Curbs proud of his players

Alan Curbishley was full of praise after West Ham United's "fantastic" 5-0 win at Derby County underlined his team's battling qualities.

The West Ham United manager was in buoyant mood as he described how his squad had showed their strength in depth to move into the top half of the Premier League table on Saturday. "Everyone has been going on about the injuries we have - yes, they are there and everyone can see that. But I think it's a bit disrespectful to the players who have been going out there and have picked up points in every game.

"We have had to just get on with it and I think we have done that well. People are getting their chances and not only making the most of them, but enjoying it all as well. It was great for us." The Pride Park success was achieved after two Lee Bowyer goals and further strikes from Matthew Etherington, Jonathan Spector and Nolberto Solano.

The only negative was the twisted ankle picked up by George McCartney early in the first half, which has almost certainly ruled him out of Northern Ireland's final two EURO 2008 qualifiers in the next fortnight. Curbishley is hopeful that with the two-week break in domestic matches, McCartney will have recovered in time for the Premier League visit of Tottenham Hotspur on 25 November.

"We are hoping that George's injury is not as bad as we think as we would be a bit more stretched," admitted Curbishley. "There were a few tackles flying around which we expected, but unfortunately for us, George came out on the end of one and turned his ankle."

That blow came early in the contest and as the match wore on Curbishley was only too aware of the need for a breakthrough. "The first goal was always going to be the vital one and we managed to get it through Lee Bowyer," he said. "That really settled us down and put Derby on the backfoot.

"We had opportunities in the first half to get a second and it didn't happen but we sat down at half-time and said let's go back out there and set about this right and go and get another one, then we can enjoy it - and that's what happened."

Reviewing his team's performance as a whole, Curbishley praised Solano, saying "he was involved in everything" while Carlton Cole got a special mention, with the manager adding "it would have been nice if he had got a goal to top off his performance today, as he worked very hard again".

Curbishley was also pleased with the way his team continue to adapt to whatever is required. At Derby, this meant captain Lucas Neill switching to left-back to replace the injured McCartney. The manager said: "Once George came off, I had no problems with putting Lucas to left-back, he's played there a lot. Johnny Pantsil came on, he's not played a lot of games this season, but he's been around it and did well. Jonathan Spector has not played in midfield before and was great. Everyone has got on with the job in hand and we have been picking up points.

"Lee Bowyer has been playing well but with a groin strain and will have an operation on Tuesday, so we're hoping he is back in time for when he's needed again. He will be suspended for the Tottenham game after picking up five cards. We had a couple back at Derby, Freddie [Ljungberg] and James Collins were on the bench and I am hopeful Deano [Ashton] will be able to push on in training this week now as well as Scott Parker."

Curbishley had a word for his counterpart, the Derby manager Billy Davies, whose team remain at the bottom of the table. "You get days like this, but you have to dust yourself down and be ready for the next game and see what is going to come along for you. If you look at bottom of the table, no one is stranded, it's still all to play for and I am sure Billy will take some positives out of it and push on for the next game."

After having just celebrated his 50th birthday on Thursday, Curbishley agreed that a 5-0 win away from home was the perfect present. "Yes, it was a great way to celebrate" he said with a smile.