Gavin's Goal Boost

BACK from injury and back in the starting line-up Gavin Williams had every reason to be optimistic as he took to the field to face Leeds United.

By the end of the 90 minutes his feeling were mixed. On the one hand, the £250,000 signing from Yeovil Town had scored his first goal for the Hammers, hit the woodwork and turned in one of his best displays since joining the Club in November.

But on the other, the team had left Elland Road empty handed after doing more than enough to earn a draw.

"We thought we did enough to deserve a draw," admitted Gavin, whose 68th minute volley drew Hammers level with Leeds. "It was a tough game for us and we really wanted to keep up our winning run in the League.

"The atmosphere was great inside Elland Road and for the first-half they made it difficult for us. But we got at them after they had scored and we had a couple of great chances to win it before they scored their winner.

"The lads were disappointed afterwards, because we'd played well and got nothing."

Although admitting that personal feelings take second place, the 24-year-old midfielder was delighted to get off the mark for West Ham in only his 8th appearance.

"It was good to get a goal," he said, "and it was just a shame that it didn't earn us a point at the end of the day."But it's always nice to get your first goal. It's been a bit stop start since I arrived, getting in the side and then picking up what was a freakish injury against Derby.

But I'm glad to be over that now and hopefully I did enough to earn a place in the side for the Preston game next week.

"There's a lot of good midfield players here and competition for places is tough. You can't count on having a place in the team each week and that's a good thing for the Club."

Defeat against Leeds came off the back of three straight League victories for Alan Pardew's men, wins that had seen the Hammers climb back into the promotion places. With a tough game against promotion rivals Preston next up at Upton Park, Gavin is keen to stress that the team can't get ahead of themselves in their chase for the Premiership.

"Our results recently have been really positive," he insisted. "The three wins on the bounce were encouraging and they brought us right back into contention, which shows just what a tight league the Championship is.

"There are a lot of teams around the Play-off places that have got a chance to break in there. It only takes a few wins to push up the table, or a couple of defeats to slip down it.

"We've got to be on our guard and make sure that we get the defeat at Leeds out of our system this week.

"We played well and hopefully we can take confidence from that into the Preston game."

The visitors on Saturday have been the surprise team of the Championship this season, surging into the Play-off places after a strong run of results in the early part of 2005. But Gavin insists the Hammers will not be under-estimating the Deepdale team.