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West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion

Filed: Sunday, 15th March 2009
By: Preview Percy

We next entertain West Bromwich Albion in a 8pm Monday kick-off. The two teams last met in September when Kevin Keen was in charge for his one game as caretaker manager immediately prior to the arrival of Gianfranco Zola to the hot seat.

That particular match saw us go down 3-2 in a match that would have given defensive coaches nightmares, though the final result owed much to a diabolical refereeing decision that awarded the home side a penalty to bring them back into the match at a time when we were looking to consolidate the lead. The match was notable for neither side having a shirt sponsor – the Baggies doing without for the season whilst our own shirts bore some hastily sewn on patches in a shade of claret not quite completely different from the rest of the shirt. This followed the collapse of the XL holiday group and your correspondent would be grateful if the CAA could pull their fingers out and pay back the £500 that he has been owed for the last 6 months, should anyone involved in ATOL refunds be reading this.

After that match in September we were in 7th place, which, following a thankfully brief flirtation with the drop zone, is where we find ourselves now. Whilst we were concerned by a rotten October, the Baggies went one worse by gaining only a single point in November. The compressed state of the table at that time meant that they went from 8th place at the start of October to bottom by the end of November. Apart from the odd occasional interlude when Tottenham took over at the bottom for a day or two, West Brom have been propping up the table ever since and they currently have 22 points – five adrift of second-bottom ‘Boro and seven clear of the safety spot currently occupied by Pompey, whose goal difference is also superior by 14. Current form does not make pleasant reading for the Hawthorns faithful either, a single point from a 2-2 draw at Hull being the only non-defeat in their last six games, which has included home defeats to Man Utd, Newcastle and Arsenal and away losses at Fulham and Everton. They have lost their last four and looking purely at their away form doesn’t improve the picture much either, a 1-0 win at ‘Boro and points at Bolton and Hull being their only return on the road this season.

So it doesn’t bode well for the visitors and even their most die-hard of supporters will be looking at a return to the second-tier next season unless there is a miracle of biblical proportions. All of which would be a bit of a shame in some ways because, by all accounts, they do at least try and play football, unlike, say, Stoke or Bolton – and I know who I’d rather have in the Premiership.

Their last run-out was a 3-1 home defeat to Arsenal. They lined-up as usual that day with Scott Carson in goal. It is sobering to think that people actually paid to pick the England team have considered him a better bet than Robert Green for the no.1 spot but there you go. The back four in front of him consisted of Zuiverloon, Donk, Meite and Robinson, though Baggies’ boss Tony Mowbray might be tempted to recall Jonas Olsson who may be available for selection following a calf injury sustained back in January.

The midfield against Arsenal saw a return to the starting line-up for Jonathan Greening, who had missed much of the previous five weeks absent with a knee injury. He was accompanied by Morrison, Koren and Chris Brunt, who fired home a free-kick to level the scores against Arsenal. Also in contention will be Portuguese midfielder Teixeira and the on-loan Argentine Menseguez, though French youngster Mulumbu, who signed on loan from PSG during the window with a view to a permanent deal, has yet to feature since his arrival and is being regarded more as one for the future. He’s also been injured of late and is unlikely to feature as a result.

The forward starting line-up against Arsenal had one enforced change from that which had faced Everton in the previous match. Jay Simpson is on loan from the Library and was therefore ineligible for selection against his actual employers, but he may return to start alongside Marc-Antoine Fortune, the on loan striker who I sincerely hope has a bad match if only to give us the opportunity to make a smart-alec remark along the lines of “Fortune’s always hiding”. (Yes I know the “e” has an acute accent on it so you don’t pronounce it like that – so sue me!). Roman Bednar may also be available after a back injury.

After a spell in mid-table we are now back on top of the Physio Room injury league table. Collison will be out for another six weeks or so and we won’t see Behrami until next season. Collins’ calf muscle problem will probably need another week or so as will Diego Tristan’s groin strain, the latest in the injury list. Some sources suggest that Kieron Dyer might be close to a run out, though I suspect that he too would welcome another week. The back four picks itself and Collison’s absence is likely to see Kovac, Noble and Parker start alongside a returning Luis Boa-Morte, who is fit again following his recent spell in the treatment room.

Up front, ridiculous sending off of Carlton Cole by the appalling Stuart Atwell will leave us short on numbers and Tristan’s injury is likely to mean a start for Freddie Sears alongside DiMichele. However, Zola may prefer the option of pushing Boa-Morte up front to partner DiMichele leaving Sears on the bench. This would probably see Savio given a start following some recent promising displays off the bench.

The performance against Wigan was impressive in the manner that the team responded to Atwell’s latest brainstorm and, even though the numbers evened up in the second half following Clattermole’s assault on Parker, we never really looked like conceding the equaliser. The goal was an absolute gem though it’s unlikely to receive the credit it deserves from the tv pundits for whom anything that doesn’t involve a 30 yard thump isn’t worth repeating. Dumbing-down I believe it’s called.

Although the injuries and suspensions will test the depth of the squad, it is perhaps a stroke of luck that this particular week we are facing a side low on confidence and form. I reckon that the available squad should be strong enough to take three points from this one, though it may be a bit tighter than we might otherwise have anticipated had a fuller squad been available for selection. I’ll therefore go for a 2-0 win on this occasion and another week guaranteed in 7th place.
Enjoy the game!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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