An Arctic Almanacker: Southampton v West Ham – Hammers’ heart attack material (yet again).

Safely ensconced in my unit protected from the Arctic cold (it’s only -28ºC outside), the light finally emerged on the far southern horizon over the hauntingly beautiful Richardson Mountains to the west of the tiny remote community I am a part of (Fort McPherson, NWT, Canada) until June 2020.


I log on to my computer and due to the wonder of the internet coming in loud and clear, I can watch the second half of the Hammers playing the Southampton Saints (in at least – mercifully – their red and white vertical stripes). This is a potential six-point game in the fight to stay in the well paid top flight.


The Hammers in an unfamiliar navy blue with a hint of purple across the shoulder, their manager Manuel Pellegrini’s grey bouffant standing out against the dark blue of his Umbro tracksuit as he looks on, watching the game sitting uncomfortably from those ridiculous auto racing car seats found on the sideline in the Premier League.


So here I am after a dark but warm and dreamless Arctic sleep…I’m trying to get excited looking at a stadium called St Mary’s. I think the Saints will need her help to stay up for this 2019-20 season throughout the long bleak Northern winter.


I check the app on my phone to see the ladder position of my team – only 4 away game victories for the claret and blue since this time last year. This is why I look: every year that Hammers fans just find it so hard to believe it is a “super” London club when it fights every year against the forces pulling the club down the table to relegation.


I start to concentrate on watching the game. It’s already well into the second half – so not that long left to concentrate – I notice that the Hammers are up 1 nil.


70 minutes


Southampton hit the bar – my heart’s in my mouth. Djenepo (#12) of Mali flicks it onto Ings who then rifles it into the bar (the Hammers’ best defender is the woodwork!)


71 minutes


The Saints hit the post!! But it’s called offside and Ings is denied – VAR would have allowed the goal even though the linesman’s flag was up – but VAR does not need to check it due to the post getting in the way of fiercely struck shot.


73 minutes


Snodgrass is replaced by a Ukrainian international…the commentator didn’t even mention his name and I struggle to recognise him.


75 minutes


I hear a familiar name that I do recognise: Noble. Then another: Creswell. In a flash, another Saints attack and the ball is in the back of the net from Ings but the whistle had gone for a dodgy free kick…. it’s the 3rd escape for the pride of Bow Bells in less than ten minutes.


For the first Hammers attack that I witness McCarthy in a fashionable goal keeper green (the Saints’ custodian) saves the attacking Hammer’s header during a rare attacking raid for the East Londoners.


The game hangs in the balance, like a well-weighted corner kick waiting for an expectant head.


It’s 12:06pm on Saturday afternoon, the sun not up yet outside the light is growing slowly into twilight as I sit at my lap top. I’m enjoying the unusual occurrence of seeing the Premier League in a friendly time zone instead of the middle of the night back home in Australia.


Still, there will only be 40 minutes of actual sunlight outside today, the gloom reflective of the Hammers’ poor start to the season.


79 minutes


The Hammers’ Yarmolenko – so that’s his name!! The previously unnamed Ukrainian fires a shot over the bar from the 12 yard box.


Now a Colombian comes on for the Hammers – I check my app for his name, can’t find it, need to watch the action…


84 minutes


The Saints bring Stuart Armstrong on for Long. 6 minutes to go for this do or die struggle…one touch passes a highlight of two lowly teams fighting for survival.


86 minutes


Another shot from the Saints misses Ings and misses to the left by a metre. Adams comes on for the Saints #10 (a striker who has not had a shot in his last six games).


87 minutes


Noble comes off slowly and Diop comes on. The Saints with a dead ball free kick – the ball pinballs around – a howitzer shot towards the penalty area is parried away by the men in “navy blue” (oh how I hate that phrase as a Richmond Tigers fan). A Saints player sprawls on the deck and looks up pleadingly; a free kick is awarded by referee Martin Atkinson when his long wrinkly arms points to a spot 5 yards outside the box.


89 minutes


The “dead ball situation” free kick is taken and it loops weakly, straight at Martin the keeper. A fizzer, as they say in the terraces.


4 additional minutes to go, my heart begins to race. Can I witness a win? Will I be disappointed yet again?
Hammers fans are singing: “Here we go”, I think they are celebrating too soon.


I witness a desperate dogfight for the ball in the Saints’ attacking penalty box, feet flying, shots blocked and desperation personified in the 91st minute – then the Saints’ Stevens has the ball at his feet at only ten yards out on an angle. Then a corner… The Hammers parry away like a fencer pushing a foil away. With my heart thumping, can I see a Hammers victory?


93 minutes


The Hammers’ keeper gets a yellow card for time wasting for not taking his goal kick with only a tick of time left.
Damien Martin goes down with a thigh injury as he finally takes the kick after the yellow card…soccer players who continually take dives after hardly any contact (which goes against every hard-hitting rugby player in the world) brings out my inner cynic. Just get on with it. The crowd boos.


There should be 40 seconds to play.


Now it’s a drop ball, the Hammers kick it away.


95’53”, the whistle sounds.


A change of formation, a change of attitude, a change of luck – Hammers win.


Antonio absolutely magnificent say the commentators.


Sebastian Haller scored the winner in the first half – which I never saw.


4 points clear of the dreaded relegation zone, the Hammers are up to 15th with their 2nd victory in 11 games.


A big, big win. West Ham don’t play ‘til Boxing day so we supporters can bask in the afterglow for a little while. Well it’s time to put the washing on, do the washing up, look at the latest emails and check the temperature: it’s still -28ºC below; no need to go outside.



Southampton 0 West Ham United 1


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About Richard Marlow

a humble middle-years teacher in a “middle of the road” private school in Brisbane having being a pastor, a youth worker, a school chaplain, a bank johnnie – 3 different banks, worked in Jails, driven a cab and been in bands amongst other things.

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