Match Report from Norman Riley in the away end at the Olympic Stadium. 

West Ham 1 Newcastle United 1

Olympic Stadium, 19/Feb/22, KO:12:30. Att: TBC 

Newcastle United left the worst football stadium in football history with a deserved point after an excellent performance against a Hammers side with designs on the top 4.

Going into this game on the back of a five game unbeaten run, with three consecutive wins, meant I felt confident we could get something. However, the loss of Trippier was a huge blow, but for it to be followed by the withdrawal of Maximin on the morning of the game was a proper slap across the gyep. Wor Allan is so vital to the team and as we pondered pre-match whether it would be a case of sticking Joelinton on the left of the front three and giving Bruno his first start, or putting Miggy in, the news came through that Murphy was in. A bit of a shock but here, who the F are we to doubt Howe?

The game started with United talking control almost from the off. West Ham, despite the ridiculously talented midfield and forward unit they have, were playing like the away team. Sitting deep, standing off and trying to hit us on the break. It didn’t work though as, much like against Villa, Howe’s lads were snapping into tackles, putting blocks in and engaging in the wonderful shithousery of which we’re becoming masters.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we could have been two up before they undeservedly took the lead. Joelinton did well to create space and make a chance which Fabianski did well to save. Then Ryan ‘the back’ Fraser smacked a technically beautiful volley which if it had gone in would have been the greatest goal of all time. However, it cannoned off a teammate.

West Ham were offering little with man of the minute Bowen not doing much, Benrahma non-existent and Antonio woefully out of form. But then Emil Krafth gave away a needless free kick and oh of bastard course Ben Dawson nutted one in.

The difference now though is that this hard as nails, organised, competitive and determined Newcastle United was never going to fold. We were straight back into them and equalised just as many had nipped out to avoid the queues for a pint of room temperature Heineken in a plastic glass.

Willock, the best player on the pitch, scored a goal which highlighted just how much he is regaining his self belief. To flick it in how he did from that standing position was outstanding. To have the guts to attempt it tells me this is a kid who is starting to reach the heights. Cue away end pandemonium, people running back from the concourse to join in, 100s of inflatable cats flying around and git in ya beautiful Black & White bastards.

The second half followed a similar pattern. The Hammers had about two minutes just after kickoff when they applied a little pressure but United made them look very ordinary for the most part. The pressing and tackling of the midfield three meant Rice and Soucek had minimal influence, Targett (better than Digne), Burn and Schär took care of their forward players and I do not recall Dubravka making a single save.

Burn and Schär, for all their brilliance at defending, are so good at easing pressure because they can carry the ball, pass well and cover ground by pushing out wide when needed, which then allows the full-backs to push and overlap. We saw it plenty with Targett and Krafth getting deep into the WH half on numerous occasions. The other aspect of Burn and Schär that was pleasing was the fact they were challenging for the ball in the Hammers’ half at times. The complete antithesis of the defending at 12 yards out under the last manager.

The game ended with five minutes of injury time, Bruno’s standard cameo and United seeing it out comfortably. Performances across the team were generally excellent. Those mentioned above, along with Ryan Fraser (graft, skill, great cross for the goal, standard shithousery) and Wood who apparently kept meowing at Zouma, gave everything. I like this team, this manager and this Club right now more than I have for years.

Just a couple of words on the London Stadium. Total shite. Gold, Sullivan and Brady may have gotten away with a nice little earner in the piss take way they got the ground, but dear me, those fans have been flattened by it. There’ll be young Hammers at the match in future turning to a grandparent and asking ‘have we always had a massive carpet around our pitch, grandad’?

There was also a bit pagga at the end as some blokes of ages that you might think would mean they knew better kicked off. Nothing reinforces my belief in humanity as much as seeing two gadgies screaming and threatening to enact industrial scale violence on one another because they support different football teams. Cool story, bro.

Never mind that though, eh? A point away. Solid performances. A manager who was happy and disappointed in equal measure because of the high standards he sets of himself and everyone else. Ryan Fraser shirtless in the away end. Four points outside the bottom three and the chance to go above the team we play next week if we beat them. Things are looking up. HOWAY the lads.