James Collins believes he and central defensive partner James Tomkins are overcoming the body blow of losing brilliant Winston Reid from the back line.

Thankfully ‘Ginge’ recovered in time to replace the New Zealand star at the heart of defence and despite some worrying results believes he and Tonks have bedded down well.

He said: “It’s as easy to play alongside him as it is Winston Reid.and he’s a great lad on and off the pitch.”

He’s expecting a tough encounter tonight against Palace declaring: “You know what you are going to get against a Tony Pulis side but we’re both looking forward to the battle.”

Ginge’s best mate -former Hammer ┬áDanny Gabbidon – will be turning out for Palace and although they acted as best man at each other’s weddings, there will be no old pal’s act on view.

Collins said: “He’s been great and he’s one of my best mates, so I know him inside out. Gabbs did struggle with injuries towards the end of his time here, but you could tell what a good player he was when he won Hammer of the Year in his first season here. That speaks volumes.

“He was probably the best centre-half I’ve ever played with and to see him still playing well is great. They haven’t conceded that many goals but they have obviously lost games. He is┬ádoing well but he’s getting on a bit now, so if we move him about hopefully we can get a couple of goals against them!”

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Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!"

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