Gale Amazed

Tony Gale admits he could not believe his eyes when he saw Graham Poll stand over the ball and then step aside in the build-up to Chelsea's vital first equalising goal that helped knock the Hammers out of the FA Cup on Wednesday night.

Predictably, Chelsea fan David Mellor says that Poll "was right to step aside" just before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's quick free-kick but Tony disagrees and says: "I thought Graham Poll was bang out of order. It was as if he ran over to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, whispered 'David James is on the other side of the goal - take it now because he is not ready,' and to make it worse he even got in the way and impeded David's view!

"I said that to people in the press box at the time but people thought I was whingeing just because it was West Ham. The fact is, though, he was bang out of order and it was a terrible bit of refereeing."

But Tony says there is still a lot to play for this season and insists: "We are left thinking what is there for the rest of the season and I think it was a case of that for both sides.

"West Ham have an outside chance of Europe, but the big thing is to get it back on the road because it is no good having your heads down - you have got to get on with it.

"Bolton were poor against Spurs in midweek but I think Sam Allardyce had given up the ghost before then saying that the West Ham game was more important because they want to secure their Premiership status, so they will really be up for this one.

"We have got quite a few out but it is one of those games where we can't lose as I see it. A win would push us up a bit and if we get a little run going there is a chance of Europe."

What would increase the Hammers' chances of Europe is if the two FA Cup final contesting teams finish in the Champions' League positions as well, thereby releasing the UEFA Cup slots further down the table.

With so many of the higher Premiership teams out of the competition, an Arsenal v Chelsea final might just do the trick!

Tony adds: "The way Chelsea's luck went the other night I think they are destined to win it.

"It could go down to seventh or eighth, but the important thing is to finish as high up the league as possible."

With suspensions and injuries kicking in, there could be a chance for Hayden Foxe to show what he can do and Tony says: "It is going to be hard for him. He knows he has been a little bit out of favour but it is a good chance for him to change the way people think about you and he has got to grab it by the horns.

"It is a shame that there are a few knocks and sniffles and bruises because with Steve Lomas coming back the squad was starting to thicken up."

Looking back at Don Hutchison's mistake for the second goal, Tony says: "We have all done it but I don't suppose it is any consolation. Everybody says 'what the heck was he doing?' but you do have these aberrations and I was as guilty as anyone in my career.

"It is more unfortunate when it is in a big game like that but he didn't do it on purpose and it was an honest to goodness mistake. I felt sorry for him.

"I was guilty of a couple of dodgy back passes a few years ago, but you felt it was one of those nights that we deserved to win.

"It was a double choker when John Terry scored in injury time because if it had gone on, I don't think they fancied it."

Assessing the game as a whole, he adds: "I thought the boys put themselves about well. They pressed the ball as well as I have seen them press the ball this season, and really tried to keep it at a high tempo.

"If there is any criticism at all it is just that we tried to sit back when we went 2-1 ahead. If Paul Kitson's had gone in at 1-0, maybe we would have killed the game.

"I thought Paul had an excellent game, putting himself about and worrying Desailly and Terry all night, coming in at such a late stage.

"There was a good free-kick from Labant to set up a good header from Christian and Don had a good header as well which might have gone in and saved his face a bit.

"But it wasn't to be. It looked as if it was destined for Chelsea because they had that bit of good fortune on the night.

"There is still a lot to play for in my eyes, though. It has been a good start for Glenn in his first year as manager.

"The West Ham supporters that stayed until the final whistle gave the players a good round of applause and I think that showed what the fans thought of their performance."