West Ham down @ the Riverside

Can the long trip north to face the ‘smoggies’ end with another breath of fresh air for the Irons?

Boro West HamOwners, managers and players may come and go but there are certain characteristics of following West Ham that appear eternal; excursions ‘oop’ north being rarely fruitful, complacency rather confidence flowing from an encouraging performance and any team or player on a long run of misfortune seeing it come to an end it against the Hammers. So a long trek to the frozen and inhospitable north-east, off the back of a solid win against Palace to play a team that has only scored once in their last four league games ticks all the boxes marked disappointment.

 [Andy Carroll]’s got a whiplash injury. He then trained Tuesday very hard, he was brilliant in training, but then reported some neck pain. But as I say, hopefully he will be okay. We have a few with knocks – Winston Reid has a painful one and Sam Byram has a knock on his knee, it was swollen and he missed training on Wednesday. Also Sofiane Feghouli missed training on Wednesday because of a minor problem with his Achilles. But I’m very optimistic that all of them are going to be fit for the game on Saturday.

– Slaven Bilic on injuries

Middlesbrough have been a member of the football league since 1899 and their haul of one League Cup and one Anglo-Scottish Cup makes our own trophy cabinet look cluttered by comparison. The most notable things that I can recall about Boro are: that they paid the first £1,000 transfer fee, to buy Alf Common, in 1905 (£110,000 in today’s money); that Brian Clough scored an incredible 197 goals in 213 appearances for them; that they were once relegated after having a points deduction for failing to fulfil a fixture against Blackburn Rovers; and that the most interesting game on their home soil was when North Korea beat Italy at Ayresome Park in a 1966 world cup group match. Despite their lack of success I believe most football supporters will acknowledge the excellent job done by Steve Gibson during his time as board member and chairman of the club; an associated that commenced in 1986.

The challenge for West Ham today is to show that the togetherness shown last weekend was not just a one-off reaction to the Payet palaver and can be harnessed once more against the parsimonious Teesiders.

Head to Head

West Ham’s record against Middlesbrough is one of those that reflects a mirror home versus away image. Overall we have had a few more wins while they have scored more goals; but on the whole it is very even. Our last visit to the Riverside Stadium in November 2011 ended in a 2-0 victory with a goal apiece from lethal strikers Piquionne and Cole. Mark Noble is the sole survivor from the 13 players that featured for West Ham that day.

In the last 12 league encounters there have been 5 West Ham wins, 4 draws and 3 defeats.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

30

17

6

7

47

30

DDWDWW

Away

31

8

7

16

30

53

WLDWLL

 

61

25

13

23

77

83

 

Team News

No new long term injuries are reported for the Hammers and the three players with knocks (Reid, Byram and Feghouli) should all be available as should Andy Carroll who had suffered an unusual whiplash injury either in scoring his memorable bicycle kick goal or celebrating it afterwards. We can but hope that common sense prevails today and that we start with Byram at right back and with Antonio just behind Carroll in a sort of 4-4-1-1 formation.  It is possible to get too hung up about formations and a good team needs to be adaptable and retain a degree of fluidity; we were close to showing that in the second half performance against Palace.

“He [Andy Carroll] is a player you always have to be careful of – but if we are just looking at him, [Michail] Antonio can score or [Sofiane] Feghouli can score or [Manuel] Lanzini can score… or anyone,”

– Aitor Karanka talking up our chances

Typically our first transfer signing of the latest window came too late to feature this afternoon. Jose Fonte had not played for Saints since the game against Everton on 2 January (in his last two games they conceded 7 goals).  In West Ham terms this means a minimum of four weeks to get match fit before picking up a serious injury in training. The Fonte signing is rather underwhelming to me for although Fonte is a decent player he is the wrong age profile for a club that is, at the same time, ambitious and prone to counting the pennies.  A possible mitigation to the transfer is the rumour that one of our centre-backs is carrying an injury that requires immediate surgery.  If that is the case then we should hope it is Ogbonna rather than Reid.

For Middlesbrough, Gaston Ramirez and Antonio Barragan are injured and Daniel Ayala is suspended but new signing Patrick Bamford is available to play.

As often happens I will allow hope to triumph over expectation and will go for a narrow West Ham win.

Man in the Middle

Martin Atkinson from West Yorkshire is the referee today. Previously this season he was in charge when we lost at home to Watford and when we won away at Palace, famously sending off Aaron Cresswell for two harsh/ incorrect yellow card offences in one minute. In 20 games this season (all competitions) he has administered 83 Yellow cards plus that single, solitary, spurious Red.