Thursday 14 December 2017

By Jim van Wijk, Press Association Sport

By Jim van Wijk, Press Association Sport

Manager Sam Allardyce has challenged his West Ham squad to build on their hard-earned win over Sunderland to secure the club's best Barclays Premier League finish since promotion.

The Irons recorded a first league victory after January 18 with a late goal from Diafra Sakho to hand new Sunderland head coach Dick Advocaat defeat in his first game in charge.

West Ham had been in the European qualification places earlier in the campaign, only for a wretched run of form and injuries since the turn of the year to put pay to those ambitions.

Allardyce, though, is confident the east London club can now push on to do better than their top-10 finish of 2012-13 in their first campaign back in the Premier League after winning the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

"This squad needs to grow, to get bigger and better, but we need to finish this season off much better than 46 points," said Allardyce, whose current contract expires in the summer.

"Certainly by Christmas we had reset our goals to make sure we were going to get more points in the Premier League than we had ever done."

Allardyce will take his side to bottom club Leicester after the international break, when he hopes some of their injuries will have cleared up.

"It has been a tough old period, but hopefully we will see more victories as the season draws to a close," Allardyce added on West Ham TV.

"Hopefully we will have Winston Reid and Enner Valencia back after the international break, so it has probably come at a good time for us with regard to getting some of the injured players back, which would be great."

Sunderland, meanwhile, returned to the north east empty handed, but with the players having at least shown Advocaat some positives to build on.

The final outcome could have been much different had striker Jermain Defoe, against his former club, not smashed the ball into the stands when clean through on 15 minutes.

Defender Patrick Van Aanholt also had a long-range shot turned behind by West Ham keeper Adrian before Sakho settled matters with a neat finish from Mark Noble's flick into the penalty area, which looked to come after a foul on Seb Larsson by Nene.

Advocaat is confident he has plenty to work with ahead of the Easter Sunday showdown with Newcastle at St James' Park, when midfielder Adam Johnson will again be in contention having come off the bench following his club suspension being lifted after a Police investigation.

Midfielder Jack Rodwell said on the club's official website: "We have felt positive (going into the game) and were unlucky not to get at least a point.

"We have eight more games to go now and we have to keep fighting."


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