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Darren Lewis: West Ham will need to be at their FA Cup best to avoid being stung by the Pulis effect

11 Feb | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Darren Lewis: West Ham will need to be at their FA Cup best to avoid being stung by the Pulis effect

Top Mirror football journalist Darren Lewis talks West Ham's FA Cup chances in his weekly Betway Insider column

THEY have been targeting the FA Cup even before the draw for the Third Round was made in January.

Sam Allardyce and the West Ham board – who are desperate to give their fans a trip to Wembley – hatched their plan to make the competition a priority way back at the beginning of the season.

And why not? They had already assembled arguably the best squad that the club has had since the days of Lampard, Cole, Carrick, Ferdinand, Sinclair, Di Canio and Kanoute 15 years ago

Despite being dumped out of the Capital One Cup by Sheffield United, as the likes of Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho found their feet, there has remained a confidence at Upton Park that they have a squad capable of delivering a return on their investment this season.

So far in the FA Cup that investment has done very nicely indeed. They were denied in their original Third Round tie at Everton by a 90th-minute goal from Romelu Lukaku. The replay at Upton Park was a classic with keeper Adrian proving the hero in the penalty shoot out.

The Fourth Round tie at high-flying Bristol City – top of League One – had the potential to prove the Irons’ undoing. Sakho once again showed once more that you get what you pay for (and scout well).

With the quarter-finals now within range the excitement has started to build within the corridors of power at Upton Park.

The team are providing the perfect platform for a final campaign at the Boleyn next year before they move into the Olympic Stadium. 

The top-four challenge maintained by Big Sam remains alive and kicking and other quality players are now seeing West Ham as an option – Spanish title-winning midfielder Lassana Diarra is expected to sign within days.

West Brom, however, will prove a formidable obstacle to the Hammers’ progress in the FA Cup.  The east Londoners would have preferred to have played at home for a start.

They have already beaten the Baggies this season – 2-1 at the Hawthorns on December 2 – but that was BEFORE the arrival of Tony Pulis.

The Welshman is synonymous with organisation and defensive steel.  The former Stoke and Crystal Palace boss has lost just one of of his seven games in charge since taking over at the turn of the year. 

And West Ham found out first hand just what big an impact the Pulis effect can have when they took the lead against the side formerly managed by Alan Irvine in their League game at Upton Park on Janaury 1.

The Irons were pegged back just before half-time, Pulis left his seat in the stand to deliver a few words in the dressing room during the break, and by the end of the match the Baggies were unlucky not to snatch all three points.

Make no mistake, West Brom away is the last tie that West Ham would have wanted in order to progress in the Cup.

Pulis has even managed to get misfiring striker Brown Ideye scoring. After just two goals in 17 matches the club were poised to take a loss on the £10million striker by selling him to Qatari club Al Gharafa for just £3.8million. The deal to bring in Carlton Cole from West Ham, however, broke down and Ideye was forced to stay.

Since then, however he has scored in last Sunday’s 2-2 League draw at Burnley and again in West Brom’s 2-0 win over Swansea on Wednesday night. (He also set up the second).

West Ham will also have to contend with the movement of Stephane Sessegnon and the Baggies’ main striker, Saido Berahino, who also scored against Swansea. 

After looking near certainties for relegation under Irvine there is a renewed belief about the Baggies under Pulis, a man who took a shambles of a Palace outfit and turned Selhurst Park into one of the most formidable places to go in the Premier League.

West Ham will need to be at their razor-sharp best this weekend. But then they do have Sakho, whose 10 goals from 17 appearances so far make the bargain of the season at just £4.7million.

It was his goal that put the Hammers ahead in the League game against West Brom. Sakho has also scored against both Manchester clubs and Liverpool this season. With Andy Carroll injured, the fort is in good hands.

Sakho combines so well with Enner Valencia and Stewart Downing who plays in the hole just behind the front two. If the Irons are to win this clash, all three will need to be on their game.

Because with Chelsea, City, United, Spurs and Southampton out of the picture, it is there for taking this season. West Ham could not have dreamed of receiving a better chance.

12/1West Ham to win the FA Cup