West Ham 1 Bolton 2
In Ken’s Café we find a face from the past, Mike P, definitely not the inspiration for Porky’s seminal Part-Time Percy cartoons in Fortune’s Always Hiding.
These days Mike’s living in deepest Hertfordshire. He’s with his two kids and is one of the “million” West Ham fans David Sullivan is inviting to rejoin us in the programme. He’s too embarrassed to say when he last saw a game but he does say that he’s looking forward to seeing West Hampstead play again. And he’s reassured that like the clock at Grantchester, Ken’s Café never changes (Big Joe arriving breathless, DC arriving after kick-off, Carol bawling out numbers, Don looking downcast after home defeats, Etc).
Nigel arrives with CQ (Mrs Nigel) and The Gav, fortified by last night’s Heavy Metal Britannnia documentary. While in the queue for the counter Phill Jupitus reveals that he’s been busy working on Good Morning Nantwich, his new book about breakfast show DJs, out in August. Let's all buy it and keep him in toasted cheese sarnies.
It’s all very jolly until we remember that we always lose to Bolton.
Sure enough, we’re two goals down after 16 minutes. Lee has acres of space on the right and crosses. It looks as if Tomkins should head it, but he gets under the ball and Kevin Davies bullets the ball home with his bonce. Diamanti goes close with a free kick but then Tomkins tried to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick, only Davies nicks in and crosses for Cohen to set up the impressive on-loan Gooner Jack Wilshere to volley home. Bolton only have a few hundred fans in the away section and even they can't believe it.
Bolton are really coming at us and passing impressively. It’s nearly three when Elmander first misses from an angle and then wildly firing over after another tantalizing cross — an absolute sitter.
We look flat all over the park. Spector and Tomkins are being exposed and Franco is muscled off the ball. Diamanti does produce a good save from another free kick and Carlton looks certain to score only to be robbed by a well-timed tackle from Ricketts.
Nigel wonders if this will be Zola’s last game for the club. The owners won’t be impressed, particularly if we lose at Chelsea and Arsenal. In the second half we bring on three subs, Dyer for the injured Faubert after 47 minutes, with Behrami going to right-back, Mido for Franco and Stanislas for Kovac. Dyer shows one or two glimpses of speed and the player he could have been if injury hadn’t intervened.
The referee helpfully sends off Bolton's Cohen for a second yellow card but as ever we still struggle against ten men.
My kids have wisely opted to see Mamma Mia the Musical instead of this.
“The winner takes it all…” I mutter, “ and West Ham are sending out an SOS.”
“This could be our Waterloo,” suggests Nigel.
Just as we’ve settled for numbing defeat, on 88 minutes Diamanti curls in a beauty from the edge of the box. Oh no, we have hope.
On 90 minutes I have to break the habit of a lifetime and leave early as I’m reading for the Newham Bookshop in support of Book Aid at Stratford Circus at 5.20. I feel like Part-Time Percy myself, jogging to the tube, and there’s still a big queue when I get there.
In the five minutes of added time Zat Knight crosses for Davies to hit the bar for Notlob (the palindrome of Bolton as John Cleese would tell you) and at the death Junior Stanislas chests down and volleys against the underside of the bar. A big "Oooh!' comes from the stadium as I gaze at the brick wall while kettled by Upton Park tube.
A win today would have left us looking safe; instead we’re two points behind Bolton facing Chelsea and Arsenal away. Now our fate may not be decided until the last Sunday of the season. Mamma Mia, here we go again.
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