It looked as though we were about to drop points against the Hammers but the manner of our win proves what resilience we now have.
There are a lot of things that we still have to improve on this season but we currently have a robustness about us and a belief in our ability to churn out results that can take us a long way. It was good to see Anthony Gardner score his first goal for the club to earn us that late West Ham win but unfortunately he also picked up an injury in that game that has since held him back.
Talking of injuries, the tally is now up to 13 and that’s way too high — even for us with our experience of coping with unavailability! Obviously it’s making things difficult for us and it’s not easy to sustain these levels. If we could have an injury-free squad then I could have all those normal options in team selection of resting players when needed and looking at opponents to see what approach would cause them the most problems and the best way to nullify their main threat.
We haven’t had that luxury at any point this season so it’s a credit to the players that are fit for achieving these results in the early stages — and it is still early in the context of the league programme. Our priority is to stay in the top five over the next three matches and that starts now against Middlesbrough.
Boro have had some very good results already this season and have played some good football. Steve McClaren has bought shrewdly, I feel, with a nice balance between the players brought in. They will certainly be a difficult side to beat.
With our win over West Ham enhancing our self-belief, we went up to Manchester United with confidence where our football on the day — and in the circumstances — was not too bad at all. On another day, if Deano’s chance had gone in, it could have been a different outcome, certainly a draw which was something we deserved.
Due to our list of injuries, Simon Davies had to play at right-back and Steffen Iversen on the right side of midfield and they acquitted themselves very well. In fact the whole team put in a good performance — I can’t fault the workload or the way we played.
In that context their winner was obviously disappointing but it was a definite penalty, we can have no complaints there. So although we came away with nothing in terms of points gained, we can still take a lot of heart from the performance. Now we’ve got to bounce back as we did when we lost at Fulham — and we’ve got to respond positively because we’re determined to keep our good home run going.
Our support at Old Trafford was absolutely first class, from the opening minute to the last, because our marvellous travelling fans could see the effort and the way that the boys were playing. It’s not much but the one consolation is that the only difference at the end of the day was the penalty.
On the injury front, Steffen Freund played another Reserve game in midweek and Gus Poyet has started his comeback in training. However, both need to get more training and games under their belts before they can consider a recall. But at least that is some positive news and with Stephen Carr also set to resume training there is some encouragement in that direction.
On a sad note, we were all sorry to hear of the tragic death of the father of Mark Yeates, our young Trainee. I would like to express our condolences, on behalf of all the players and staff, to Mark and his family at such a sad time.
In closing, a number of us were recently invited to watch Gerry Francis’s new West End show 125th Street. A lot of football people went and it’s clear that’s he on to a winner ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ and that’s exactly what we want this afternoon!
We were very happy to bounce back from our defeat at Fulham to beat West Ham here in our last game, particularly with a late goal to reverse what happened to us at Loftus Road.