DESPITE a late equaliser robbing his side of a third straight victory last week against Leeds, Alan Pardew insists that the Hammers will still go into Saturday's clash with Preston in confident mood after a strong run of form.
"In our last three games we've had two excellent wins and came within a minute of getting a third," he explained. "A lot has been said about the controversial penalty, but we're not going to dwell on the negatives. We've achieved some excellent results in recent weeks, came very close to achieving another against Leeds, and we'll be taking a very positive attitude into the Preston game.
"Last week our result on the Friday night gave the teams around us a incentive to go out and do well the following day, which some of them did. But this week it will be even and hopefully we can go out, get a good result and put the pressure back on the teams around us in the table."
Pards admits that the hectic Christmas period will offer up plenty of points for his Hammers side to take advantage of and he stresses that a good Yuletide run will see West Ham right back in the promotion race.
"Our next three matches against Preston, Nottingham Forest and Rotherham are all very big games," he said. "We're looking to secure a good points total over Christmas and hopefully that will put us close to the Championship leaders going into the New Year.
"This is an important time of the season and from our point of view it would be a great time to hit form. We've got some experienced players coming back into the squad after injury and with a busy schedule coming up it will be important to have our senior players fit."
Preston are in the midst of a tough spell at the moment, after losing three successive games and suffering a 5-0 hammering against Wigan. But Pards warned that this is no reason to take the trip to Deepdale likely.
"Preston have not had great results of late," he said, "and that means they'll be really motivated to put on a good performance on Saturday in front of their own fans.
"Leeds were in the middle of a difficult spell when they visited Upton Park, but you have to watch out for a backlash from teams that haven't won for a while and we are staying vigilant.
"We're expecting Preston to be very resilient and hard working, and it will be tough for us to break them down. They've also got some very good players like Eddie Lewis and Richard Cresswell who could cause us problems.
"Under their young coach Billy Davies they have been bright and imaginative going forward and this will be a tough test for us on Saturday. But we've got a good week's preparation under our belts and we're heading to Deepdale determined to build on a good run of form."
The only fresh injury worry for Pards concerns last week's goalscorer Luke Chadwick, who is doubt for the Preston game with a groin injury.
"Chaddie has a slight groin problem," Alan explained, "but we're going to give him every chance to make the game.
"Otherwise the squad is in good shape. Malky Mackay came
through a Reserve game this week, while Teddy Sheringham has put in
another solid week's training.
"Christian Dailly is also participating in training now and we could see him back in the side before the New Year."