Curbs: Time to look forward

His team may be out of the FA Cup but Alan Curbishley insists they are certainly still in with a good shout when it comes to avoiding the dreaded drop.

And the Hammers boss is looking towards the testing Tuesday night encounter against Liverpool to get some precious Premiership points back on the board.

"No disrespect to Watford - I hope they get a decent fifth round draw - but I've got to concentrate on our next game and get a result," insisted Curbs after seeing the Hornets' Anthony McNamee sting his side with a 42nd-minute winner.
"Yes, we're out of the FA Cup but the season's certainly not slipping away and we desperately need to start winning in the Premiership.

"There's another chance on Tuesday and I'm totally focused on the Liverpool match because that's all that matters now.

"It's a massively disappointing result and, when you add Lucas Neill's ankle injury to our defensive problems, it's not been a great afternoon. My players tried their hardest and I've got no complaints about that but a dreadful goal left us chasing the game. And we're not very good at that!

"I can't remember Watford creating too many chances and, while we had one or two decent opportunities, it just didn't happen for us. Perhaps we could've got ourselves back into the tie in the second half and, perhaps, we deserved a draw but it wasn't to be and now we've got to move on.

"Up until Watford scored we were quite comfortable but we didn't take our early chances. And although Ben Foster had a great game in goal for them, when he did spill one we just couldn't punish him. That's what happens when you're in our position but if you're doing okay, then things tend to go your way.

"The last couple of weeks have been tough," continued Curbs, reflecting on two surrendered leads and that FA Cup exit at the hands of fellow strugglers Watford.

"Bobby Zamora's sending off against Fulham was reckless to say the least and, but for that, we might have held on rather than see them go and equalise in the 94th minute. Then the offside goal at Newcastle meant that we went on to lose another lead, while today's decision by Roy Carroll has left us chasing a soft goal, which eventually cost us the game.

"It's a difficult time when you're in the bottom three and today was just about par for the course.

"To their credit, Watford, who play a certain way, have kept going and they still look like they're looking forward to everything. I'll be fancying our chances when we meet them again in the Premiership in a fortnight's time, though, and I'm sure, like myself, they'd swap today's win for three points.

"From our point of view it's a confidence situation and, as I've said all along, the results give you confidence and the confidence gets you the results.

"But everyone at West Ham is going through a difficult time at the moment and the frustration's there for everyone to see. Only results will halt that frustration but, as we've seen from the Fulham and Newcastle games, there's a bit of panic when we get ourselves in front and when we fall behind, like we did today, there's a bit of panic, too.

"We're just not getting the results and that means the lack of confidence goes all around the ground but that would come back to the fans if we could produce something positive.

"The supporters don't know what's hit them because we've beaten both Manchester United and Arsenal here at Upton Park and, looking back, the defeats against Portsmouth and Manchester City plus the draw with Fulham were big games that would've kicked us on if we'd won."

Ironically, a ninth-placed finish and the marvellous memories of last season's heroic FA Cup run that culminated in May's Millennium Stadium, penalty shoot-out defeat, to Tuesday night's visitors, have only heightened the agony and anxiety down West Ham way.

"The expectation levels of last year are causing us problems," claimed Curbs. "But the second season in the Premiership is always difficult and, as I've said before, they came away from last year's FA Cup final with a side that is just not going to get back together again.

"Before this season had even started, four players had operations, while Dean Ashton broke his ankle and then Matthew Etherington and Anton Ferdinand got injured. That's not been conducive to getting a settled side together.

"In fact, I spoke to the centre-halves this week because Danny Gabbidon and James Collins have been out three times this season, while Ferdinand's been out on four occasions. We've never been able to get any of last year's central defensive partnerships back together again and, indeed, today was the first time that Jonathan Spector and Christian Dailly have played together at the back.

"The right-back situation has been up in the air with different people playing there and now, after falling on his ankle, Lucas Neill is struggling, too. We don't seem to be able to get through a week without playing the same side in the next game and surely our fans have got to appreciate that's been the case.

"The expectancy level of this football club is nowhere near last year's and it's now just got to be to stay up, hasn't it?" asked Curbs looking ahead to the final 14 fundamental fixtures of the Premiership campaign.

"We have to accept that. Next season may be a whole new ball game but, from the day I walked in here, that's been the case as far as this year is concerned. We were third from bottom when I arrived and we're still third from bottom now.

"Last year they were on a crest of a wave buoyed by results and now they're being asked a different question. I don't know how many points or wins we need but we've got to do our utmost to stay in the Premier League."

Now, as Hammers prepare to take on third-placed Liverpool, at least Curbs will be able to welcome back Marlon Harewood from suspension, while cup-tied Calum Davenport and the fit-again Yossi Benayoun (knee) are available for selection, too.

"We're certainly not out of it but we've got to start getting results so let's hope that begins on Tuesday, " he concluded, looking at a tricky midweek fixture list for the bottom five that also sees Watford trek to Manchester United, Charlton Athletic travel to Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic head to Reading and Sheffield United entertain Fulham.

"We could either find ourselves out of the bottom three or right in it. That's football, but at least we've still got a chance."