Manager on Monday

Sam Allardyce was pleased with a good weekend's work for West Ham United, who not only secured their second consecutive 1-0 win in the npower Championship, but more importantly solidified their position in the top two of the table.

The Hammers' win, which came courtesy of Mark Noble's penalty in the 24th minute, saw them keep the pressure on league leaders Southampton, who also won 3-0 at Nottingham Forest.

More importantly though, were the results of the teams just below West Ham as both Cardiff City and Middlesbrough failed to pick up maximum points returns, by drawing at Doncaster Rovers and losing at home to Burnley respectively. Those results mean a healthy four-point lead between the Hammers and third-placed Cardiff.

"Even though Southampton have won, Middlesbrough have slipped up and Cardiff have drawn so it gives us a little more distance to them which I think is important," the West Ham United manager said.

"We are neck and neck and for the first time we have stayed with Southampton. We have got into this position a couple of times this year and slipped up and let Southampton get a victory and then we slipped a few points behind them. Now we have stayed neck and neck - let's hope we can keep on this winning streak as long as possible."

With back-to-back wins under their belt with two clean sheets, Big Sam is looking forward to trying to make it three victories on the spin and getting the Hammers back on track for their target of two points per game when Nottingham Forest visit the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.

"Now we're over the worst of our injuries we've got two victories on the trot and won eight games away from home. We've got one of the best away records in the league and our home form recently has been win-win with Barnsley and Coventry. We want to continue that next week against Forest now and see whether we can keep up with Southampton. "


It was not just the league table that was looking healthier after the weekend however, as the Hammers' treatment table shows signs of clearing up following a difficult Christmas period that saw the squad stretched to its very limits.

The return of Gary O' Neil, Abdoulaye Faye, Winston Reid, Henri Lansbury and Sam Baldock to the squad in recent weeks has left just Matt Taylor and Guy Demel as the only first-team players missing through injury, although both are expected back in training soon.

As such, the manager has allowed Cristian Montano to extend his loan at Dagenham & Redbridge until 14 February.

"I hope  the worst part of the season is over. At Derby County we had ten first-team players unavailable for selection - four through suspension and six through injury - and that was the peak of our level of players missing. But throughout the whole of December we had one or two suspensions or four or five players injured for every single game and it was our worst run of the season.

"Looking forward, I'm feeling confident because Matt Taylor and Guy Demel are close to getting back as well, and we're still looking for at least one player in the January transfer window. We've got George John from America as well, and Gary O'Neil is back having been out all season, and has played a couple of games."

* Sam Allardyce will be appearing as a guest on the BBC's Late Kick-off show, which will be screened at 11.05pm on BBC One for viewers in the London and south-east region.