24 mins: Lanzini hits a first-time left-foot shot from the edge of the box, which loops to Johnstone.
22 mins: A shot! Coufal runs onto the ball, coming infield from the right, chests it down and has an effort from the edge of the area that’s deflected wide.
19 mins: A long throw from West Brom is sent into the area, headed out, sent back in and finally turned towards his own goal by Ogbonna. Quite a good effort on goal, definitely the best of the night so far, and well saved by Fabianski, who must have been surprised that the ball was flying towards him.
17 mins: Soucek’s cross is chested back to Johnstone by O’Shea before Benrahma can get to it. We’re still waiting for a moment of genuine on-the-ball attacking quality.
15 mins: Sam Allardyce is looking quite dapper in an entirely black-or-dark-grey shirt-tie-jacket-coat-trouser combo. He’s an unlikely fashion icon, is Big Sam, but after the weekend’s two-colour scarf he seems to be having a go. David Moyes is wearing a club tracksuit.
12 mins: Grosicki and Coufal go up for a header. Grosicki heads the ball; Coufal heads Grosicki’s elbow; West Ham get a free kick.
9 mins: Another long free-kick is lifted into the West Ham box, and again Antonio wins the header. The game so far has been about the winning and taking of restarts, which I suppose is not entirely surprising.
8 mins: West Ham win a corner, which dips onto the head of Dawson, near the far corner of the six-yard box and completely unmarked, but he’s back-pedalling and his header goes wide.
6 mins: Robinson wins a free-kick near the halfway line, which is lifted into the area, half-cleared by Antonio and then Bowen completes the job by winning a free-kick (which is a much too easy thing for defending players to do these days, and really irritates me, but that’s another story).
3 mins: A slightly imprecise start from all involved ends with Grosicki playing the ball in an entirely opposite direction to the one Robinson’s running in. Goal kick.
Out come the players! It is four minutes to football o’clock.
A photograph that makes Manuel Lanzini look absolutely tiny:
The two managers have a chat. First, David Moyes:
I think momentum in football in general is very good. I’ll take a win no matter how it comes, but we want to keep up the form if we can.
There you go, big stuff there. Now, on dropping Fornals and bringing in Lanzini:
I thought it was just right. We’ve got two or three players who’ve been showing some good form and Manuel’s one. With the number of games we’ve got at this present time, we thought we’d put him in.
Then Sam Allardyce on the return of Sam Johnstone:
It’s obviously quite a difficult one, but I think Sam’s record speaks for itself. Even before I came everybody talked about how outstanding he’s been. At the moment he’s the No1 goalkeeper here. Button stepped in and did brilliantly, but at the moment Sam’s the first choice.
And on the absence of Snodgrass:
That was an agreement between the clubs, that this game he wouldn’t be allowed to play. If we needed to get the player which we did, we had to agree to that.
According to the Express & Star, the only way West Brom could prise Snodgrass from West Ham’s clammy grasp before this match was played was to agree that he wouldn’t play in it.
West Ham make one change to the team that beat Burnley, with Lanzini coming in and Fornals dropping to the bench.
West Brom bring back Johnstone in goal after a Covid-related absence and Gallagher after suspension, and drop Button and Snodgrass, whose unexpected and complete absence was presumably agreed before his move between the clubs earlier this month.
The team sheets are in, and tonight’s star turns will be:
West Ham: Fabianski, Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Lanzini, Benrahma, Antonio. Subs: Balbuena, Yarmolenko, Alves, Noble, Fornals, Diop, Fredericks, Johnson, Randolph.
West Brom: Johnstone, O’Shea, Ajayi, Bartley, Gibbs, Livermore, Sawyers, Matheus Pereira, Gallagher, Grosicki, Robinson. Subs: Furlong, Robson-Kanu, Krovinovic, Ivanovic, Edwards, Peltier, Kipre, Button, Field.
Referee: Scott Graham.
The West derby, then! It must be said that Sam Allardyce wasn’t exactly encouraging when he spoke about this match the other day, insisting that “West Ham is now about trying to come off the pitch undefeated. We can’t go down and say ‘we’re going to win’ in the position we are in.” This sounds distressingly like a coach planning to kill the game and escape with a point to me. Allardyce of course managed West Ham to promotion in 2012 – “I’m glad you said that, that they’re in the Premier League because of me. It’s nice to see them maintain that position and trying to improve on it. It was a job well done and going back can only be a joy to me if we get a result.” – before eventually being sacked and replaced by Slaven Bilic, who was himself sacked by West Brom and replaced by Allardyce. The nation’s managers are, as ever, captive on the carousel of time.
West Brom’s win at Wolves on Saturday was their first away from home this season, and only their second in the league. West Ham have won their last three in all competitions (all of them 1-0) and have lost only to Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal since the dismal but unrepresentative (for both teams) opening-day defeat to Newcastle, so will hope to wrestle their way through Allardyce’s shackles. “We want to win games and we want to keep moving forward,” says David Moyes. Fingers crossed, eh?