Big Sam plots plan for Reading

Sam Allardyce is hoping his depleted squad will once more deliver a defiant performance when they visit Reading on Saturday.

The Hammers lost by the odd goal in three to Everton last Saturday after being reduced to ten men following Carlton Cole's controversial red card. While the outcome of the appeal is yet to be heard, the West Ham United manager will be planning for a trip to Berkshire without last season's top scorer.

"We couldn't afford to lose Carlton Cole, not just the fact that we went on to lose the game because of that but because he may now miss at Reading. That is a massive blow to us.

"We will appeal Carlton Cole's sending off because we need Carlton for Reading. Losing him for three games will be a severe blow that we can't cope with Andy Carroll being out as well.

"Modibo has made an impact from the sub's bench but we don't think he's ready to start a game in the Premier League as it's a big jump from the French league to the Barclays Premier League."

Alou Diarra and Jack Collison did provide some festive cheer on a damp afternoon in east London by taking their places among the substitutes. Diarra has been missing since he played in the Capital One cup match against Crewe Alexandra on 28 August, while Play-Off semi-final hero Collison, who entered the fray for a brief cameo on Saturday, had not played since May's Wembley final against Blackpool.

"I don't think we'll have many more back for Reading, the best we can hope to have back is Yossi Benayoun," Allardyce said. "I give the lads full credit for their efforts but we need variation and options. Without those it becomes difficult, but it was a brilliant effort by the players."

Although there will be a West Ham-sized hole in the lives of many in east London and beyond on Boxing Day, Big Sam plans to use the gap to get a few more players back fighting fit.

"I haven't got a team to play Arsenal so it's work out OK. Gary O'Neil started at about 80% fit and Guy Demel had the virus that was floating around so we just came in on Monday to count up the bodies. We won't do any training and see how packed the medical room is."

Although Cole's dismissal seemed to be a turning point in the game, Big Sam was also left to rue the goalscoring chances that were spurned by the home side. Kevin Nolan - who has been so prolific - this season shot wide, while Modibo Maiga's deflected drive spun narrowly wide.

"With our position at this moment in time the red card was difficult to take but having said that we did have a massive chance to equalise at the death when Kevin Nolan had the best chance of the game to make sure it isn't hurting us as much as it did after the game. We could have picked up another valuable point."

While the result might not have gone the Hammers' way, another sell-out crowd once again offered some fantastic backing for the team. Tickets for the next three home games are in high demand and with Norwich City and Manchester United set to sell out by the end of the week, seats for the following home game with Queens Park Rangers are also now selling fast. For more information, click here.