Alan's Away Points

AFTER a vital three points against Watford at Upton Park last weekend, Alan Pardew insists that his Hammers side are going into a massive game at Sunderland positive that they can leave the North East with a precious away victory.

However, with Sunderland in fine form and the Stadium of Light always an imposing venue for visiting teams, the Hammers boss is under no illusions about the tough task that faces his side tomorrow. 

"The Watford result was fantastic for us," he said, "especially when you look at their 3-0 win over Portsmouth during the week. That shows we defeated a very accomplished side last weekend, and the result has certainly given the squad a boost.

"Everyone is going to Sunderland positive that we can get something out of the game. The display against Watford was certainly not perfect, but it has given us a good platform to build from this week.

"It will be a really big test for us tomorrow. Results don't lie, Sunderland are in third place in the table and haven't lost at home all season, so it will be a very difficult game for us.

"Mick McCarthy is an experienced manager and has organised Sunderland into a strong team unit, which also plays some very good football.
"They are on a bit of a roll at the moment as well after three successive wins, so they'll certainly come into the game with a lot of confidence. But if we can deny them space, stop them playing, and take our chances when they come along then there's no reason why we can't come away with a result."  

The Hammers go to the Stadium of Light hoping to change a record of just one away win since September. However, that statistic hardly tells the full story of life on the road for Alan Pardew's men. In fact, The Hammers have lost the same amount of away matches as third place Sunderland - five. But with three draws to the Black Cats one, have failed to convert good performances into wins away from Upton Park.

"Overall, I think we've been competitive away from home," agreed Pards, "but have just not finished teams off when we could have done.

"I thought we were unlucky not to win at Plymouth, admittedly put in a poor display at Cardiff, but then more than coped with Millwall for long periods of the game, before losing Marlon Harewood.

"I've not been disappointed with our performance level away from home this season, but we do need to start picking up more points on the road, and hopefully we can start today."
Pards is still without experienced defenders Christian Dailly (knee) and Malky Mackay (calf), while Hayden Mullins is serving the last game of his three match ban for the red card against Brighton. Nigel Reo-Coker is also suspended tomorrow after picking up five yellow cards this season. Don Hutchison is out with a knee problem, however Teddy Sheringham is in the travelling party this weekend after missing eight games with a thigh injury. Alan admitted, though, that the former England striker remained doubtful for tomorrow.

"Teddy returned to training at the end of this week," revealed Pards, "and is in the squad to travel to Sunderland. "But he's missed a lot of games and still needs to build his fitness, so although we're giving him a chance, I still think he is doubtful for Sunderland."

Marlon Harewood returns to the squad after serving a one-match suspension and young midfielder Chris Cohen is also included after recovering from a back injury. 

The squad travelling to Sunderland is:

Bywater (GK), Walker (GK), Repka, Fletcher, C Powell, Chadwick, Lomas, D Powell, Cohen, Rebrov, Etherington, Harewood, Zamora, Ferdinand, Melville, McClenahan, Noble, Sheringham.

Sunderland v West Ham United at the Stadium of Light, Saturday 4th December 2004, kick-off: 3.00pm.