Opposing View: West Ham United

Sam Allardyce
Sam Allardyce

UPTON Park should not be viewed as quite the imposing away destination you may think.

West Ham’s home form has not been particularly impressive and it has been the best away record in the Championship which has kept West Ham in the top two.

The amount of goals they score at Upton Park is distinctly average and the nine wins they have picked up there has been matched or bettered by all but one side in the top nine.

Many observers have put this down to the pressure from the vociferous home support who have traditionally demanded slick football – something boss Sam Allardyce is hardly known for.

Though harshly dismissed at times as being a ‘hoof-merchant’, Allardyce continues to adopt a more direct approach, to the chagrin of many Hammers.

He sets his side up mainly in a 4-5-1 though this can quickly become a 4-3-3 when the ball is in the opposition half.

In recent games January signing Nicky Maynard has operated as the lone front man with Carlton Cole dropping to the bench.

Maynard has not proved quite as affective as Cole in the target man role and is facing pressure from the former England striker.

The Hammers’ front man will be supported by the wingers with Ricardo Vaz Te in particular drifting inside from the left with regularity.

Kevin Nolan made a major impact last weekend at Cardiff after returning from a three match ban, netting the opener in the 2-0 win.

He is a constant goalscoring threat from midfield and attention should be paid to him.

Positive results have proved the best way for Allardyce to stand up to the criticism of his methods.

The Hammers have lost just once in the league in 2012, a huge blip of a result in a 5-1 defeat at Ipswich.

But other points dropped this year have come in home draws – including on Wednesday night against Watford – and Rovers certainly have a chance to grab a share of the spoils.

The best approach would be to look to stifle West Ham in the middle of the park and isolate whichever front man Allardyce deploys.

Matching the 4-5-1 formation and instructing midfield men to track runs throughout will reduce space and help ensure direct balls come to very little.

Should Rovers keep the Hammers out for a decent length of time, the expectant natives are likely to pile on the pressure as they did in the 0-0 stalemate with Crystal Palace two weeks ago.

The counter-attack was a potent looking weapon for Rovers at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday and they can hurt the Hammers with this on Saturday.