Pards Praises Young Guns

ALAN Pardew praised the performance of his young players after the draw with Leicester, but admitted that in captain Teddy Sheringham they had an excellent role model.

Despite being disappointed after a week that saw his side squander a catalogue of chances against Crewe and Leicester, Pards was delighted with the way West Ham's young Academy graduates had coped with the pressure of two tough games in a week.

"I was really proud of our young players," insisted Alan. "We had two tough games in a week and Leicester was a really high pressure game in a tense atmosphere.

"But the way our young players dealt with it, I thought they were different class. We had Anton and Elliott together in the centre of defence, who are both only 20, and Mark Noble in midfield who's 18 and those three players in particular showed a lot of bravery.

"We were magnificent at times against Leicester. We suffered a lot of blows on the night, but you couldn't fault our character.

"The team was led excellently by the skipper, Teddy Sheringham, who looked a Premier League player against Leicester. It was a really brave performance and over the two games last week I think we played well. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish either game off and that has cost us."

Indeed, when he takes this Easter break to look back on the events of last week, Alan Pardew will reflect on a host of missed chances that saw his team miss out on maximum points.

"We've had a catalogue of missed chances over the two games," admitted Pards, "and at the end of the day that has proved very costly.

"Against Crewe we should have got a second goal to wrap the game up and again in the Leicester game we did tremendously well to come back twice, but had the chances in the second-half to win it.

"Steve Bywater will hold his hands up and say he should have done better on their first goal, but we got back into it and you start to think it's going better.

"Then they score a magnificent second goal just before half-time and you start wondering if it's going to be your night.

"But we showed tremendous character and resilience to fight our way back in difficult circumstances and credit to the players because we played some great stuff at times.

"We were all over them in the second-half and, of course, everyone was disappointed that we didn't come away with the three points."

Hammers looked to be on their way to three precious points against the Foxes when Nikos Dabizas was sent off for handling Mark Noble's shot on the line, and Marlon Harewood stepped up to take the spot kick.
But Ian Walker saved Marlon's penalty, denying the Hammers a much-needed win and causing anguish for the unlucky striker.

"Marlon apologised to the players in the dressing-room after the game," revealed Pards. "To be honest, I was surprised that Teddy, with two goals to his name already, didn't take it.

"They have an agreement to share the penalty taking, which they've stuck to all season, and Marlon takes a very good penalty. But his run-up didn't smack of confidence and I felt for him when he missed.

"His work rate was excellent on the night, his cross set-up the first goal and he caused Leicester all sorts of problems."

Looking ahead to the two away trips to Wigan and Burnley, Pards admits the two-week break will give some members of his squad time to recover.

"We'll obviously have Tomas back for the Wigan game and Christian Dailly is hoping to be fit as well.

"They'll both boost our squad. The young players have come in and done tremendously well. They'll definitely have a big part to play between now and the end of the season. But our senior players will be important during the run-in and it'll be good to get some of them back fit as well."