Allardyce targets winning run after Hammers slump


West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has set his team the target of winning "four games on the trot" after they fell to a narrow 2-1 loss at Derby on Saturday.

The defeat meant West Ham failed to capitalise on leaders Southampton's surprise Friday-night loss to Bristol City. And ahead of Coventry's visit to Upton Park today, Allardyce said his side must return to winning ways to reinvigorate their push for automatic promotion.

"We've got to get over this difficult period and get back to as near to full-strength as we can and start winning," said Allardyce, whose third-placed team have now lost three of their last five league games. "We're in a situation now that it's a group of wins we need to put together. We're four points behind where we want to be and to catch up those four points you need to win four games on the trot."

Allardyce did, though, express his relief that four suspended players will return to action today, after being without captain Kevin Nolan, Jack Collison, George McCartney and Julien Faubert at Derby. "The only good thing is that we've got our suspended players back to choose from, which makes us a lot stronger," he added. "That's what we need."

Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray rued his team's missed chance to go level on points with Southampton after his side were held 1-1 at home to Peterborough.

"It feels like a defeat," reflected Mowbray. "With the results [Southampton's and West Ham's defeats] we saw an opportunity but for whatever reason the ball didn't go into the net for that second goal."

Mowbray, whose second-placed team visit Blackpool today, also revealed a desire to bring in forwards with "physicality" during this month's transfer window to help sustain his side's bid for promotion.

"We need a different option," Mowbray said. "Sometimes when you're playing against packed defences you need a bit of physicality. We'll work hard, ask questions and hopefully January will bring some reinforcements."

Reading manager Brian McDermott believed it was his side's sheer determination which allowed them to defeat Ipswich 1-0, Alex Pearce's header securing the home win. "There was nothing in the first half," said McDermott. "We didn't play particularly well, they made it really difficult and passed it well.

"Sometimes you have to win ugly. Sometimes you need performances like this. Attitude, desire, will to win, we had all of those things."

Reading, fifth in the league, today visit fourth-placed Cardiff, who prevailed 1-0 at Nottingham Forest courtesy of Kenny Miller's 59th-minute goal. Cardiff manager Malky Mackay heaped praise on the 32-year-old forward.

"Good centre-forwards score goals regularly throughout their career," said Mackay. "Even if they have barren spells there's an inner belief, they don't go under.

"That's character. I want to bring in people with personality and you don't captain your country without that. Kenny's got personality."

Mackay, whose side are three points behind Middlesbrough, also expressed hope that Cardiff would sustain their contention for promotion.

He said: "I'm delighted by the way they have stuck together and we want to give it [promotion] a right good go. Being involved at the top end of the league with 10 games to go will be giving it a good go."