Matt Backs Hammers Young Guns

MATTY Etherington insists Hammers can sieze their Play-off chance with victory over Sunderland, and is backing the squad's young guns, who have impressed in a season that has seen Alan Pardew's squad decimated by injuries.

Teddy Sheringham is the latest senior player to be ruled out for the rest of the scheduled season with a hamstring injury, while Malky Mackay and Christian Dailly have at best a chance of regaining fitness in time for the Play-offs.

But Matty insists the Hammers young stars have made the most of their first-team chances this season and will not be overawed by the visit of the title chasing Black Cats.

"I think the team has shown a lot of maturity over these last few weeks," he said. "This season has been tough with the amount of injuries we've had to contend with, especially to the senior lads.

"But the likes of Mark Noble, Anton Ferdinand and Elliott Ward have come in and done tremendously well for the team. They've shown that they can perform under pressure, and they'll need to again against Sunderland because it's a huge game and we have to win.

"But the mentality and focus of the squad is right. We're going into the game confident and positive, we're on a good run and with the crowd behind us there's every chance we can get the three points.

"It's not like our preparation will be greatly different from any other game, because as a player you have set routines about the way you ready yourself for a match that you've become accustomed to.

"But there's no escaping the importance of this game. We know what's at stake and I'm sure that will be reflected in our determination on the night."

Matty was the scorer of a wonder goal in the Play-off semi-final victory over Ipswich at Upton Park last season, and like the rest of the squad, the 24-year-old is hoping for another crackling atmosphere inside the Boleyn Ground against Sunderland.

"When the crowd are packed into Upton Park and the atmosphere is huge it gives the team a massive advantage." he admitted. "The noise and the support was incredible against Ipswich, and to be honest, it has been throughout the season.

"But the Sunderland game is going to extra special. It's a night game under the lights and because of what's at stake we're expecting a fantastic atmosphere.

"Hopefully, the crowd will all be there early and they'll build up another fantastic atmosphere inside the stadium."