New Year’s Day marks the start of great change for many of us, but having enjoyed fairly successful seasons so far, West Ham United and Norwich City will be hoping for evolution rather than revolution in 2013.
Sat 11th and 12th respectively in the table with a comfortable gap over those in relegation trouble, Sam Allardyce and Chris Hughton’s teams are becoming the benchmark – along with Swansea City – for recently promoted sides.
The Hammers’ home form has been key to their success and they are 21/20 to pick up a sixth win at Upton Park this season against Norwich.
The visitors have, by contrast, become very solid both at home and away of late and despite their ten-game unbeaten streak coming undone over the festive period, the Canaries are 13/5 to get the win, with the draw 23/10.
Not a lot has separated the two teams, either in their overall form (both average 1.2 points per game) or in the reverse fixture back in September.
It finished 0-0 at Carrow Road on that occasion and a repeat double shut-out is 15/2.
But that would now seem out of character for a Norwich team who’ve scored in every away game since that month and a West Ham side who have notched 77% of their goals at home.
As such, both teams scoring seems more value at 7/10, with a sixth Hammers first-half opening home goal equally inviting at 5/4.
In the absence of top scorer Kevin Nolan, Allardyce will look to the returning Ricardo Vaz Te and the only other player in his squad to score against the Canaries, Matt Jarvis, to get that goal at 8/1 and 10/1 respectively.
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Yet the main way Hughton has improved Norwich is by tightening up their defensive record, already keeping more clean sheets than last season, so they can keep it goalless for at least the first half at at 3/1.
And with the Canaries’ current confidence set to balance out the Hammers’ home form, I fancy it will remain tight throughout and am sticking with draw/draw at half-time/full-time for a nice 5/1 pay-off.