James Tomkins is looking to draw from the experience of facing Aston Villa when West Ham United take on Martin O'Neill's team on Saturday.

The 20-year-old defender was part of the Hammers team that drew 2-2 with the Villans at the Boleyn Ground on the final day of last season. That afternoon, Tomkins faced the combined attacking might of John Carew, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young, who scored Villa's first goal.

The towering Norwegian and two speedy England forwards, both of whom have been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award by their fellow professionals, could all feature again this weekend, although Agbonlahor is battling to shake off a hamstring strain.

England striker Emile Heskey is also nursing a hamstring problem, but Tomkins is fully aware that fifth-placed Villa will pose a threat to West Ham's hopes to securing a top-seven finish and a spot in next season's UEFA Europa League.

"It's a good game for us to come back and do well in. Villa are in a good position in the table so it's obviously going to be a tough game. They have got a lot of good players and a lot of them are in form, but so have we. We're confident going into the game.

"If I play they have a lot of good players. I played against Villa at the end of last season so I can take that experience into Saturday's game. That will help me."

While Villa spent much of the early part of the season in the top-four, a run of seven Premier League matches without a victory has seen O'Neill's team drop eight points below Arsenal and seemingly out of the running for a UEFA Champions League place.

"It might be a good time to play them, but they are doing very well and they have a very good manager too. We're in good form ourselves, though. We didn't really deserve to lose at Spurs so we're in high spirits and looking to get the three points."

With James Collins fit again following a hamstring injury, Tomkins was moved to an unaccustomed role at right-back in the narrow 1-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. While the position was not completely new to the England Under-20 player, who is usually deployed as a central defender, he is happy to fill-in anywhere if it means securing a place in Gianfranco Zola's starting eleven.

"It was obviously a different experience. I hadn't played there for a long time. I'm just happy to be on the teamsheet to be honest so I'm happy wherever I'm playing. It was a new experience for me and I enjoyed it. I've just got to train hard and hopefully I'll be in the team again."