Sam Allardyce knows what safety looks like. The West Ham United manager is a master of keeping teams buoyant in the top flight. He knows that staying up without defensive security is impossible, that clean sheets are the necessary currency in this market. Having seen his defence unbreached for the third time this season in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Norwich, there was cause for confidence.
"It is going to be critical," Allardyce said. "Every time you don't concede a goal you know you've got a point at least. You know for a fact that if you tot up 38 points now in a season you're going to be safe. I know it's a bit stupid, but 38 clean sheets is 38 points."
James Collins, who arrived in the summer from Aston Villa to add grit and nous to the defence, has clearly been well-taught. "That was the basis of our performance, keeping a clean sheet," he admitted. "If you keep a clean sheet you have got a chance of winning any game."
Another summer addition, Jussi Jaaskelainen, was excellent in goal. He signed having been second choice in a relegated Bolton side, but Allardyce had no doubts about thim. "I've got a great goalkeeping coach here called Martyn Margetson," Allardyce explained. "And I knew that when Jussi's got with Marge, Marge would sort him out, put him back into a good frame of mind and rekindle all the old experience he used to have. Perhaps he had lost faith in himself a little bit. But Marge has rekindled his confidence."
Collins certainly feels secure with Jaaskelainen behind him. "He has played in the Premier League for as long as I can remember," he said. "His experience is great for us. He talks well during games and is great in the dressing room."
Booked: West Ham Collins.
Man of match Jaaskelainen.
Referee C Foy (St Helens).