Hammers Heart

ALAN Pardew's Hammers go to Leeds United on Saturday in good heart, after three consecutive League wins has propelled the team back into the Play-off places.

And with important players returning to fitness this week Pards believes the quality of West Ham's play will soon match the superb work ethic that has earned them nine points from their last three games.

"Our work rate over the last few games has been exceptional," he said. "We've conceded one goal in our last four games, which is a testament to the improvements in our defending and we've really dug in and fought for the last three wins.

"At times, we might have lacked that bit of quality in the last third, but with some of our more technical players, like Matty Etherington and Gavin Williams, coming back hopefully that will improve as well over the next few games.

"Every team in every division wants to be successful, but there are always bad times and we've worked our way through a poor spell and have just tried to keep doing the right things and believing in our ability to turn it around.

"The mood amongst the squad was always good. We're pleased to have got the three wins out of the way, because it can overshadow your preparation at times, and now we can go to Leeds confident that we can give another strong performance."

Pards knows that his team will face a stiff examination at Elland Road, as arguably two of the biggest clubs in the League go head to head on Saturday.

"It's going to be a very hard game for us at Elland Road," admitted Alan. "Leeds had been on a decent run before losing against Wigan last weekend, and we know that they'll be fired up to hit back against us this weekend.

"That's certainly not ideal for us and we'll have to be at our very best to get a result up there.

"Kevin Blackwell has had a really difficult job to do at Leeds and has had to work surrounded by the negativity of a lot of his big name players leaving.

"Under those circumstances he's done an excellent job and although they've got a bit of ground to make up they could yet have a say in the promotion race."

When the sides met at Upton Park earlier this season, a late penalty from David Healey snatched a point for Leeds. But Pards was magnanimous about Hammers fortune on the night.

"Those incidents tend to even themselves out over the course of a season," he said. "Leeds scored to grab a point off us at Upton Park, but a couple of weeks ago we got a late goal to win it against Cardiff.

"Credit to them, because they kept going right to the end when we played them at home and never stopped working. We'll need to put in a similar performance on Saturday.

"We'll certainly benefit from having the likes of Matty, Gavin, Steve Lomas and hopefully Hayden Mullins involved, but it's going to be a very close game and whoever wins will have to work very hard for it."