Pards Comes Out Fighting

ALAN Pardew insists that tonight's clash with Crewe Alexandra at Upton Park provides a great opportunity for his team to put a very difficult week behind them.

But the Hammers boss is in no way under-estimating the threat posed by the Railwaymen, who are searching for their first win in 12 games to steer them clear of the relegation zone.

"This is a massive game for us," insisted Pards, "and after Saturday, we've got to go out and respond in the right way in front of our home fans.

"Last week was a bad one for us, losing against Preston and Reading in two big games against our promotion rivals. We've got to respond in a positive way this week and make sure we aren't dwelling on those set-backs come kick-off against Crewe.

"This game gives us a chance to put things right and we've got to take it."

Hammers have enjoyed an impressive League record against Crewe, even though it only began at Gresty Road last season. With three wins out of three against the Railwaymen so far Hammers go into the game as clear favourites. But Alan Pardew knows that Dario Gradi's side will be no pushovers.

"Crewe will make it difficult for us there's no doubt about that," he insisted. "They're a very tough side to break down and their work rate is extremely high.

"For us it's a must win game and the pressure is going to be high. But we accept that pressure and it's important that we respond to it positively.

"At the moment we're outside the Play-off places and that's not where this Club should be. It's up to us to put that right and the players need to prove that they have what it takes to get this Club up to where it should be.

"We've got two home games against Crewe and then Leicester this week, and we need to use this opportunity to get back on track.

"Anyone who knows the Championship will be aware that teams struggle to string together even two wins on the trot. If we can do that this week then, with our game in hand as well, we'll be right back in contention again.

"We need to win these two games, but for that to happen we can't take them lightly. We've got to go out and raise our game."

After defeat against Reading, Pards called for his players to show more character in their promotion fight. And the manager is looking for a positive response from his players this evening.

"We'll need strong characters out on the pitch," he insisted. "We didn't show enough at Reading and the players need to show us their character against Crewe.

"The support of the fans was magnificent at the Madjeski Stadium and hopefully they'll bring that kind of support to the Crewe game, because Upton Park is a very difficult place to play when the crowd are behind us. It lifts the players and in turn the players will do things to lift the crowd.

"I'm going to make sure I pick a team that's going to fight for West Ham United and repay the supporters' faith."