West Ham 1 Bolton 3
We're housesitting in the Limpley Stoke Valley so it takes some effort to arrive at Upton Park. Particularly as TfL has closed all the tubes around the Boleyn stadium. A walk down the footpath at Black Acre and then across green fields and down the canal path to Avoncliff station, a local train to Bath, then Bath to Paddington, followed by the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines and a lengthy two-mile walk down Barking Road from Canning Town. Maybe Benni McCarthy should travel by tube to improve his fitness levels?
It's another strange 4-4-2 line-up from Grant with Dyer, who's had more regenerations than the Doctor, and Gabbidon coming in after long injuries. Still, the first half is promising.
Elmander should score in the first minute but after that we play some good stuff. Barrera looks frail but lively on the wing and has three efforts at goal, while Piquionne almost makes a goal with a great bit of skill. Gabbidon does the simple things well and it's all looking OK.
The key moment comes when Cole is shoved in the back and the ref awards a penalty.
"The last time he took a penalty he injured himself," I mutter darkly.
Carlton duly strokes the ball at the keeper and our chance has gone.
There's still time for Cole to have a shot tipped away by Jaaskelainen and Dyer to run on to Parker's brilliant through ball and hit the post.
At half time we agree that's it's been much better. "When did they start doing backheels?" asks a bemused CQ.
"And more good news is the Oxford game's only £10!" says Matt.
"They'll have to pay more than that to get us to come," quips Nigel.
Only in the second half we go off the rails. We're undone by a simple goal kick. Upson is possibly fouled by nasty Kevin Davies and Mattie scores a great own goal with a classic diving header, breaking his nose in the process and then having to go off. You could say he's carrying on his World Cup form.
Sub Winston Reid has a promising run upfield and goes close with a volley from a corner, while Piquionne volleys over when maybe he should score. But Barrera disappears just like the district line.
We show a similar lack of spine to last season when Young beats Ilunga to cross and Elmander easily beats Gustave Faubert in the air to power home a header. Another player whose career we have revived. Our defence is looking as efficient as Tfl's weekend planning and our season is going down the tube.
There's hope when we gain a lucky penalty after Parker is adjudged to have been shoved and Noble dispatches it with ease.
But then comes another defensive slump, with a goal kick causing chaos, Ilunga failing to clear and Elmander prodding home his second. So it's the usual 3-1 home defeat to streetwise Bolton then. We still need a right back and a new centre-back at the least.
We walk to West Ham tube and try to take the positives (Barrera and Piquionne look promising and hey, Kieron Dyer lasted 77 minutes).On the Jubilee line Matt discusses why we bothered to go at all. "There's always that optimism of the first home game of the dseason," he suggests.
"I lost my optimism at Villa last week," says the fan opposite. "It could have been eight."
Oh well, at least we've got rid of our optimism early. While our defence requires major engineering works every weekend.
Who in Essex
5 days ago