Hammers must nail promotion, says McCartney


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The Independent Football

The West Ham United defender George McCartney has warned his team-mates against complacency as they look to keep up the pressure at the top of the Championship.

The Hammers secured a vital victory in their push for automatic promotion with a 2-0 defeat of play-off hopefuls Cardiff City last weekend. The second-placed Londoners now have two easier-looking fixtures against bottom-half sides in Watford tonight and relegation-threatened Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, but McCartney insists they cannot afford to ease up.

McCartney said yesterday: "When it's a three-game week, we always seem to beat the toughest opposition and then when it comes to a game against a lesser team, no disrespect to anyone, we seem to struggle. Take, for example, our great win against Blackpool, we then struggled at home to Crystal Palace, a team we feel that at home we should beat.

"We know what we have got to do now, it's getting to the business end of the season and we have got to keep on picking up points. Come Watford on Wednesday, three points is definitely what we are looking for."

McCartney is in particularly good spirits after getting on the scoresheet against Cardiff, his first goal since returning to the club from Sunderland last summer. The Northern Irishman said: "It doesn't happen too often, I think the last one was four years ago. I got a bit of luck after it bounced off of their right-back but I managed to tuck it away with my right foot.

"It doesn't matter how they go in, as long they do I'm happy! It's nice to score but the most important thing is the three points."

West Ham are unbeaten in five games but will be hosting a Watford side at Upton Park buoyed by their recovery from 2-0 down to defeat Burnley 3-2 last Saturday.

Also tonight, Cardiff face another tough test as they return to action against play-off rivals Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.

Both sides ended the weekend outside the play-off positions after the Seagulls were held to a frustrating draw at bottom side Doncaster. Cardiff have hit a slump since reaching the Carling Cup final, winning just one of their last six league games.

Their midfielder Liam Lawrence, who joined the club on loan from Portsmouth last week, is poised to make his debut and hoping to give the side a lift.

Lawrence, fit again after a recent calf injury, said: "The move all came about quite quickly really. I learnt about it late Thursday, early Friday and when I knew there was interest from Cardiff City I was quite happy to come here and try to help the club secure its goal of promotion.

"Hopefully, I can play some part against Brighton. Sunday against West Ham was a little bit too early for me but, hopefully, I'll be ready to go midweek."

Despite their weekend frustration, spirits remain high at Brighton, where the assistant manager, Mauricio Taricco, says competition for places is intense. "Results have not been bad recently so the manager has got decisions to make because he has a big squad now," Taricco explained. "Every player that starts knows that he has got to perform to his best because there are other players fighting to get into the team.

"The basics are not enough any more, there needs to be something else for the players to keep their place."