And that's all from me. For all that West Ham never looked likely to get anything but a beating, I thought this was mildly encouraging for them. Carroll, in particular, fits very well into that kind of team, and was the only player who really looked like scoring. City won, always looked like winning, and should have won many more games this season in that kind of straightforward style. Now, go follow the 3pm kick-offs with Ian McCourt here.

Final score: Manchester City 2-1 West Ham

That's yer lot. And now we know, Manchester City are better than West Ham. City should have scored more goals, though, and conceded fewer.

GOAL! Manchester City 2-1 West Ham (Carroll, 90+4 min)

A high, loopy cross from the right is chested down by Carroll and then thumped at goal right-footed. There's plenty of power in the shot, but it's straight at Hart, who fumbles it through his legs.

90+1 min: Zabaleta's bobbly, deflected shot is mishandled by Jaaskelainen, allowing Aguero to get to the ball and send it goalwards, but in the end it bounces about a foot wide. We're into four minutes of stoppage time.

90 min: Hart is now receiving treatment for what appears to be a sore lower back. He's fine, but exercising his grimacing muscles.

89 min: At the other end Demel and Aguero battle for the ball, Demel falls down, but just as it looks like Aguero is about to run clear for an easy goal, Demel sticks out a toe and pokes the ball back to his keeper.

88 min: Good save from Hart! West Ham cross from the right, Carroll's header is really excellent in the circumstances, kind of backheaded low and on target, but Hart keeps it out.

87 min: Zabaleta gets to the byline and pulls back for Agüero, whose shot hits Demel's arsecheek. City take off Nasri and bring on another Touré.

GOAL! Manchester City 2-0 West Ham (Y Touré, 83 min)

Goooaaaallllllllllll! Yaya Touré, probably sick to death like all the rest of us of all the little people in pale blue faffing about around West Ham's penalty area, gets hold of the damn thing himself and thwacks it left-footed into the far corner from about 19 yards. Nice hit.

81 min: West Ham have a chance! Jarvis takes a free-kick from the right and sends it low into the area, where it bounces around a bit before falling to Collins, who shoots wide. In the build-up to the free kick West Ham made a double substitution, taking off Nolan and O'Brien and bringing on Cole and Taylor.

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78 min: David Silva is off. James Milner is on.

77 min: Fight! Or at least some mild confrontation! O'Brien kicks Zabaleta quite hard in the shins, and the City player gets up and seems to ask why, quite forcefully. O'Brien is booked, quite rightly, for the foul. Zabaleta is booked for not being happy about it.

75 min: This half has actually been OK. West Ham have improved markedly, but are still one excellent player away from being genuinely competitive against the likes of City, I fear. "I believe it were The Stranglers who came up with the correct use of celery," writes Philip Podolski. "They once dealt with a heckler by bringing the guy onstage, pulling down his pants and sticking a stalk of the vegetable where the sun don't shine. True story, I think." Google suggests this did actually happen, at the Manhattan Ritz in 1987.

72 min: Impossible miss! Aguero carries the ball quite brilliantly out of his own half and then plays in Tevez on the right, whose cross is absolutely perfect for Nasri to run onto at the far post. The Frenchman, though, lets the ball run under his studs.

70 min: Diamé has the ball on the edge of the penalty area. In front of him Nolan and Carroll are heavily marked, to the left an unmarked Jarvis. He scoops the ball up towards Nolan, who successfully battles for possession and lays the ball back to Diamé, who again ignores the unmarked Jarvis and scoops the ball into the penalty area, from where it is cleared. Jarvis looks narked.

67 min: Aguero is played through on the left, beats Collins with ease and pulls the ball back to Tevez, 10 yards out, who sidefoots the ball straight at the nearest defender. "West Ham are the perfect team for really good teams to play at home," writes Niall Mullen. "They really don't try to win and are not good enough to defend against real quality. It's why they lose at Old Trafford & The Etihad but pick up points at, say, Anfield. It's also why I'm not bothering to watch this nothing game."

65 min: Silva's corner from the right goes all the way across the penalty area without anyone getting a touch. West Ham promptly take off Vaz Te and bring on Jack Collison.

64 min: City keep the ball for ages, and then give it away, Nasri attempting an audacious flick into the penalty area. "Americans. Americans put celery in any 'salad' sandwich filling ie tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad," mourns someone I can only call skorowitz. "We also put raisins in almost any pastry-type product. Under-promise and over-deliver … that's our collective motto. At least where useless and unwanted is concerned."

61 min: A super pass from Tevez finds Nasri in space in the penalty area, but his stinging shot is pushed away by Jaaskelainen.

58 min: Another West Ham cross from the left, this one brushes against Zabaleta's arm, leading the visitors to claim a penalty. His arm wasn't up, though, and the ball was struck at close range, and Webb is right to ignore the appeals.

56 min: West Ham win, and waste, another corner – Caroll got to the ball first, and again reckons it brushed Lescott on its way out. The visitors are at least having a bit of a go this half, and have done more attacking in these last 10 minutes than in the entire opening period.

54 min: Nasri's lovely dinked ball finds Tevez in the area, but Collins throws himself at the ball to block the shot.

