Football: Redknapp on the attack

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(First Edition)

HAPPINESS and the Hammers are not arm in arm at the moment, but Harry Redknapp will not have anyone saying that morale is low. The West Ham United manager was disappointed with his team's display but not their commitment in losing to Third Division Walsall.

The 2-1 defeat in the Coca-Cola Cup second round first leg, at Bescot Stadium, on Tuesday, saw the Hammers - sixth from bottom in the Premiership - in disarray. Steve Potts, the captain, scored an own goal, Redknapp's new strike force of Tony Cottee and Don Hutchison managed barely a goal attempt, and the midfielder Martin Allen had a furious on-field row with the winger Matthew Rush.

'I'm all for players giving others a rucking if they are not doing the business,' Redknapp said. 'I'm not complaining about our attitude - just the performance. You can't be happy when you come to places like Walsall and get beaten. Our main problem remains the same - we find scoring very difficult.'

Rush was fiercely rebuked by Allen after failing to reach a forward pass during the second half when Allen's words 'run, you bastard' brought gasps of astonishment from the main stand. The two players then exchanged more heated words. 'Martin has a go at people because he's such a great competitor,' Rush said. 'It is nothing unusual with him but this was a bad night for everybody.'

Hammers should have the midfielder Matt Holmes back in the side against Arsenal, at Upton Park, on Sunday, after missing four games with a groin injury. Allen will also be available, despite neeeding four stitches in a head wound at Walsall. Cottee, however, starts a three-match suspension.

Redknapp, who is 'no nearer signing another striker right now', is still looking for more firepower and has his sights on Bradley Allen, the Queen's Park Rangers forward. The Hammers still seem to be suffering the fall-out from the departure of Billy Bonds as manager just a few days before the start of the season. The new signings, Cottee and Hutchison, are the only players to have scored for them in seven games this season. Against Walsall, they needed a bizarre own goal by the former Cameroon international, Charlie Ntamark after 42 minutes, to drag them back into the game after Stuart Watkiss had put the Midlanders ahead.

Cottee hit a post but Walsall, anxious to impress their new manager, Chris Nicholl, kept battling and made the better chances before the luckless Potts inadvertantly turned home a Chris Marsh cross in the 75th minute.

Nicholl, back in a manager's chair three years after leaving Southampton, and appointed as Kenny Hibbitt's successor only the day before the game, said: 'I'm delighted with the players and the fans who gave them such great support. I can't take credit because I've only been here a day and a bit.

'The highlight for me was the determination of the whole team but we'll need all that again at Upton Park.'

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