Carl's Late Drama

IF Carl Fletcher's first goal for the Hammers - in the 2-1 defeat to Derby - was something of an anti-climax, then his second strike for the Club could hardly have been more dramatic.

The Welsh international midfielder's header in the last minute of normal time secured a hard-earned and vital three points for the promotion chasing Hammers.

Carl was quick to praise the battling qualities of Alan Pardew's men against a rugged and determined Cardiff side and, at this crucial point in the season, isn't too worried how the points come, as long as West Ham collect them in threes.

"The important thing against Cardiff was that we took the three points," insisted the 25-year-old former Bournemouth trainee.

"It certainly wasn't the prettiest of performances, but we worked hard, stuck together as a team and kept forcing the game right to the end.

"I was pleased to get the winner. Chris Powell sent over a great cross and thankfully I was able to get on the end of it. The goal was definitely made a bit more special because it won us the game.

"It was nice to get off the mark against Derby, but it's the win that you want most of all and when that doesn't come you can't really feel pleased for yourself.

"So it was really good to come away with both against Cardiff, especially after a really tight game, and hopefully we can use the win to lift our confidence going into the Sheffield United Cup-tie on Sunday. It'll be another tough one and we'll have to fight just as hard, if not harder, to get a result up there."

It's been said on more than one occasion this season that, especially at Upton Park, teams sit back against the Hammers and look to disrupt the game. Cardiff put on a very physical performance on Sunday, and all of West Ham's three meetings with Sheffield United this season, have been intensely competitive encounters.
Carl is expecting a battle of similar proportions at Bramall Lane this weekend.

"Teams do tend to get behind the ball at Upton Park and look to stop us playing," he said. "It's a tactic that Sheffield United have employed to good effect and although I'm sure they'll have to play a bit more openly in front of their own fans it will still be a really closely-fought game.

"The Cardiff match was typical of the type of games we have to win in this League. It was scrappy and physical, but we hung in there and got a result in the end. You have to be prepared to do that because it can't be pretty all the time."

Consistency of team selection has been one of manager Alan Pardew's major headaches this season, with injuries and suspensions depriving him ofkey personnel.

But with senior members of the team hoping to return in the next few weeks, Carl believes the team is taking on a more solid looking going into the final months of the season.

"There was a solid look about the team against Cardiff," he admitted, "and we needed a clean sheet after letting in a few too many goals in recent weeks.

"Hopefully we can keep a solid shape to the side, because we'll come under pressure at Bramall Lane and we'll need to be strong.

"Although promotion is still the target everyone is aiming for, we're still taking the Cup-tie at Sheffield United very seriously.

"After a couple of games without a victory we got back to winning ways against Cardiff and for the confidence of the team we need to keep that going on Sunday.

"At stake is the huge prize of meeting Arsenal in the next round and everyone will be determined to repeat our result up there from earlier in the season."