Hayden's Silent Approach

HAYDEN Mullins has stressed the importance of West Ham United keeping things tight at the start of tonight's Play-off semi-final second leg against Ipswich Town, with the Hammers expecting a shotgun start from the Tractor Boys.

"It's really important that we start the game solidly," said the 26-year-old midfielder, who was part of the Hammers side that defeated Ipswich over two legs in the Play-offs last season.

"Ipswich are in front of their own fans, the place will be absolutely buzzing and Ipswich are going to start fast, just like we did in the first leg.

"There is so much at stake in these Play-off games and the pressure and tension is immense. The home crowd are always really up for it at the start and that rubs off on the team. We had a really strong start at Upton Park and we're prepared for Ipswich to have the same at Portman Road.

"It's going to be important that we keep it tight in the first 20 minutes, settle the atmosphere down a bit and then hopefully we can start to play our own football.

"We've scored against Ipswich in our last four games against them, so we're quietly confident going into the game that we'll get a goal. If we do then that will really make things difficult for them, because the tie is so finely poised and the expectation on them is huge."

Ipswich have been made favourites to win the second leg at Portman Road, but that does not bother Hayden or the rest of the squad in the slightest. In fact, the former England Under-21 star believes Hammers will relish the underdog tag.

"The pressure is all on them and that suits us," he explained. "They are playing at home and the expectation is on them to come out and beat us.

"I think that will deflect a lot of the attention away from us and let us just get on with the job we have to do. When we've been up against the odds this season we've always done very well, and that gives us a lot of belief going into this game.

"We've been good away from home all season, achieved some excellent results and we're quietly confident that we will be able to hold them and make the most of our opportunities in front of goal.

"We were disappointed not to hold onto our lead from the first leg and, of course, a cushion going into the game would have been nice.

"But we've prepared ourselves to go into this game even with Ipswich, so there will be no fear or regret about that. Our training this week has been bright and lively, and the squad is confident we can go to Ipswich and do a job."

Hayden remembers only to well both the ecstacy and disappointment of last season's Play-off campaign. But those memories are not a factor for the former Crystal Palace trainee this time around.

"This is another season and a completely different game," he explained. "Of course, the fact that we defeated Ipswich last season in the Play-offs give us something of an edge and we know that we've got the experience of these pressure games.

"But aside from that we'll be approaching this as a new game and a new scenario. We know what we have to do and we go into the game confident that we can get the win we need."

Hayden does believe that it's going to be a bumper atmosphere at Portman Road and is looking forward to the Hammers fans playing their part in what the midfielder insists will be a Play-off clash to remember.

"The tension of the Play-offs means they always throw up some fantastic second leg games," he said. "This one I'm sure will be no different.

"Our fans have been fantastic away from home this season and we'll need them to be backing us all the way again.

"There's so much riding on the game you can't help but be up for this one. Hopefully, we'll give the supporters something to celebrate come the final whistle tonight."