Michael Goes For Goal

Whether Ledley King, Stephen Carr, Kasey Keller and Dean Richards get a Christmas card this year from Michael Carrick may yet depend on West Ham's fate at the end of the season, but one thing IS certain - that rarely, if the right 'result' at the end of the season is achieved, will Michael Carrick score a more important goal than that which the aforementioned quartet's mistakes in the last home game allowed him to.

For Hammers fans, it was an all too familiar sight when the exploitation of an inability to clear led to an incisive strike into the back of the net - but this time it was the opponents who suffered as Michael drove home insistently to score his first Premiership goal in 4,151 minutes, or 49 appearances.

The goal put West Ham two goals to the good for the first time for a long time, settled the nerves a little, and made for an emphatic win over Spurs that, many would argue, deserved a higher score.

Another strike from Michael, a Geordie, against the 'Mackems' of Sunderland at the weekend would go down nicely - but if he does do it, don't expect an elaborate explanation.

Of the strike against Spurs, he says simply: "It was one of those that just dropped and swung my left peg at it - I was delighted to get a goal, but it was more about the performance and I think the lads were delighted with the way we played.

"They didn't really get a kick, and, especially at home, we haven't been good, so it was nice to put in a performance with three points following it.

"I thought the lads did well on the day; we started brightly and dominated throughout the game.

"Teddy Sheringham had a chance from a corner when he should have scored and goals change games so that could have made it different.

"We have missed a few chances this season when the opposition has gone and scored but I was just glad we got 2-0 ahead because we haven't been in that position for a long time."

The Upton Park victory has hopefully banished any notion of a home hoodoo, coming as it did shortly after the win over Blackburn at the Boleyn - but also the disappointing home reverse by Liverpool.

For many, including coach Roger Cross, himself formerly a Spurs man, it was the most complete performance of the season.

The question is, what did the trick?

Says Michael: "I don't know if you can put your finger on that type of thing; it just happens. All the lads were on their game - and it just clicked.

"Hopefully we have turned the corner and we can have a strong end to the season - we have to catch Bolton."

Places are at a premium for the visit of Sunderland, but at least the Spurs win proved one statistic redundant - that a win without Paolo Di Canio isn't impossible.

The victory over Spurs represented the first three points of the season without him, and Michael says: "Was it? I thought the two front lads against Spurs were brilliant, causing all sorts of havoc, and when Les came off Hutch did well.

"It shows the squad is a bit stronger whereas maybe last year if Paolo or Fredi weren't playing we'd struggle.

"We have a bit of strength in depth now and the gaffer wants good competition for places and it is good for the club having people behind you because you want to stay in the team.

"Although you do your best in every game, it is nice to know you have got someone knocking on the door to try and get in the side, and you have to keep them out.

"That is brilliant - competition keeps everyone on their toes."

The Spurs game was then followed by the first goalless stalemate of the season that West Ham have been involved in - though, oh, how we'd have settled for a few more of those this season - and Michael reflects: "We were happy with that and will settle for it; they are flying at the minute and we had to keep the run going.

"It wasn't pretty but we can't afford it to be, because we are scrapping for our lives.

"I think we deserved a point if you look at it; they came on to us at the end but they were always going to as the home side.

"We have had a couple of chances and Trevor had a decent chance but overall I thought we coped with it and they didn't really cause us too many problems until they made a few changes to put three or four up front.

"But even then I thought we coped quite well, and obviously on set pieces, when the gaffer has everyone nailed everyone down at the start of the game, with three subs coming on like that you have got to organise quite quickly.

"But I thought the lads did well, the back four were outstanding, and even though Bolton won on Saturday at least we keep topping up our tally.

"But we are still down there; we are in the bottom three and we have to take each game as it comes."

That next game, of course, being Sunderland, a goal against whom would please some of his old friends from the Wallsend Boys' Club as much as those watching in claret and blue.

"It is massive game after coming through the Everton one unscathed," he says.

"Sunderland losing to Bolton on Saturday means they are going to want to be proving to people they are better than their league position says so we have to do a job.

"You could say it was a bad result for us but it's hard - if we win enough games we are going to escape, no matter what.

"We are trying not to concentrate on other teams - though it is difficult not to look - and if we keep doing that we should be okay."

Michael is certainly not looking beyond Saturday - with Bolton not playing that day - and he concludes: "They are all massive games, but I am only looking at the Sunderland game, to be honest - and I don't even know who we have got after that.

"If we can hopefully take three points from the game against Sunderland, which I think we can, then we will move on from there."

And a goal would be nice, too!