West Ham United v Nottingham Forest

Next we entertain Nottingham Forest at the Boleyn in a 3pm kick-off this Saturday. Lovely. Tubes? Well the Hammersmith & City is out, which will mean a detour for visitors arriving at St Pancras. The bottom end of the District is also out, though the section serving Upton Park and points East will be open.

Our opponents this week, not to put too fine a point on things, are struggling. They currently lie third from bottom with 24 points from 26 games. The team above them are Millwall who are two points clear of Forest (with a much better goal difference despite last week's hilarious home thrashing).

Current form is not impressive with one win (3-1 at Ipswich), one draw (0-0 at Bristol City) and four defeats (all at home to Southampton (0-3), Peterborough, Cardiff and Palace (all 0-1)). coming from their last six. In the cup they managed a goalless draw with Leicester who then walloped then 4-0 in the replay the other night. Only Millwall have a worse last six - and that's only on goal difference with them having managed a solitary league goal in that period.

For the second week running we face a side who have changed manager since we last met. Steve Cotterill left last week's opponents in October to take over at the City Ground from Steve McClaren, who recently returned to polish up his comedy Dutch accent with FC Twente.

Cotterill isn't a total stranger to the city of Nottingham, though quite how much of the place he saw during his three month spell at neighbours County a while back is debatable. Those three months were enough, however, to see County through to the League 2 title for 2009/10, though I suppose Forest fans might forgive him for that if he can keep them up.

Forest's current position means that there is already talk that Cotterill might not see out the season. A current conspiracy theory that suggests that Mark Arthur, the club's Chief Executive, may be looking to return to Nottinghamshire CCCC, his previous employer. Looking about at this web we call "inter" it seems that few supporters would be too upset at that prospect.

The follow-up to this theory goes that Arthur's departure would pave the way for a return for former boss Billy Davies. Neil Warnock is also being linked with the place should Cotterill fall on his sword (or be knifed in the back). I suppose the appointment of Warnock would at least mean one thing: should they be relegated it will be entirely somebody else's fault.

Cotterill, meanwhile, is presumably ignoring all the scuttlebutt and has taken the step of boosting the coaching staff by appointing Sean O'Driscoll as first team coach until the end of the season. O'Driscoll has been out of work since Doncaster dispensed with his services, though he had been acting "on an advisory basis" down at Plymouth Argyle.

As yet there's been little movement in on the player transfer front this window - though the one arrival thus far is a familiar face - to both sides. Marlon Harewood is now in his second spell at the club he left in 2003/04 when he joined the Hammers. He was instrumental in the side that gained promotion in 2004/05 and reached the Cup Final in 2005/06. Since moving on he's been about a bit, with Villa and Blackpool holding his full registration, and Wolves, Newcastle & Barnsley all having him in on loan at times.

Released by Blackpool at the end of last season he pitched up at Chinese outfit Guangzhou who he helped to promotion during a six-month spell out there. Returning to Blighty, he ended up training with Forest and impressed enough to earn a short-term contract. He made his first start for Forest in nine years in the 3-0 defeat at home to Southampton.

The squad's other former Hammer Chris Cohen will miss this match. Cohen, who set up Forest's goal in our 4-1 win at the City Ground, picked up a nasty cruciate knee ligament injury in September's Brian Clough Cup defeat to Derby. He'll be out not only for the rest of the season but for a good couple of months next term as well.

The Southampton defeat proved costly in more ways than one. The dismissal of skipper Luke Chambers for a referee-imagined elbowing offence means that he'll be serving a ban this weekend, Cotterill having (probably wisely) decided that appealing against a decision using a system inherently designed to back-up refereeing incompetence would be a waste of time.

Chambers' absence has left them a bit short in defence. It had been hoped that Wes Morgan would be available for firstly the Southampton match, then the Leicester Cup match following an ankle injury sustained against Palace back in early December. Similarly, right back Brendan Moloney was pencilled in for a return following a knee injury.

However, in the event neither was selected - possibly with one eye on the club's league position and another on this weekend's match. This meant that midfielder Guy Moussi was co-opted into the centre of defence against Leicester - the 4-0 reverse tells its own story as to how successful that was. Look to see one or both of Morgan and Moloney co-opted in on Saturday if either is able to pull on a pair of those carpet slippers they laughingly call "boots" these days.

The injury problems at the back have led to a reported trial for English-born Andy Iro who is currently on the books at MLS side Toronto FC. There have been rumours that Iro is on his way out of Canada, though whether this would be on a loan deal or something more permanent is far from clear. Either way there has been the odd raised eyebrow amongst the Toronto faithful at the idea that Iro might be of the required standard, with the player being described by one source as being "loveable but clumsy".

