West Ham musings by Pete May, author of Hammers in the Heart, West Ham:Irons in the Soul and Flying So High:West Ham's Cup Finals.
Wednesday, April 29
I don't want a goal to Chelsea
West Ham 0 Chelsea 1
In Ken’s Cafe Nigel, Gavin and Matt are trying to name a team of players connected to shoes, having just discussed a projected visit to the Cobblers (Northampton). We come up with John Lacey, Adrian Boot-hroyd and David Healy. “And every team has a trainer,” adds Nigel, risking a boot wrapped round the head.
Big Phill’s been to see the Specials and is hoping that Tomkins, Stanislas and Sears haven’t done too much, much too young. Nigel (not wearing shorts) reports that AC-DC at the O2 were awesome. No doubt our earlier trip on the Highway to Hull inspired Angus Young and co.
Discussing the game, I predict that Lampard will get extra stick after his 15-minute call to LBC and then score. Dyer’s starting his first game for 18 months with Neill reverting to right-back. Chelsea rest Drogba and several other regulars ready for Barcelona on Tuesday. Big Fat Frank is playing though, although most of the first half stick is directed at John Terry with chants of “John Terry — Your mum’s a thief!” Something you don’t want to say to Eric Cantona.
Malouda shoots wide from a good position early on, but the best chance falls to the Irons. Tristan turns his man and plays a sublime pass into the box for Dyer. Faced with Cech he shoots straight at him rather than place the ball. If he was match-fit it’s the sort of chance he might have buried.
Stanislas has looked a little overawed early on but after half an hour he confidently shoots and wins a corner. We crowd around Cech and from Upson’s header Tristan prods the ball towards the net only for it be hacked off the line. We’re happy with 0-0 at half-time and if anything could be ahead.
But after Tristan dawdles with an early chance Chelsea raise themselves in the second half as Lampard is taunted by the Bobby Moore Stand with chants of “You let your children down!” Now you don’t want to that. Lampard crosses from the left, Green misses the ball and Kalou prods the ball home. Lampard and Terry celebrate in front of their tormentors in the Bobby Moore Stand.
Chelsea are much the better passing side now, a mistake by Upson lets on Anelka and Green makes a fine one-on-one save. Sub Cashley Cole plays a 1-2 and skims our bar. But then an unexpected lifeline in the afternoon sun. Tristan plays in Ilunga who is needlessly brought down by Kalou. Penalty.
“I’ve a bad feeling about this,” says Mystic Morris. Sure enough, Cech makes a fine save low down to his left from, Noble’s well-struck penalty.
Kovac comes on and plays the ball into touch a lot. There’s time for Green to save from a Lampard free kick, but after the penalty save it’s a routine Chelsea win. Matt makes an early dash for the Silverlink to make the Camden Crawl. He's strangely unconvinced by Nigel's text that we equalised in stoppage time through a Boa Morte thunderbolt. We've lost to a top four team, but to quote Terry Hall, it doesn’t make it all right. We’ve badly missed the physical presence of Carlton Cole again and need to buy two strikers this summer.
Still, it was 4-0 last season, and when you consider the players we’re missing we’ve at least given Chelsea a decent pre-Champions League run-out. After the game Zola and Clarke are in line to sign four-year contracts and Ilunga, one of the best left backs in the Premiership this season, has signed a permanent deal. So even though we’re ownerless, progress is being made off the field. Scott Duxbury’s vaunted football project continues even though we’re down to eighth. As the Specials might put it, Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think).