West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce has said his side are prepared for their biggest game of the season so far when Gus Poyet brings his Brighton and Hove Albion teamto Boleyn Ground on Saturday.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Big Sam made it clear that his side need four wins out of four in order to keep the pressure on the top two. Allardyce explained that the players are ready to put in the effort in order to keep up their challenge for automatic promotion.
With Southampton and Reading facing each other on Friday evening, West Ham could have the opportunity to close the gap on the top two when they face Brighton on Saturday afternoon.
With regards to Brighton they are still chasing a play-off place, what sort of game are you expecting on Saturday with both teams having so much to play for?
SA – I expect different tactics from Gus’s team from those Birmingham showed. Brighton will want to come and express themselves more than Birmingham did so I think we will have to use a different method and different tactics to make sure that we don’t allow them to get in their flow and then we must pick off their weaknesses which we know they have.
We need to exploit their weaknesses and make sure we win the game. What matters is what happens in both penalty areas; we need to make sure they don’t get in our box and when we get in theirs we must make sure we take our chances and win the game on Saturday.
Looking ahead to the next few weeks do you think there could be a major twist in the Championship before the end of the season?
SA – There could be yes. All we can do is make sure we win all our games and see what happens. We have slipped up enough in recent weeks by drawing too many matches and that has to stop now. We are more than capable of winning four games on the trot and it has to start with winning the most important game of the season so far on Saturday against Brighton. Otherwise we risk throwing a fantastic season down the drain.
I have no doubt that there will be slip ups between the top three before the end of the season but they can afford to drop points whereas we no longer have that luxury.We just need to make sure we win our four games starting with Brighton.
There could be a chance you could get automatic promotion then?
SA – If we win our four games we get 88 points. Last season 88 points won the championship so if we win them we will be very close to achieving automatic promotion. The players still believe that too. If anything in recent weeks the players have tried too hard to put things right. Sometimes when you try to hard you start to make more mistakes and I think that is what happened. At the end of the day we haven’t been losing but the run of five home draws was our Achilles heel.
Do you think this season’s title race has been one of the most exciting in recent years?
SA – Last year was pretty good with Norwich coming from where Reading have this season and they actually won the title. Reading have done it much earlier than Norwich did. We have to continue living with the pressure that West Ham brings and deliver the performances that will put West Ham where we need to be.
The team scored goals seven in two games over Easter. It is important that they have started scoring again isn’t it?
SA – It is very important yes. We scored two goals against Reading, four goals against Barnsley and three goals against Birmingham. Prior to Reading you would never have imagined this West Ham team conceding three or four goals which makes it even more frustrating. After our run of five draws we thought we had cracked it by scoring more. But as soon as our front men started putting the ball in the back of the net our defensive side went under and that surprised me a great deal that we allowed ourselves to let that happen.
We got ourselves in some fantastic positions during those games – especially Reading – but then to lose that game was shocking because our defensive game was so poor. Then, for the same thing to happen against Birmingham was just crazy. We have to be as good in possession and as good out of possession. If either part doesn’t work then you won’t win a game of football. The best teams in the country are the best teams at keeping the football; no-one ever talks about it because it always seems to be about attacking. But to attack you need the ball and that’s why these teams are the best.
In the second half against Birmingham the team came out fighting. Could that be a catalyst for the final games in turning one point into three?
SA – Hopefully yes. I’m concerned that the fact we haven’t won at home will still play on the minds of the players. But all we can do is continue to do the right things for the whole 90 minutes on Saturday and make sure we take our chances. If we do that we will win the game and if we don’t Brighton know that if we start making those errors again then they can capitalise on it. They’ve watched videos of us when we have performed well at home and not won because we have made too many mistakes.