The game against Reading this coming Saturday can define the remainder of our season. If we win, we will climb back into the top-half of the table. If we lose, and this does not bear thinking about, this will toss us into the relegation mix. At present, we sit eight points above the dreaded relegation zone, but, and we have seen it done before, if we lose another couple of games and the teams below start winning, we will be dragged right into the mix.
Thankfully, Carlton Cole has had his red card rescinded and is available to play. Without him in the team, we would woefully lack firepower up front. Scoring on his last two outings has brought him level with Maiga for goals scored in the Premier League this season. The team need Carlton’s goal-scoring run to continue as no one else is scoring consistently. Nolan’s purple patch has dried up and Noble, as a general rule, only scores from the penalty spot.
With the sword of Damocles hanging over Andy Carroll’s head; will his loan continue until the end of the season or will he be sent packing in the January transfer window, we need someone who can partner Nolan and get him scoring again. I am not sure that Carlton Cole is that person. Although Carlton is our main target man, his first touch is rarely good enough to allow him to lay the ball off and bring others into the game. Carlton really needs others to supply him with through balls and crosses that he can get on the end of and not the other way round.
Last season and for most of this season we have lacked a skilful playmaker in midfield, someone who can run at the opposition defence and play that telling ball through to the front man or to an attacking midfielder like Nolan. Most of us thought we had found this person in Yossi Benayoun but with his departure back to Chelsea leaving a chasm to fill in midfield; another dream is shattered.
In recent times, we do not have the best of records against Reading. Last season they beat us twice and this season, whilst they have not won too often, they have been unlucky in a number of games, particularly when playing at home. We are still down to the bare bones selection wise and this coupled with our lack of firepower makes the game at Reading a very awkward one. Both teams have scored 21 goals this season. On the other hand, we have only scored 5 goals away from home and this, to my mind, narrows down the likelihood of a West Ham win. I think we will do well to come away with a draw and to do this we will need to score, as this will not be a nil – nil draw.
If results go against us on Saturday, we could end up in 14th spot and on the brink of a relegation fight.