A different train of thought

Well that was different, wasn’t it? I mean a decent, winning performance, playing on a Saturday, with minimal Moyes baiting. This could catch on.

It was always going to be a stressful day for those of us from outside the protective confines of the London Underground, anyway. The day the train didn’t take the strain for those of us from the uncolonised northern wastelands beyond High Barnet.

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Mick Lynch: not a Hammer

But we got there, we drove from Manchester... well to be fair, my son did, while I sat and watched the M6/1 pass by. Dump the car in Watford, find a half-decent travel lodge and a 20-minute walk to Croxley on the Metropolitan Line and from there into the metropolis. A Tube train every 15 minutes, even on a weekend. Job done.

A train every 15 minutes from the suburbs to the city centre is not something us northern types experience often, but I’ll let that pass for now.

So we got there. Now I’ve got full understanding and support for the train workers trying to get more money in these troubled time, let’s face it, we are being told that if we can’t afford the astronomical energy prices we should go out there and get a better paid job, aren’t we? So that’s what Mick Lynch and the boys are doing, no?

But I have to admit to being pleased the Underground was working. A different union, so the tube took the strain for a change. Thanks, lads and lasses. I’m sure there are plenty more stories of our far flung fans’ travel exploits on a strike Saturday - it’s remarkable what you will do to watch the Irons.

After a fractured, indifferent start to the season, and all the usual abuse hurled at David Moyes we got to see a vastly improved performance than the horrible defeat at Everton - and also found out what it’s like to be truly involved in Sky’s Soccer Saturday with everyone else for a change. It won’t last though, we know that. We’ve only got the Leicester match on a Saturday now before the New Year.

But Saturday was a start. It was our first home league match since the draw with Spurs in August, it’s been that sort of season.

And after weeks of criticism and abuse as we struggled to bed-in £150m of new talent, things started to take shape. It was stressful at times watching it, players learning their new scripts before our eyes, not always as smoothly co-ordinated as you would like. But it was a start.

Craig Dawson returned and the defence looks miles better. The excellent Thilo Kehrer on the right of defence, this could easily be as a right back or right wing back if Moyes wants to play with three central defenders.

But having seen Kehrer play this role for Germany against England in midweek, you’d be daft not to use him in a similar role for West Ham. He was caught out a couple of times by quick touches from Wolves out wide, but he showed great recovery and positional sense. The German international is one hell of a summer purchase for £10m.

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It gave balance to the right and allowed Jarrod Bowen more freedom. Saturday was his best performance of the season and he notched a poacher’s goal to seal the win.

We also know now that Moyes is not going to give in to the clamour for Tomas Soucek to be axed. He’s not had the best of seasons so far, but the manager went out of his way to praise the Czech for his ball recovery work, all the messy stuff that lots don’t see.

Before the game the social media experts were on his case. One guy who uses big type, capitals and plenty of full stops with his tweets to make you think he knows what he’s talking about was fuming about Soucek’s inclusion. He went a lot quieter afterwards.

Moyes was also full of praise for striker Gianluca Scamacca, who has struggled to fit into a role with us, but scored a belter before being replaced by Michail Antonio with half-an-hour left.

Antonio bullied a tired Wolves defence and we were able to slip into the familiar deep defensive block to see out the win. There was more criticism of this safety-first approach to ensure the victory, some feel we should be on the front foot all the time. The Premier League’s not like that unless you are Manchester City.

Scamacca was excellent and as Moyes pointed out, he’s had three weeks off with a virus and is not a target man. We have to learn to use his talents, his touch and movement and that will take a little time. But we are clearly getting somewhere with him.

So it was one small step along the way, with Anderlecht next in the Europa Conference and then Fulham at the London Stadium next weekend.

The Anderlecht game will bring back memories for the older fans of the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup final, and the 4-2 defeat in Brussels. If we can get a point there, we are pretty certain of qualifying from the group.

And if we can follow that up with three points against Fulham, the world will look a much better place. That's not too much to ask, is it?

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