Tony Cottee Column: Forget draws, every game is now a must-win for West Ham
“The one thing we mustn’t do is dwell on the Reading defeat. We have to concentrate on the last six games. ”
There is no getting away from it, Saturday’s result at home to Reading was very, very disappointing. After the highs of securing a win at Peterborough, it looked like the Hammers had got their season back on track.
However, sloppy defensive errors gifted the Royals three vital points in their race to secure automatic promotion in West Ham’s biggest game of the season so far.
With Reading now four points clear of the Hammers it is somewhat out of their hands, but Brian McDermott’s side have a hard run-in and must still go to Southampton, Brighton and Birmingham and those games will not be easy.
And yet it started so well for West Ham, who scored in the seventh minute through Carlton Cole.
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However, after that we just couldn’t get that second goal that would have killed the game off.
Instead, two defensive errors in as many minutes and Reading go bouncing in at half time with a 2-1 lead that they didn’t deserve on the first 45 minutes.
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And then things went from bad to worse when we lost Mark Noble to a thigh injury.
Hopefully it won’t be too bad an injury as I think that Mark has been one of our best players this season.
Sam Allardyce decided to move James Tomkins into midfield and bring on Danny Collins in defence and I think that disrupted our flow.
Some would argue that it was a negative move when we were losing 2-1 and I would agree. James is a fantastic footballer but he is much better in defence than midfield.
The Hammers then went on to gift Reading a further two goals and I think that that is what makes the defeat so hard to take.
It wasn’t as if the Royals came to Upton Park and outplayed us, we simply gifted them the opportunities and they punished us by taking them.
The one thing that we mustn’t do is dwell on the defeat though. We have to move on and focus on the remaining six games of the season.
Allardyce has said that he is targeting six wins out of six and that is what we should be aiming for.
However, having closely looked at each of Southampton’s and Reading’s remaining games, I think that four wins and two draws could be enough to guarantee a top-two finish.
And of course, the top two are still to play each other next Friday which will be a huge game.
For now though it is important that the Hammers win at Barnsley tomorrow (Friday) and then follow that up with a big victory at home to Birmingham City on Monday.
Now is the time for the players to really stand up and be counted.
I was at Barnsley a couple of weeks ago and I saw them get beat at home by Reading 4-0, so I am confident that the Hammers can go there and do the same.
Of course, as has so often been the case this season, I expect Barnsley to come out all guns blazing against us. West Ham will just have to weather the storm like they did at Peterborough and then take their chances when they come along against a side that has had a poor run of form.
Monday’s game will be different against a side just one place below the Hammers.
Birmingham are only six points behind us and we don’t want them to narrow that gap. If we are to be in the play-offs, we need to make sure that we finish in third place.
Tony Cottee was talking to Nathaniel John