Noble cautious of heat

Date published: Wednesday 22nd July 2015 6:29

Hammers boss Slaven Bilic has taken an experienced squad to face Birkirkara on Thursday, with his side holding a slender 1-0 first-leg advantage. 

James Tomkins’ injury-time winner spared West Ham the embarrassment of failing to defeat a side placed 318th in UEFA’s club rankings – 200 places below them. 

The weather in Malta’s capital, Valletta, will provide a testing evening for all of the players involved, but Noble is confident he and his team-mates will have enough about them to go through. 

“It will be a challenge with the heat,” the 28-year-old said.

“I don’t think the game will be as quick was it was the other night because of the heat, but we’re looking forward to it.

“Last Thursday was only our second game we’ve played in pre-season, so we’re still unfit really and it was good to get the win. I know it was a late goal from ‘Tonks’, but they made it difficult for us.

“They were enthusiastic, they ran about a lot, but we got the win which was the most important thing and now we’ve got to go out there and try to finish the job.”

Bilic is expected to name a strong side as the Hammers aim to set up a third round encounter with either Inverness Caledonian Thistle or Astra Giurgiu.

But he will have to make do without new summer signing Dimitri Payet and last season’s top scorer Diafra Sakho, who are both unavailable due to suspension. 

Progression into the third round of qualifying would still mean the Hammers face four further matches to reach the Europa League group stages, having entered the competition at it’s earliest phase through the Fair Play League.

But, despite the added strain, Noble insists West Ham are fully committed to their first European venture for almost a decade.

“It’s the Europa League and we want to progress,” he added.

“Hopefully we can go out there and come away with a win. We’ve had to take the games seriously from day one because of the Europa League.

“We’ve got six games in qualifying before the season starts, and that’s going to be tough but we’re looking forward to it.”

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