That’s the hat-trick!

Whilst I’m not expecting us score as many as against Portsmouth, hopefully we can string a couple of wins together.

Date: Saturday 11th February 2017
Opponent: West Ham United (2nd)
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=7/2, Draw=9/4, West Ham United=4/6
Weather: Drizzle, 5C
Referee: Mr. Lee Probert

Luca D’Avanzo makes his 25th league appearance for us in a game billed as a promotion showdown between 2nd and 4th. We put some pressure on early and force a number of corners. The opening goal comes from a corner in the 12th minute. Oliver Norwood takes an inswinger and Bradley Johnson, 6 yards out at the near post, heads in his 6th goal of the season. Four minutes later, a ball over the top is collected by Cole, but his first touch is heavy and Aaron McCarey is able to smother the ball. Cole shoots from 16 yards in the 21st minute, but McCarey is able to make the save and we clear for a throw. Three minutes later, Nolan shoots from 10 yards. Despite being so close, it goes wildly over the bar. West Ham are piling the pressure on and McCarey is called into action again in the 26th minute, with Cole being denied from 18 yards. McCarey doesn’t hold, but we clear and Federico Cenci picks up the clearance but gets fouled by Mora, who has his name taken by Mr. Probert. A cross from the left wing in the 33rd minute is met by the head of Faubert 8 yards out, but it’s straight at McCarey and he holds. Two minutes later, McCarey again denies Faubert from 8 yards, although he’s unable to hold this time. We are able to clear the ball to safety. In the 37th minute, we have a rare opportunity when an outswinging Norwood corner is met 6 yards out at the near post by Cenci, but his header goes just over. Two minutes before half time, Mora goes through Cenci. It’s a clear free kick and booking, but Mr. Probert waves play on.

Michel shoots from 20 yards in the 48th minute, but there’s no danger to West Ham’s goal as it goes high and wide. Faubert crosses from the right in the 54th minute and Cole levels the scores from 6 yards. I introduce Michele Marconi for Jonny Hayes in the 57th minute; Marconi plays as striker, with Cenci moving to the right wing. West Ham continue to pressure and McCarey saves from Cole from 20 yards in the 61st minute. Matic enters Mr. Probert’s book one minute later for a foul on Michel. Three minutes later, Nolan joins him in the book for a foul on Norwood. With 23 minutes left, Johnson plays in Michel and he hits a first-time curling effort from 20 yards – Boffin saves well and pushes away, allowing the defence to put it behind for a corner. Norwood takes the resulting corner and it’s an outswinger that is met by the head of Cenci at the near post 6 yards out. He heads the ball powerfully downwards and Boffin parries. It’s going in, but Ward-Prowse clears off the line. Johnson enters Mr. Probert’s book in the 73rd minute for a foul on Nolan. Cole remains a threat and he fires just over from 20 yards in the 75th minute. Four minutes later, Michel shoots from five yards further out, but the result is same. With 5 minutes to go, Cenci tangles with Viler in the area and goes down. Mr. Probert’s whistle goes. PENALTY! Cenci steps up. It’s high to Boffin’s right. It’s in! It’s his 19th goal of the season and surely the winner. Loic Fournier replaces Michel in the 90th minute as I look for a defensive midfielder to screen the defence and see the game out. He does and we record the win.

Result: Exeter City 2-1 West Ham United
Man of the Match: Faubert
Ratings: GK-McCarey (6.9), DR-Zapotoka (6.9), DCR-D’Avanzo (6.9), DCL-Vukovic (6.9), DL-Riccardi (7.0), MCR-Norwood (7.5, A), MCL-Johnson (7.4, G, booked), AMR-Hayes (6.2, sub 57), AMC-Michel (6.9, sub 90), AML-Besse (6.9), ST-Cenci (7.2, G). Subs-Marconi (6.9, on 57), Fournier (on 90). Unused-Bertolucci, Rentea, Keane.
Attendance: 8,714
League Position: 3rd
Match Stats:

West Ham #FM12

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Not a great performance, but we scrape the win. It’s an important win against a rival at the top of the table and it’s the third time this season we’ve beaten West Ham 2-1 (although we did require stoppage time in the League Cup). It was a nerveless late penalty from Cenci to seal the win.

