I have become very slack at writing these match reports. I can only apologise. It took me well over a week to get the Watford report posted, and here we are a week after the game at Upton Park and I'm only just posting it!
Work commitments coupled with a long, long delay on the trains earlier this week conspired to put a major spanner in the works for getting my thoughts from last Monday night penned. The train was so late my laptop battery died before I even got a chance to start!
No matter, we shall soldier on. Bear with me, the ManUre report will be up later today. A good dose of cold has put paid to going into work today so I'm using the time well!
So here we go - West Ham away.....
West Ham? Any self-respecting fan knows this station's not nearly near enough, but I couldn't resist the photo opportunity!
We started the build-up to Monday night's game with my mate Dave at our usual pub near Liverpool Street. The Christmas decorations were up and after a couple of pints we set off for Upton Park.
The trains were running late so it looked pretty likely we were going to miss the start. There were loads of Spurs fans on the same underground journey as us and every so often you got a Spurs chant thrown in. The comedy of the West Ham supporters was seen fully as we pulled in to Plaistow station.
With Spurs chants being heard from most carriages, two West Ham fans got off the train, moved as far away from it as was possible to do on the platform, waited for the doors to start closing, then gave it the ****er signs and started shouting - "Come on then! Come on!"
Muppets! Thought it was hilarious. Easy to give it large in that scenario. Funny that they chose not to take the matter up with us on the train itself!
As suspected, we were late. By about ten minutes. The atmosphere was surprisingly muted for a game against the Irons. Not from our supporters. As usual our travelling support was in good voice. The West Ham fans, though, were surprisingly quiet.
Having missed the start, we'd also missed the line-ups, but following the flirtation with 4-4-2 in recent weeks that hasn't exactly delivered great results, it was back to 4-5-1 with Pav starting and, crucially, Modric back in the side. How we've missed him.
From the time we did start watching, Bentley was pretty much the centre of most of our play. He did superbly to beat the player on about ten minutes, only to put in a poor cross. Where's that famed delivery?!
Then he played a really good long ball to Pav, only for him to be flagged offside. He even got on the end of a cross. Swung in by BAE, he connected weakly when he should have done better.
All of a sudden, West Ham thought they'd scored. The ball was in the back of the net, but how wrong they were! It took them a while to realise, but they soon shut up! Difficult to tell exactly what was happening as the play was at the other end of the pitch and we were quite low down, but it didn't really matter. The Spurs goal remained intact.
Now Modric started to get involved. Picking the ball up he nutmegged the West Ham player superbly, then showed some superb skill to hold the ball and beat the West Ham defenders, but was ultimately outnumbered and unable to create. Three West Ham players on one Luka Modric. Clearly showed that they were going to show him a lot of respect.
The game as a whole was fairly even though, a point amply demonstrated when they touched the ball wide after it had come back in following a good Gomes punch.
There were mistakes too. They managed to play one of the most shocking balls you could imagine on the edge of their own box straigh to David Bentley, but his ball into the middle, on the deck was cack. What did I ask about his famed delivery?!
With about ten minutes of the half to go, Lennon and Bentley switched wings, as seems to be the trend these days, and Bentley crossed from the right after a lovely bit of play from Luka again, only for handball to be given against Pav.
Bentley got in on the act again, his snap shot saved after a lovely move down the right.
We won a free kick late on and from what was a really good position proceeded to frustrate the hell out the Spurs support by trying to be far too clever when the sensible option would have been to put the ball into the box.
The best chance of the half, though, was created by us. Lennon hammered a cross in from the right and Pav connected inches from the far post only to see his effort cannon back into play. Oh so close! It was a difficult one for him to control. The pace at which it came across, and considering how close he was to the post, it was a decent effort.
That was pretty much the last action of the first half. A half that had been fairly open with a few chances for both sides, nobody really asserting their authority and dominating, but the standout performance coming from Modric.
We looked comfortable enough though, and with the scores level, it seemed there was every chance we could take something from this game.
The half-time warm-up
The West Ham mascot - must have taken somebody at Upton Park ages to come up with this idea.....
