Sunday 17 December 2017

Electric Arnie Pushes Sparky Closer to the Sack

Marko Arnautovic's return to Stoke was always going to be a charged affair. Add in that both sides are fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the Premiership and that Stoke gaffer Mark Hughes is favourite to be the next Premiership sacking, and the atmosphere became electric - so much so that there was a power failure and kick off had to be postponed for an hour to allow a restoration of power!

Poor Stoke are on a dreadful run, with 4 defeats in their last five games, while Moyes' men are suddenly playing with conviction having rediscovered how to defend. All of which meant that despite our terrible record there, Hammers fans travelled to the Brittania stadium with more than a little hope of getting a result and maybe even a rare away win! 

And so it was - the hammers started well and although the penalty awarded in the 18th minute was a bit 'soft', their lead was fully deserved. Thereafter, Arnautovic spurned two excellent chances to silence the Stoke fans and a less confident player might have let their head drop. Not Arnie - call him resilient or call him arrogant, but the Austrian kept going and was finally rewarded for his determination and courage in the 75th minute with the goal that killed off his ex-employers. 

As he departed he received further abuse from Stoke fans, one of whom threw a scarf at him, while a visibly irritated Mark Hughes appeared to get involved in an unpleasant exchange with the Austrian. But the torture was not yet over, as Sakho added a third and in reality the Hammers could have had 5 or 6.  

Lanzini and Arnautovic were the standout players for West Ham, but James Collins made a massive contribution in a defence that kept a third consecutive clean sheet (Sorry Slav - that was unthinkable before Moyes arrived!) and thus formed the platform from which the Hammers built this crucial win.

Moyes' men are out of the bottom three and looking at a Tuesday night's League cup clash with the Gooners with relish. That is followed by games against Newcastle (H), Bournemouth (A) and the Baggies (H) in which Moyes will be looking to push towards mid table safety and then strengthen his squad in the January window. In all honesty, things look very good just now for the club. With Spuds (A), Huddersfield (A), Bournemouth (H) and Palace (H) to come in January there is a great chance to turn the season around.

In other matters, Noble notched his 300th appearance for the club before limping off in the 35th minute allowing Declan Rice to get some more valuable game time - something he visibly relished!  Andy Carroll was mysteriously absent from the bench, leading to speculation about a January departure, while Manny Lanzini is reckoned to be heading for a ban for simulation that led to yesterday's penalty.  

A cloud has lifted.



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