Lomy: It's Crunch Time

Steve Lomas believes that the Premiership clash against Middlesbrough at Upton Park on Saturday is "a six pointer."

Following two defeats on the trot, in the FA Cup at home to Chelsea and at Bolton in the league, Steve is hoping to get the season back on track with a win this weekend.

But he acknowledges that the loss at the Reebok adds to the anxiety to win at home again, and says: "It puts the pressure on the home game again - Middlesbrough is another big six pointer.

"They were two decent performances in the last two games and you could argue that the four conceded were bad goals - it is our Achilles heel.

"We definitely outplayed them at Bolton, playing all the football, and it is the same old story.

"We will come back raring for Middlesbrough after having two weeks to stew but I would rather we had played last weekend."

Steve, back on international duty for Northern Ireland last week - he scored in a 4-1 defeat by Poland - is still disappointed as he looks back at the trip to Lancashire proving fruitless, and adds: "It was the most one-sided away game I have been involved in for a while and to not get the rewards was very frustrating.

"We just didn't take our chances and they had one chance through a defensive error again, and that is about the long and short of it.

"We have had all of the possession and created four or five half reasonable chances with free headers, but their keeper has made a couple of decent saves and that is the disappointing thing.

"Their goal wasn't the greatest. You can't allow them a free shot from 18 yards out, it is asking for trouble."

But he refuses to point to the personnel missing or the change in formation to 5-3-2 as having an effect on the game.

Paolo Di Canio, Michael Carrick, Don Hutchison, Tomas Repka, Trevor Sinclair and John Moncur were all absent through injury or suspension, but Steve insists:

"I don't think it was an excuse. The boys that came in put the effort in and we restricted Bolton as the whole team, had most of the possession, though you could argue we didn't create a lot of clear cut chances.

"But we have had three or four half decent chances, and how many do you want in an away game?

"I think we should have had all three points and Bolton can definitely count their lucky stars."

The one plus point, says Steve, was the full debut of Richard Garcia - and the club skipper is urging the Aussie to make life more difficult for him and his midfield colleagues in future.

He says: "He coped very well and is going to have a good career in front of him. Fair credit to him coming back from a bad injury, and he never looked out of place at Bolton.

"It is fantastic for him to get in. Now he has got a taste of it and he has got to keep putting the pressure on the boys that are in there, and if he keeps playing he will take his chance."