals in the win/draw against Blackpool in the EFL Whatever it's called to add to the consolation he notched in the 3-1 defeat to Oldham. However his red card at the weekend will see him sit this one out as the first of a three match ban.

They have an ex-Millwall inmate in the side in the form of Harry Smith. Smith had a handful of appearances at the Theatre Of The Unevolved having arrived in 2016 from Folkestone Invicta. Presumably unconvinced as to the player's merits he was farmed out to Swindon but they seemed even less convinced and the loan was curtailed due to a lack of playing time and he returned to the knuckle-scrapers who quietly let him go at the end of last term. He's featured in every game in all competitions, though last weekend he came off the bench for the second time in three matches.

They've chopped and changed up front a bit in a bid to find some sort of winning formula. Tyrone Marsh started the first two league matches before a three-
match unused spell on the bench. He returned to the starting eleven at the weekend but still has yet to open his account for the season.

Us? Well the point on Sunday was as deserved as it was unexpected. Fair play to the team who Fabianski dealt well with anything that was on-target - his handling under what must have been difficult conditions out there was superb. Fabianski made some tricky looking stuff look routine, and the save from Barkley's late effort was magnificent.

There were times in the first half when our passing on the break was superb. Less so in the second period, perhaps understandably. We shouldn't move on however without a word about some of the finishing though. I'm not going to harp on about Antonio and Yarmalenko too much - I mean it's not as if they don't know is it? I would say one thing about the match sponsors though. Yarmalenko as MOTM? Really? Nothing against the lad but even if he'd stuck that one away there were better candidates for the award. Fabianski, Rice, Obiang, Noble, Zabaletta, Diop, Balbuena for starters. Now I realise that half the time the sponsors MOTM is largely a function of who the sponsors would like to have their photo taken with but if that's the case one should ask why they didn't go the whole hog and simply ask for Arnautovic. At least they wouldn't have had to wait for him to get changed.

Even Dean seemed to behave himself for most of the match - however he couldn't resist giving a disgrace of a free-kick when a Chelsea player actually kicked Noble. Thankfully, Luis's effort from distance was safely gathered in by Fabianski but the original decision still stank the place out.

The knee niggle that kept Arnie out of the side on Sunday will mean that he won't be risked for this one. The "Long Term Four" (didn't they used to be a Jazz combo with a residency at Ronnie Scott's?) of Wilshere, Lanzini, Reid and Carroll continue to remain unavailable.

Hernandez's Devonshire flu' may have abated enough for him to make an appearance. We will probably see m Adrian return and it would be no surprise for him to be joined by pretty much everyone else that formed the bench on Sunday - Ogbonna, Fredericks, Cresswell, Snodgrass, Sanchez and Perez might all reasonably expect the nod.

Prediction? Well the improved mood about the place will count for a lot. These are always banana skin matches and without the four points from six we've gained over the past couple of weeks the tension might have been a major factor. As it is two good performances in two weeks will have lightened the air somewhat. They, on the other hand have just come off the back of losing a match to a winner that came just after they had equalised which always adds a downer to things.

So, overall, I reckon class will tell and I will be putting the ?2.50 I was going to send to the bloke in Accrington who lost his false teeth on a home win utilising the very useful Winstone Turf Accountancy App (When The Fun Stops Somebody Has Probably mentioned Brexit again). Stick me down for a 3-1 to us then.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Won 4-1 (League Cup, 2nd round August 2008)

Not quite as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Evans gave them the lead on 5 minutes . It took 69 minutes for Lee Bowyer to equalise. The match went into extra time whereupon Carlton Cole (100) Zavon Hines (105) and Kyel Reid (115) sealed the match. We lost 1-0 at Watford in the next round.

Referee: Craig Pawson

Clueless. Watching him referee you will be wondering exactly how bad a foul in the box has to be before a penalty gets to be awarded. It's almost like he would have to pay out good money every time he gives one. Should the match finish all square look out for him electing to decide it by the toss of a coin or something. He'll be partnered in crime in the VAR bunker by Martin Atkinson who they always send our way when they can't be bothered to update the rota.

Danger Man: Harry Smith

Maybe not the most dangerous of players on form, but the fact that he has Millwall on his CV might push him to better things. Hey nobody said this had to be logical.

Percy's Poser

At the weekend we asked you what the missing words were from this headline from the "Get West London" website:

People keep XXXXXX and XXXXXXXX-XX in our street"

Congratulations to Mrs Dymphna Lymph-Node of Pitsea who informed us that the missing words were "Weeing" and "Throwing-Up". That's Chelsea for you. Well done Dymphna!

For our League Cup Special we visit the "Cheshire Live" website who bring us this headline. All you have to do is fill in the missing words (mark my words some tv programme will nick this format one day):

"Ofsted scrap Macclesfield school visit because XXXXX XXXX'X XXX XXXXXX"

Good luck everyone!

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