Monday, April 28, 2008


West Ham 2 - 2 Newcastle Utd

For most of this season, fans of other teams would have been horrified at the thought that their sides might follow a fashion set by Newcastle Utd. But on an exciting afternoon in the Premier League yesterday, supporters of Liverpool and especially Fulham will have been delighted that we made coming back from a two goal deficit away from home all the rage.

With us relieved to have joined our opponents West Ham in the mid-table comfort zone, neither team had much more than pride to play for. All the same, we seem to have regarded securing top flight survival and beating the Mackems as justifying going on holiday early, whereas the Hammers still had the boos of their own fans ringing in their ears from their previous home game - lest we forget, a win against Derby (a feat we couldn't achieve) - and set out determined to get the crowd on their side quickly.

Abdoulaye Faye's absence through injury meant a starting berth in central defence for David Edgar, and Kevin Keegan's comment that "by the end he looked at home as a Premier League defender" tells you all you need to know about the way he began the game. Ten minutes were on the clock when ex-Mackem George McCartney picked out Mark Noble in the box and while all our defenders played at statues, the midfielder volleyed clinically past Steve Harper. Quarter of an hour later and we were two down, striker and sometime Toon target Dean Ashton proving too strong and tricky for Edgar in manoeuvring into a shooting position and firing into the bottom corner. Things weren't looking good.

But then, from nowhere, a glimmer of hope. ASBO floated a pass over the top and a misjudgement from the Hammers' own inexperienced centre-back James Tomkins let in Obafemi Martins for a neat finish past Robert Green. If that goal was both unexpected and undeserved given our lethargy and doziness, then the equaliser on the stroke of half time was even more so. Habib Beye, who had hitherto found himself largely preoccupied with defensive duties, got forward to deliver a curling cross which was only partially cleared. Martins arrived to smash it from the edge of the area, and the ball flew past Green via Geremi's bonce and McCartney's shoulder.

What was pleasing was that we made sure that, having benefited from extremely good fortune in the first half, we didn't then throw it all away in the second. West Ham continued to dominate in terms of efforts on goal but these were largely wayward, the closest they came to regaining the lead being Ashton's drive that Harper stretched to tip over the bar. In the end, we could even have nicked it had Green not reacted so smartly to the excellent Martins's snapshot.

The point extended our unbeaten run to seven games, but, given events elsewhere on Saturday, extending it to eight on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon is likely to be a tougher test. Suffice to say that a certain red-faced Scotsman would "love it" if we can deprive Chelsea of points. Is Keegan expecting any thanks from his old nemesis? A case of wine, perhaps? "I doubt it! Not a good one anyway. It'll be one of those Chateauneuf du Plonk!" If we're to do Fergie a favour - albeit inadvertently and with gritted teeth - then our defence won't be able to start that game as though they've been on the aforementioned devil's grape juice...

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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