The official line is that there will be no money for new signings this window, unless, of course, a few bob can be raised from sales. Middlesbrough were said to be sniffing around striker Ishmail Miller - another current absentee whose broken metatarsal seems to have pre-dated the current trend to refer to such injuries merely as broken toes. The other asset about whom "discreet enquiries" are said to have been made is defender Chris Gunther, though the wisdom of flogging one of the few fit defenders you have available to you is questionable to say the least.

"What news of us?" I hear you ask. Well team availability is similar to last week. Demel and Taylor are still on the sick list though both have trained with the first team squad this week. A spot on the bench for either/both might be the more prudent option given that our past habit of rushing people back from injury hasn't been the most productive of tactics over the years.

We now have extra cover for the central defensive positions with the arrival of George John, initially on loan, from FC Dallas. John isn't one I'd expect to see an awful lot of initially unless we get another injury crisis. It would have been interesting to see the player's reaction on arriving at the Boleyn for the first time if only to see his reaction to having a home ground not called Pizza Hut Park.

There was much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands over the manner of the victory at Pompey. For the first few minutes we did take the game to them. However we did revert to away match stereotype as the game wore on, particularly after we had taken the lead.

Once the sending-off had happened we did much of what you need to do against ten men - we spread the game well across the pitch - but failed to look for anything incisive. The manager has referred to various chances during the match that, had we taken them, would have made the score look a bit nicer. However, with the possible exception of Collison's post-shaver, most of those so-called chances consisted of hopeful efforts hit high into the crowd (Nolan & McCartney leap to mind).

A more meaningful stat might be to consider how many saves that Pompey's 'keeper had to make. I have no idea what the answer is to that one but I wouldn't imagine that it's large number. Playing the match out without picking up the second goal can, of course, leave you open to late goals and two dubiously-awarded free-kicks at Fratton Park could well have seen Pompey pinch a point had they been better at set pieces -making us pay for the earlier lack of ambition.

For this one I'd expect the manager to consider this to be a "two up front" or maybe even a "proper three" match which will see a welcome start for Baldock alongside Cole. As for a third striker, should the manager elect to play that route neither Piquionne nor Carew seem to be in the boss's good books at present which may be good news for Nouble.

Prediction - well I got last week right, somehow (though we'll gloss over the bit where I though this week's opponents might give Southampton a few problems). When you look at this from a dispassionate point of view we will be up against a team with a makeshift defence, probably containing a mixture of out of position and half-fit players. They've been struggling in any case so you'd expect this to be a romp.

We are, of course, West Ham, and nothing is ever that simple for us. I still think we'll win but we'll be made to work for it I suspect. An early goal followed by 80 minutes of frustration followed by a late goal I reckon. So 2-0 to us which would see us clear at the top at least until Monday night when Southampton entertain Leicester.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met: We came away from the City Ground with a 4-1 win back in September, goals from Chambers (og) Nolan, Cole & Reid giving us the points, Finlay netting for Forest to make it 3-1. It wasn't quite as comfortable as the score suggests and Forest did have their chances. It was, however, much more comfortable than our 3-2 win at the Boleyn just over a year ago as an Obinna hat-trick saw us struggle to a 3-2 win in the cup.

Referee: Tony Bates. Handled the 1-0 win over Peterborough. Was supposed to be in charge of the away trip to Middlesbrough but cried off for some unexplained reason (The Paolo Syndrome as I believe it's known). This will be his second time in charge of one of our matches.

Danger man: Marlon Harewood. The law of the "ex" doesn't always apply - I've seen the chap the bloke behind me at away matches used to 'hilariously' call "Marlene" miss sitters against us in the past. However, I still have a nasty suspicion that there's a goal against us in him somewhere.

Daft Fact Of The Week: The name Nottingham comes from the old Saxon meaning "the home of Snot's people". The town should really therefore be called "Snottingham". Snot's original settlement is where the City's lace market is situated these days. Presumably the market specialises in handkerchiefs.

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner

Seeing red

1996-97: Mark Rieper (a)
1990-91: Tony Gale (FA Cup semi final)

They Played For Both

Chris Cohen; Jim Barrett; Marlon Harewood; Gary Charles; Stuart Pearce; Horace Biggin; Franz Carr; Colin Foster; Ian Moore; Lee Chapman; Justin Fashanu; Peter Shilton; Fred Wallbanks; Paul Konchesky; Adam Nowland; Teddy Sheringham; Ian Wright.

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