Captain courageous

If West Ham United are to stay in the Barclays Premier League, they are going to need to beat teams above them in the table.

Thanks, in part, to a truly outstanding performance from captain Matthew Upson, the Hammers did just that in defeating Liverpool 3-1 on Sunday.

The England centre-back was imperious, all but nullifying the threat of £23m Luis Suarez with a strong, confident and physically-imposing of top-class defensive play.

Alongside Upson, England Under-21 international James Tomkins was equally impressive as West Ham earned a vital three points in their battle against relegation.

"We had a good, solid game," he said. "We had a good understanding and worked off each other well. I thought in the first half we really did press them well and didn't give them opportunities to create too much space.

"If you look at our fixtures, we're going to have to beat team that people don't expect us to beat. We're running out of teams to play who are in and around us. Our points have got to come from elsewhere and we've achieved three of them."

The captain showed great strength and anticipation to deal with the threat of Suarez, winning countless headers and making a series of important interceptions.

Upson was incorrectly ruled out for the remainder of the season in some erroneous reports last week and returned from two weeks out with a performance full of authority and inspiration.

"I surprised myself as I was meant to be out for the season! I don't know where that report came from but it was a bit premature, whoever got hold of that and decided to print it.

"I haven't wanted to say anything about it because there is nothing better than putting yourself out on the pitch and playing 90 minutes and putting it to bed, so I'm pleased about that.

"I trained for a couple of days. I've done quite a bit of rehabilitation work and it's still a little bit sore and it needs a bit of clearing up, but I'm pleased with it.

"It's a recurrence of an old thing. It's not really an injury as such. It's more of a niggle and it's causing tension in my achilles so it'll be fine. It's not a problem."

Upson was particularly strong during a 20-minute period midway through the second half when Liverpool pushed hard to force their way back into the match.

With West Ham struggling to retain possession the same way they did during a dominant first-half display, the Reds came on strong, only to find Upson in no mood to give ground.

"I spoke about it at half-time and I really wanted us to come out in the second half, get hold of the ball and take the game to Liverpool again - it's our best form of defence.

"I didn't want us to sit off and all of a sudden we're inviting pressure and defending the edge of our box as that's when things happen - balls drop down in areas you can't do anything about.

"I felt we ran out of a little bit of steam and didn't quite retain possession as well as we did in the first half and ended up playing a little bit deep and couldn't get out. I think that's why we spent 20 to 25 minutes defending our box."

Having overcome the challenge of Liverpool, Upson and his colleagues will need to re-group and prepare for Stoke City this coming Saturday.

The Potters are famed for their direct approach and aerial barrage from throw-ins and set-plays, but the No15 is confident West Ham can cope with everything that is thrown - and kicked - at them.

"Stoke is a very different challenge. It'll be a lot of aerial competition so we'll have to be ready for that - a lot of second balls and scruffy work. It'll be equally as difficult but just as important.

"It's as tight as ever. If you look at the bottom four at the moment - the four Ws - and you'd say one of those is going to stay up this season. Other teams could get dragged in but I think if we can get back-to-back victories and get a win next week it would be a huge boost for us."