A home game. We haven’t actually won competitively at home so far this season – losses to Cardiff and Aldershot, and a late Leeds goal sealed a draw for them at Upton Park. It seems as if the players are scared of Upton Park, and our home faithful loudly supporting them has actually worsened our situation.
It seems then that we need to turn this around come Saturday, when we host Portsmouth. We must not take three points for granted – oh no, it’s a hard game all right. Portsmouth have experience in abundance, and their hoof-ball tactics under their manager, Steve Cotterill, will pose a different challenge to that of Nottingham Forest.
Who do we need to prepare for then? Well, firstly, we need to get past their rock at the back, Tal Ben-Haim. If you remember back to last season, he provided something for us that we sorely missed for the second half of the season – a tough-tackling centre-half who can stop the likes of Torres, Rooney and van Persie. Come Saturday, the Hammers will be dealing with a different type of player – Eric Huseklepp. Huseklepp, a striker who can also play on the wing, will intimidate our back four and hopefully set up Kanu, the natural poacher. However, it’s more likely that we’ll have to nullify Benjani. The 33-year old Zimbabwean needs to be stopped by our centre-backs, and whilst James Tomkins has been exceptional so far, the jury is still out on Winston Reid. With no Abdoulaye Faye due to a groin injury, it would be a surprise to see a different centre-back pairing. At the other end of the pitch, Jamie Ashdown is proven between the sticks, and could be the difference between a win, a draw and a loss.
For West Ham, we have seen what Carlton Cole can do, but who (if anyone) plays alongside him will be key to deciding the outcome of the game. Providing that Sam Allardyce goes for a 4-4-2, with Sam Baldock the second attacker, and additional debuts to David Bentley and Henri Lansbury, we should be able to break the ‘home game curse’. Guy Demel isn’t needed yet, as our usual right-back in Joey O’Brien is doing a sound job right now.
It will be tough though. Mark my words.
Prediction – West Ham 2-1 Portsmouth