Monday, December 10

Mersey beat

West Ham 2 Liverpool 3

The day begins with a trip to Romford Waterstones where Ian Ayris is signing copies of his West Ham-themed coming-of-age novel Abide With Me and I’m pleased to see my book The Joy of Essex on sale at the counter. Returning to Upton Park proves difficult. There’s a suicide at Goodmayes (could it be a shock jock?) and the station’s closed so it’s an interminable bus ride to Stratford, where I get off at the top of Green Street and leg it to the ground. One piece of serendipity is my excellent pre-match curry at Khana Kazana in Green Street.

So it’s no Suarez and Liverpool have been detained an extra night in Italy after their Europa League exertions on Thursday. What could possibly go wrong? Inside Ken’s CafĂ© Nigel’s been to see Eddie and the Hot Rods the previous night and is sporting the badge to prove it. Apparently they did anything they wanna do. While Matt is delighted to be going to West Brom, the highest ground in England, not that he’s a collector of football trivia.

Liverpool start of well and take an early lead after 11 minutes as Glenn Johnson beats Jarvis and cuts inside to unleash an unstoppable thirty yarder into the top corner. He doesn’t celebrate but we’re still a goal down. Johnson breaks again and sets up Sterling for a shot that he fires just wide.

Sterling has the beating of Demel, but slowly West Ham start to show some of the form they displayed against Chelsea, with Diame rampaging through midfield and Jarvis getting in a series of crosses. On 29 minutes someone called Joe Cole comes on for Liverpool and gets sporting applause from the home fans.

Diame has a goalbound shot deflected wide by Cole’s posterior and Agger brings down Diame with a crude professional foul on the edge of the box.  Jarvis gets in another cross, it’s headed out to Demel who shoots into the hands of Liverpool’s Allen. His arms are raised but it’s hard to see how he could have got out of the way. Still, we’ll have that and Noble dispatches the penalty into the corner, though Reina gets close. “Feed the Scousers! Let them know it’s Christmas time…” sings the Bobby Moore Stand in festive mood.

With three minutes to go to the break a quick free kick finds Jarvis wide on the left again and his cross is inexplicably headed into his own net by Steven Gerrard. He deserves that for the Cup Final. Best own goal since Iain Dowie scored for Stockport.

If The Kids Are United by Sham 69 comes on at half-time to round off a satisfying 45 minutes. McCartney replaces the struggling Demel after the break.

The second half kicks of with Mystic Matt saying: ”We can’t sit back as Joe Cole is certain to score.” Liverpool are playing some good passing stuff but don’t like it when we cross into the box. Carlton is visibly buoyed by several choruses of “Always believe in Carlton Cole!” and even displays some speed to pressure the Liverpool backline. Liverpool, still threaten and Jussi does very well to tip over Sterling’s first-time shot.

Then disaster hits us after 73 minutes, Diame is running down the left and pulls up with an obvious hamstring pull. “I wonder if that’s the turning point of the game,” wonders Mystic Morris. Diame is now out for 10-12 weeks. Bizarrely Allardyce brings on Tomkins instead of O’Neil who is at least a natural midfielder. “Why’s he trying what failed last week,” bemoans Matt. If we give Big Sam the credit for his substitutions last week then he has to take the blame for his poor decision this week. Tomkins us not mobile enough to play in midfield against Allen, Cole and Gerrard and Sam’s stubbornness is baffling.

Three minutes later a sharp interchange of passes between Sterling and Shelvey plays in Joe Cole, who fires home an excellent cross shot into the corner. He refuses to celebrate too. It gets worse. On 79 minutes Henderson crosses and Collins and Shelvey lunge for the ball. It deflects off Collins’ boot and spins wickedly over the keeper.

Allardyce waits an age to introduce Maiga and then gives him only four minutes. He then fires a terrible free-kick over the bar and gives the ball away. Matt goes into meltdown “Don’t just sit there Allardyce do something! Where’s the ******* midfield? That is terrible Maiga! How can we be tired against a side that played in Europe on Thursday night?”

The whistle goes. Jeremy Nicholas plays the Arctic Monkeys and the Scousers celebrate. “Assuming Shelvey got the third, all three goals were scored by players who at some point have played for West Ham,” muses Nigel. We retreat to the Central to sample the least-edifying ales known to humanity with Nigel’s mate Ken. Michael the Whovian heads off early to watch the London Symphony Orchestra. Matt and Nigel tell him it’s not worth it as they don’t have any original members. And then Dylan’s Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts is an unlikely choice over the speakers and soon empties the pub. We head back to the station past the flash motors and personalised number plates of David Gold and David Sullivan, with Nigel getting a wave.

We try to remember that we are after all a newly promoted side with 22 points. It’s been a good game and Liverpool look like an improving side that will make the top six. We still have eight points from Sam’s batch of eight difficult fixtures. But the squad is thinner than most of the models on the front of Heat. We need a fit Diarra to replace Diame and to get Vaz Te, Carroll, Benayoun and Collison back, plus another couple of squad players in the window. 

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