Writer: Tom Bodell
Date:Tuesday March 6 2012
AFTER THE thrilling comeback against Burnley, Watford face a stern test this Wednesday as they travel to Upton Park to face second -placed West Ham United.
The Irons are well-placed for an instant return to the Premier League under (Big) Sam Allardyce and were busy in the January Transfer Window re-enforcing their attacking options for the run-in.
Two striking additions were made in the shape of Bristol City's want-away forward Nicky Maynard, and Barnsley hot-shot, Ricardo Vaz Te. As well as those two, Allardyce was able to add Manchester United's rebellious young talent, Ravel Morrison.
Morrison in particular is a fascinating case in a long line of somewhat unfancied or hot-headed talents that Allardyce has brought into a club. Like El-Hadji Diouf or Nicholas Anelka before him, Morrison will be looking to glean the best of Allardyce's coveted people skills.
STOP PRESS: Experienced French forward Frederic Piqiuonne has joined Doncaster Rovers on a one-month loan.
It has been relatively smooth sailing so far for the east Londoners, who have not dropped out of the Championship's automatic promotion places since October and recently enjoyed a stint at the summit of the division at Southampton's expense.
Allardyce has been quick to surround himself with players he knows and two summer arrivals have been key men so far for the Hammers.
Newcastle United captain Kevin Nolan represented a huge coup for the club, signing in a deal worth £3m. At just 29, it's arguable that Nolan is in the prime of his footballing career and an impressive two seasons in the north east suggest he will certainly be able to perform should the Hammers get promoted.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Nolan was quickly instilled as Allardyce's captain and much like the Bolton days, Nolan has quickly delivered for his manager with eight goals from the centre of midfield.
Another man who worked with Allardyche to great success at the Reebok was Matty Taylor.
The former Luton Town, Portsmouth and Bolton left-sider cost the Irons £2.2m in the summer and although injury has halted his progress at the Boleyn Ground, quality is assured with the Oxford-born left-footer.
Capable of playing at left-back or left-midfield, Taylor carved out a reputation for spectacular goals whilst on the south coast, bagging from the halfway line more than once.
Henri Lansbury is a name that will be familiar to Hornet's supporters after he spent the 2009-10 campaign on loan at Vicarage Road, impressing with five goals in 34 league starts.
An industrious, box-to-box type, Lansbury lends a certain degree of class to proceedings and demonstrated his talent last Tuesday with two goals, including one absolute stunner, for England's U21s against Belgium.
Comfortable across the midfield, Lansbury, on-loan from Arsenal once more, recently turned his hand to goalkeeping. With No.1 Rob Green sent off after 53 minutes, Lansbury donned the gloves without having to make a save as the Hammers crushed Blackpool 4-1 at Bloomfield Road.
Allardyce will be without man-mountains John Carew (knee) and Papa Bouba Diop (thigh) however Nolan returned from suspension for the defeat of Cardiff City.
Sean Dyche will be hard-pushed to overlook Alex Kacaniklic once again after the Swedish maestro inspired the 'Orns comeback against the Clarets on Saturday. Prince Buaben should make way.
West Ham United:Green; O'Brien, Tompkins, Faye, McCartney; Noble; Lansbury, Collison; Nolan (c); Maynard & Vaz Te.
Watford: Kuszczak; Hodson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Doyley; Murray, Eustace (c), Hogg, Kacaniklic; Garner & Deeney.
Match Officials:(R)Mr K Stroud; (ARs) Mr M Buonassisi and MR M Blackledge; (4th) Mr JMagill.
Date:Tuesday March 6 2012
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