Strong Steve

AFTER two ankle operations limited him to just five first-team appearances last season, midfield general Steve Lomas is glad to be back at his battling best for West Ham.

And having started the last six games for the Hammers, the Northern Ireland international can't wait to get stuck in against Brighton at Upton Park this Saturday.

"I'm getting stronger with every game," said Steve, "and I'm feeling really good again. I've strung a good run of first-team games together recently, and not felt any problems, so I'm really looking forward to the Brighton match now.

"The older you get the more games you need to get fit again after injury," added the 30-year-old, "and although I'm getting up to speed now it's important for me to get in as many games as I can."

With 14 years experience in professional football and 284 League appearances to his name, Steve brings a wealth of experience to the Hammers midfield, as well as a creative influence that time spent on the treatment table has failed to diminish.

He bagged his 13th Hammers goal in the away match with Plymouth recently, and the former Manchester City player is confident Alan Pardew's team can notch up their 10th home win of the season against the Seagulls.

"Brighton will be no pushovers," warned Steve, "but we're going into the game with a lot of confidence after the excellent 2-1 win against QPR last weekend, and we're looking forward to claiming another three points at home.

"We put pressure on ourselves with a below par display against Cardiff, but we hit back with a very strong performance against QPR in a tough London derby.

"Our home form has been good again this season, and credit to the fans who make Upton Park a superb place to play football. West Ham get some of the biggest crowds in the Championship, and they're always willing us on. They were fantastic against QPR, as they have been all season, and we'll be looking forward to similar support again this weekend."