Many happy returns for Upson

Matthew Upson admitted Diego Tristan's late equaliser at Aston Villa had ensured he enjoyed a happy birthday this weekend.

The England defender marked his 30th birthday with a strong performance as West Ham United sneaked a deserved 1-1 draw through the Spaniard's fine 85th-minute header. It was no surprise the imposing No15 was the first to congratulate his team-mate on such a well-taken goal.

For Upson, the sight of Tristan glancing Kieron Dyer's shot past goalkeeper Brad Friedel not only cheered him on his own special day, but also went some way to extinguishing the terrible memories he has endured at Villa Park in the past.

In April 2006, Upson suffered a broken leg during the local derby between Birmingham City and Villa. Nine months later the centre-back's West Ham debut was ruined by a calf strain.

This time around, he successfully came through the full 90 minutes for the 31st time in 32 Premier League appearances this season. Upson was delighted with the way he and his fellow defenders dealt with the twin threat of Villa's giant forwards John Carew and Emile Heskey.

"It was a nice game," he said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good, well thought out affair. A point apiece was a decent result in the end, but I felt we possibly could have taken more of the chances we created.

"It was a good physical battle for us. We knew before the game it would be a physical test for us but we coped quite well. They were always going to win their fair share of balls up there and knock-downs, so it was a case of dealing with the second ball, and I thought we did that well.

"I've not had some good times at Villa Park before. I've had a couple of injuries there but on Saturday we got a decent result and put in a good performance so I was well pleased."

Upson and his team-mates will face another stern examination when Premier League title-chasers Chelsea travel the length of the District Line to the Boleyn Ground this coming Saturday.

West Ham have conceded eleven goals in their last three home games against the Blues, and Upson will be eager to gain revenge for the 4-0 reverse the Hammers suffered on home turf in March last year.