NO one who witnessed West Ham United's 4-2 defeat at Wolves could say the scoreline adequately reflected the performance of Alan Pardew's men.
Missing six senior players, the Hammers came back to equalise twice at Molineux before succumbing to Wolves, leaving Pards to admit that his young side had made mistakes at crucial moments in the match.
"I could not fault the work rate and application of my players," confessed Alan. "We were missing half a team and had some really excellent performances under the circumstances.
"Mark Noble did well again, but the whole squad was low after the game, because they they'd made some costly mistakes.
"We gifted them goals at critical moments and you can't afford to do that. We showed real determination to come back twice in the game and at 2-2 we were looking really dangerous.
"The referee made a crucial decision, pulling the game back for a foul when Bobby Zamora was through on goal, and we had two other really good chances.
"But it looked like it was going to be one of those days for us. We made a couple of disappointing mistakes and it was ironic that it was one of our former players, Paul Ince, that came up to capitalise."
Pards chose Jimmy Walker in goal ahead of Stephen Bywater, but the former Walsall goalkeeper did not have a happy return to the Black Country. However Pards is determined to keep faith with the stopper that has turned in some match-winning performances in his short Hammers career.
"Jimmy has put in some great performances for us," he said. "It was a really difficult decision to choose between him and Stephen, but I thought Jimmy's experience would be important for us in the run-in.
"Jimmy didn't have a great day against Wolves and I'm sure he'll feel that he should have done better with their second goal.
"But he is a big, bold character and I'm sure he'll come back next week and show everyone just what an excellent goalkeeper he is."
The defeat to Wolves saw the Hammers drop out of the play-off places into seventh position. However, Pards is far from conceding defeat in the promotion race, although he admits that getting his senior players fit will hold the key to West Ham's challenge.
"Every game is a crucial one for this Club," he admitted. "It's been a difficult season for us in terms of injuries and in this division there is such a fine line between the teams that you need your best players available.
"We need to get some of our senior players back fit, get a win under our belts and then move on from there.
"The promotion battle is very tough. The top teams are in good form and have a healthy lead, so it's going to be difficult for us to catch them.
"But we're certainly not going to give up. We showed great effort against Wolves, and it was only in making costly mistakes that we let ourselves down.
"We're going to keep attacking from now until the end of the season and as long as they're up for grabs we'll keep chasing those automatic promotion places."