Boxing Day blow for Hammers

  • Last Updated: December 20 2012, 15:13 GMT

West Ham assistant manager Neil McDonald is disappointed the Barclays Premier League clash with Arsenal on Boxing Day has been postponed.

Neil McDonald: Wanted to play on Boxing Day

A strike by London Underground staff means the game has had to be rescheduled for late January, easing the fixture congestion the majority of clubs face around the festive period.

The Hammers also have an increasing injury list, with manager Sam Allardyce only able to name six substitutes against West Brom, but McDonald believes they would have been better off playing the game on the original date.

"I think you can look at it both ways; yes it gives us an extra couple of days to get players back, but it does mean we will have an even busier January," he said.

"We would probably have preferred to play the game and we are slightly disappointed that it has been called off, but we will be ready when the game comes in January."

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Arsenal are one of only two sides to win in the league at Upton Park this season and McDonald was relishing the challenge of facing Arsene Wenger's side at the Emirates Stadium.

He said: "After the good performance against West Brom away, keeping a clean sheet, and giving Arsenal a really good game earlier in the season, we were looking forward to going to the Emirates.

"I know they have picked up over the past couple of games but putting them under pressure would have been interesting to see."

Everton are the visitors to Upton Park on Saturday but they will be without the suspended Marouane Fellaini after he was handed a three-game ban for headbutting Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross last weekend.

Fellaini has scored eight times for the Toffees so far this season and McDonald is in no doubt that West Ham will benefit from his absence.

"He has been their talisman this season and not only is he a very good midfielder, he is also a big threat from set-pieces," he said. "They have lost a big part of their game so we need to take advantage of that as much as we can.

"We are happy with where we are right now and we need to carry it on and keep picking points up. The more we do that the more confidence we will have and that will allow us to pick up even more points. We are very much looking forward to the second half of the season.

"The expectation for this year was to pick up as many points as we can and we have done that, hopefully we can continue to play well.

"Looking at where we are now you would expect us to push on and finish near the middle of the table, but if we replicate our form from the first half of the season then a top-10 position could be a possibility."

There was welcome news on the injury front as midfielder Jack Collison played in an under-21 match against Norwich on Monday.

The 24-year-old Wales international has not played for the first team since the play-off final success over Blackpool and McDonald is keen for his reintroduction to be a patient one.

"I think we have to take it slow with Jack because he has been out for a long time," he said. "We have to manage his knee carefully but we got him through 45 minutes on Monday, which is great.

"We will see how he progresses but if we need him he will be available because we know he can play at least 45 minutes."


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