DEFENDER Elliott Ward may have a mere 11 first-team appearances to his name, but he once again proved his maturity with another solid display against Watford on Sunday.
And as he looks ahead to Saturday's Play-off semi-final first leg against Ipswich Town, Elliott insists the Hammers must focus on playing their own game and emphasised the need for cool heads on what is sure to be a great occasion at Upton Park.
"We just need to focus on winning over the two legs," he explained. "We're not going to be worrying too much about Ipswich this week, because I think it's important that we concentrate on our game and trust in our own ability.
"Obviously they're a top side, but form and past performances tend to go out of the window in the Play-offs.
"It all boils down to who is on top of their game on the day, and over the two legs we have to make sure that is us.
"There's lots of football to play and we don't need to go all out to win at Upton Park. As long as we put on a solid performance and make sure that we give ourselves a chance going into the second leg.
"We're confident going into this week off the back of the win at Watford. It's going to be a tight semi-final simply because of what's at stake, but both games are going to be huge, certainly the biggest of my career so far."
Elliott more than played his part in the 2-1 win at Vicarage Road on Sunday, capping a commanding performance at centre-back with an assist for Anton Ferdinand's goal. Typically, Elliott was delighted for his defensive partner.
"Obviously everyone was really pleased for Ant," admitted Elliott. "To be fair, he's taken the goal very well. I think it was the cross that made it, though!
"Seriously, it was really important for us to go out and get the three points. As it turned out a draw would have been enough, but there's no way we could have taken that chance and it's great for our confidence to go into the Play-offs on a high.
"We were aware of what was going on at Wigan only because of how the crowd were reacting, but I was just trying to block that out on focus on our game, because we knew that if we got the three points it was more than likely going to be enough.
"Everyone was buzzing in the dressing room afterwards knowing that we had secured a Play-off place, but to be honest there hasn't been a lot of time for celebrating, and rightly so because there's still so much we could achieve if we stay focused.
"Promotion was our goal at the start of the season and we're still in with a chance of achieving that."
Elliott is looking forward to the biggest game of his fledgling career on Saturday, but don't expect the 20-year-old to be overawed by the occasion.
"It's going to be a huge game," he enthused, "and all the lads are looking forward to another quality atmosphere, just like we had at Sunderland and at this stage last season against Ipswich.
"That's really important because the fans can make Upton Park such a difficult place for opposing teams to play. It's a lunchtime kick-off, which is always a bit more difficult, but I'm confident the fans will have the place rocking by the time we come out!"
Ward Rocks On