52 min: Jarvis crosses from the left again, and Carroll controls and volleys left-footed high and wide. He thinks the ball deflected off Lescott's boot, but the referee does not.

50 min: Silva is played into space on the right of the penalty area. A lot of space. So much space that he stops to think about what to do with it, and still hasn't made up his mind when Reid arrives to tackle.

48 min: Silva's extremely weak shot from 25 yards is picked up by Jaaskelainen. Michael Linderoth suggests that a hangover would be an acceptable excuse for putting celery in an egg sandwich. I'm not at all sure that an excuse exists. Other than really, really liking celery.

46 min: As in the first half, the team kicking off go straight on the attack. A couple of decent crosses, the second cleared for a corner by Zabaleta.

Peeeeeeeeeep!

46 min: They're off! Again!

I have taken advantage of the half-time interval to pop to the cafe down on the main ground floor public space in Kings Place and buy an egg and cress sandwich. There is celery in it. Who puts celery in an egg sandwich?

There was a Diamé shot that I basically missed while I was wrestling with my computer, and was actually quite good – a volley from 20 yards that flew at a fair old pace into Hart's midriff. I need to put that right, as some of you may otherwise believe that they didn't have a shot at all in that half, and that would be wrong. They had one.

Half-time

45+1 min: And that's yer lot. For now. It's been, um, alright.

45 min: Now Jarvis crosses from the left, and Carroll actually wins the header, which flicks off Lescott's head and out of play.

44 min: Nolan crosses from the right, and it's a massive improvement on previous deliveries from the visitors, in that it's only just too high for everyone in the middle, rather than far too high, or easily cleared.

42 min: Agüero has the ball in a wonderful position, 25 yards out, central and with Tevez right and Nasri left, but he badly overhits his ball to Tevez and West Ham regroup.

40 min: West Ham put the ball into City's penalty area! It's cleared.

38 min: City have scored in 48 consecutive home league matches, a feat they last achieved in 1930.

36 min: West Ham prepare for the free-kick, this time on the left, pile all the big men forward, and then slide the ball down the line for Jarvis, who is half a yard offside.

35 min: Kompany reads Jarvis's run and takes the ball cleanly. Jarvis is so disappointed that he runs straight into the defender head first, and wins a free-kick.

33 min: West Ham win a free-kick on the right, pile all the big men forward, and then slam the free-kick over the lot of 'em and straight out of play.

31 min: Now Barry scoops a shot over the bar, and also quite wide, from 20-odd yards.

30 min: Chance! Silva's shot from 23 yards is too sharp for Jaaskelainen to hold, and Zabaleta gets to the rebound first only for West Ham's goalkeeper to get up quick and save.

GOAL! Manchester City 1-0 West Ham United (Sergio Agüero, 28 min)

Now that is good. Touré passes to Nasri, on the edge of the area, who taps inside to Silva and sprints towards the byline to collect the return before pulling back to Agüero, who pops the ball in at the near post. Pok-pok-pok-pok-pok.

27 min: In an unexpected development, Silva gives away a free-kick for fouling Nolan.

24 min: The minute's applause goes off applausingly.

22 min: Manchester City hit the post! Silva's pass is aimed at Tevez but deflects off a defender to Agüero, in the penalty area, whose mishit effort bounces against an upright. That'll teach West Ham to be so impudent.

22 min: West Ham attack! Diamé, in the centre circle, tries to play in Jarvis but Lescott gets the ball instead.

21 min: Are Sky's microphones broken, or is everyone in the stadium basically snoozing? Anyway, Silva has another shot, this one scooped over the bar from 20 yards.

20 min: Carroll tries to tackle Agüero, gets a tiny bit of ball but quite a lot of player and is booked.

18 min: Ooooooooh! Carroll heads a corner to the edge of the area, Barry gets to it first but is instantly fouled, and before Howard Webb can blow his whistle the ball breaks to Silva, just inside the left corner of the area, and his shot zips just wide of the far post.

17 min: Another couple of minutes of keep-ball ends with Tevez, attempting to prevent a goal-kick, giving West Ham a throw-in near the corner flag.

14 min: City are hogging the ball, and almost visibly wondering what to do with it. Silva eventually tries a clever ball towards Agüero, which Jaasekelainen comes out to catch.

12 min: David Silva is being picked on a bit, and has just been kicked over for the third time already, by Diamé, who gets a warning.

11 min: It's all slightly low-key at the moment. Jarvis curls a right-footed cross over the penalty area and straight out of play. Sam Allardyce is practically horizontal on one of City's deluxe padded bench-sofas.

9 min: Lovely ball from Tevez inside the full-back to Zabaleta, but Jarvis gets back to block the low cross.

7 min: The first shot of the match comes a few seconds after Kevin Nolan, just outside the penalty area, tries to play the ball through to Carroll. He fails, City break and it ends with a Tevez shot from 20 yards bouncing awkwardly, but not awkwardly enough, in front of Jaaskelainen.

