Curbs confident for Sunday return

After two previous FA Cup eliminations at the hands of West Ham United, it finally proved third time lucky for Manchester City last night.

Having seen Elano's 73rd-minute winner decide the third-round replay, Alan Curbishley returns to Eastlands at the weekend confident his side can make amends in the Premier League. Victory on Sunday would also move the Hammers to within just four points of the season's surprise package with a game in hand - more incentive, if any were needed, for another strong showing.

"We've ended up on the wrong end of the result but we can take a lot out of this game and come back here on Sunday and try to turn it around," said the Boleyn Ground boss, safe in the knowledge that his toiling team had created enough chances of their own to progress into the fourth round. "We're obviously disappointed but now we just need to regroup and, if I get the same level of performance and effort, then we may well get something.

"It's not ideal to be coming back to play Manchester City so quickly but these things happen, just as we found out when we met Everton in the Carling Cup and then the Premier League, too. On Sunday, we return knowing that we kept the game tight. We created a couple of chances and certainly took the game to City at the start of the second half and if we'd nicked a goal, then it might have been a different story.

"On the night Joe Hart made the stops to deny Dean Ashton and then Luis Boa Morte. He had to make more saves than Robert Green but, in the end, we didn't score and we paid the price because it was probably always going to be a case of just one goal deciding the tie. I'm obviously disappointed that we didn't get it, while Elano was probably the one person who was going to nick a goal for City and, sure enough, he was the one who ended up nicking it.

"We also had a good shout for a penalty," insisted Curbishley. "Lee Bowyer had got himself in on goal when their keeper collided with him. Joe Hart's momentum took him out but referee Mark Clattenburg had his eye on the ball because Lee had lifted it towards goal but we didn't get the decision and we just had to get on with it."

But at least some of the manager's disappointment was tempered by the sight of his fit-again trio comprising Bowyer, Boa Morte and Julien Faubert, a second-half substitute, enjoying encouraging run-outs against Sven-Goran Eriksson's side.

"I took the opportunity to give Bowyer a start after two months and I also wanted to give Boa Morte and Faubert the chance to get some football under their belts, too," concluded Curbishley, who is gradually seeing the Boleyn Ground casualty list shorten. "That was the only reason why we made some changes.

"After all, the FA Cup is a competition that everyone in the Premier League has to attack because one of us is going win it. We adopted the same approach in the Carling Cup, too, and now all we can do is wish City all the best in the next round."