Upson eager for league response

Matthew Upson could not hide his disappointment following the 1-0 defeat at Manchester City in the FA Cup but felt there were reasons to be positive.

The defender was yet again an impressive performer at the heart of the side as the visitors more than held their own in the third-round replay at the City of Manchester Stadium. "We are very disappointed, especially given the share we had of the game and the opportunites we created," he said. "We feel that we were a little bit unlucky to come off and be knocked out of the cup."

It was the third time the teams have met this season, following a 2-0 opening-day loss at home in the league and the Boleyn Ground stalemate on 5 January that led to Wednesday night's return. While Dean Ashton, Luis Boa Morte and Lee Bowyer all went close, Robert Green's only real involvement at the other end was to pick the ball out of the net from Elano's scrambled second-half header.

"They are always close games but I felt we created enough to get something out of it," Upson added. "I can't think of many situations where Greeny has had to make a save. We could have been a bit more clinical and had good opportunities - but we couldn't finish them off.

"I am gutted. I love the FA Cup. I am really disappointed about it but we can take some positives from our performance. To come here, pass the ball and create the opportunities that we did is a very positive thing. I think it gives us a big opportunity on Sunday to come back and beat them."

That instant chance for revenge this weekend sees the Hammers return to league action on a high after a run of six wins and four draws from the last 13 top-flight fixtures and Upson is under no doubts that the team can keep that good form going. "If we are positive and play similarly to the way we did here, I think we can win the game."

With City three places above the Hammers in the league, there is the chance to close the gap on the side widely regarded as the Premier League's surprise package this season to just four points with a game in hand. "It is a crucial period," said Upson. "A few wins strung together at this point of the season will keep us right up there with top eight, top seven. It is the goal of the club, the players and the manager and it is something that, if we do well enough, we can achieve."