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West Ham Utd v Stoke City: match preview

Filed: Friday, 4th March 2011
By: Preview Percy

The old fool managed to upset some Liverpool supporters last week. So Preview Percy must be doing something right. Damned if we can spot it though. *warning - the following may contain Latin*..

Next up we entertain Stoke City in a 3pm kick-off on Saturday in the league, before schlepping straight back up to their place for a 2pm kick-off in the Cup the following Sunday. For the league match it should be noted that, as usual, Upton Park tube will be shut so those of you who have given the chauffeur the day off may just be regretting it.

Our visitors currently lie in 10th place. Now since this is 9 places above us one might think that the gap is quite a large one. However 10th place is worth 34 points at present, which is only six more than we have ourselves. A win in this one would therefore narrow the gap to a mere three points, just emphasising how tight things really are in the lower half of the table this season.

Their last six league matches have seen them win just the once (two goals from Huth in the last few minutes seeing them beat Sunderland 3-2 at home a month ago), draw just the once (Monday night’s 1-1 draw at home to West Brom) and lose four times (2-0 away to both Fulham and Liverpool and 1-0 away to both Birmingham and Arsenal). Of the 14 matches they’ve played on the road so far they’ve lost 10, wins at Newcastle, West Brom and Blackburn and a draw at Wigan comprising their only return from their travels. Indeed they’ve lost their last five away matches, scoring just the once in the process in the 2-1 defeat to Man Utd.

There was a bit of transfer window activity. They seemed favourites to sign a chap called Dember Ba with the player going as far as taking a medical. However, the medical was failed and Ba ended up signing for us on a deal, which, if rumour is correct, entails us not paying very much at all if his injury prevents him from playing. Given the impact that the player has made in his few matches thus far you have to say that it looks like their loss.

When Ba hobbled in our direction, Potters' manager Tony Pulis turned his attention a few junctions down the M6 to Villa Park, whence came John Carew on loan until the end of the season. Carew had always flattered to deceive with the Villains and, with megabucks being lashed out on Darren Bent, he obviously jumped at the chance of first team football. He’s picked up two goals to date (one league, one cup).

On the way out during the window was another striker in the form of Eidur Gudjohnsen. The Icelandic forward has spent much of the last ten years being linked with our good selves with his arrival seemingly becoming more imminent with every window. However, the rather dubious goings on that saw him go on loan to Spurs a while back having agreed terms with SuGo would appear to have put him on the persona non grata list at the Boleyn sine die. His apparent lack of anything resembling form at the Britannia and his subsequent shipping out on loan to Craven Cottage suggests that a) his style of play doesn’t really fit in with the type of game played at the Britannia and b) we did well in the end to dodge that particular bullet.

Their top scorer in the league at the moment is a defender. Chelsea alumnus Robert Huth has 6 goals – one more than Kenwyne Jones, though both are level pegging on 7 in all competitions. If Stoke were not already associated with a particular football modus operandi this statistic should give you some sort of clue. As it is, the long ball and long throw tactics involving Rory Delap slinging them in from the touchline are rather notorious in the football world. Last season’s visit in the league saw advertising boards being placed strategically a yard or two closer to the touchline than they might otherwise have been in an attempt to stifle what is widely acknowledged as their prime threat.

Stoke are likely to welcome back an ex-Hammer to the starting line-up in the form of Matty Etherington. Etherington has been missing of late following an operation to sort something out with his jaw. He was on the bench on Monday night though, replacing the aforementioned Carew for the last 25 of the draw against the Baggies.
Listed as “doubtful” (at least for the league game anyway) are Jermaine “where did I leave my car?” Pennant and Abdoulaye Faye, both of whom have caught hamstring.

Us? Well wasn’t last weekend a breath of fresh air after all the trials and tribulations we have endured thus far this season. Indeed it does make you wonder where we’d be right now had we been able to select that starting midfield all season. Or indeed how well Parker might have played last weekend had he actually been 100% fit.

Parker needed an injection to play last week – fitting really because I've often required medication to get through watching us for much of this season. I understand that Parker should be ok for this one – given that he could barely walk 3 hours prior to the start last week it’d be daft to rule him out until kick-off anyway. Obinna’s foot may also have healed enough to see him available to form part of the 18. Upson’s Achilles seemed to cause him no ill-effects over the 90 against Liverpool – which is doubly good news since he seems to bring the best out of young Tomkins when they play together. The shock news is that Kieron Dyer is injured – the shock being that I can actually be bothered to mention the fact. Jack Collison’s recovery is said to be progressing well but he’s still a fair distance from first team action.

I reckon that these two matches will be a tougher test of our resolve than Liverpool were able to provide last week. For a start there will be more of a physical test from a Stoke side keen to avoid a sixth consecutive away defeat, something that would represent an (unwanted) club record. I also don't reckon they have anyone carrying quite as much weight as Carragher and Gerrard seemed to be last weekend.

Overall though I think we should be too strong for them in the League match at least. The boost from last week, the extra pep that the front line seems to have got from Ba's arrival and the weight that the recovery of Der Hammer seems to have taken from the shoulders of Parker and Noble coupled with the the apparent fragility of the opposition away from the Britannia points to a win for me. 2-1 to us and the gap between us halved.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 0-1 Loads of missed chances and some dreadful time wasting were the order of the day as Fuller's solo effort condemned us to a sixth league defeat on the trot.

Danger Man: Robert Huth – likely to be one that causes havoc from Delap's javelins.

Referee: Andre Marriner – one to worry about. You can imagine the scene now at ref HQ: “West Ham v Stoke? Nobody will worry about that one. Give them Marriner”

Daft fact of the week – the “bonkers but old so he's now harmless” Tony Benn (aka Anthony Wedgewood Benn aka the erstwhile 2nd Viscount Stansgate) shares a common ancestral line with Josiah Wedgewood, the legendary potter from Stoke. On the other side of the family tree, the Labour veteran is also descended from cartoon favourite Mr Benn who used to have all sorts of adventures in the back of a hat shop before they took him away.

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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