West Ham United 4 AEK Larnaca 0 (Aggregate 6-0) Europa Conference League Round of 16 2nd Leg Thursday 16th March 2023

Bowen Brace Sends Hammers Comfortably Through to ECL Quarter Finals

Hope everyone is safe and well.

Life is always throwing curve balls, some you can duck others catch you square on the chin and you step back and try to find your footing before moving on. My recent curve ball was the mediation meeting between us residents of Clare House, heartlessly decanted in such a chaotic and deliberately careless way that the impact has had a lasting mental and physical impact, and Clarion Housing who seem to have gotten away with treating its residents with contempt. 

I am bound by confidentiality clause to reveal any details of the process, but suffice to say we won a pyrrhic victory with compensation but not a real apology for how Clarion’s behaviour, not just in the decant, but before and since that many residents have said has actually changed them as a people. I have been supporting residents as best I can and prepared a long and detailed statement for the start of the mediation  meeting that laid bare what Clarion had done followed by residents own stories – absolutely harrowing stories that show how the whole process has affected us.

The reason I mention all of this is both cathartic and a realisation how difficult it has been to get back to some normality. I’m just finding it hard to be motivated like I used to be and those things I enjoyed before have been difficult to maintain. I’m grateful to have hobbies that occupy my time when I need a distraction, but its been a struggle to maintain some of that routine during these curve ball moments. But I finally managed to sit and edit the photos from our comfortable victory against AEK and to reflect that things will get better over time. I can see little sprouts of hope for the future to show that a new Spring is dawning for me and my family. Timely really.

So, to the match and it was a strange evening, the atmosphere reflected by the fact that attendance was low, the train drivers strike probably kept quite a few fans away. But to be honest it was quite a boring match! Imagine saying that after thumping the visitors 4-0! As the first half progressed it felt as if it was going to be one of those nights where we just mange to get the job done. As it happens, we are now favourites to win a competition that has provided us with some welcome distraction from our poor league form.

Bowen’s brace at the beginning of the second half should not over shadow Scamacca’s scoring our first goal on the night, bringing his total for the season so far to 8, with help from Larnaca’s Bosnian keeper Piric letting the ball roll under him into the net. The game needed a goal and this was followed by a disallowed goal from Scamacca and for the visitors before Gustavo Ledes was shown a red card for a very poor challenge on Fornals, after the VAR check upgraded the original yellow card.

We went into the break 1-0 and with AEK down to 10 men, surely Moyes would say to the team ‘There’s no way back for them now – just go and play and enjoy the match’ And enjoy the match Bowen did with two great goals less than 5 mins after the restart. Scamacca’s shot, parried by Piric, fell to Bowen to drive home. Then his wonderful looping header from Cresswell’s cross to take the tie beyond the struggling visitors. Bowen admits he hasn’t done enough to get into the England squad for the upcoming Euro ’24 qualifiers, but says “It’s not about getting in squads, it’s about playing my ‘A’ game, finishing strongly and going again next season.” Definitely and more of what he showed here please to help us lift our way out of the relegation zone in the coming weeks.

Cue some earlier than expected substitutions with Bowen, Paqueta and surprisingly Scamacca making way for Mubama, Cornet and Ings. Rumours have been circulating about Scamacca and a possible move away from the London Stadium this summer but he was certainly in a a good mood, no doubt boosted by his goal and assist, as he came off and chatted away on the bench to Benrahma. 

And what a treat to see the young local lad Divin Mubama scoring his first goal in only his third senior appearance. Divin, 18 years old, has been with the club since he was 8 and it was wonderful to see him do well. A great opportunity to show what we can expect from him in seasons to come.

Two more prospects in Laing and Potts, who has been compared to Rice, who is son of legendary Hammers defender Steve, made their appearance as the Hammers comfortably saw out the victory to send us through to the next round where we meet KAA Gent, who sit fourth in the Belgian Pro League. 

Clearly pleased to be able to play some of our academy players Moyes said “It’s great when you give players the opportunity to play,” 

“Becoming a professional player is really difficult and you’ve dedicated your career since eight or nine years old to get to this level.”

“Divin, with his energy and running, excites every time and Levi [Laing] and Pottsy [Freddie Potts] also came on.”

“Hopefully it inspires the rest of the academy that if you’re good enough you will get your chance.”

Let’s hope so too. The U18’s are on the verge of winning U18 Premier League South Division as well as a FA Semi Final against Southampton in the Youth Cup. Exciting times ahead for the club? Well, let’s see the senior team get out of the relegation zone then maybe we can see some hope for the future, although a Europa League Final wouldn’t be bad shout either. As long as we don’t get anymore curve balls coming our way to derail us even more. Relegation? No, we got this. Spring is here and hope is in the air.

Take care everyone and hope you enjoy my photos from the match.


Published by dawudmarsh

Photographer based in London.

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