When the second half got underway West Ham were willing to create as well. It took a decent combination from BAE and King to clear once, and then a terrible bit of play from Corluka presented them with another chance. He got well and truly done for pace, then skill and ended up conceding a foul. With Gomes punching a catchable ball, it came back in from the right but ended up safe.
The the ref got in on the act and got two handball decisions well and truly wrong. First in our favour, then one against. They were blatant. They really were! How he missed those two is totally beyond me, but the scores remained level.
Corluka had a go at making up for his earlier error by displaying a lovely bit of skill to make some space and get the cross in - another handball! Not given! It led to three corners in a row none of which came to anything.
We were, however, beginning to assert some authority on the game. Jenas slotted a lovely ball into Lennon who slid the ball across and Bent touched - yes, it really seemed like just a touch! - wide. He should've hit the target.
Three more half chances followed, first Modric hitting the ball straight at the keeper, then Jenas seemingly caught unaware by a ball that was fired into the box, and finally a classic Zokora run and shot. Newsflash - it was on target! An easy save low down, but it was still on target.
It was only a matter of time before the deadlock was breached, and who would've thought it - Ledley King! His first goal for three years. A free kick that led to a cross, and at first it was difficult to see which Spurs player got on the end of it, but it was directed down, and past the dive of Robert Green, straight into the back of the net!
Goal! One-nil! Well deserved.
We had another chance soon after, but, can you believe it? The ref got yet another handball decision wrong! This time a blatant penalty for them - not given. Phew!
With West Ham trying to come up with something to rescue the game it created a bit of extra space. Not just on the pitch either! They were leaving in their droves. Ho ho ho!
Spaces on the pitch, spaces in the stands
Lennon got involved twice late on, once hitting a curler high and wide, then getting tangled in a bit of a mix-up on another run where the free-kick went their way.
With no more than a few minutes left and the home support dwindling, there was a flash of action in our box.
A shot that had Gomes diving low, having to palm back into play on account of being unsighted. Really good save, but the rebound eventually dropped to one of three West Ham players who were camped on the six yard line. Another great save from Gomes to smother the shot.
Looked like we were going to escape by the skin of our teeth.
Ha! There was more to come. From the resulting break up the left the ball was worked to O'Hara, and while most of the visiting support were still sighing from relief at having smothered the last West Ham attack, Jamie, somehow, from somewhere found a shot from his left peg that just arrowed into the far side of the net from probably twenty, maybe twenty-five yards!
Yeeeeeees! Two up at Upton Park and into injury time. That was the game done.
The few West Ham supporters still in their seats trudged away for the exits as the Spurs chants of "Jingle bells" got well and truly underway.
At the final whistle we knew this was a fine victory. The players knew it was a fine victory. They stayed behind to celebrate, a few of them hurling their shirts into the crowd.
Once again the chants of "We love you Gomes" were ringing out. On a night he'd managed a good clean sheet, despite punching once for what seemed a catchable ball, he pulled off one a great double save to preserve our lead late on and set up the attack for the killer second.
Scorer of the second, an arrow in to the far corner!
We looked comfortable for the most part. A deserved victory, particularly considering the comparison in number of chances we created to them in the second half.
Bentley was better than in recent weeks. He was more involved, and I suspect this helped. A couple of half chances, a decent hit on a half-volley, but delivery, while better, was ultimately still questionable. He was, at least, more involved, and there is hope he will go on from here and build on the performance.
Jenas had a decent game. Without him we are not half the side we can be in the centre of the pitch. That's not meant to sound like ringing praise. People on here know me well enough to know he frustrates the hell out of me with his inconsistency, but given the current personnel, I'd rather he were playing than not.
I heard afterwards that King hadn't trained all week and only decided to play right at the end. Good job too! Class act, and great to see him score once again.
Standout performance for me was from Modric. He is a class act. While he was a bit quieter in the second half, his first half performance, full of tricks, touches, flicks and passes, showed what a tremendous little player this lad is going to be.
As we headed out and joined the queue at Upton Park station it was funny to see (hear) the West Ham fans giving it large.
"Can't hear you Spurs fans now"
"Scared of us are you?"
"blah blah blah"
No need to rise to the challenge. Winning by 2-0 at their gaff said everything that needed to be said about the game!