Grant happy with West Ham cup display
Despite a dreary first hour, West Ham boss Avram Grant insists he was happy with they way his team played against Stoke City on Wednesday night.
West Ham 3 Stoke City 1 (after extra time)
IF COME February, Matthew Upson strides up the Wembley steps to lift the Carling Cup, then the performance for the first hour of this match will be long forgotten - just as well, because at times West Ham were truly dreadful.
Avram Grant took the opportunity to give a game to some of those on the fringe of the team and in most cases those players showed that they are simply not good enough to play for the Hammers.
Luis Boa Morte, Radoslav Kovac and Benni McCarthy were all booed off by the frustrated West Ham fans and it was only with the introduction of the effervescent Victor Obinna, the hard-working Valon Behrami and the inspirational Mark Noble that the Hammers came to life.
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“I thought all the substitutes did well,” said the manager. “They brought a lot of energy. Obinna scored a goal and I think that Mark Noble for the first goal was like Maradona.”
The transformation of Noble from last season’s mediocrity into a midfielder with real class, may well have had the hand of God in there somewhere.
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His arrival with 18 minutes to go, allowed Scott Parker the chance to roam further forward and suddenly the Hammers looked a decent proposition on the attack.
Until then it had been stale, unimaginative and downright shocking play from West Ham.
They went behind on six minutes when Jermaine Pennant’s corner was met by the unfettered Kenwyne Jones who nodded into the corner past the invisible man on the post.
Tuncay could have added to that tally with a header inches wide, while all West Ham could muster was Carlton Cole’s turn and shot that didn’t trouble Asmir Begovic as the Hammers passing and tactics grew more and more erratic.
“I think even in the first half we played good. We had two good chances at the end of the first half,” said Grant unbelievably, he must have been watching a different game.
“At half time we spoke about the things that were not so good. We spoke about mentality and character. We changed the tactics a little bit.
“I am very delighted because they responded well.”
Slowly, but surely, West Ham did force their way back into the match, but they were greatly helped in this endeavour by Tony Pulis’ decision to withdraw both Jones and Tuncay. By the time he was forced to bring on Rory Delap there was no-one for him to launch his long throws at.
James Tomkins headed Pablo Barrera’s corner inches wide, Parker’s shot from the edge of the box almost shaved the post, while Obinna twice forced a save from Begovic as West Ham looked for parity.
It finally came with six minutes to go. A minute earlier, the largely awful Julien Faubert, burst into the box only to be brought down for what looked a stonewall penalty.
That was waved away, but a within seconds Barrera crossed from the left, Parker stole in late and headed the Hammers level.
That gave West Ham the momentum and in extra time there was only one winner.
First Noble dribbled superbly into the box and along the by-line before pulling it back for Manuel Da Costa to blast in. Then with three minutes left, Noble’s defence-splitting pass put Obinna in the clear and he finished with aplomb.
“Last year at Portsmouth a cup run helped us forgot all our problems,” said Grant.
“I am here now to do a job for West Ham. I believe in this team, I believe in this club and I believe that if we do the right things, then step by step we can go forward.
“Part of this is the game today, because if you want to build a winning mentality, you need to show desire and passion to win every game.”
Maybe, but you do need to show it for the whole match, and for too many of West Ham’s players that is simply beyond them.
The draw for the next round is on Saturday at 12.35pm.
West Ham: Stech 7, Faubert 5, Ben Haim 5, Tomkins 6, Da Costa 6, Barrera 6, Parker 8*, Kovac 5 (Obinna 64, 7), Boa Morte 5 (Behrami 72, 6), McCarthy 4 (Noble 8), Cole 5. Unused: Reid, Ilunga, Nouble.
Attendance: 25,304. Referee: Howard Webb 6.