Ward boosted by return to action

Despite being thrown in against the current European champions for only his second Premiership start of the season last night, Elliott Ward admits that he thoroughly enjoyed being back among the action.

The 21-year-old defender was given the nod by Alan Pardew for the first time since our disappointing 4-1 defeat at Bolton back in February - a game in which he was substituted at half-time with the Hammers 3-0 down - and, although he ended up on the losing side following our 2-1 reverse against Liverpool, Elliott was able to take the positives from his experience.

"I felt I had a point to prove after my last appearance up at Bolton," he said. "I'm grateful that the gaffer had the confidence to put me in, and I enjoyed the game.
"We worked very hard and put a lot of effort in, and I thought we deserved at least a draw - it would have been a fair result after all the possession and chances we had in the second half.

"For me personally, it's been a while since that Bolton game, so I've had to wait and be patient, but it was nice to be given a chance against Liverpool and hopefully I can keep my place.

"Danny Gabbidon and James Collins are both carrying injuries at the moment, so there is a chance I could be involved at West Brom on Monday, and it would be good to get a couple of games under my belt.

"There were a few moments tonight when I didn't feel that my sharpness and timing was right, and it's only matches that will help me get up to speed."

Elliott also had a word of sympathy for team-mate Hayden Mullins, whose red card last night following a scuffle with Liverpool's Luis Garcia means that he could miss the FA Cup final on May 13.

"All the lads are gutted for him," said the big defender. "I tried to speak to the referee at the time but he wasn't listening, and all we can hope is that he will look at it again and admit that Hayden didn't deserve to be sent off."