Blogs & Opinion


Peter Beagrie:

Most Popular Posts:

Recent Comments:

Gary Bennett on Reading crashers

"Leeds have thrown away too many games this season with our dodgy defence conceding too many soft goals.Scoring goals has not been a problem and i think the play offs are still there to ... " View all comments

Home improvements

Beags looks at the best of the Football League action

Peter Beagrie - Peter Beagrie Posted 5th April 2012 view comments

I reckon West Ham are happier playing away from home at the moment.

The Hammers have been one of the top performers on the road this season and boast one of the best records in the Championship along with Middlesbrough and Reading.

You would think they'd have hit double figures in terms of home wins by now and if they could have captured their away form at Upton Park they'd be neck and neck with Southampton at the top. As it is, they are scrapping to catch Reading in second place.

Hammers fans: Upton Park hasn't been a happy home

Hammers fans: Upton Park hasn't been a happy home

Big Sam has had seasoned professionals like Matt Taylor, Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, Abdoulaye Faye and Robert Green at his disposal and you would have thought they'd have the experience to handle the negativity that exists at Upton Park.

There's a sense of disappointment among the fans over the style of play and the fact they haven't been able to find their way to the top of the division. However, bigger clubs than West Ham have struggled after coming down to the second tier of English football.

CHAMPIONSHIP LIVE
Reading v Leeds
1.30pm, Fri, Sky Sports 1 HD
Nottingham Forest v Bristol City
5pm, Sat, Sky Sports 2 HD
West Ham v Birmingham
5pm, Mon, Sky Sports 1 HD

They missed Ricardo Vaz Te when he was out for a few games. He's something different; he scores goals, he's good in the air and he can take people on.

He could be the trump card for Big Sam, even though they have plenty of options up front including Carlton Cole (who has struggled to score goals regularly), Nicky Maynard, Sam Baldock and John Carew.

They have an endless list of centre-forwards, but none of them are on a goalscoring streak and someone needs to stand out from the crowd and go and make things happen.

Bumper Easter

There are some absolutely cracking fixtures coming up over Easter, including some top-six head-to-heads.

Easter fixtures for the top six:

SOUTHAMPTON: Portsmouth (h), Crystal Palace (a)
READING: Leeds (h - live on Sky), Brighton (a)
WEST HAM: Barnsley (a), Birmingham (h - live on Sky)
BIRMINGHAM: Crystal Palace (h), West Ham (a - live on Sky)
BLACKPOOL: Watford (a), Barnsley (h)
BRIGHTON: Burnley (a), Reading (h)

Looking at those games you would say that Blackpool have the easiest run, but given Watford's recent form nothing can be taken for granted. However, they'll be looking to take four points from their two Easter games to make inroads on the teams above them.

Ian Holloway made seven changes to his side against Southampton last weekend and put the leaders to the sword. Stephen Dobbie has been an inspired signing and has plenty of experience of earning promotion, having done so in the last two seasons, and he'll take some of the pressure off Kevin Phillips and Gary Taylor-Fletcher.

Speaking of Southampton, they also have good fixtures on paper, but maybe not when you consider all the rivalry and tribalism that goes with the Portsmouth clash. Pompey will definitely be looking to spoil the party! The Saints then go to Crystal Palace who don't tend to concede many at home and that'll be a tough place to go and get three points.

However, Blackpool and Southampton probably have the best Easter run of the top six and the other four sides will want to make sure they pick up as many points as possible.

For the reasons mentioned above, Big Sam and his players will look forward to their trip to Barnsley, but face a tough at home to Birmingham on Monday.

Birmingham will be tough opponents for anybody right now. In Marlon King and Nikola Zigic, Chris Hughton has a front two that complement each other well, while wingman Chris Burke is one of the top assist-makers in the Championship. He's been a revelation since his free transfer from Cardiff.

Just outside the top six we see the pretenders - Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Hull - who have all been in indifferent form. Those three sides, like Brighton, have an inferior goal difference to the other promotion-chasers and I think that could make a massive difference.

