Filed: Tuesday, 14th February 2012
By: Staff Writer
West Ham are looking to extend their lead at the top of the Championship tonight by taking all three points against closest rivals Southampton at the Boleyn.
This time last season the teams were playing two leagues apart, with Avram Grant's side set to finish bottom of the Premier League and Nigel Adkins' Saints on their way to achieving automatic promotion courtesy of finishing runners-up (to Brighton) in League One.
However there has been little to choose between the two sides this season, with United currently a single point clear of Southampton with a game in hand.
Adding extra spice to the fixture is the fact that tonight's visitors to the Boleyn Ground sneaked a 1-0 victory over the Hammers in the corresponding fixture at St Mary's earlier in the season, with Jos Hooiveld scoring the game's only goal on the stroke of half time.
And whilst the Hampshire club's form has beeen slightly more erratic since those heady days when they won their first 12 home fixtures of the season - and remained unbeaten in front of their own fans until 30th December - the match is sure to prove a strong test to Sam Allardyce's squad.
Despite being boosted in recent weeks by the arrival of players such as Ricardo Vaz Te, Ravel Morrison and Nicky Maynard, West Ham have found scoring goals an issue for some time; the Irons have failed to win a match by more than a single goal since November (some 12 games ago).
Meanwhile Southampton's 2-0 win against Burnley on Saturday was their first three-pointer in six outings - and only their third win in their last ten games.
However despite the promise of freezing conditions and sub-zero temperatures at the Boleyn tonight, West Ham are expecting a near-capacity crowd for what promises to be a good old-fashioned humdinger under the lights.
For the few remaining tickets - thought to number around 2,000 - cash turnstiles will be open ahead of the game; ticketless fans wishing to attend can pay on the door at gates 17 and 18 (West Stand Upper).
One player hoping to make his mark tonight is striker and current top goalscorer Carlton Cole, who posted the tongue-in-cheek image at the top of the page via his Twitter account to celebrate Valentines Day.
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