Stefano Colantuono, the manager of Atalanta, was in attendance. He’s rumoured to be interested in signing Jagos Vukovic.

Dacian Varga resumes full training. However, we lose Jan Pavlov for three months with a broken ankle that he picks up in a reserve team game.

Birmingham City and Middlesbrough both offer to loan Will Keane for 2 months and a future fee of £275,000 to buy him at any point during the loan spell. With Birmingham being top of the league, I reject their offer as I don’t want to help a promotion rival. I negotiate Middlesbrough’s offer, removing the future fee.

Danny Dyer’s nemesis

Three and a half weeks after our League Cup thriller against West Ham, we travel to London to take them on in the league.

Date: Saturday 17th September 2016
Opponents: West Ham United (1st)
Venue: Boleyn Ground
Odds: West Ham United=4/7, Draw=5/2, Exeter City=4/1
Weather: Dry, 16C
Referee: Mr. Steve Tanner

Catalin Rentea reaches a milestone, making his 25th league appearance for us and in his career. Ten minutes in, Bertin Matip is booked. Ideally, I would not want a defensive midfielder playing the role of ball-winning midfielder booked (especially so early), but he’s been impressive recently. A minute later, Federico Cenci shoots from 10 yards, but Boffin is equal to it. Cenci has another go to break the deadlock in the 28th minute when he shoots from 25 yards. The shot is too hot to handle for Boffin and he spills it, but West Ham are able to clear for a throw. West Ham’s first chance of note comes in the 31st minute when Stephens shoots from 20 yards. He beats Jonathan Bond, but not the post and Rentea is on hand to clear the ball for the safety of a throw. Five minutes before half time, Bradley Johnson unleashes an effort from 30 yards and it goes narrowly over. Cole shoots from closer range (18 yards) in stoppage time, but it’s little more than catching practice for Bond.

Johnson opens up the action in the second half with another effort from outside the box, shooting from 25 yards in the 48th minute. He’s able to keep the shot down, but unfortunately it’s straight at Boffin who saves easily. Cenci enters Mr. Tanner’s book in the 64th minute following a foul. West Ham take the free kick and slide the ball in for Cole. Jagos Vukovic is alert to the danger and slides in. He avoids fouling Cole and gets to the ball first. Unfortunately, Bond was rushing out and Vukovic’s touch sends the ball past him into the net for an own goal. Faubert picks up a yellow card in the 73rd minute after fouling Dacian Varga, but unfortunately we can’t use our free kick as profitably as West Ham did theirs. Time is running out and in the 76th minute, I make a double substitution; Michel (making his 225th league appearance) replaces Jay Spearing, whilst Philipp Langer comes on for Cenci. We create a chance immediately, but Boffin gets down well to deny Varga from 16 yards in the 78th minute. Two minutes later, Matip takes an inswinging corner and Langer meets it at the near post with his head. It’s in! The equaliser! It’s Langer’s first league goal for us and his second goal of the season. His previous goal? In that League Cup thriller against West Ham. Lightning does strike twice! And what an impact sub! A minute later, Scott Malone enters Mr. Tanner’s book. In the 90th minute, Mujachi meets an inswinging corner with his head 10 yards out. It goes just wide and the scores stay level. Three minutes into stoppage time, Hayes gets into the area and Coulibaly jumps in to a tackle. Mr. Tanner’s whistle blows. He points to the spot! Penalty! A chance to win it! Varga puts the ball down on the spot. He shoots to Boffin’s right. Boffin dives to his right. But it’s out of his reach. It’s in! Varga has won it for us in stoppage time with his first goal of the season! West Ham kick off. They go down the right and cross it in. Anderson meets it at the far post. He heads it from 6 yards out and… it rattles the bar! We clear and Mr. Tanner puts the whistle to his mouth and blows for full time. Another match full of excitement against West Ham.

