Curbs hoping for lift-off at Charlton

Having just lost one 'must-win' match, Alan Curbishley will return to The Valley on Saturday week, knowing that West Ham United simply cannot afford another slip-up against the club he managed for 15 years.

"The Watford game gave us a chance to put pressure on Wigan Athletic but we didn't take it and now we will go to Charlton Athletic in a similar situation," insists the Hammers' boss.

"It was a desperately disappointing result on a desperately disappointing day and, although Sheffield United may have got away from us with their win over Tottenham Hotspur, at least we've still got the team that's fourth from bottom to catch.

"We quickly need a three-pointer, though, and we really hope that we can get that at Charlton.

"Looking at the Premiership table, it could well be three teams from Watford, Charlton, ourselves and Wigan to go down from now on," continues Curbs, who sadly saw his 10th Premiership match in charge of West Ham follow an all too familiar pattern.

"Since I've been here we've only won once in the league - against Manchester United - and we've had a dreadful run. We've lost too many games by the odd goal, haven't scored enough and whenever we've made a mistake it's proved costly. I've been waiting for lift-off but it just hasn't come.

"Watford got themselves ahead thanks to a poor penalty conceded by ourselves - don't ask me why Anton Ferdinand tried to pull Henderson back when there was no danger - and after creating a few chances of our own, we all needed Marlon Harewood's spot-kick to go in. I understand that he's the Club's penalty taker and, it's simple, he's got to score.

"Henderson was confident for them and if Marlon had converted his penalty then it would've been a different story," says Curbs, who was also left scratching head at Alan Wiley's debatable decision to keep his cards in his pocket after Hornets' skipper Gavin Mahon halted the steamrollering run of his Hammers' counterpart Nigel Reo-Coker on the hour. "I was pleased to get the penalty but Mahon was the last man and the referee had to make a decision there. I've seen players sent off for that.

"It was more disappointing that we didn't score with the penalty, though, because everybody - from the players to the fans - needed the lift of a goal and, when we missed, it had an affect on us.

"After failing to take that opportunity, we then got all panicky and hopeful. And when you add in Lucas Neill's knee injury that's just about par for the course for us right now.

"To be fair to the fans - and I'm not patronising them - they've been constant in their support for us since I been here. They turned out in their droves again against Watford and they got behind us but, once again, we just haven't delivered enough for them.

"As a manager, I'm all about keeping a settled side but that's been difficult because of injury and loss of form and, although I made changes, it didn't make too much difference.

"Ferdinand, Neill and Carlos Tevez had all been out of action and I didn't want to risk starting with all three of them but when Tevez did come on, the fans got behind him and he helped to liven up the proceedings.

"We needed to keep pressing Watford, though, because we wanted the supporters to send a buzz around the ground but, as the game wore on, we didn't really give them anything out on the pitch to encourage them to stay behind us.

"Unfortunately, apart from the Manchester United game, that's mainly been the case since I arrived here and we just haven't managed to go on and get the three points that we need to give us all that lift.

"The players are down but I'd like to think that they still believe we can get out of this. They've been faced with pressurised situations here at Upton Park before - such as when they were trying to win promotion - while last year they won some big games, too.

"But, up until now, the players haven't been in a position where, week-in and week-out, they're not getting the results. They haven't coped with the situation too well and it's been a very difficult time for all of us."

In his pre-match programme notes, Curbs declared that it was now time to step up to the plate and get results during an upcoming period of 'defining' games.

Now after being struck out by Watford, he heads back to Alan Pardew's Charlton desperately hoping that his Hammers can finally make it to first base as they look to make a home run to Premiership safety.

"We've got to wait two weeks now but at least that might give us the chance to get Matthew Upson and one or two others back," he concluded, "The next game also gives us another chance of getting the result that we so desperately need and, yes, I'd like to think that'll come at The Valley.

"We said that Watford was a 'must-win' game and, certainly, that now applies to the Charlton match, too. There's a strong squad here, we shouldn't be where we are and we've now got to get ourselves out of this situation. It's certainly not over."

by Steve Blowers