Neill to miss Hammers' showdown at Charlton

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The Independent Football

Lucas Neill, the West Ham United defender, is likely to miss the crucial Premiership relegation match at Charlton on 24 February after sustaining a knee injury at the weekend.

The 28-year-old Australia full-back lasted 32 minutes against Watford on Saturday and a scan revealed medial ligament damage which will rule him out for at least two weeks.

Matthew Upson, however, could return from the calf injury he suffered on his debut to face Charlton, who are managed by Alan Pardew, the former Hammers manager. A Charlton victory would take them above Alan Curbishley's men.

Neill was signed by Curbishley to add steel to the Hammers defence, but he limped out of his debut with an ankle complaint and suffered the knee injury on his comeback. But Hammers head physiotherapist, Steve Allen, is confident Neill will play a significant role in the final part of the season.

He said: "Lucas landed awkwardly on his ankle, but also injured his knee at the same time and that was the greater concern for us. He underwent an MRI scan on Monday afternoon, which revealed a grade one medial collateral ligament sprain - the least serious level of that particular injury.

"He is now undergoing intensive treatment with the medical staff and, although I wouldn't like to put a timescale on his recovery until we have gauged his response to that treatment, I am confident that he won't be sidelined for too long."

After the match against bottom-placed Charlton, West Ham will have 10 games to save their season, with the wretched form of the bottom four meaning the points required for safety may be less than the usual haul of 40.

Reported player unrest has been part of a disrupted season at Upton Park, which have included a change of manager and ownership following the takeover of the club.

The Premier League are also getting closer to a decision on whether picking Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano breached rules. The Argentina pair arrived before Eggert Magnusson took over as chairman and the club have helped the Premier League by providing documents about the transfer, with the investigation called as clubs are not allowed to field players owned by a third party.

Mascherano is set to move to Liverpool following the inquiry, while Tevez has been applauded for his efforts in the relegation battle, despite failing to score for the Hammers since arriving in August.

The former Hammers defender Tony Gale has called for Curbishley's players to stand up and be counted against Charlton, and he also defended Marlon Harewood after some fans turned on the striker for missing a penalty against Watford. "One penalty miss doesn't mean the entire season has been his fault, like some people have suggested," Gale said. "Now is not the time for finger-pointing and blaming each other - we can do that at the end of the season. Now we have to stick together, get on with the job and win games."

He added: "The Charlton game again is a must-must-win game. A draw is no good to either side, not only because it's against a fellow struggler, but because it's vital to be picking up wins. When Portsmouth were in a similar position last season, Pedro Mendes scored a couple of long-range goals and it gave them spark and confidence. The players need to be brave enough, not just to win vital tackles and get stuck in, but to accept the ball, be confident with it and create things."

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