Result: West Ham United 1-2 Exeter City
Man of the Match: Jonny Hayes
Ratings: GK-Bond (6.9), DR-Rentea (6.9), DCR-Karlsen (6.9), DCL-Malone (6.9, booked), DMC-Spearing (6.7, off 76), MCR-Matip (7.1, A, booked), MCL-Johnson (6.9), AMR-Hayes (7.6, G), AML-Varga (7.2, G), ST-Cenci (6.7, booked, off 76). Subs: Michel (on 76), Langer (7.4, G, on 76). Unused: Spasov, King, Koch
Attendance: 31,898
League Position: 10th
Match Stats:

West Ham stats #FM12

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It was a bit of a late show, but the stats show that we had the better of the game. We put in an excellent away performance, limiting their chances. I would have settled for a point before the game, so am absolutely delighted with the late winner, although the immediate counter attack from West Ham from the kick off brought back memories from our last gasp equaliser against Portsmouth.

The Rangers manager, Ally McCoist was amongst the 31,898 in attendance at the Boleyn Ground. He’s rumoured to be keeping an eye on Bradley Johnson, who didn’t have his best game but showed that he’s prepared to shoot from distance. Newport County offer to loan Ivan Byram for a month and all parties agree to the deal.

Back home for a Cup thriller

After our away trips in the league, our attention goes back to the League Cup and a home fixture.

Matchday Information

Date: Tuesday 23rd August 2016
Opponents: West Ham United
Venue: St. James Park
Odds: Exeter City=7/4, Draw=N/A, West Ham United=5/4
Weather: Breezy, showers, 16C
Referee: Mr Howard Webb

It’s a changed side that takes to the field and we start well, with Miltos Makris shooting from 18 yards in the 4th minute, but Boffin isn’t caught napping and just gets across in time to push the ball wide for a corner. Alain Besse shoots from 25 yards in the 9th minute and his shot gets deflected. It loops up and is dropping in until Boffin pushes it over the crossbar. Caridi enters Mr Webb’s book in the 21st minute following a foul on Will Keane. West Ham’s first chance of note comes in the 29th minute when Stephens hits an absolute rocket from 25 yards. It has plenty of power, but is lacking in direction (just!) and goes wide. The 37th minute sees Keane beat the offside trap. He slides the ball past Boffin from 18 yards, but unfortunately sends it the wrong side of the post. Mora joins Caridi in Mr Webb’s book in the 40th minute following a foul on Lasse Karlsen.

We start the second half on the front foot and four minutes after the break, Keane dribbles into the area and shoots from 16 yards, but the finish lets down the good work as he pulls it wide. It’s a costly miss as eight minutes later, Stephens plays in Cole and he lashes the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards. West Ham push on and in the 63rd minute, Metodi Spasov is called into action when Berrera shoots from 18 yards, but he saves comfortably. Florian Koch comes on to replace Adriano Gazzoli in the 64th minute and I make a double change in the 70th minute, with Phillip Langer replacing Keane and Ryan Mason coming on for Besse. Makris takes an inswinging corner in the 84th minute and Langer meets it at the near post with a header. He’s 6 yards out. It hits the outside of the post and goes out for a goal kick. In the first minute of stoppage time, it’s another inswinging Makris corner. The ball falls loose. Langer reacts. He puts the ball into the net for his first ever goal for the club! We’re off to extra time.

Makris sets up the first chance of extra time in the 97th minute when a deep cross goes to the far post and is met by Koch, who heads it back where it came from, but it goes just over from 8 yards. 3 minutes later, Cole meets a cross from the left and hits the bar with a header from 6 yards out and it goes just over. In the 113th minute, Mason cuts the ball back from the left. A defender gets in the way. But he doesn’t clear the ball, just deflects it. To Koch. He’s 12 yards out. He blasts the ball into the roof of the net for his first ever goal for the club! Loic Fournier picks up a yellow card in the 2nd minute of stoppage time as we hold out for the win.

Post Match

Result: Exeter City 2-1 West Ham United (AET)
Man of the Match: Miltos Makris
Ratings: GK-Spasov (6.9); DR-Judge (7.3); DCR-D’Avanzo (8.0); DCL-Karlsen (7.4); DL-Malone (7.2); MCR-Cizek (6.9); MCL-Fournier (6.9, booked); AMR-Gazzoli (6.6, off 64); AMC-Besse (6.8, off 70); AML-Makris (8.3, A); ST-Keane (6.5, off 70). Subs-Koch (7.7, G, on 64); Mason (6.9, on 70); Langer (7.4, G, on 70). Unused-Wilkinson, King, Riccardi, Matip
Attendance: 5,740
Match Stats:

West Ham stats #FM12

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A strong impact from the subs and it’s great to know that we’ve got some game-changers who can come on. The draw for the third round is made and it will be a trip to Brighton for us. Karl Chaplin agrees to join Bristol Rovers on loan and they immediately offer to loan Dennis Judge, which I reject.

