Pards' Preview

Alan Pardew says the Coventry match is a huge one - and he is looking for his more experienced players to help West Ham get the three points.

"It is a big game against Coventry and we need to win it - we are very much aware of that and I will probably put out the bigger names out there and let them do their business," he says.

"It is a time for the big boys to sit up there and take the job on."

He knows that sides tend to raise their game at Upton Park and adds:

"I don't think anyone has come here and rolled over; Wimbledon, bless them, didn't really have too much in the way of personnel but other than them everyone has been wanting to put a show on.

"It is a big stage and that first period is important for us when the players first feel the pressure and our fans are bellowing at them.

"That is a period we haven't capitalised on just recently and we need to do that on Saturday.

"As we have shown in the past if we get an early goal it really sets us up."

Alan is looking for the players to bounce back after a disappointing Easter that yielded just one point, and he adds:

"We have had a difficult time just recently, but every team has a bad time - and it doesn't mean we can't respond to it.

"The players in the squad are good enough and the time for reflection is not now - it is still very much in our hands and we have to take that.

"People say to me that our form indicates we won't make it, and looking at us play suggests we haven't got enough about us to make it - but a win can change the look of a team.

"I would openly admit that our confidence isn't sky-high but a victory can soon put it there."

Coventry will be playing without pressure and Alan adds:

"I think Coventry would probably say they are out of it and there are not many teams that are - that is what has made the league so difficult.

"There are maybe three or four clubs, including them, that are out of playoffs and relegation - though they may have different thoughts."

With Matthew Etherington still doubtful, Chris Cohen could be a contender to start on the left and Alan adds:

"I have to keep looking at him; he is only just 17 and I have to keep picking and choosing for him for the moment.

"But I have got no fears for him - he has a great mentality.

"But really I shouldn't need to look to him as I have enough big names in the squad to deal with things even if Mattie Etherington isn't in the team."

Alan is looking for the 'goals for' column to become lively again after the side failed to score against Reading, Derby, and Crystal Palace, and he says:

"The bottom line is we are not scoring enough goals and certainly this Saturday we really need to change our mentality - and whichever way you look at it you need to score goals to get promoted."

With the Hammers now out of the playoff positions, he hopes that the 'fear factor' will be removed and he explains:

"We have got nothing to lose now and maybe the situation we are in now will take a little bit of pressure off us.

"Our strikers have been diligent and fighting for the cause and maybe now they can free themselves up and show their talent.

"I don't think by any means we have seen the best of David Connolly, Bobby Zamora, and Marlon Harewood recently.

"Certainly I will be looking to those guys, and Deano if he plays, to threaten the goal more than we have.

"Connors is working hard but at the same time we need him to threaten the goal more and I think he would acknowledge that.

"But I feel we have the players to do that and in the next three or four games they need to show it."

Bobby Zamora could be restored to the starting lineup and Alan says:

"I rested Bobby on Monday and I think he has missed that constant action you get in the football league.

"I have said to him he needs to get back to where he was at Brighton and I feel once he gets into the groove people will see what a good player he is.

"I think he just needs games because he has been sitting in Tottenham's background and hasn't actually played many reserve games.

"When you play week in, week out, you find a rhythm and get good confidence about yourself.

"He has come to his home town club and he has experienced the pressure that that brings, plus the games, and I think it has caught up with him a little bit.

"He also carries the burden of being a supporter of the club and is reminded of that wherever he goes.

"It is extra pressure on him but he is coping with it and I certainly need Bobby Zamora on top form if we are going to make it - I won't rest him for long because he is quality we need.

"He did start terrifically well for us and we need him back to that sort of form."

Alan admits there has been a change in expectation recently and adds:

"We have got some young players in and it dawned on us we weren't going to get automatic promotion.

"Now it is dawning on us that maybe we are not even going to make the playoffs - and perhaps that affected a few of them.

"But there is no use now dwelling on it; this is the situation we are in and only the players can pull us out of it.

"We need to get a side that is going to threaten promotion and there is no point getting into the playoffs if we aren't going to be good enough to get up.

