Just bloody shoot!

West Ham United 1 Birkirkara FC 0 – The Boleyn Ground – Thursday 16th July 2015
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For the second consecutive Europa League home game, West Ham flattered to deceive against a team they were expected to beat comfortably.  If it wasn’t for James Tompkins stomach the Hammers would have been travelling to Malta next week with the tie all square and the Maltese team recording possibly the greatest result in the countries European history.  West Ham didn’t play well, per se.  The stats don’t lie – 74% of the possession, 8 corners, 18 crosses successfully delivered but for all of those positives, they could only muster 7 shots on target.  All of a sudden, West Ham seem to have become Arsenal overnight.

It seems that someone didn’t do their homework on Birkirkara. Their strength was the centre-back pairing including the vastly experienced Argentinian Mauricio Mazzetti, especially in the air.  So what did West Ham do? Pepper the box with crosses.  Perhaps is Sakho would have been available it may have worked but The Hammers started with Modibo Maiga, a man most of us had forgotten was still at the club after spending the last eighteen months out on loan.  Ineffective is probably a kind description of Modibo’s efforts although he did come closest to scoring when he hit the post in the first half.

FullSizeRender (2)West Ham had a couple of good shouts for penalties in the first period when Birkirkara rode their luck.  Maltese National keeper Justin Haber made a couple of saves, although he was a keeper who loved a dramatic punch when he could have stood up and simply caught the ball but apart from a Zarate first half free-kick he was rarely troubled.  Jarvis and Almafitano had the beating of their full-backs time after time but how West Ham longed for the creative spark and ability to shoot from distance that Stewart Downing brought to the side last season.  Alas, as the game was progressing, Downing was making his way up the A19 with his new Middlesbrough shirt in his bag. The neat passing play across the box was nice to watch but with no one willing to take a shot, the moves broke down much to the increasing annoyance of the 33,500 crowd.

The frustration started to show in the second half as O’Brien, Cresswell and Reid all went into the referees book for late challenges, which gave the Maltese players even more opportunity to waste time.  Nolan was replaced in 79th minute to a chorus of muted boos, the fans not appreciating his defensive approach to the game.

The Maltese fans had chartered a plane to bring them to London for arguably the biggest game in their history and they brought colour and noise to the away section that some Premier League clubs would be proud of.  However, their hopes of a famous result were thwarted in injury time when Cresswell’s corner was missed by Haber and smacked the onrushing Tomkins in the mid-rift and bounced over the line.

So West Ham simply need to avoid defeat next week in Malta, which they should do.  No Maltese team has ever beaten an English team in European competition – that in itself is a fact that should motivate the Hammers to get the job done and progress to Round Three and a tie against Inverness Caledonian Thistle or FC Astra Giurgiu.


On the ninth day of Christmas….the best away day

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, an away trip that fills you with glee.

Football awaydays are what it’s all about.  The planning, the anticipation and then the day itself, full of promise and excitement.  There is nothing we love more at TBIR and EFW than an away day to somewhere new, obviously punctuated with a few beers and a general chat with some new fans.  It doesn’t really matter what the game is or where we are, Beer Football is a universal language, understood by millions of people across the globe.  As you would imagine we went on quite a few of these last year so we had to apply some criteria to come up with the best three.

Firstly we decided it had to be somewhere new.  Secondly it had to be somewhere where the football was essentially secondary, and thirdly somewhere where other people could quite easily replicate the trip.  So that excluded our EFW/TBIR Ocktoberfest as well as our regular trips down to The Dripping Pan.  So here are our three best away days from 2010.

Spakenburg – There was no doubt that this trip would be in the best three of the year.  A weekend filled with football, beer, meeting new and strange people (Jim Donkers anyone) and enough surreal moments to turn Russell Grant into slimmer of the year.  Who would have thought a small village 30 miles south eastish of Amsterdam could hold such a party, but they do and they do it twice a year.  The school disco party after the game was mad enough on its own without their being an identical rival one in the club house next door.  I cannot do this weekend justice in one paragraph so click on the link above or have a butchers at the photos here.

Malta – Malta I hear you say?  Malta?  Yep Malta.  This is one for when you have to give a little back to the lovely lady in your life.  Dirt cheap to get to thanks to the budget airlines, decent hotels at knock down prices, a bit of culture thrown in to boot and if you time it right an opportunity to top up on the tan.  And the football?  Well most teams play at the Ta’Qali, the national stadium meaning double and triple headers are common each week.  It may be a bit of a trek but once there you can enjoy entry for €8 for the day (€4 for the lovely lady in your life) and beers for jut €2 a piece. Want some more proof?  Well have a look at these.

Neath – We love Wales – Fact!   It is a cracking place, to steal a phrase from a well known Welsh based comedy show.  Sod the fact the weather is often crap, the people are top-notch (Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlotte Church anyone?) , the beer is excellent (Brains) and the scenery is marvellous.  Add in the fact it is easy to get to by plane, train, bus, boat or even pony and you have the makings of a great away day.  We could have picked Llanelli, home of our favourite Welsh Porn Star Sophie Dee (WARNING – Contains lots and lots of nudity), Swansea, Carmarthen or Port Talbot but we chose Neath.  Why?  Because it is an old fashion ground, with welcoming locals and some decent football played at The Gnoll, a proper football ground name if ever I saw one.  It also has the legendary nightclub Signals for your post match revelry. Want some more evidence to convince you to go?  Have a look at these pictures.