Pards' Point To Prove

ALAN Pardew admitted that it felt like a defeat conceding a late goal in the 2-2 draw against Brighton.

But the Hammers boss could take heart from the fact that the point earned moved West Ham United above Reading and into the final Play-off spot.

"We don't find ourselves in the Play-offs because of one result at Brighton," he explained. "It's the run we've been on leading up to that game, which was really turned things around for us.

"It was always going to be a fight at the Withdean. It was never going to be a pretty game. It's a tough place to play, the pitch is small and pretty much every ball forward you are going to find dropping in your penalty box.

"Admittedly, we were disappointed to draw, because we've missed two or three really clear cut chances. When that happens and you come so close to claiming what would have been a massive three points it can't help but feel like a defeat.

"But we've moved up a place, we've gone another game unbeaten and now we'll look forward to what will hopefully be a good night against Sunderland on Friday."

Brighton's goals both came from the head of Dean Hammond, and although young centre-back pairing, Elliott Ward and Anton Ferdinand, might have done better on the goals Pards was in no mood to hear any criticism of his defenders.

"Those two players have done terrific," he said. "Maybe if we had had an experienced head there he might have got us further up the pitch and we wouldn't have put ourselves in that position.

"If you find crosses coming across your six yard box the bottom line is they've got to be headed away.

"We didn't do that and it cost us, but we also felt aggrieved about the corner being given before their second goal. We don't think it was a corner, but their was a busy linesman on that side who gave it and it has cost us.

"But Elliott and Anton are one of the reasons we now find ourselves in the Play-offs. Their form has been brilliant over this unbeaten run, so I'm not going to criticism them.

"It's really the first time at this level that they've come under that type of pressure. Possibly a bit at Stoke, but we handled it well there and unfortunately we couldn't do the same at Brighton.

"But the two young lads will work at it and you can be sure they'll get better at it because they are both excellent players."

Now Alan must prepare his players for the visit of already-promoted Sunderland to Upton Park on Friday. And the Hammers boss is anticipating a bumper atmosphere for the Friday night fixture.

"Hopefully it'll be a great atmosphere on Friday," he said. "It's a vital game and the crowd will really be up for it.

Hopefully, they can create a similar atmosphere to the one we had against Ipswich in the Play-off semi-finals last season, because with a full stadium behind us it will give the team a great chance of getting a result.

"Despite already being promoted I'm sure Sunderland will come looking to put on a good show.

"Now we've got a couple of days to lift ourselves and get over the Brighton result, because it was bitterly disappointing for everyone.

"But we'll do that and the aim now is to prepare in the right way for Sunderland and make sure we take maximum points on Friday night."