Pards Praises Amazing Atmosphere

ALAN Pardew praised the bubbling cup-tie atmosphere inside Upton Park for lifting his team to the performance that booked West Ham's passage into the FA Cup Fourth Round.

"There was a magnificent atmosphere around Upton Park," exclaimed Pards, after watching Marlon Harewood's goal deliver the scalp of Premiership Norwich.

"The team really benefited from the support they got. It was a completely different feeling around the ground to Monday's game and the players responded with a positive statement after the criticisms of the Sheffield United match.

"Sometimes a lift from the fans can be the difference in a team's performance. With young players like Mark Noble making his full debut, we were hoping for a really positive atmosphere against Norwich.

"The fans certainly delivered that and I'd like to think we paid them back with an excellent win against a very capable Norwich side."

Noble acquitted himself very well in just his third appearance for the first-team, prompting Alan Pardew to insist that the England Under-18 captain could go on to be a very important player for West Ham United.

"We think very highly of Mark," insisted Pards, "and he made a very impressive full debut.

"He absolutely loves the Club, his family live just around the corner, and the win over Norwich was a great start to his career. He's played in an FA Cup victory and put in a fine performance.

"Everybody is hoping that Mark can go on to become a cornerstone of the Club."

However, it was the recalled duo of Luke Chadwick and Jimmy Walker that proved to be the cornerstone of a great 1-0 win over the Canaries. The former setting up Harewood's winner and terrorising the Norwich defence all afternoon, while in goal Walker put up an impregnable last line of defence, making save after save to deny the top-flight outfit.

"Luke Chadwick had a terrific game," beamed Pards. "He caused them a lot of problems travelling with the ball and did very well to set up Marlon for the goal.

"Jimmy Walker again showed us what an excellent goalkeeper he is. He made some vital saves and brought a real calmness to the team.

"Jimmy put in a similar performance in his last game for us against Chelsea and I had to make a difficult choice between Steve and him after that match.

"It's very encouraging for the Club to have two good goalkeepers competing for the number one jersey.

"Steve has had a great year for us, so I'll have to make another tough decision before the Wolves game next weekend."

The win over Norwich was the perfect tonic after the disappointment of Monday's defeat to Sheffield United and underlined the fighting spirit inside the Hammers camp. Now Pards is hoping the team can inject that spirit into their promotion chase.

"We were despondent after Sheffield United," he said, and we felt that we had let people down.

"But we have come back this week and showed magnificent spirit. The holiday schedule was very tough on the squad and we've had to manage with a lot of players missing through injury this week.

"That put more responsibility on the younger players in the squad, but they saw this as a good opportunity and responded magnificently.

"We should have a few more of our big names back ahead of the trip to Wolves, but the players out there today did themselves no harm at all."

Malky Mackay, captain for the day against his old club, epitomised that winning spirit, and with three able team skippers missing through injury, Pards praised the leadership of the Scotland defender.

"It was great to see Malky Mackay receive a big ovation from the Norwich fans," added Alan. "He's a real leader, on the pitch as well as off it, and his performance was full of character and determination.

"There have been a lot of positives to come out of the game and it puts us in an encouraging position for the resumption of the League programme.

"It's fantastic to be in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup, but promotion remains our main target, and we'll be looking to take confidence from the Norwich performance and hopefully use it to good effect in our preparation for a tough trip to Wolves on Saturday."