Friday 24 November 2017

Downing hopeful of reaching Europe

Stewart Downing wants to see West Ham in Europe next season
Stewart Downing wants to see West Ham in Europe next season

Stewart Downing is confident West Ham have the attitude and aptitude to qualify for Europe this season.

Sam Allardyce's side have been one of the season's surprise packages, with their displays vastly superior to a style Jose Mourinho last term called "19th-century football".

While things have slightly tailed off recently, the Hammers remain in the hunt for a European berth - a chance Downing believes has been boosted by their dogged display at St Mary's.

The dismissal of Adrian meant West Ham had to play the last third with 10 men - and one of those, Andy Carroll, was clearly struggling with a knock - yet they frustrated high-flying Southampton by securing a 0-0.

"I think it'll come back at the end of the season as being a massive point," Downing told Press Association Sport.

"I mean, they'll be disappointed not to be getting three given their home form - that's where they get their points.

"It is a big point for us. Obviously we haven't got too many (options). Obviously Andy (is injured) - I don't know what has happened to him.

"For the league games, we just need to keep chipping away, picking up points away from home and carry on our home form. We've got a really good chance for Europe."

There was certainly a different feel to this point compared to Sunday's draw with Manchester United, when Daley Blind clawed back a stoppage-time leveller.

"I think we showed another side to us," Downing said.

"Obviously we've been praised for our attacking displays this season, but at times we have to defend and make it difficult for Southampton.

"They had a couple of chances towards the end but I think Jussi Jaaskelainen made some good saves and there were some good blocks.

"I think overall with the circumstances during the last half an hour, we'd take a point all day long."

It is "onwards and upwards" for West Ham now, Downing says, with an FA Cup clash at West Brom to look forward to this weekend.

Carroll is set to miss that match after leaving St Mary's on crutches, while Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble missed the trip to the south coast through a bruised foot and virus, respectively.

Whether they are fit for the Hawthorns trip remains to be seen, but Downing is confident they now boast the strength in depth to cope.

"We're struggling a bit and obviously it was last minute as well so we had to change late on," he said, referring to Nolan and Noble.

"I am not sure the manager would have probably set up that way if everyone was fit.

"It just shows the squad depth and we didn't have that last season. We'd probably have struggled to get a team out.

"But lads are itching to get a chance. Today Jarvo (Matt Jarvis) came on and did well.

"As for Cheikhou Kouyate, I didn't know he could play (centre-back) but obviously the manager has seen him play there before and I think he has been probably our best player the last two games."

The midfielder-cum-defender was key to frustrating a Saints side now without a home win in four matches in all competitions.

Ronald Koeman's men have paid for an inability to turn domination into goals and Eljero Elia could not hid his frustration.

"They came for one point and they go with one point, so I'm disappointed," the Dutch winger said. "I'm disappointed in myself and I think the whole team is also disappointed.

"We have to play better football. First it was like 100 per cent training, now we have to train 500 per cent.

"We know they come only for one point here and they expect not too much from the team - only to defend and everybody is scared against us."

Press Association

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