Lucas Neill is already looking forward to the Portsmouth fixture at home next Tuesday evening after the setback at Sunderland.
The captain said: "It was very disappointing but we've got to pick our heads up and try and keep going." Neill added that there was no reason why the club cannot finish the remainder of the campaign strongly, having done so in the Barclays Premier League last season. "It would be stupid just to try and play the season out now. We've got to try and believe that we can win five out of the last six or six out of the last six."
This prospect is helped by the fact that four of the remaining fixtures are to be played at the Boleyn Ground, with the first of these the visit of Harry Redknapp's men. Neill said the players still feel they can catch the teams immediately above. "Either way it's a game at home, and we want to win, and like I said we need to win to give ourselves any chance." Neill also looked at the positives of the match being played just after the visitors' Wembley date against West Bromwich Albion. "We play Portsmouth three days after their FA Cup semi-final so obviously all their focus will be on that game. Maybe we can catch them off guard, on an off day where their focus is elsewhere."
At the Stadium of Light on Saturday, West Ham United saw the final minutes of the match played out with only ten men, as Freddie Ljungberg picked up a hamstring injury and Alan Curbishley had already made his three substitutions. However, that could lead to more opportunities for others. Like his manager, Neill was pleased to see James Tomkins' gain more experience and has high hopes Freddie Sears will be fit and ready next time around. He said: "We've got talented kids and for them it's a great opportunity to show everyone what they've got, and for us I suppose they'll bring energy and no fear, and a desire to want to do really well."