O'Neil fine-tuning

Gary O'Neil is naturally targeting a return to winning ways when West Ham travel to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

The Baggies sit just two points ahead of the Hammers and the midfielder is under no illusions as to the importance of this weekend's clash at The Hawthorns.

"We won't have a problem picking ourselves up," he said. "Since I've been here, the lads in the dressing room have been fantastic - they're not too down about the situation.

"We're obviously disappointed about where we are but the performance at Blackpool and the performance in the first half against Birmingham show there's definitely enough here to get us out of trouble."

Looking back to the Birmingham City setback last Sunday, he admitted West Ham United may have tried a little too hard to force a victory.

The January transfer window signing from Middlesbrough, who made his home debut in the 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat, was an influential part of a bright opening 45 minutes from the Hammers.

O'Neil combined time and again with right-back Lars Jacobsen and his fellow midfielders, only for a combination of misfortune, misunderstandings and strong defending from Birmingham centre-backs Roger Johnson and Martin Jiranek to keep West Ham off the score-sheet.

However, following Nikola Zigic's 65th-minute header, the hosts lost their attacking rhythm and, as the game wore on, depended more and more on direct balls up to Carlton Cole and substitutes Demba Bar and Manuel da Costa, who was drafted into a centre-forward role late on.

No matter how hard West Ham tried, they could not find a way past Ben Foster and were unable to build on the morale-boosting 3-1 success at Blackpool.

"It was a big game," added O''Neil. "We had a good win in the week and it would have been nice if we could have put back-to-back wins together. I thought we started OK in the first half and it was fairly promising. I think if we had come in one or two up I don't think too many people would have argued.

"We got to the by-line down our right side quite a few times but just couldn't put it in the back of the net. Then the goal plays into Birmingham's hands because they didn't come out much anyway to start with. They made it very difficult for us to break them down after that.

"Birmingham didn't cause us too many problems. We knew they were going to be a threat from set pieces. They're a lot bigger than us, and it was similar in the Carling Cup semi-final, I saw it from the bench - Zigic came on and caused us a problem. It just takes one delivery and that's hard to stop.

"We started to force it a little bit. Everyone knows it's a massive game. You're one-nil down and there's half-an-hour to go, everyone tries to do a bit too much and play forward a bit too early when we could have been a bit more patient.

"But there are an awful lot of games still to go. The result on Wednesday was massively important because if we hadn't have got that we'd really be in trouble now. We're still in there fighting, there's 12 massive games and one coming up next Saturday when we can hopefully make up for this one."

One of four new signings alongside Ba, Wayne Bridge and Robbie Keane, O'Neil knows it will take a little bit of time for the players to learn each other's attributes and habits. However, the 27-year-old is confident it will not take long for the Hammers to click on a regular basis.

"When you're new and there are new players coming in it's a bit of guesswork as to where they're going to go. I put a cross in for Robbie where I thought he was coming to the near post and it went straight to the goalie as Robbie had gone to the far post. I asked him at half-time if he tends to do that all the time, so there's a bit of that going on.

"Sometimes when Lars goes round me I'm not sure if he's going to keep going or is going to stop. But you find out what people do quite quickly, and hopefully the new boys will settle in quickly."

While he admits there is some fine-tuning to be done, O'Neil has slotted seamlessly into West Ham's starting XI, filling the right midfield berth from the kick-off against Blackpool and Birmingham.

His favoured position is in the centre, but with the likes of Scott Parker and Mark Noble around, the No32 is happy to play anywhere he is asked to by manager Avram Grant.

"I thought maybe with the squad we've got I might get eased in a little bit. I'm pleased to be playing, I'll play anywhere across the four. I don't mind playing left, right or in the middle, and I'll just do all I can when I'm on the pitch. I'm just pleased to be involved.

"I'm fine with either position. I'm not a winger but if the manager wants to play Victor [Obinna] the other side, who's more of an attacking player, and he wants me in there to cover the full-back a bit down my side and help the two lads in the middle then I'm happy to play there or down the middle."