Newcastle beating West Ham 3-2 at a stadium you part own – Can life get any better…?
It is not very often you have an opportunity to visit a stadium that you part own…but that is where we find ourselves as we play West Ham at their publicly owned London Stadium.
This was my first visit to the London Stadium for a football match.
My most recent visit was for a Guns N Roses concert and I also visited during London 2012. During my previous visits it was clear that this stadium is not suitable for football and the resulting experience was just as bad if not worse than I was expecting.
The last time I went to an away game at West Ham it was our last game at Upton Park in September 2015. That day Dimitri Payet tore us apart and it was becoming obvious how poorly equipped we were for what was ultimately a doomed relegation battle. We had an unpopular journeyman manager and ,some new signings who had not delivered yet. Sounds quite familiar..
Upton Park was everything the London stadium isn’t. The crowd was close the pitch, the away concourse felt like a submarine and it was an intimidating place to go. Some would describe it as a proper football stadium.
We made our way to Stratford in low spirits having watched England lose to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final. It seemed to take an age just to get out of Stratford station. There is a lack of signposting or help around the stadium, which is very frustrating and it is very easy to get lost. This was more of a problem when trying to get away from the ground in the dark after the match. It was a complete mess and it took us almost an hour to get back to the station. West Ham need to sort this out urgently.
Entering the ground itself was easy and the concourse was very spacious; very different from the tight concourse at Upton Park. The facilities inside look temporary and were clearly added during the conversion to a football stadium. There is also a lack of places to drink around the stadium and the only beer sold on the concourse was Amstel on draft and Heineken by bottle. As a real ale drinker this was disappointing and the Amstel tasted like it was watered down.
Our seats were located in a temporary area over the running track. We actually walked over the original seats as we entered the stadium. Despite this, our lower tier seats were still well behind the pitch and it was difficult to see much on the far side.
We had supporters in both the upper and lower tier and the supporters in the upper tier were miles behind us. You would have needed binoculars to see anything from there. This really is an awful football stadium and I would not be surprised if West Ham moved out eventually.
As usual, the home supporters joined in with ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ as the teams entered the pitch. This would be the most we would hear from them all day. I always thought it was appropriate that West Ham’s supporters have adopted a song about failure as their club anthem. Maybe we should do the same?
West Ham had not won in their last four PL games and have struggled to find any consistency this season. Despite this, most would have had them down as favourites for this match.
This was West Ham’s last home game before Remembrance Sunday and all supporters observed a silence during the Last Post ahead of kick off.
The match started with Newcastle kicking towards the away end. We start positively and we were able to exploit space behind West Ham’s defence. Fifteen minutes in and Almiron gets in behind Cresswell and he is then hacked down by Issa Diop who is booked. The free kick is delivered by Shelvey to the far post and Joelinton heads it across to Clark who heads it into the net, sparking wild celebrations in the away end. We could not wish for a better start and there is a feeling that West Ham are there for the taking.
We continue to cause West Ham problems with Saint-Maximin having plenty of joy against Zabaleta. He sets up Almiron to win a corner and it is taken short by Shelvey. The ball finds its way to Willems and a beautiful cross is delivered onto the head of Fernandez who scores his first goal for Newcastle. Who needs strikers when we have defenders to score our goals for us!
It has been so long since we last scored two goals that I had forgotten what it felt like and we continue to dominate. Saint Maximin receives a lovely ball from Jetro Willems to go one on one with the goalkeeper. This should be our third but somehow Saint-Maximan fails to convert.
Not long afterwards he is in one on one again and fails for a second time. He receives the ball back and squares it to Almiron who is denied by Roberto Jimenez, the West Ham keeper. We really should have been four up at this point. Seconds later a Jonjo Shelvey drive smashes the crossbar and West Ham look totally rattled.
Despite Newcastle dominating the half, West Ham have a golden chance to cut the deficit before half time. Dubravka makes a fine save from a Balbuena header.
The half time whistle goes. This has comfortably been the best 45 minutes we have played this season and really we should be further ahead. Despite recent criticism our front three looked lively and caused West Ham several problems throughout the half.
West Ham make two substitutions at half time to try to change things. Lanzini comes on for Yarmolenko and Ajeti comes on for Noble.
We start the second half in similar fashion to the first.
Yedlin rightly has an offside goal disallowed by VAR and then Hayden wins a free kick 30 yards from the edge of the box. Shelvey hits a free kick Laurent Robert would be proud of. Usain Bolt may have won the 100 metres Gold at this stadium at London 2012 but you will not see many faster runs than Shelvey’s sprint across the pitch to the away end. This was Shelvey’s best game in a Newcastle shirt for some time.
In contrast, West Ham’s Declan Rice looked completely off the pace and continues to struggle to find his form of last season.
West Ham make another change. After an afternoon of misery Zabaleta is replaced by Fredericks. He was a fine player in his prime but watching him now is like watching a 1960s bubble-gum group appear at a Haven holiday camp in Southend.
West Ham finally start to cause us some problems and win a corner. This time Balbuena does score at the far post and West Ham are back in the game.
Newcastle make all three substitutions in fairly quick succession. Atsu comes on for Saint-Maximin, Paul Dummett comes on for Jetro Willams and Andy Carroll comes on for Joelinton.
Before the game we had discussed what sort of reception Carroll may have got from the West Ham fans on his return but there were hardly any left in the home areas at this point.
Robert Snodgrass then scores a lovely volley in the 90th minute. A nervy five minutes of injury time follows as we hold on for a win which really should have been far more comfortable than the score line suggested.
There was a mix of relief and jubilation in the away end. This was a huge result for us and one we need to build on as we play Bournemouth and Aston Villa in our next two games.
This was easily our best performance this season and I just hope our fans in the upper tier were able to see some of it.
Stats from BBC Sport:
West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – Saturday 2 November 3pm
Clark 16, Fernandez 22, Shelvey 51
Balbuena 73, Snodgrass 90
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was West Ham 69% (68%) Newcastle 31% (32%)
Total shots were West Ham 17 (5) Newcastle 12 (7)
Shots on target were West Ham 6 (2) Newcastle 9 (6)
Corners were West Ham 7 (5) Newcastle 3 (3)
Crowd: 59,907 (3,000 Newcastle)
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Newcastle team v West Ham:
Dubravka, Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Willems (Dummett 87), Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin (Atsu 77), Almiron, Joelinton (Carroll 89)
Darlow, Krafth, Matty Longstaff, Gayle
(Manuel Pellegrini admits he can’t comprehend 3-2 Newcastle United defeat “I do not understand…” – Read HERE)
(West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – Watch all 3 brilliant goals here in the official match highlights – Watch HERE)
(West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s win – Read HERE)
(Steve Bruce just couldn’t resist it…He had to mention Rafa Benitez – Read HERE)
(Essential reading to see what Allan Saint-Maximin promised before West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – Read HERE)
(Alan Shearer perfectly sums it up after Newcastle win 3-2 at West Ham – Read HERE)
(West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – NUFC could and should have won that by 5 or 6 but we’ll take it! – Read HERE)
You can follow Kieran on Twitter @KJR90
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