West Ham 3 Stoke City 1 (aet) Carling Cup
"I can't believe we're fighting to get into West Ham!" exclaims a fan in the melee outside the East Stand.
Someone at WHU has had the great idea of not opening all the turnstiles. It ends up with the operators just letting everyone in to avoid a major crushing incident. So we've lost cash thanks to a false economy. If this was the Apprentice someone would be fired.
We get in after five minutes just in time to see Kenwyn Jones score with a free header from Pennant's corner. Terrible defending again and Da Costa was nowhere near him. Thereafter Kovac hoofs into touch and the anonymous Benni McCarthy air kicks when well placed.
At half time Matt confesses to seeing Krapp's Last Tape by Beckett the previous evening. "So it's been Krapp for two nights running," he quips.
Meanwhile Fraser sports a beard and we wonder if he's refusing to shave until we score more than two goals in a league game. He'll look like ZZ Top by the end of the season.
Tomkins heads wide when Stoke's keeper fumbles in the second half. But things only improve when Grant finally makes three changes, bringing on Obinna, Behrami and Noble. Victor has a shot well saved by Begovic, but then shoots another 99 times when he should be playing the simple ball. Stoke mystifyingly take off Jones.
At least the 25,000 fans are magnificent in the second half, doing all they can to rouse the slumbering side.
We start speculating that Pards, Curbs, Roeder, Macari and Brooking are all available to replace Grant should we lose. But the previously disappointing Barrera looks better on the left and finally whips in a decent cross for Parker to head home at the near post and disappear into the Bobby Moore Stand. Yes!
Suddenly the momentum is with the Irons. At the final whistle Jeremy Nicholas plays Whole Lotta Love and a bit of Led Zep seems to inspire the lads.
Faubert has a good penalty claim denied by Howard Webb. Noble makes a fantastic run down the left to cut the ball back to Da Costa who fires home. We wonder if he'll be celebrating in Faces.
Then Nobes plays a great through ball for the enigmatic Obinna to score with some elan and then produce a triple summersault - a feat that would have given Frank Lampard Senior a double hernia.
The evening is rounded off by the Central having real ale - or at least bottles of Old Speckled Hen. They apologise for them not being cold and then offer ice in the glass. Clearly not CAMRA members then, although Malcolm Allison did once drink red wine in the Central, claims Matt.
We needed that. Three points at the Emirates and we'll be off the bottom. Although maybe that's the Old Speckled Hen talking. But we have seen the goal celebration of the season. Eamonn Dolan eat your heart out.
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