Not a bridge too far
After a week of speculation over who will be in charge fo the Irons for their visit to Stamford Bridge, with many names daily being added to the list of contenders for Pellegrini's role, it was the charming man who was at the helm. And what a surprise he had ins store for us.
Finally he put Roberto out of his misery replacing him with third choice keeper David Martin. Out also went Yarmolenko who had a poor game against Spurs being replaced by Fornals with Balbuena replacing the suspended Isa Diop. But the biggest surprise was Michael Antonio up front in place of Haller who dropped to the bench. Very few saw that one coming.
Rumour has it that Mark Noble gave a stirring speech in the dressing room before the game. Whatever, the Irons looked a different team from the games played in recent weeks and against all odds turned out 1-0 winners. Closing down and hunting in packs when not in possession, attacking with pace when in possession and more organised at the back. Balbuena and Ogbonna (HOTY so far?) were a rock at the back, solidly assisted by Fredericks and Cresswell, with the latter coming up with the winner. The midfield was full of energy with Anderson and Fornals alternating between the left wing and just off Antonio, Fornals having his best game in a Hammers shirt. Rice was back to his best, with Noble and Snodgrass providing the donkey work. Antonio was a continual hand-fall for the Chelsea back line and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet himself, having a diving header saved by Kepa and a goal disallowed for handball by VAR.
And what of David Martin? Well, considering this was his first game for West Ham and in the his first game in the Premiership, he put in a fine performance. He seemed assured, had good positioning, punched when he needed to but caught most crosses and the one time he did spill the ball he reacted quickly to smother the ball. The big question is why he hasn't started earlier. I feel sure we would not be in this position if he did.
The most touching scene was at the end of the game. Martin dropped to ground and was immediately surrounded by the players who congratulated him. The poor lad was in tears. After going over to applaud the supporters who were singing his name he headed up to the stands to cuddle his Dad Alvin who was commentating ion the game. Once a Hammer, always an Hammer.
Up next for the Irons is an away game at Wolves on Wednesday evening. A tough fixture and I would be happy with a point. I expect a couple of players t be rested. Noble perhaps and Antonio who is still coming back from a long lay off and limped off on Saturday.