5 min: West Ham doing what they do, working the ball down the channels, making sure that one or both of Carroll and Nolan is in the middle for the cross. So far, though, they are yet to actually cross. That's where it breaks down. "I fail to understand the mentality of the Man City team (if a team can be said to have one)," says Ian Copestake. "If they could not motivate themselves to defend their title game in game out then there must be a lot of confused heads in the City team as they wonder what they are meant to be doing today." The hope is, I believe, that their interest will be more piqued by United's title victory than it was by the possibility of their own.

2 min: Reid fouls Silva in midfield, which is where much of the early action has been.

Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

1 min: They're off! City do the honours, and 10 seconds later, Nasri having slalomed through West Ham's entire team, Tevez is played through but offside.

Interesting stat from Sky commentator Rob Hawthorn: the last time this first XI appeared in a league match was the last day of last season, and that ludicrous last-gasp win over QPR.

They are now walking out of the tunnel. Action even more imminent. They really did spend a long time in that tunnel.

The teams are in the tunnel. Action is imminent.

There will be a minute's applause in memory of Marc Vivien Foé, who played with distinction for both of these sides before his sudden death a decade ago, in the 23rd minute of today's match.

"We want to finish well," says Roberto Mancini, during a really stunningly dreary interview on Sky. Of his team changes, he says "I think that Silva and Agüero are two important players for us, and I hope they can play with no problem today", and he adds that Joleon Lescott "is a serious player". So there you go.

On Sky they're busy speculating about City's summer spending. My opinion: if they do strengthen they'll be a fearsome squad indeed. I don't see their squad as being inferior to Manchester United at all, it's just that too many of them haven't performed well enough. It's an issue of management, rather than manpower. Sure, Robin van Persie has been very good and has turned United from runners-up into champions, but if, say, Agüero and Nasri had played as well as they can on a more regular basis, City would have been just fine without him. There's no point spending big if they can't get their players to play to their potential.

The teams!

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Y Touré, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Tevez, Agüero. Subs: Pantilimon, Milner, Dzeko, Kolarov, Javi Garcia, K Touré, Nastasic.
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, O'Brien, Reid, Collins, Demel, O'Neil, Diame, Vaz Te, Nolan, Jarvis, Carroll. Subs: Henderson, Carlton Cole, Collison, Taylor, Noble, Pogatetz, Joe Cole.
Referee: Howard Webb.

West Ham are unchanged from the team that beat Wigan last weekend. Manchester City bring in David Silva, Sergio Agüero and Joleon Lescott. Full teams to come imminently.

Hello world!

A game of football. That's what we've got to kick-start our footballing weekend (though that job was really done by Nathaniel Chalobah for Watford at Leicester last night). Competitions – leagues, cups, that kind of thing – are basically a means of adding significance to football matches by putting something at stake beyond the simple but fleeting joy of victory or the disappointment of defeat, but if every team starts a league with a large number of possible outcomes – relegation, promotion, the title, whatever – with each game the possibilities are reduced. Until, eventually, as the season nears its end, you start to get matches between teams whose possible outcomes have been reduced to one. At that point, all you've got left is a game of football. In a world of album tracks, this is a single. So here, in case you feel a need for a musical interlude at this point, is a single that was never released on an album (unless you count greatest hits, which we don't).

West Ham have 42 points. They are logically, if not mathematically, safe from relegation but cannot qualify for Europe. Manchester City have 68 points, and even if their place in the Champions League isn't totally secure, their players are good enough, and their remaining fixtures straightforward enough, to assume it's a done deal.

The play-offs have added spice to the other divisions, but the Premier League haven't gone down that route (though I think if the teams that finished between 15th and 18th did a reverse play-off for a relegation spot, in which the winners knocked themselves out and the losers of the final "won" the "prize", it would keep mid-table sides interested for a little bit longer). The route the Premier League has gone down, typically, is simple bribery: the financial rewards for gaining or losing a place in the final table are large enough for no match to be really dead, at least to the clubs' chairmen. Every place in the Premier League is worth £755,062. West Ham, currently 10th, could end the season in eighth place or in 14th, a not-to-be-sniffed-at £4.5m swing.

This might be a good place for the two teams' remaining fixtures. So here they are.

Remaining fixtures

Manchester City
4 May
Swansea (a)
7 May West Brom (h)
11 May Wigan (n, FA Cup final)
14 May Reading (a)
19 May Norwich (h)

West Ham United
4 May
Newcastle (h)
12 May Everton (a)
19 May Reading (h)

The teams drew 0-0 at Upton Park back in November. Don't remember it? Can't blame you, really.

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Simon will be here from 12.15pm. In the meantime, here's the Man City v West Ham squad sheet …

Manchester City v West Ham United

The dog days of Manchester City's failed championship defence are now about them closing the 16-point gap to Manchester United. James Milner, Sergio Agüero and David Silva are all in contention for this game having recovered from their respective injuries and, ahead of the FA Cup final against Wigan on 11 May, this encounter could be viewed as the first of three trial games for those hoping to be selected by Roberto Mancini for the showpiece. Sam Allardyce's men, meanwhile, should be in relaxed mode given they arrive in Manchester having all but guaranteed Premier League safety. 

Continue reading …

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