Theoretically, one could not ask for a kinder fixture than West Ham at home. The Hammers have endured another poor start to the season and find themselves propping up the Premier League table, one place behind opponents Wolves. However, as the Wanderers have slowly lost their early season momentum, the Hammers have finally found the spark they lacked in their first four games, registering a commendable five points from their previous three fixtures.
Crucially, West Ham’s away form remains uninspiring; their last away triumph – fittingly enough – came at Molineux on the first day of last season. West Ham fans will be hoping that history repeats itself, turning a solid run of results into sustained improvement.
Wolves, on the other hand, will be looking to banish the demons of last season’s fixture. Were it not for two guilt-edged opportunities spurned by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake – in addition to an inspired Robert Green performance – Wolves could have quite easily picked up the points. Later in the season, they emphatically did; a thumping 3-1 victory – arguably Wolves’s best performance of the season – effectively ended any realistic fears of relegation for the Midlands side. Two of the scorers in that win are, however, either unavailable or doubtful. Right back Ronald Zubar is still sidelined with a foot injury and talisman Kevin Doyle faces a late fitness test.
The Midlanders will be hoping Doyle pulls through and delivers another match-winning performance; their fixture list suggests that anything else may leave the Wanderers adrift. After West Ham, Wolves face Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal in succession, a run of games which would worry even the most optimistic of Wolves supporters – any points acquired from these matches would be as welcome as they would be unexpected.
Thus, failure to win tomorrow may feasibly result in the Molineux men winning just one of their first twelve matches, leaving them clutching at the coat-tails of the rest of the league. Already five points down on the last year’s corresponding fixtures, Mick McCarthy will know that the visit of West Ham will be the best chance his side have to propel themselves out of the relegation positions for quite some time. A loss tomorrow and the great escape would have to start early.