Weblog: The football punter

Hammers can avoid giantkilling in EFL Cup

Newport have carved out a reputation as giant killers over the last two years but they are unlikely to claim another major scalp when West Ham visit Rodney Parade in the second round of the EFL Cup.

The Welsh side have registered FA Cup successes at home to Leeds (2-1), Leicester (2-1) and Middlesbrough (2-0) and held Manchester City until half-time in a 4-1 home fifth-round defeat last season.

West Ham responded to their indifferent start to the Premier League season by winning 3-1 at Watford on Saturday but they have questions to answer in the domestic cups.

They have not contested a major final since the 2006 FA Cup showpiece at the Millennium Stadium, remembered for Steven Gerrard's stunning late strike for Liverpool before their shootout success.

The Hammers have never won the League Cup and haven't contested the final since 1981 when Liverpool defeated them 2-1 in a replay at Villa Park.

But the competition is probably West Ham's best chance of winning some silverware and they have a strong enough squad to make an impression.

Manuel Pellegrini will rely heavily on fringe players in the early rounds but, even if he changes his entire side for this game, they would deserve to be hot favourites.

Newport are unbeaten in six games but an early-season injury crisis is making life tough for Mike Flynn's squad.

Key players Scott Bennett, Matty Dolan, Robbie Willmott, Jamille Matt and Joss Labadie have all had early-season injury problems and central defender Mickey Demetriou is in the early stages of a long layoff after suffering a broken leg in a 1-0 success at home to Plymouth.

The strain was starting to show on Saturday even as Newport scraped a fortunate 1-0 success at home to highflying Crewe.

County took the points but Crewe played more like the home side, harvesting 63 per cent possession, and were unfortunate to lose.

Flynn admits his team will have to play a lot better against West Ham, who will surely be more clinical than Crewe with their final pass and finish.

He is hoping for one of two of his walking wounded to return to the fray but will not want to lose any more players for Saturday's league fixture at Forest Green which is his top priority.

Whoever dons the Newport jersey will give everything but sheer endeavour will not be enough if West Ham play with full focus.

The Irons went through a horrible experience in last season's FA Cup fourth round, suffering an embarrassing 4-2 loss away to Wimbledon, and that will surely be on their minds as they cross the white line in Wales.

With first-team places up for grabs there is reason to expect a much more concentrated, intense West Ham performance which should provide the platform for their extra quality to make the difference.

It could turn out to be a comfortable night for the Londoners, who are worth backing to secure a victory and a first clean sheet of the season.

West Ham to win to nil

The Football Site

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