Having managed to avoid the giant killing of all giant killings in the FA Cup, West Ham United return to Premier League action with the visit of Watford to the London Stadium on Tuesday.
The Hammers needed extra time to see off Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 on Saturday, while Roy Hodgson’s life at Vicarage Road began with a goalless stalemate away to Burnley.
Talk about a heartbreaking way to exit one of the most prestigious competitions in football – Kidderminster Harriers did the non-league landscape proud as they pushed West Ham all the way at Aggborough, even going into half time 1-0 up thanks to Alex Penny’s finish.
However, David Moyes called upon the cavalry in the second 45, and it only just paid off as Declan Rice produced a striker’s finish to level the scores and force extra time in the dying embers before Jarrod Bowen’s controversial winner in the 121st minute of the contest.
West Ham may be the ones with their ball in the pot for the next round, but Moyes and the travelling party would have been less than impressed with what they witnessed for the majority of the contest, as a number of second-string players failed to repay their manager’s faith in them.
Victory at Kidderminster did at least end a two-game losing run for the Hammers, whose Champions League destiny is now out of their own hands as they now find themselves fifth in the Premier League table – one point behind Manchester United having played a game more.
With Arsenal also applying the pressure, West Ham would choose no better time to produce another goal-laden performance at the London Stadium, as they have scored at least two goals in each of their last four Premier League games on home turf.
Roy Hodgson in charge of Watford on February 5, 2022© Reuters
While the FA Cup took centre stage during the first weekend of February, relegation candidates Watford and Burnley demonstrated exactly why they are battling to avoid the demotion to the second tier after playing out a drab goalless stalemate in torrid conditions at Turf Moor.
In what was described as a “baptism of fire” by returning veteran Hodgson, Watford managed to record their first clean sheet of the Premier League season at the 21st attempt, with Wout Weghorst and Maxwel Cornet unable to start their exciting partnership on the right foot for Burnley.
It is now 10 games without victory in the top flight for the Hornets, though, as they enter the midweek round of fixtures still below the dotted line in 18th, although Norwich City are only one point clear of Hodgson’s men having played a game more.
A positive result at the London Stadium would therefore throw the cat amongst the Canaries following their rise to safety, and only 15 of the 40 goals Watford have conceded in the league this term have come away from home, giving Hodgson some relatively solid foundations to build on.
West Ham ran out comfortable 4-1 winners at Vicarage Road during the two teams’ first meeting of the season, which marked the Hammers’ fourth successive victory over the London rivals, during which they have scored at least three goals in each dominant success.