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West Ham United v Bolton Wanderers: Match Preview

Filed: Thursday, 4th March 2010
By: Preview Percy

Inspired by the Prime Minister (allegedly), we thought we'd bully Preview Percy into going away. Unfortunately he hit us back and gave us a Chinese burn before submitting the following:

After a weekend off watching Phil Dowd hand Man Utd the League Cup, we return to Premier League action against Bolton in a Saturday 3pm kick-off at the Boleyn.

Like ourselves, the visitors are amongst the scrum of teams hovering around the drop zone. They currently lie in 15th spot, two places, one point and eleven goals’ worth of goal difference behind us. They’ve picked up five points from their last 18, three of which came in Saturday’s home 1-0 victory over Wolves. Zat Knight’s winner in first-half stoppage time was their first league goal in over 9 hours but they twice needed help from the woodwork to overcome their fellow-strugglers.

Since we last met in the 3-1 defeat up at t’Reebok (horrible name, ugh) before Christmas (seems a long time ago doesn’t it) they have undergone a change of manager. Gary Megson was about as popular with the Bolton support as John Terry is with Wayne Bridge. Megson had tried to persevere with the rather “basic” style of football established as the norm by his predecessor (if you don’t count the six months of Sammy Offside Lee) the unpleasant Sam Allardyce. However, as Blackburn will hopefully discover sooner rather than later, such tactics will only get you so far. The feeling was that, whilst tactically limited, Allardyce at least had an inkling of what he was doing, unlike the hapless Megson. The writing was on the wall almost before the ink was dry on Megson’s contract and a two year hate-hate relationship with the fans was quietly put to sleep after Christmas, when the Trotters blew a 2-0 lead at home to Hull. The fans’ reaction to the draw was to jeer, Megson’s reaction to the jeering was to brand the supporters “pathetic” and chairman Phil Gartside’s reaction was to reward Megson with a P45.

10 days later, after negotiations and, no doubt, compensation, Owen Coyle arrived from Burnley, much to the Clarets’ annoyance. Coyle commented that he was more of a “Moses” than the “Judas” claimed by the Turf Moor brigade. I was rather hoping for someone to chip in at a press conference with “he’s not the messiah he’s a very naughty boy” but I was sadly disappointed. Coyle, of course, has more of a reputation for producing sides that try to play football. There have been signs that some of the Coyle influence has, from time to time, been working, not least in the first match of their FA Cup tie against Spurs where they were, by all accounts, a bit unlucky to come away with only a 1-1 draw having played Spurs off the park for large chunks of the match.

They have a few injury problems for this one. Defender Gary Cahill will be out for another couple of weeks following treatment for a blood clot on his elbow, Cahill has been one of the better players for the Trotters this season and his form has earned him England squad recognition. Also missing will be recent arrival Stuart Holden, who fractured his right leg playing for the US against the Netherlands earlier this week. Holden is likely to be out for at least six weeks but impressed the boss enough in his two starts to date following his move from Houston Dynamo for Coyle to offer an extension to his contract that will keep him at the Reebok (ugh again) until the end of next season.

They brought in a couple on loan during the window. Slovakian youngster Vladimir Weiss came up the road from Man City, having found first team opportunities limited at Eastlands. The 20 year-old midfielder is highly-rated and already has a number of full international caps. From what (admittedly little) I’ve seen of him he looks to be a tricky cove who enjoys running at defences. Arsenal kid Jack Wilshire also came in, a move that was perhaps indicative of the change in playing style under Coyle – it’s hard to see Wenger agreeing to such a move had Megson or Allardyce still been at the reins. There again, when Wenger’s involved it’s usually hard to see anything at all.

Up front will be the combative Kevin Davies. He seems to benefit from a “get one, give one” policy from referees, something that makes his recent “Clattenburg’s got it in for me” comments slightly risible – as Upson knows to his cost. That’ll be a battle to watch.

What of us? Well Upson and Green came through the England match unscathed, as did Carlton Cole following his rather pointless five minutes or so. Even Dyer seemed to survive his run-out at Old Trafford last week and Gabbidon has disappeared from the usual injury lists, suggesting that even he might be available for selection. Of course against that we have the non-appearance of Benni McCarthy, who is said to be another week away from fitness, and Herita “Cheri” Ilunga who will require another two weeks of treatment on his calf. Spector will continue to deputise.

I’d expect us to start with the eleven that commenced against Hull the other week, Parker having been shrewdly been rested to avoid picking up another stupid booking from another stupid referee up at Old Trafford. Franco seems to be the preferred option alongside Cole up front whilst a midfield of Parker, Kovac, Behrami and Diamanti seems to have a bit of balance about it, even if Kovac sometimes passes a ball about as well as I pass a pub.

Bolton will be a tougher prospect than Hull were a couple of weeks ago. Apart from anything else, and, as I’ve no doubt mentioned before, their ‘keeper Jaaskelainen always seems to reserve his best matches for us. However their run of league form since Moses arrived has seen them beat only the notoriously travel-sick Burnley and Wolves, which suggests that they may be a side struggling to come to terms with the new demands placed on them by the new boss. With that in mind, and bearing in mind that we have shown spells of playing decent stuff at the Boleyn in recent weeks, I’m going for a win for this one – let’s say 2-1 and put a bit more of a gap between us and the others down there.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 1-3 A complete nightmare from Robert Green, and the usual disgraceful performance from Mike Dean conspired to throw away three points.

Danger Man: Kevin Davies his habit of gaining free-kicks in dangerous territory even when he is the guilty party can cause problems.

Referee: Lee Probert last seen officiating in the 2-0 win over Pompey. Did ok but is prone to the odd bizarre decision.

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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