Pards Prepares For Play-off Challenge

HAMMERS boss Alan Pardew admits that Sunday's crunch clash with Watford at Vicarage Road is simply an extension of the Play-offs for his team.

West Ham United are ahead of Reading on goals scored and must better the Royals' result at Wigan to remain in sixth place. It's going to be a tough occasion for Pards' young players, but he has been impressed with the way his players have responded to the challenge this week.

Now he is calling for them to make sure they take their final promotion chance by securing three points at Watford.

"This game is just an extension of the Play-offs," explained Pards, "because it's a game we're looking to win and our attitude is that nothing else will do.

"In terms of atmosphere and tension, it's going to be like a Play-off game for us. Our away fans have been terrific for us all season and we've sold out our allocation at Vicarage Road, so we're expecting another brilliant atmosphere inside the stadium.

"Hopefully, we can give all those fans plenty to cheer come the end of the game on Sunday.

"The squad is definitely buoyant going into the game. The result against Sunderland was disappointing, but it hasn't dented the belief of my players, nor has it dented my belief in them.

"There's a great feeling around the place, everybody has really worked hard to prepare for this game and hopefully we can take that positive mood with us out onto the pitch."

Despite the fact that Adrian Boothroyd's Watford have no more than personal pride to play for on Sunday, Pards is certainly not under-estimating the challenge posed by the Hornets this weekend.

"I think it's excellent that Watford have given another good young manager his chance at this level," said Pards. "I love to see promising managers given their break and Adrian is definitely one of those.

"Obviously Ray Lewington is a friend of mine, so I was really disappointed to see him go. But I'm sure they'll be keen to end the season on a positive note, and the fact that they have nothing to play for isn't really entering our thinking at this point.

"We're expecting them to be good, strong opponents and it'll be tough for us. There will certainly be a good atmosphere at Vicarage Road, hopefully it will be the right atmosphere and we'll be looking to react positively to it.

"It'll be important for us to start well, make our mark in the game and then settle into a good rhythm. The defence are going to have to stay tight and squeeze the pitch a bit more than we did against Sunderland.

"If we can do that and create some chances at the other end then hopefully we can get the result we are looking for."

This has been a tough season for Alan Pardew and his squad, blighted by injury and inconsistency, without which Pards is certain Hammers would now be contesting an automatic promotion place.

"If we had been able to keep the core of this squad fit throughout the season then we'd be up there with the top three," he said.

"Our form has attracted a lot of scrutiny and plenty of negativity this season, but throughout all that we've kept our heads down and really battled through into the position we find ourselves in.

"We've not moaned about our circumstances, we've got on with it and now we just want to get in the Play-offs and then take things from there.

"This is a real chance for us and we've got to make sure that we take it."