West Ham United v Southampton

Preview Percy spent some of his childhood not all that far from Southampton having been evacuated to Hampshire. There wasn't a war on or anything, his parents just didn't like him. Here's his look at the Valentine's Day meeting of the two sides. Statistical input from John Northcutt

Next we entertain Southampton in a match that kicks off at 7.45pm this Valentine's Day. Time to get creative with the excuses guys.

It is, perhaps, superfluous of me to point out that our visitors currently lie in second place with 55 points from their 30 matches. That is one point behind us, though we do have the game in hand after Saturday's postponement. However, after a start to the season that saw them move faster than a Scouser trying to find someone else to blame, they have wobbled a bit over the past few months. Saturday's 2-0 defeat over Burnley at St Mary's was only their second win since Boxing Day ant their last six has them showing a 2-2-2 record. The other win in that period came courtesy of a 3-0 drubbing of the rather hapless Forest at the City Ground. They've drawn at home to Cardiff (1-1) and away at Birmingham (0-0) and lost away at Brighton (3-0) and at home to Bristol City (0-1).

They made two noteworthy signings in the recent transfer window, both in the forward department. Tadanari Lee came in on a free from J-League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Lee played the full 90 plus stoppage in the FA Cup match last week that proved it is possible to lose to Millwall if you try hard enough. However he was back to the bench for the Burnley match coming on as a late sub for Lambert.

The other big signing was Billy Sharp from Doncaster. Sharp was credited with the Southampton second against Burnley, though there did seem to be something of an "assist" from a helpful defender. Sharp, you will recall, received kudos from all quarters earlier this season when playing for Doncaster despite the sad loss of his young son, escaping the statutory yellow card for a t-shirt revealing goal celebration thanks to a piece of intelligent and sensible refereeing from Darren Deadman that will have caused uproar amongst the shared braincell at Ref HQ. Sharp came in from Doncaster Rovers for a reported fee of ?1.8m, though with Willy McKay's involvement at the Keepmoat lord knows what the real fee was.

Sharp's arrival means that there's competition for places up front. Ricky Lambert is still the division's top scorer with 16 from his 27 league appearances this far this term, which pretty much makes him an automatic start. However, in addition to new boys Lee and Sharp they also have ex-Hammer David Connolly in the squad. Angry Ant has six goals from his 23 league appearances this term and replaced Sharp just after the hour on Saturday, having a goal disallowed for offside late on.

You'd think with them going reasonably well with promotion a distinct possibility all would be sweetness and light within the St Mary's camp. Not quite so. A quick delve into the file marked "attitude problem" will reveal a dossier in the name of Jason Puncheon. Puncheon fell out of favour with boss Adkins back in the 2010/11 season, ending up on loan at Blackpool. On his return from the seaside Adkins farmed him out once more, this time to QPR, the deal expiring last month. In his six months at Loftus Road Puncheon made but two league appearances, putting paid to any thoughts that QPR might do Southampton a favour by taking the player off their hands. Puncheon's demeanour was not improved by his being made to train with the kids on his return to the South coast. It was therefore none too surprising when the player sought to publicise his position in the footballer equivalent of the Times personal column: Twitter. Criticising the club's chairman the player threatened to do a Winston Bogarde by seeing out his contract and departing on a free. However, in a bit of a truce, Puncheon apologised for his comments and even featured in the first of the Millwall cup ties and the league match against Cardiff. There was no explanation for the apparent U-turn, though the fact that the only interest in the player was an unconfirmed enquiry from Blackpool might have focused his mind with the transfer window closing rather quickly.

The squad news from the South Coast is that they have just about a full squad to choose from, with the exception of defender Dan Seaborne. Seaborne is still recovering from a "nightclub incident" back in September. He is said to be close to a return after an attack that left him with injuries described as "life-threatening" by the local Constabulary.

This preview is obviously going to be a bit shorter than usual (hooray! - ed) as, at this point I normally pick over the bones of the previous match. Try as I might there's only so much mileage to be gotten out of the fact that the game was called off at 8am following overnight temperatures of -15 Celsius (whatever a Celsius is). The good news for those of you who like terraces is that, although the away terrace at London Road was due to be demolished soon, Peterborough have stated that the redevelopment won't start until their home games have been completed. The match has been rearranged for 27 March. March is going to be a bit of a busy month with something like 8 matches to be played so the squad will be utilised to its maximum.

The postponement of the Peterborough match has made little difference to the squad for Tuesday night. Despite Demel's comments to the effect that he was targeting this one for a return, unsurprisingly he seems to have been ruled out of contention. Papa's hamstring is still hamstrung though I was somewhat surprised to receive one of those text alert thingies that suggests that John Carew wouldn't be available. Given the wealth of attacking options now available to the manager after the transfer window Carew would be well down most people's list of options anyway. I guess the injury alert is more something to remind us all he's still there once the March fixture rush starts,

As for team selection it wouldn't surprise me to see the boss continue with the experiment of Tomkins playing just in front of the back four - if that's the case we'll see exactly how it is supposed to work when we have eleven on the pitch. It was rumoured that Nicky Maynard was in line for a debut against Peterborough, though the manager's usual caution may see us revert to us starting with Cole on his own again - not my favourite formation though admittedly Cole had a fine game in that role against the vendors of clothespegs last weekend.

The week off has both pros and cons. On the "pro" side it means our opponents will be facing their second match in four days, and those follow a midweek cup replay last week so they could feel the pace a bit. On the "con" side of the equation the fact that they won against Burnley has, as mentioned, reduced the points gap to just the one, notwithstanding the game in hand. That in itself should prove to be some sort of incentive to ignore the aches and pains that come with a run of fixtures in a short space of time. This means that we'll probably be looking at a team wanting to come at us from the start. My prediction is therefore going to be for a draw - let's call it 2-2 which will keep both sides looking a bit anxiously over our shoulders at Birmingham City - who are the side we really ought to be keeping an eye on at present.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met: Lost 0-1 We lost Matt Taylor early on. We hit the post. We had one cleared off the line. They scored at the end of the first half through Hooiveld. The crowd beat their previous record. By one.

Referee: Lee Probert inconsistent Premiership official last seen presiding over our annual defeat up at Bolton.

Danger Man: Adam Lallana although Lambert will be a threat as top scorer Lallana is the creative hub of the side who will need to have an eye kept on him.

Daft fact of the week: Southampton is home to the UK's only geothermal power station in which hot water obtained from boreholes drilled into the earth's crust is used to provide heat and power. A hot air version is planned for Liverpool just as soon as they can work out which particular orifice it is that Kenny Dalglish is speaking out of these days.

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner


January 1962 6-2 Tindall 3 Musgrove 2 Scott
August 2008 2-1 Davenport Hines

Home Testimonial
Bobby Ferguson 4-3 Cross Ferguson Barnes Pearson

Sent Off

Mark Ward Home December 1987

They Played For Both

Bill Adams, Eyal Berkovic, Iain Dowie, Richard Hall, Robbie Slater, Arthur Wilson, David Connolly, Paul Allen, Horace Glover, Jim Harris, Joe Kirkup, David Speedie, Justin Fashanu, Vic Watson, Wayne Bridge, Nigel Quashie, Christian Dailly, Richard Wright, Walter Pollard.

Our former captain George Kay was also the Saints manager between 1931 and 1936

Alan Pardew was their manager in 2009-10 and Harry Redknapp was in charge in 2004-05

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