Pards' Vital Points

ALAN Pardew admitted that Carl Fletcher's last gasp goal against Cardiff secured a vital win for the Club, as the Hammers now put their promotion quest on hold to chase FA Cup glory in the Fourth Round replay at Sheffield United next week.

And the Hammers boss was delighted with the way his side battled to take three points off the spirited Bluebirds at Upton Park.

"It was a massive win for us," insisted Pards. "Cardiff put up some really stubborn resistance and with a few key players missing it was always going to be a battle for us.

"The game certainly wasn't aesthetically pleasing, but we fought extremely hard against a very strong Cardiff side and earned ourselves a very important win.

"Our attention will turn to the FA Cup now and hopefully we can take the same kind of fighting spirit we showed against Cardiff into the game at Sheffield United.

"If we can win at Bramall Lane next Sunday then we could be facing two weekends without a League game, and by the time our next Championship match comes around we're hoping to have the likes of Matty Etherington, Steve Lomas and Gavin Williams fit again.

"Because we don't have a League game next week it was really important for us to win against Cardiff and put ourselves back in touch with the Play-off places. Now we can focus all our energy on the Cup-tie at Sheffield United and hopefully get another positive result."

Cardiff's stern resolve was finally broken by Carl Fletcher's 90th minute header, but only after Hammers had survived one or two scares of their own at the other end, most notably Alan Lee's effort that came less than a minute before Fletcher's winner.

Pards was full of praise for Cardiff's effort, and also the application of his Hammers during an intensely physical battle.

"We really had to grind away through the match," he admitted. "They made it very difficult for us and we lacked a bit of urgency in the first-half.

"That was something we were able to sort out at half-time and we came out for the second-half showing far more determination. We dominated the play for long periods and created lots of pressure, which eventually was converted into the goal we needed.

"It came right after we had survived a very good chance from Cardiff and the players showed a lot of character to press them right to the end."

The Hammers boss was also full of praise for Fletcher, who scored his second goal for the Club in as many League games and was one of a talented array of Welsh players on show.

"Carl didn't have one of his greatest games today, but he showed great strength of character to come up with the goal when it really counted," said Alan.

"He's got great technique and after a superb cross from Chris Powell, Carl applied an excellent finish.

"But we had several really good performances. Mark Noble was impressive again and Nigel Reo-Coker had one of his best games for some time. Nigel is an important player for us and he needs to have a big second half of the season.

"Some of the Cardiff lads did very well, though, especially the boys at the back. The two Welsh central defenders, Danny Gabbidon and James Collins, were excellent and look like they'll have a great future.

"Overall it was a tough match and I'm really pleased to have come away with a result. I hope it sent our fans home happy and we're looking forward to their tremendous support at what promises to be an excellent Cup-tie at Bramall Lane on Sunday."