Hammers Sharpen Up For Blades

BEFORE the trip to Portman Road, Alan Pardew called for his Hammers to be one of the best side's in the League over the second half of the season.

His side certainly responded, signalling their intentions for the year ahead with a resounding 2-0 defeat of Championship leaders Ipswich at Portman Road. The victory left Pards insisting that his Hammers had proved their quality, but admitted they need to show it more consistently over the next few months of the campaign.

"We proved against Ipswich that we are capable of beating the top teams," he said. "Right from the kick-off we showed a terrific attitude and played well enough to fully deserve the win.

"Ipswich gifted us the first goal, which gave us a lot of belief, and from there we went on to show the strength and quality we have in this side.

"Ipswich are a great side, and one defeat will not change that. But we looked really dangerous going forward, made it difficult for them to break us down, and could have won the game by three or four goals."

However, Pards warned that one good result will not lead to a flood of wins. West Ham need to combine their quality with consistency over the second half of the season to mount a strong promotion challenge, and will need a similarly charged performance against Sheffield United tomorrow.

"Ipswich have been the best side over the first half of the season," explained Pards, "now we need to be the best over the second half of the season.

"To do that we need to stay clear of injuries, and if we can then we are as good as any team in the division.
"Beating Ipswich has got our New Year off to a great start, but we need to keep our concentration and consistency at maximum and start to put together a decent run of results.

"This result has put us right back into the promotion race and signalled to the rest of the League that we're prepared to have a really good go. We need to show the same sort of attitude at home to Sheffield United tomorrow.

"They're a very strong side, with their own promotion aspirations, and we need to put on another good performance to ensure our good start to the New Year continues."

Pards revealed that his selection plans were thrown into disarray before the Ipswich game, because of a flu bug, as well as injuries to Teddy Sheringham (ankle) and Steve Lomas (calf). But there was nothing under the weather about the Hammers performance, and it is likely Pards will stick with the same side against the Blades at Upton Park.

"We lost Luke Chadwick to flu before the game and had three more suffering," revealed Pards. "But we certainly weren't going to settle for excuses and that showed in our performance.

"I don't usually single out players for special praise, especially after such an excellent team performance, but Gavin Williams in only his second start for the team had a really influential game.

"It's unlikely Teddy or Steve will be available for Sheffield United, but we can take a lot of confidence from the Ipswich game and spurred on by our home crowd hopefully we can earn another important three points."