Pards Looks To The League

ALAN Pardew insists his side will not be affected by their FA Cup defeat at Bramall Lane, after the Hammers boss watched a spirited performance unravel with a 3-1 defeat on penalties to Sheffield United.

With 200 minutes of football over two matches still not able to separate these two evenly matched teams, the Fourth Round tie went to penalties.

Unfortunately, it was the Hammers who couldn't find their shooting boots, missing through Teddy Sheringham Marlon Harewood and Carl Fletcher to crash out of the competition.

It now means Alan Pardew's men will return to League duty sooner than hoped when they take on Plymouth at Upton Park on Saturday, where they will be hoping to build on the 1-0 win over Cardiff City in their last Championship outing.

"Our focus now is the League," insisted Pards, "and we've got to put together a run of results between now and the end of the season to secure not just a Play-off place but the promotion that everyone is chasing.

"Getting to the Premiership is our main goal and that's what we'll be concentrating on from now on. Of course, we wanted to do well in the FA Cup and it's a blow to be out of the competition because we wanted to progress and were desperate to go and play at Highbury.

"But that's all history now. I don't think this result will have a negative effect on our mentality for the League. We've got a very important home game against Plymouth on Saturday where we need to get another win under our belts to keep moving forward.

"We had a very good win over Cardiff in our last League game that's put us back in touch with the promotion places and this week we'll be looking to put the FA Cup disappointment behind us and concentrate on building a good run in the Championship.

"We're looking forward to the League programme now and we've got to make sure that we do what's required of us to win promotion."

Pards was gamely excepting of the penalty shoot-out defeat to the Blades, but admitted his side should have killed the home side off after they were reduced to 10 men following the sending off of Chris Morgan in the 63rd minute.

"If it's tied after extra-time you go to penalties," he mused. "Those are the rules and that's just something we have to except. Missing the first penalty was definitely a blow for us and their goalkeeper was top notch in that spell and made a great save.

"Sheffield United really came out of the blocks well and we had to defend excellently in the first-half to make sure we didn't concede a second goal.

"But we came back at them in the second-half and really stated to play. We put them under enormous pressure and I thought deservedly got back into the game with the penalty.

"We were in the driving seat once their man had been sent-off and it's frustrating that we didn't go on and win the game from there.

"I said before that they're a tough defensive side, and they proved that. We're disappointed that we didn't create more and cause them more problems. We should have done better than we did when they went down to 10 men, but there were issues that were hindering us.

"We lost Luke Chadwick after quarter of an hour, which meant we lost the natural width in the side. The availability of players meant we couldn't change things to give us more width and that made breaking them down and exploiting the extra man all the more difficult."

Hammers were again backed by a brilliant travelling contingent, and Pards thanked the fans for their support on a freezing Sunday evening in Sheffield.

"Our travelling fans were brilliant," he said, "and we couldn't have asked for more from them. We're just disappointed that we couldn't give them the trip to Highbury that we were all hoping for.

"But it's back to the League this week and we'll need their support again on Saturday for a vital game when we hope to put ourselves right back into promotion contention."