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West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Filed: Friday, 31st December 2010
By: Preview Percy

Another Christmas has passed and yet again Santa forgot to bring Preview Percy a Scalextric. So he's taking it out on us......

Next we entertain Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 3.00pm kick-off at the Boleyn, the latest in a series of “must wins”. It appears that the tubes will be running on Saturday which will make a pleasant change – and might be worth considering if there's a chance of you being over the limit from the night before.

After the midweek matches the visitors lie in 19th place, one spot and one point above us with a game in hand, resulting from the postponement of their match at West Brom (the highest ground above sea level in the league, trivia fans). That they are off the bottom came as a result of their 1-0 victory at Anfield the other night. It has to be said that, well as Wolves played in that one, Liverpool were appalling. In fact the last time I saw a performance that bad was, er, when we played Wolves at home last season!

Current form shows the visitors having won three and lost three of their last six, the record going LWLWLW. Apart from the the win at the Merseyside Library, they've notched up wins at home to Sunderland (3-2) and at home to Birmingham (1-0). The three defeats came at home to Wigan (1-2) and away at Blackburn (0-3) and Blackpool (1-2).

Up at Anfield they lined up with a sort of 4-4-1-1 which involved Sylvan Ebanks-Blake as the lone striker. Now even the most ardent of Wolves fan wouldn't consider SEB (to save my typing) as being of top class Premiership standard. Despite putting them away for fun in the second tier he has found goals hard to come by – only finding the net twice last season in 26 league & cup appearances. He has doubled that tally this season, getting more starts thanks to the injury-hit season of the more useful Kevin Doyle. Doyle missed December having picked up a thigh injury and is a doubt for this one.

Their other option up front is ex-Burnley striker Steven Fletcher. SEB seems to be the preferred option with Fletcher (who, also with four goals, is joint leading goalscorer) making cameo appearances from the bench.

Anfield saw a return to the starting line up of winger Matt Jarvis. Jarvis started the season on the right hand side of midfield but can and often does do a similar job on the left depending on availability. If he starts this one he could be one to keep an eye on.

Earlier on this season Wolves picked up loads of headlines for some of their tackling. Skipper Karl Henry in particular picked up some not entirely undeserved flak for one or two of his less subtle interceptions. He'll definitely miss this one with a knee ligament injury. Otherwise one wouldn't expect the ray of sunshine that is Mick McCarthy to make too many changes to the side that won at Anfield. Just don't try to wish him a “Happy New Year”.

Our own cheery chappie Avram Grant made a number of changes for the Everton match, some, as ever, prompted by injury issues and others seemingly in an attempt to prove that we have a squad big enough to cope with a brand new squad rotation policy. (Our previous squad rotation policy had always consisted of replacing those players too injured to walk with those who can hobble about for an hour or so).

Changes will be afoot in the back four. Ilunga managed a mere half-hour against Everton, once more highlighting the paucity of resources in the full-back slots. There's been no news of Jacobsen's heel injury since a fitness test failure at Blackburn. Ben-Haim may come in for Ilunga – possibly for the last time if rumours of his return to Pompey in order to free up a loan place are true. In the middle, though there's been no official comment, I was just a bit concerned to see Tomkins hobble away from the Boleyn after the Everton match. Hopefully it's nothing serious as I thought he had a fine game against. Gabbidon may be on standby.

In midfield I mentioned a few weeks ago that it was possible that we had seen the last of Behrami and, though he was down to play against Blackburn, his failure to recover from his hip problem makes it even less likely that we will see him in the claret and blue again as he looks forward to Serie A. Stanislas, rested for Everton, may come back into contention for a start whilst I'd expect Sears to start again on the right hand side.

Up front much will depend on how Piquionne is after the Everton match. He hobbled off to be replaced by Carlton Cole against the Toffees. Cole's omission against Everton came as some surprise following his two “poacher-style” goals against Fulham. I would have thought that we'd have preferred to keep milking such form while it lasted, and as he missed that sitter on Tuesday evening I couldn't help but wonder if the result might have been different had Cole been on the pitch for an hour rather than the few minutes that was actually the case. If all are fit then who starts will depend on who is in Grant's good books at the moment. I suspect that Piquionne will be the one to start of the bench, especially if his knock raises any doubts as to his starting status.

I get rather annoyed with this rubbish about being bottom at Christmas in the Premiership. Like the recent twaddle spoken about nobody getting more than 5 goals in a Premiership match, it panders to the Sky-pushed notion that before the Premiership (and therefore by implication before Sky) there was no football. In actual fact a quick look at the stats suggest that about a third of all sides that were bottom on Christmas Day went on to survive – not great odds admittedly but significantly better than those punted about by the “Year Zero” mob at Murdoch Towers.

Since the capitulation against Man City we've not done too badly. The point up at Blackburn was creditable enough though it took a slightly fortunate deflection at the Cottage to kick start victory against Fulham. Whilst we were worth the three points in the end, until Etuhu chipped in with his inch perfect pass to Cole it was pretty ropey stuff. The point against Everton was about right I thought so five out of nine represented reasonable return. Wolves? Well the Liverpool result will have an undoubted confidence boosting effect. However, as well as they played, the LWLWLW record suggests a touch of the Jekyll & Hydes – especially when you consider that the previous result was a home defeat to Wigan. It has to be said that Liverpool were an embarrassment the other night and an early goal on Saturday will go a long way to puncturing that balloon. And they do have a tendency to concede early.

So the battle this weekend will pitch (recent) consistency against inconsistency. This is not a match for which any particular result leaps out as being more likely than the others. So I'm just going to have to go with gut instinct which says to me that we'll take the three points with a 3-1 win – a result that could see us reach the dizzy heights of 15th place.

Enjoy the game and happy new year!

Last season: lost 1-3 Possibly the worst performance of last season. Please don't make me revisit it.

Danger man: Ebanks-Blake though limited in ability Liverpool made him look like world-beater the other night and confidence counts for so much.

Referee: Lee Probert for some reason the usual sources haven't listed a ref for this one. I'm informed that it's Probert, who presided over our trip to Anfield in November. If it's not address your complaints to refworld.com – they're the perfect ones after all.

Daft fact of the week: There used to be a mediaeval superstition that, on New Year's Day, a farmer would stick a flat cake on the horns of a cow. The farmer and his workers would then sing a song and dance about the cow until the cake was thrown off. If the cake landed in front of the cow it signified a year of great prosperity to come. If it landed behind, tough times were ahead. Similar scenes can be seen to this day every Friday night in Wolverhampton, where such antics are locally referred to as “a cracking night out”.

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.

Your Comments

by Louie (WWFC)
07:28PM 31st Dec 2010
''Your 3-1 defeat at home to us was your worst, but it was also our best and we were fantastic on the night.

I'll warn you about Ebanks-Blake, he took a while to adapt but he is now looking the part and you will be surprised. He's stronger and quicker with the eye for goal we already knew he has.

The key battle will be Nenad Milijas v Scott Parker. Parker, in my opinion, should be in the England team and could get in nearly all of the top four. Milijas is looking the part and can create from anywhere.

Good luck.''

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