Tony Cottee Column: Having quality on the bench is vital for West Ham in March

“Fans pay good money to watch their team and if they are not entertained then they boo.”

I think that the best way to describe Saturday’s goalless draw with Crystal Palace was ‘flat’. From the start I thought that the team looked a little leggy, and was just lacking that killer pass. The Hammers never really got going and to be honest Palace could well have gone in at half-time 2-0 up.

However, after the break, West Ham came out a new side and almost the entire half was played in Palace’s territory.

And credit must go to the visitors for the way that they set themselves up. I like Dougie Freedman and I think he is a young, exciting and good manager and he deserves praise for his side’s performance on Saturday.

I was particularly impressed with Wilfried Zaha, and I think that Palace will do well to keep him in the summer as there will no doubt be many Premier League clubs interested in him.

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Sam Allardyce hinted that he perhaps should have rotated his squad for the game and I think it is easy to say that in hindsight.

However, I can also see Sam’s logic in sticking with the same players that performed so well at Blackpool the previous week.

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I just thought that we lacked something up front and I felt a little sorry for Nicky Maynard.

Maynard doesn’t have the big physical presence of someone like Carlton Cole, so when the ball is played to him, it doesn’t always stick.

However, the second-half performance from West Ham was a lot better.

I thought that Cole made a big difference when he came on and I am a big fan of what he offers to the team.

Another striker that made a big impact was Sam Baldock and I thought Saturday showed the importance of being able to bring on top strikers from the bench.

West Ham are going to need that quality this month, with eight games coming up during March.

This month could well determine where the Hammers finish at the end of the season.

Baldock’s movement was like a breath of fresh air and I am sure he will be disappointed at not converting one of his two clear-cut chances in the game.

However, I think it would be harsh for fans to blame him as he hasn’t had much game time recently.

It is a real catch 22 situation for Sam at the moment as he wants to play football and wants to score goals, but having been out of the team for some time, when he comes back he may well be a little rusty and a little short of match fitness, but he mustn’t be afraid of missing chances. I think we have to give him credit for getting into those positions in the first place.

I have to say that I understood why the fans were booing at half-time as the team hadn’t played well and we were expecting a better performance.

The fans pay good money to watchtheir team and if they are not entertained then I don’t begrudge them for showing that by booing and voicing their opinions.

However, the second half was a lot better so I didn’t like the booing at the final whistle.

This Sunday gives the Hammers the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways with a tough trip to Cardiff, who most fans will be hoping are still suffering following their league-cup exploits.

It won’t be an easy game, but I think the returning Kevin Nolan could boost the team and lead them to victory.

Tony Cottee was talking to Nathaniel John

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