Defensive duo stay strong

Matthew Upson and James Tomkins were at the heart of a tremendous rearguard display for West Ham United at the weekend and are predicting a bright future.

A precious point at Aston Villa has left everyone in good heart for a run of matches against sides in or around the Hammers in the league standings. With four of the next half-dozen games at the Boleyn Ground as well, there is justifiable reason for optimism - not least as well because the likes of Herita Ilunga, Danny Gabbidon and Carlton Cole are on their way back.

"It is a good psychological boost to be out of the bottom three," said Upson. "I really feel we are improving over the last month or so. We have had some tough games against top teams and given a good account of ourselves every week. The attitude is great and we will move on.

"We have been working hard on being difficult to beat. We set out well. In the last month we have had an improvement. We have kicked on and hopefully we can maintain that and climb the table."

Upson has led by example as Gianfranco Zola's captain but his young defensive partner has also played his part of late. Tomkins has justified the manager's faith and was rightly rewarded with the man of the match award by the Sky Sports team. He, though, was just delighted to see the team get what they deserved.

"You need to keep a team like Aston Villa quiet, in the first half especially," said Tomkins. "It is not good to concede an early goal so we knew if we could keep it tight til half-time, we would be able to go out in the second half and counter on them.

"We had a few chances at the end. We maybe could have stole it. It was a good team display."

Upson agreed with his partner's assessment - especially as Villa are considered strong contenders for a top-four finish this season. "We will take a point, looking at how the game went. I thought we set out quite well. We struggled a little bit posing a threat to them but, away from home, it is a good result."