Away day delight

Take a bow, West Ham's travelling army, you were brilliant at Coventry on what was a great day out... all apart from that first 45 minutes, that is!

And for a change, it has to be said that the local police played their part in making the day out for the Cockney army a pleasure.

It's not always the case. Away-day cops can be heavy-handed, disinterested and genuinely unhelpful (I recall last season at Stoke a local bobby told me he didn't know the way to walk back to the railway station when I asked; sometimes you can't make it up).

But this lot of old Bill were helpful, cheerful, full of advice on designated away fans' pubs, and the way to catch buses around a city that is now not blessed with a user-friendly football stadium.

The Ricoh Arena is an excellent ground, but it's three-and-a-half miles from the city centre, with only buses and inflated taxi fares to get you there and back. Not too much of a problem on the way out with many sharing taxis, but trying to get back to the station with many thousand of others is not the easiest... thankfully it wasn't raining.

And the city's bus and railway stations are, unhelpfully, someway apart. But the hard-earned excellent victory made it all OK.

Being in the front row behind the goal did not give me the best perspective of what Coventry's South Stand actually looked like. But the helpful pictures on the club's website gave a very graphic view of what the players could see. A soaring, packed bank of noisy fans. It was a pleasure to be involved.

And Big Sam is right, we created an atmosphere that helped towards the victory, especially with the team kicking towards us in the second-half and trying to recover from being a goal down after the first 45 minutes of nonsense.

No self-respecting player would want to let down a following like that, so passionate, so determined to roar them back to the top flight. In fact, it was something of a watershed really.

There was no booing or abuse when we let in that Coventry goal, with the hard-working Jack Collison knowing he should never have let the cross into the box in the first place.

Maybe it was the day that belief spread from manager to players to fans. The collective feeling that this was a real club effort, spread through the fans. Now there is a nice little gap opening up between ourselves and third spot, and certainly with seventh place.

We just have to keep it going, to start picking up regulation victories at home - starting with Derby on Saturday - and making sure we keep up the excellent away form at Middlesbrough on November 29. I doubt we'll have 6,300 at the Riverside for a midweek trek to the north east, but 2,000 to 3,000 wouldn't surprise me.

It's one of the closer away trips to my home in the north west, so I'll be there, as will no doubt the vast amount of northern based Irons fans. There's a lot of us.

My train from Manchester to Coventry on Saturday even surprised me. It stopped at Stoke, Stafford and Wolverhampton, and when it reached Coventry, hundreds of Hammers fans got off, I think we surprised even ourselves to discover the amount of like-minded fans there are north of Birmingham who loyally follow the team.

As I said, the fans roared the team on to a recovery. Our first-half display was disjointed and handicapped by the now obvious attitude amongst referees that John Carew should be penalised every time he goes for the ball.

He gets tugged, pulled, held and kicked constantly by defenders who seem capable of falling over at every opportunity, with referees underlining how poor officials are in this division. I find myself praying to see the likes of Martin Atkinson, Mark Clattenburg and Andre Marriner again!

I am beginning to dread reading in the match programme that 'today's official is in charge of West Ham for the first time.' It means it is the biggest game of their career and they are intent on making a name for themselves.

Keith Stroud on Saturday was no better than all the rest we have seen. And how he could not see when Mark Noble was chopped down in the box right in front of us on Saturday , is beyond me and I'm sure 6,000 others.

But for all the lackings of the first half, Big Sam's astute tactical changes and the arrival of Carlton Cole, turned the game. Cole looks a different player this season to the uncertain figure of the last campaign, and his strength and power won him that first goal.

That Freddie Piquionne can then arrive, stumble into the six yard box and somehow fumble the ball home off his knee - he knew nothing about the contact really - maybe shows that some of the luck is turning our way.

The experiences of away fans over the past few years has left us not really expecting to feel in anyway joyful when we are heading home. Well, all that seems to be changing for the good.

Our lot were singing in the bus queue, singing on the buses and back at the station, without seeming to bother the police in anyway, Long may it continue.

My son and his mates were missing from this one, being down in Bournemouth for a stag do - Danny, your planning leaves a lot to be desired, and with bride to be Vicky a West Ham fan too - so it was left to the old man to carry the flag.

And it was a real pleasure, thanks to 6,300 people who really believe.

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