West Ham United are just about still in the running for a top four place but they need to finish the season with a run of wins if they are to achieve that, beginning on Saturday when they travel north to face West Bromwich Albion.
For the home side points have been tough to come by of late, but they got one against all the odds last time out at Tottenham, in all probability ending their opponents’ title aspirations in the process. Craig Dawson was the man at the centre of the two crucial moments, bundling into his own net before making amends by nodding in the equaliser, emphasising just how much danger he poses from set-pieces by netting his fourth goal of the season. That was reward for a much-improved second half display.
It was eye-catching to witness the amount of work the team got through at White Hart Lane, especially that of the two wide players, James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon. The duo were up and down the flanks all evening, and they may be required to do the same here given the individual quality that West Ham possess going forward.
With safety having long been secured, the objective now for Albion will be to return to winning ways and finish as high up the table as possible. A manager like Tony Pulis would never allow his team to just fade away.
Unlike their opponents here, West Ham were able to convert two penalties against Watford, thus ending a sequence of three successive draws. Mark Noble was on hand to score from the spot to help settle an encounter that contained no shortage of incident and move them to within eight points of the Champions League places with a game in hand.
There will be ways the Londoners can improve on that showing as at times they appeared vulnerable at the back as Watford got into some dangerous positions, while defender Angelo Ogbonna will need to be careful when defending corners and free-kicks, having been cited for grappling in each of the last two games.
If West Ham play at their best here however, they should come away with the victory. They have more match-winners than West Brom, and what is more they are more than willing to engage in a physical and dogged midfield battle should the invitation come their way.
Goalkeeper Ben Foster and forward Saido Berahino will be assessed by West Brom after they both were absent for the game at Tottenham, while James Morrison is set to miss out again despite retuning to training.
There are no new injury concerns for a full-strength West Ham side, with Diafra Sakho looking to retain his place in attack.
Last Meeting: All the goals were in the first half as West Ham condemned their hosts to a fourth straight league defeat. Albion took the lead in the 10th minute when Craig Dawson headed in from a free-kick, only for Kevin Nolan to equalise on the rebound after Andy Carroll’s overhead kick had been saved. And James Tomkins powered in from a corner to win it for West Ham on the stroke of half-time.