O'Neil the real deal

After three weeks out of action, tracking the combined talents of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Benoit Assou-Ekotto was a tough assignment for Gary O'Neil.

Thankfully, West Ham United's No32 was up to the task, combining superbly with right-back Lars Jacobsen to keep Tottenham Hotspur's left-wing raiders at bay. The pair's efforts helped the Hammers to earn what could prove to be a priceless Barclays Premier League point from a hard-fought, breathless goalless draw at White Hart Lane.

O'Neil, who missed the recent league and FA Cup sixth-round meetings with Stoke City, returned to the starting XI with a typically energetic display.

"The gaffer changed it against Stoke [in the league] and then I was cup-tied so I've had three weeks without a game," he told West Ham TV. "I was feeling it a little bit towards the end. In the last 15 minutes my legs felt a little bit heavy.

"I felt Lars and I did well down our side and contained Bale as much as possible and Assou-Ekotto is a good player as well. We tried to stop the supply a bit, which I thought we did well.

"We could have done a little bit more on the ball, but we were working so hard without it, it's hard to have enough movement when you have it to cause them problems."

O'Neil's non-stop running typified a resilient performance from Avram Grant's side. From front to back, the players ran their hearts out.

"It was hard work. It was a good team performance. It wasn't the prettiest. Tottenham worked us hard and are a good side at home and had a lot of the play, but we stuck at it and it was a vital point at the end.

"Spurs had a couple of clear-cut chances - probably not as many as they regularly create at White Hart Lane - but I've seen them play against some of the top sides in Europe and create a lot more than they did on Saturday, so the overall protection that the midfield and front lads gave the team was good. When they were needed, [Robert] Greeny and the back lads were fantastic."

Having picked up seven points from their last three league games, climbing out of the relegation zone in the process, O'Neil said the Hammers would look forward to the visit of Manchester United on 2 April and forthcoming match-ups with Chelsea and Manchester City with renewed optimism.

"Everyone has spoken about how difficult our games are coming up, so I think it's important that we keep our [points] tally ticking over. We've had a good spell since Blackpool, really, so it's important that we keep that tally ticking over.

"We could easily pull away. We can start looking up at the teams in eleventh and twelfth because they're not too far away. It's important that, no matter how tough the games are, that we keep taking something out of them.

"We've had two different games [against the top sides]. We played really well against Liverpool, controlled the game and passed it well and created it chances. Saturday was the other side, we had to dig in and keep a clean sheet.

"We needed everyone to work hard and we did. It was just a terrific team performance."