Tony Cottee Column: The chasing pack are closing in, West Ham must beat Barnsley

“I understand why Jack Collison reacted to Jimmy Kebe. However, I do not condone how he did it.”

There is no hiding the fact that a 3-0 defeat was not in the script for West Ham when they travelled to Reading last weekend. Neither was the two red cards or what looks like a serious injury to Guy Demel, but sometimes these things happen in football.

I was expecting the Hammers to come away with at least a point, and with Southampton slipping up at home to Blackpool, it was another missed opportunity to go top.

What made matters even worse is that the teams in third, fourth and fifth all picked up points, closing the nice gap that West Ham had created between the automatic promotion places and the play-off spots.

I am just hoping that Sam Allardyce’s side don’t come to rue these missed opportunities come the end of the season.

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However, as I keep saying, the Championship is so competitive and anyone can beat anyone on their day, which just adds to the appeal of the league.

I thought that Saturday was by far the worst defensive performance from West Ham this season and it is easy to blame the sending offs for that.

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I think that Joey O’Brien will be the first to admit that his first booking was silly and then to commit a foul so soon after, he was always going to be in trouble.

However, the Hammers just didn’t react well when they went down to 10 men and conceded straight away.

Once that first goal went in, I thought that the team would struggle, which proved to be the case.

And then Jack Collison got sent off, which I was surprised at.

I understand why he reacted to Jimmy Kebe, but I don’t condone his actions.

I thought that what Kebe did was hugely disrespectful, and there is no space in professional football for it.

It’s not as if Reading were winning 7-0 at the time, they were only 2-0 up.

Even if you were to do that on a Sunday morning game over the park there would be serious retributions from the other team, and I think Jack got caught up in the heat of the moment.

However, it wasn’t a wild lunge, and a few years ago that would have only been a yellow card.

The Hammers now have something of an injury crisis at right-back for this weekend’s visit of Barnsley and I expect Julien Faubert will cover in that position.

That frees up a space in midfield, and I would love to see Henri Lansbury back in action.

However, we are coming up to a busy period over Christmas and we need lots of bodies and I would also like to see some of the club’s promising youngsters, like Robert Hall and Cristian Montano given a chance to show what they can do.

I think that this weekend’s game is a good match for us to have as it gives West Ham a chance to bounce back.

Barnsley hit a dip in their recent good form in their last match, although I think they will come to Upton Park full of confidence.

With the various injuries and suspensions as well as two defeats on the trot, Allardyce may be tempted to change things and I am sure that he will do so if he feels fit.

It is easy not to change a winning team, but when your side have lost a couple of games then that is when the manager really earns his money in turning it around.

Personally, I think we should go 4-4-2 and have a real go at Barnsley from the off, get the fans behind the team and get back to winning ways.

Tony Cottee was talking to Nathaniel John

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