Alan's Battle Against The Odds

ALAN Pardew believes his Hammers players will relish the challenge of being the underdogs going into tonight's Play-off semi-final second leg at Portman Road.

Pards' side could have finished the tie at Upton Park in the first leg after racing into a two-goal lead. But after pegging Hammers back to 2-2, Ipswich are the bookies' favourites going into the second leg.

It's a scenario that sits very nicely with the Hammers boss.

"The second leg is all set-up for us," he said. "There is going to be huge pressure on them playing in front of their own crowd and hopefully that could work in our favour.

"We were disappointed not to have finished the tie at Upton Park, but there is a lot of confidence around the squad going into the second leg, because we know that we're capable of performing on big stages like the one that will face us at Portman Road tonight.

"The expectation is on Ipswich. We are the underdogs going to Portman Road and we've got it all to play for in what will be a big atmosphere.

"It's rare that we enjoy the underdog feeling, but when we have this season we've done very well. I certainly enjoy it and hopefully the players will benefit from the feedom of not having such intense pressure on them this evening."

Hammers have certainly shown this season that they are capable of producing their best form when the odds are stacked against them. Wins at Sunderland, Wigan and, perhaps most pointedly, Ipswich have demonstrated West Ham's big match hunger and it's a streak Pards believes we will see again at Portman Road tonight.

"The players are extremely positive," he said. "The big occasions have suited us this season, especially away from home, and that can only give you confidence going into the away leg of a Play-off semi-final.

"There's no negativity. We know what we have to do, we've worked on controlling the game and being tight at the back this week, and I'm confident that the character of my players is sound.

"The most important thing is that we get through. Nothing else matters to the players, to the fans or anyone connected with the Club.

"No doubt we'll have another magnificent set of away fans at Portman Road and we'll certainly need their backing tonight.

"It's going to be a tough game, but I believe we can do it and hopefully our fans are driving home deliriously happy this evening and looking forward to booking their tickets for the Final."