Matty's Return

IT'S been a heartening sight to see winger Matty Etherington back in training this week. The 23-year-old has been out for the past six weeks recovering from a groin operation, but looks set to be involved against Plymouth on Saturday.

His return can't come soon enough for the Hammers, who have been short of goals in his absence, and Matty is hoping his return will have the desired effect as West Ham look to break back into the Play-off places this weekend.

"It's really good to be back," he insisted. "I feel good again and hopefully I'll be involved against Plymouth.

"I don't know whether I'll start yet. Obviously I'd love to get straight back into the action, but I've been out a long time and it's up to the manager how he wants to set the team up.

"It's been a frustrating few weeks, to be honest. But things have gone well and hopefully I'm over the problem. Now it's just a case of playing competitive games to know how I am.

"But I certainly feel fine and I'm confident everything's been corrected and I get back playing to my best without any problems.

"I only started full training again this week, so it'll take me a few games to get fully match fit again. But I'm desperate to start playing again, and hopefully it'll be against Plymouth."

Matty admits that the squad have faced a tough task to lift themselves after the bitter disappointment of their FA Cup exit last weekend. But the reigning Hammer of the Year insists the squad's focus is very much back on their promotion campaign.

"We can't let things affect our focus," he insisted. "It's been a frustrating season in that we've lost or drawn a lot of games that we really should have won.

"It was a similar story in the FA Cup against Sheffield United. Although it was pretty even in the second-leg, we should have really won in the first game and not had to go to Bramall Lane.

"But we can't think negatively about results that we can't change. That's all in the past now and all we can do is focus on the next game and make sure we put in the best performance possible.

"We earned a very important three points against Cardiff and we need the same again against Plymouth. Performances are important, especially in front of the home fans, but at this stage of the season it's the three points that matter the most and we've got to concentrate all our efforts on putting together a good run of results over the next few weeks.

"It might not always be pretty and we'll certainly have to battle hard, but we need to put together a run of four or five wins.

"We haven't really been able to put together a winning run this season and we need one right now to move us back up the table. We're certainly capable of doing it, we just need to concentrate on winning each game as it comes."

In his absence the team have come in for criticism in recent weeks, but although Matty appreciates the fans' frustration he insists the squad are unfazed by questions of their promotion credentials.

"We have to accept the criticism that comes our way when we're not doing ourselves justice," he admitted.

"The squad understand and totally accept the fans' frustration. It's up to us to make things right and get ourselves going on a good run that moves us back up the League.

"Realistically, we know that the automatic promotion is going to be a very tough ask. But as long as it's still possible for us to make it then that's what we're going to be aiming for.

"You never know with results in this League. But our main aim at the moment is just to push ourselves back into the Play-off places and to that we need another three points against Plymouth on Saturday."