Alan Pleased For Steve

Alan Pardew is hoping for a clean sheet at the weekend - and is delighted with the way Steve Bywater has been playing since stepping into the side.

"It was a difficult game on Saturday and we had some real big pluses to come out of the game, particularly the goalkeeper who is doing exactly what I hoped for," says Alan.


"It was difficult to be understudy to David James - it is easy, when you have got a personality like that in front of you, to lose your confidence and not be so sure of yourself.

"But he has coped with that admirably and taken on what is a really big challenge.

"It would be nice for him to get a clean sheet soon because he deserves one; it is his next target but more importantly it is the team's next target because he has not really been at fault for any goal, apart from the hand he played in Sheffield United's last goal.

"We owe him a better defensive performance as a team."

Alan knows the next two games could really set the season alight and adds:

"It all builds good confidence going into what is a big spell for us; we travel to Fulham and Norwich so we are in good spirits, confidence is high, and we are looking forward to the challenges ahead."

Alan has to make do without Bobby Zamora, who is of course cup-tied, but is pleased that he at least got off the mark on his debut last weekend.

"Bobby showed his feelings for the club when he scored; it always helps when someone has been standing on the terraces and comes and plays for your club, so I didn't think there would be too many problems him settling in," he says.

He insists, too, that taking off Brian Deane at half time was not an indication of a poor performance, and adds:

"I just took off Deano tactically because we just needed to move then around a bit more; he had done terrifically in the first half."

To replace a player of the calibre of Brian Deane with the likes of Bobby shows the strength in depth of the squad, and Alan says:

"It is a nice problem and I have said that all along that you need four or five top strikers - and we are lucky enough to be blessed with that.

"A couple were left behind to rest; Kevin Horlock is one and he comes back into the frame this week and will be essential to us at Fulham."

Indeed, Kevin returns to the squad along with, after long layoffs, Steve Lomas and Rob Lee.

Despite six players being ineligible, and Don Hutchison being injured - a report suggesting he was going to have a late fitness test is way off the mark - Alan is still able to name a 19-man pool of players, including, for the first time, Sebastien Carole, who could figure on the bench.

Matthew Etherington, whose training has been curtailed by the bad back which caused him to miss Bradford last week, is included.

SQUAD: Bywater, Shaaban, Deane, Carrick, Connolly, Horlock, Dailly, Repka, Lomas, Carole, Harewood, Mullins, Etherington, Quinn, Lee, Mellor, Ferdinand, Cohen, Noble M.