Sam Allardyce will be a frustrated spectator on Saturday as his West Ham United side have a rare game-free weekend.

Following last Saturday's 1-0 loss at Everton, the Hammers would have been preparing for a good opportunity to get back to winning ways by hosting Hull City, but due to the Tigers' progress in the FA Cup, the game has had to be rescheduled for Wednesday 26 March. The West Ham United manager is planning to make the most of the extended preparation period for the next outing - a trip to Stoke City on Saturday 15 March - by nursing yet more injured players back to full fitness.

"We'd have liked to have another game, which would have been our chance to overcome the Everton defeat and get another victory," he said. "We have to be patient. Everybody's going to get fitter and they'll be able to get ready and excited for the away game at Stoke City.

"The players are all very disappointed that we have lost our undefeated run but Everton are a good side and we just got slaughtered when we played there last season and were fortunate to come away with a 2-0 defeat.

"On Saturday we were very close to getting a point and the only disappointment was our final third play wasn't good enough to cause Everton the problems that we should have done."

Although clearly happy with his squad's physical condition, Big Sam will not allow his players to take their foot off the pedal and has plans to organise a behind-closed-doors practice game to provide some much needed game time for those that have not been starting in the first team in recent weeks. The likes of Andy Carroll, Winston Reid, Ricardo Vaz Te, Antonio Nocerino, Joe Cole and Jack Collison could all feature as the manager seeks to ramp up the competition for places in his squad.

"The lads will have a few days off with their families as they can't get any fitter than they are at the minute. They are in a good frame of mind at the moment. We're disappointed now but we've got to get over that and make sure that we've got the confidence and the energy and the belief to play the next game when it comes around.

"Andy Carroll has been constant in training terms but it's match fitness that we need to help him with. If anybody needed a game next week it would be Andy but we've got to wait a couple of weeks before we can get him fit again. We may fit in a behind-closed-doors game for him and some of the other squad players that might not have been playing so much recently."

Big Sam concluded his Monday briefing by reiterating his belief that Carroll has all the credentials to force his way into England's final squad for this summer's FIFA World Cup in Brazil. West Ham's record signing returned from a three-match suspension at Goodison Park on Saturday and his manager insists the No9 just needs to focus on staying fully fit to guarantee his place in England manager Roy Hodgson's squad.

"I think Andy is a fantastic alternative in so much as you can change from the plan that you've got, whether you start with him or bring him off the bench. I'm not talking about pumping the ball up to his head. I don't put him on to just win headers but to control the ball with his chest and feet and bring other people into play.

"You saw on Saturday what he can do inside and outside the box. If he stays fit, he's got it in his own hands and if he does as well as he did last season, Roy can't ignore him."