Can you blow bubbles while sleeping?

We take a trip to the Boleyn Ground to play 18th-placed West Ham United and travel as 11/5 underdogs. Stephen Darby is my only change, coming in for the injured Catalin Rentea. Jonathan Bond reaches a milestone, making his 75 league appearance for the club. As we kick off, it emerges that Blackpool boss Hector Cuper is one of the 25,046 in attendance – the media report that he’s interested in signing Bradley Johnson. West Ham start the stronger and get a few early corners, but nothing of note happens until the 22nd minute when Spence enters the referee’s notebook for fouling Michele Marconi. Three minutes later, Bertin Matip has a go from 25 yards, but his shot goes just over. Spence has an attempt from 10 yards in the 38th minute, but Bond pushes it over the bar for a corner. Sean Morrison ends a dull first half by picking up a yellow card for fouling Cole.

West Ham open the scoring six minutes into the second half through Jantscher and it’s completely out of keeping with, well everything that’s gone before it. Jantscher is 30 yards out, looks up and lets a shot go that beats Bond, hits the underside of the bar and goes in. I knew we were going to concede again after some good defensive performances and if we only concede goals as good as that, I’ll be a happy manager as we’re not likely to be conceding goals like that on a regular basis. West Ham’s lead lasts six minutes; Dacian Varga crosses from the right and Bradley Johnson slides in and converts from 8 yards for his 11th goal of the season; Varga’s assist is his 15th of the season, which is a new club record (beating the 14 by Petar Zlatinov in 2012/13) That’s certainly not going to result in Cuper losing interest in him. I bring on Federico Cenci in the 60th minute as a replacement for Jonny Hayes and two minutes after coming on, he takes a free kick from 20 yards that goes over. Four minutes from time, Faubert crosses and Jantscher gets his second of the game. Or at least he would if the linesman’s flag wasn’t up – he’s narrowly offside and the scores remain level. Noble tries to replicate Jantscher’s trick of scoring from 30 yards in the 90th minute, but Bond is able to push it around the post for a corner and we survive for a point. Daniel Berger claims Man of the Match with a rating of 7.5 and we stay 4th. It wasn’t a pretty match and with the exception of Jantscher’s stunning strike, it would have been guaranteed last place on any highlights show.

Tunisian M/AM (RC) Walid Abboud and Ghanaian midfielder Johnson Turkson both join on a week’s trial. I can only assume that they didn’t see the West Ham match, which was full of uninspiring football. It had the feel of an end of season match with nothing to play for, which certainly wasn’t the case. Still, a point gained and a performance to put behind us.

West Ham United 2-0 Liverpool

West Ham United recorded a comfortable home victory over Liverpool. Michail Antonio opened the scoring for West Ham in the 10th minute with a header from 6 yards out. The goal was controversial, as Antonio appeared to have fouled Alberto Moreno at the other end of the pitch 20 seconds before, with Moreno staying down. Regardless of whether it was a foul or not, Liverpool should have defended better and it was a poor goal to concede. West Ham pushed on and looked likely to score just about every time they attacked, with a shot from Manuel Lanzini swerving viciously and leaving Simon Mingolet a spectator as the far post kept the score at 1-0. Lanzini went off injured and West Ham seemed to become more defensive, but Liverpool struggled to create anything; the closest they came was a shot from Emre Can on the edge of the area, which hit the crossbar and went over.

Liverpool started the second half continuing to control the game, but not creating any real chances. West Ham extended their lead in the 55th minute as a cross from Mark Noble found Andy Carroll at the far post, who powered a header into the net, sending it back across from where it had come from. This didn’t alter the pattern of the game too much and West Ham had a couple of good chances to extend their lead further, whilst Liverpool’s best chance saw substitute Joe Allen head wide from around 10 yards out.