Hammers Must Prove Their Point

ALAN Pardew insists that three points against Leicester City this evening will put West Ham United back in the driving seat in the race for the Play-offs, but the Hammers manager admits that the experienced Leicester will prove tough opposition at Upton Park.

"Three points against Leicester would make a huge difference to our position," insisted Pards. "Winning a day before the other teams play would put us back in the box seat as far as the Play-offs are concerned, particularly as we also have a game in hand over the teams around us.

"There are a lot of teams around us chasing those Play-off places, but we're not going to be caught looking over our shoulders. We can only look forward and if we win all our games there's nothing any of those chasing clubs can do to catch us.

"At West Ham we possess a squad capable of winning promotion. It's no secret that we haven't got the results in recent weeks and we all know that our performances have got to improve.

"Of course, there's pressure on us because this is a big club that expects promotion. But young players have come into the squad over the last year and they need time to develop.

"Those players will bear fruit for the Club and we won't be deterred from achieving our goal of promotion this season.

"It's still very much within our reach and, if we can win against Leicester our position will look a lot healthier. There's still a long way for the season to run and a lot will happen over the next two months."

Leicester need three points for entirely different reasons. One of the teams relegated from the Premiership last season, the Foxes have struggled to readjust to life in the Championship. Leicester currently sit just two points outside the relegation zone and are desperate to avoid being embroiled in this season's battle to beat the drop.

The omens for a Hammers win wouldn't be good for Craig Levein's side. The last time these two teams met at Upton Park was in January 2002, when Hammers won 1-0 on their way to finishing seventh in the Premiership, while Leicester would suffer relegation at the end of that season.

It's that determination which Alan Pardew believes will make Leicester a dangerous threat this evening.

"Leicester have had a difficult season," admitted Pards, "but their League position in no way reflects the quality of their squad. They are more senior to Crewe, they're packed full of experienced players and they'll be desperate for the points.

"It's going to be a tough call for us. The Sky cameras always add a bit of tension to the occasion and David Connolly will be highly motivated coming back to his old club.

"In the Crewe game we put ourselves at risk by not taking chances and we'll definitely look to be more clinical in front of goal this evening.
"On the positive side we defended solidly against Crewe for most of the game, but we've got to avoid the kind of lapses in concentration that allowed them to score so close to the end.

"We also manoeuvred the ball well around the midfield, passed it cleanly and incisively and we'll need more of the same.

"It's going to be a big night for both teams, but if we can take our chances and come away with a win it could prove a really important three points."