Steve's Christmas Challenge

STEVE Lomas admits that the Hammers must improve their form over Christmas if they are to mount a serious promotion challenge.

Nine points off leaders Wigan going into Christmas, the Club Captain reiterated the importance of the next few weeks, after seeing the side lose 2-1 at Preston.

"Our first-half performance against Preston was very disappointing," confessed Steve. "We gave them too much space, allowed them to play, and they punished us. We showed more of what we can do in the second-half and pulled a goal back, but it was a poor result and we need to hit back quickly.

"It's frustrating, because we put in a very good performance at Sunderland and looked like we might be turning the corner with our away performances.  To start the game against Preston so poorly was disappointing. They scored two very good goals, but from our point of view the defending was not up to scratch and we left ourselves a lot of work to do in the second-half to get something out of the game.

"We raised our level after the break and did have chances to equalise, but Preston were tough to break down and made it difficult for us.

"Now we need to get a solid week's work in at the training ground, put right the mistakes we made on Saturday and hopefully get back to winning ways on Boxing Day."

With almost 14 years of first-team football under his belt, the Northern Ireland international is well-accustomed to working over Christmas. And Steve insists that he looks forward to the hectic holiday schedule as the chance to pick up vital League points.

"Christmas has always been busy for me," he admitted, "and this year it will offer us a great chance to pick up some points and move closer to the leaders.

"We need a good performance on Boxing Day to make up for the defeat at Preston, but more importantly we need to put a string of good results together to get us moving in the right direction.

"It's been a case of missed opportunities recently, winning a couple of games and then losing when we should be kicking on to a strong unbeaten run. You don't get promoted by winning the odd game here and there. It's vital that we start to perform more consistently in the League, especially around this time of the year with so many games in a short space of time.

"But no one is running away with the Championship this season. It's a very open League and we're still in a good position to make a run for the automatic promotion places."