Pards' Patient Start

ALAN Pardew believes that the opening 30 minutes of the clash with Newcastle United at St James' Park will be crucial to his side's chances of taking something from their trip to the North East.

After watching his Hammers squad triumph with a superb 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers last weekend, the West Ham United manager is rightly looking forward to the match against Graeme Souness' team.

But he knows Hammers will face a stern test of their Premier League credentials in this first away trip of the season.

"St. James' Park is a great place to play football," he said. "It's a special stadium with a special atmosphere, and in many ways very similar to Upton Park in the way they approach their football up there.

"The passion of the fans and the way there is great family tradition at Newcastle are all things you associate with West Ham United and its fans. It's a big game for us and one we know will be very tough.

"I saw Newcastle play Arsenal last Sunday and although they lost 2-0, up until the sending off of Jermaine Jenas the two teams were very even.

"The first 30 minutes of the game is going to be crucial for us. In the opening period of the Blackburn game we looked a bit intimidated by the occasion and we've got to make sure that doesn't happen at Newcastle.

"It's important that we force ourselves onto the game from the kick-off so we don't get dictated to. When you play against quality opposition like Newcastle you have to expect them to dominate for periods of the game.

"That's why we've got to be patient, keep our heads and make sure we don't give anything away. All three of those we did very well against Blackburn last week and that will give us plenty of belief going to St James' Park."

Hammers take an excellent run of form with them to the North East. Pards' team have lost just once in their last 14 games stretching back to March, with their last away defeat coming to Reading in the same month.

"We go to Newcastle on the back of a very good run and with the squad on a high," he said. "The boys are in high spirits after the Blackburn game, but they have been like that for a good few months now and it's a feeling that we want to keep around the squad over the coming games.

"With the international games we haven't really had a chance to sit down and reflect as a squad on what happened against Blackburn last weekend. Really we have only had one full day to prepare on Thursday, which is not idea at all.

"But that's the agenda we have to deal with and we go to Newcastle knowing that at the very least we can keep at this level.

"Being second in the table is obviously very nice for the Club, but it doesn't mean a great deal at this stage of the season and we're certainly not getting carried after just one win.

"This is going to be a tough test for us against a team with quality players. Our defence in particular were excellent against Blackburn and they'll have to be again to cope with an extremely tough opponent in Alan Shearer.

"He's so experienced and like all top players has got the quality to decide the outcome of a game. We'll have to be on our guard, but we do feel that we've got that kind of quality in our team as well.

"This game will be a huge challenge for the players and staff of the Club, and for both sets of fans I'm sure it will be an enjoyable occasion.

"Hopefully we can get a result though and St James' Park will be quiet come the end of the game."