Pards' Cup Quest

DESPITE the unscheduled FA Cup Fourth Round replay interrupting West Ham United's promotion chase, Hammers boss Alan Pardew insists the clash with Sheffield United this Sunday is far from a distraction.

And after putting themselves right back into Play-off contention with the 1-0 win over Cardiff, Pards and his squad are looking forward to the trip to Bramall Lane.

"We want to be chasing trophies at this Club," insisted Alan, "and the FA Cup is a terrific competition that we want to do well in.

"There is intense pressure on us in the League and that lifts when the Cup games come around. After securing a good win over Cardiff last weekend I think the break in our League programme has come at a good time.

"We're going into the game confident after last weekend's result. We needed a win in the League and it was great to secure it before the Cup game.

"Cardiff were the form team going into the game and everyone was looking at us to slip up. But we kept our composure under difficult circumstances and really did well to grind out the three points.

"This weekend will be a different stage for the players, but they're all looking forward to it and it should be an excellent Cup-tie."

The Hammers are becoming well-accustomed to the sight of Sheffield United. This will be their fourth meeting with the Blades this season, but Pards insists familiarity is certainly not going to breed complacency at Bramall Lane.

"Sheffield United play an aggressive game," explained Alan. "They keep it really tight and don't let the pitch open up for you.

"The familiarity between the two sides means it will be a really closely fought game. It could be decided on a set-play or one individual moment, but it's unlikely that it will be a flowing game.

"It'll be tough and we'll have to work hard and fight for everything. They're very strong at set-plays, winning second balls and putting you under pressure. It's up to us to try and make the running and get our foot on the ball.

"We gave them a lot of problems in the first-half of the last game and that's the kind of performance we'll be looking to give for 90 minutes this time around."

With Arsenal the opponents in wait, Pards has worked hard to not let the attentions of his squad wander to the possibility of a Fifth Round trip to Highbury. But the Hammers boss knows that meeting Arsenal in the next round could have huge implications both on and off the pitch.

"I haven't heard Arsenal mentioned too much amongst the players," he admitted, "and that is encouraging, because it means we are focusing entirely on the next game and not looking ahead to something we haven't even achieved yet.

"But, of course, the chance of playing Arsenal at Highbury is a big motivating factor for both sides.

"Certainly from our point of view it would be a London derby that would give the whole Club a massive lift."

And with Alan Pardew hoping to add a defender to his squad before the next Championship game, he admits that the financial gain of a trip to Arsenal could make the difference in securing a player's signature.

"I think both teams will be thinking that they could bring in a new player on the strength of a Fifth Round tie at Arsenal," he admitted.

"That's obviously a consideration that I have to think of, but for the players it will simply be a case of going out and doing everything they can to put the Club into the next round of the FA Cup."