Curbs: We've got ourselves back on track

Effort, energy and enthusiasm all added up to another three crucial points against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

And with back-to-back wins under his belt for the first time since he took over in the Upton Park hot-seat in mid-December, Alan Curbishley is hoping that his players have finally landed on the springboard to survival.

"They worked as hard as they could, we got the result, and that's all we can do at the moment," insisted the Hammers' boss after seeing first-half strikes by Bobby Zamora and in-form Carlos Tevez secure that second successive victory. "This could now be the lift-off that we've been looking for since I first arrived here.

"In the last three matches we've shown more determination and work-rate and that's what you need to spark yourselves on. The effort in those games has matched that shown in my first one against Manchester United.

"Statistics can be a little bit deceiving but in some matches they've shown that our opponents have worked harder than us and it's no coincidence that they were very high against United, Tottenham and Blackburn, while they'll also be high again today.

"The penny's finally dropped and we now know that we always have to work that hard in the Premiership. That's the base you need and, while I don't know why the levels were never the same during those weeks in between, it was always my first priority to do something about it.

"One or two were complaining because we had trained them harder and they were already feeling a bit tight before the game."

Certainly, those aches and pains disappeared after top-scorer Zamora fired home his ninth goal of the campaign and Tevez netted his third goal in three games, to put the Hammers well and truly in the driving seat at the interval.

But, after seeing similar two-goal advantages evaporate at Newcastle United and against Tottenham Hotspur, Curbs was clearly taking nothing for granted during his half-time team-talk.

"Just like we had done in the Spurs game, we had got ourselves 2-0 up and at the break we reminded everyone that we had been in that position twice before," revealed the relieved boss after finally seeing his side shut up shop.

"That affected the second half because we just couldn't afford to go back out there and surrender yet another two-goal lead!

"Young Mark Noble came in and lifted the crowd. He set the tone with his very first ball-winning challenge that enabled Carlos Tevez to create Bobby Zamora's goal and after that early boost there was some good stuff played out there today.

"I didn't realise just how difficult it was in the wind but we got a lot of confidence from scoring so quickly. Marlon Harewood was injured and Bobby's been playing with a bit of a niggle, too, but he gave it everything he had and led the line very well.

"Carlos reminds me a little bit of Wayne Rooney, who was having a bad time early in the season, until he ran his socks off for Manchester United against Wigan to get himself back into the swing of things.

"And I think that Carlos realised four or five weeks ago that the only way was to fly around and make things change for himself. No-one can begrudge him anything now because he's giving it everything he's got and you get your rewards when you do that.

"Sure, every now and then he over-indulges but the West Ham fans are used to having one or two players like that and, hopefully, Carlos has now given us a spur that we can take forward into our next few games.

"For the first time we're scoring goals and it's giving us something to hold onto. A lead gives us an opportunity to dig in and I didn't think that we were going to let in a goal during the second half today, which was great.

"It's a mental thing and, since I've been here, we've rarely got ahead, have been chasing games and finding things difficult but today we got our noses in front and gave ourselves a chance.

"Confidence helps you to run that little bit further, it makes things a little bit easier and hopefully that'll carry on.

"All along, the fans have given us a lift and hopefully we've now given them all a lift, too. Anything can happen when we play at Upton Park, especially if the crowd and the atmosphere are right, and Chelsea have now got to come here for our next home game, which could be interesting."

by Steve Blowers