"So we have to start building our confidence for that - otherwise you will get found out in the playoffs.

"We have had disappointing games away home but I felt we were much stronger at Palace - we looked like we could deal with that level.

"We hit Reading, Millwall, and Sunderland away when they were in very good form but there were no problems Monday until we were down to 10 men.

"The Derby game was a disappointing one for us but in the Palace game we were much better and really up for it - and that was good, considering the disappointments we had at Sunderland, Reading, and Millwall.

"Losing David Connolly was a blow but we reacted well and the players are still determined they can do it - and I have great belief in them.

"We have a bigger mountain to climb but there is no reason we can't do it."

Steve Lomas will return to the midfield on Saturday and, with Tomas Repka suspended, Hayden Mullins may well find himself back in defence.

"I have to keep moving Hayden around and I thought taking Lomy out of the midfield on Monday - which was purely down to his performance against Derby where he was terrific but meant he couldn't really play again in such a short space of time - warranted putting Hayden back in there to show his fight.

"But Lomy will come back this week, which is great news for us all, and Hayden will be put somewhere else.

"I spoke to Lomy on the Friday and said 'I think the Derby game is the one where we need you most' and I thought he played very well - but with the amount of time he has been out he had no time to recover for Monday.

"When I took the job the scenario was that Rufus Brevettt would be back in January and so would Lomy; I have got to be honest, it has been very disappointing that those two have been out and Lomy has only just come back.

"They are two top quality players and we haven't got a big enough squad to have the cushion of those two sitting in the background.

"It is great to have Lomy available and I think the fans know what he is about and they know he will be good with these young players around him.

"We have certainly lacked leadership in that central area all season.

"Unless he picks up another injury I can't see him not being able to cope now.

"But wherever Hayden plays he has done a terrific job and if you are looking for a reason for the three or four defeats we have had, he hasn't played in those games.

"He has grown in a West Ham shirt and Jobi, Nigel, Adam and Bobby are finding it isn't easy to wear that shirt week in, week out - but I know they will grow into it as Hayden did.

"I am learning about them and they are learning about themselves in these situations; I think a few of them have been caught out and you have to remember that someone like Nigel Reo-Coker has never been involved in anything like this.

"Jobi and Adam are the same; there is a different kind of pressure here to Wimbledon - they will be better for it but they need to grasp it quickly."

Steve Bywater returns to the starting lineup after a two match ban and Alan explains:

"He has done so well and I think for the long term future of the club Steve needs to stay in there - he will start.

"Pavel has done terrific and has been great around the club as well in terms of his experience - so we couldn't have asked for more."

As for the controversies of the Palace defeat, and in particular the sending off of David Connolly, Alan adds: "There was a lot going on on the pitch; some of it was unseen and some of it was seen.

"We have been accused of lacking a bit of fight and then you get five or six bookings and a sending off and people say it has gone the other way.

"If I had a record like Arsene Wenger's maybe you could throw it at me but the discipline of my teams has always been strong.

"Maybe on the day we did get a little bit carried away but we want to win and we had a fantastic following at Palace.

"But the sending off was crucial.

"I still haven't seen it because the ball travelled, and I don't want to because there is nothing I can change about it - with two bookings you can't appeal.

"There is no point seeing the replay as I knew it was a no-go on that score - the ref told me that afterwards.

"But I believe Connors; he said the lad dived and I have to trust him on that.

"We didn't get the result at home which would have set us up for Palace but that was a disappointing game because I honestly felt the team was in good spirit and had plenty of fire in the belly.

"When we lost Connors it was a blow and we had a mountain to climb but we still put in a good action and maybe could have got something."

Whether any more youngsters are blooded this season remains to be seen, but it is too early for Elliot Ward, who has only just returned to action after a back injury sustained in the summer.

"Elliot won't feature this year because he has just had his first full game," says Alan.

"Darren Blewitt is so young but I wouldn't be afraid of putting him in if I need to because I feel he is a real talent."

As for Rufus Brevett, who resumed full training this week, Alan says:

"He has started training but it is like that pint of lager that is just out of reach when you are thirsty!

"But hopefully he will come through."