But even though we have some great games coming up, they pale into insignificance next to the live Sky Sports game next Friday 13. It will be unlucky for one of the top two when Southampton host Reading. I'm already looking forward to that one!

Down at the basement

Coventry have been a revelation of late, going six games unbeaten to get out of the drop zone.

Fair play to Andy Thorn, who has played a lot of young lads, but they haven't let him down. I like the fact he has come out after every performance - win or lose - and spoken honestly and astutely about the game. He doesn't make excuses (despite having a very thin squad) and when they have come up against stronger sides he has accepted that.

Those players are fighting for their manager and for their club and they have been rewarded for their bravery by clambering out of the relegation zone.

Their form saw Bristol City drop back into the bottom three ahead of their game at Nottingham Forest on Sky Sports. Derek McInnes steered them out of danger when he first arrived, with Albert Adomah the standout performer, but his goals have dried up of late.

McInnes has tried numerous players up front with him, but I think he needs to stick with Jon Stead as the replacement for Nicky Maynard. He's a hard-worker who can play with his back for goal and he's capable of getting goals in this division. I'd like to see them stick with a formation and a set of players for the rest of the season.

They play Forest and Coventry in their next two games, so there are chances for them to pull other teams into the mix. A win over Forest would certainly do them the world of good and they also play Barnsley at the end of April.

If Barnsley continue their recent downward spiral they could get pulled into it. They still have to play Coventry and Peterborough, so anything could happen.

And could Portsmouth pull off a miracle escape, despite their 10-point deduction? After the derby with Southampton, they play Millwall and Doncaster. They also play Nottingham Forest on the final day, but the most exciting game on that day could be Southampton v Coventry; a match that may decide who wins the title and who goes down.

All the permutations are there. The scrap at the bottom is fascinating and it will change from game to game.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Jamie Redknapp

Redknapp: No chance for Liverpool

Jamie Redknapp says Liverpool can't realistically hope to win the Premier League this season....

Jeff Stelling

Jeff: Resting players is costly

Why are clubs resting their stars in crucial games? It's costing them three points, says Jeff Stelling....

Jamie Carragher

Carragher: Which Blues are best?

Jamie Carragher reveals which Man City wizard and which Chelsea talisman he would have in his team....

Latest News RSS feeds

Liverpool undone by West Ham

West Ham United netted twice inside the opening seven minutes en route to a 3-1 victory over Liverpool at Upton Park.

Mutu set for India switch

Ex-Chelsea and Juventus forward Adrian Mutu to sign for FC Pune City in the Indian Super League, Sky sources understand.

Arsenal blitz shatters Villa

Aston Villa’s unbeaten start to the season was ended by a devastating goal blitz as Arsenal enjoyed a 3-0 away win.

Cisse double saves Newcastle

Substitute Papiss Cisse saved the day for Newcastle and under-fire manager Alan Pardew in their 2-2 draw with Hull City.

Wanyama downs 10-man Swans

Victor Wanyama broke the resistance of 10-man Swansea as Southampton left the Liberty Stadium with a 1-0 win.

Features

Mesut Ozil – Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 3: What did you think of German World Cup winner in Premier League win?

Mesut Ozil – Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 3: What did you think of German World Cup winner in Premier League win?

One minute and 19 seconds. That was the time it took for a transformation in the appraisals of Mesut Ozil.

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois adjusting to life in the Premier League

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois adjusting to life in the Premier League

Thibaut Courtois spoke exclusively to Soccer Saturday and described how he's finding life in the Premier League.

Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa were Atletico Madrid team-mates but their routes to the top have been so different

Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa were Atletico Madrid team-mates but their routes to the top have been so different

With 64 goals between them last season, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa are two of the game’s best strikers. Born just three months apart on opposite sides of the Argentina-Brazil border, they were even team-mates at Atletico Madrid. But the pair have taken very different routes to the top.