Joey O'Brien refused to blame Carlton Cole's controversial dismissal for West Ham United's 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at home to Everton.

Cole was sent-off for a high challenge on Leighton Baines, but the forward appeared to have both eyes on the ball before making contact with his fellow England international.

O'Brien conceded that the red card did not help the hosts' cause but admitted the Hammers could have done more throughout the course of the 90 minutes to avoid defeat.

"I do not think we were playing well and I do not think that we played well, so maybe Carlton Cole getting sent-off gives us an excuse," said the No17.

"After he went off it obviously changed the game but after they scored one they looked like they would go on and win it anyway. It may have made it a little easier but we are
obviously very disappointed."

There was an element of fortune in Steven Pienaar's winner, with the ball bouncing off Kevin Nolan and then the South African midfielder before rolling into the net.

"It has hit Kevin, bounced off Pienaar and ended up in the net so it is very unfortunate but it is one of those things. "I think that summed up the day for us to be honest. We did not get going, we did not play very well, Coley got sent off and the winner was very scrappy."

O'Brien admitted Everton had been the better side, as the likes of Leon Osman and Pienaar put in very good performances. Indeed, the Republic of Ireland international even tipped the Toffees for a top-four finish.

"Everton have some very good players who played well and they are a team in the top half of the table who are pushing towards the top four. That said, after going 1-0 up at home we should not have lost the game. It was not good enough from us, so like I said we are very disappointed."

The Hammers game at Arsenal on Boxing Day has been called off, so a trip to Reading is next on the fixture list. O'Brien said West Ham would be going to the Madejski Stadium targeting a return to winning ways against a Royals team which has won just once in 18 league games.

"The important thing now is to bounce back with a positive result. We lost to Liverpool here but then went to West Bromwich Albion, which is a hard place to go, and put in a positive performance [and drew 0-0].

"We are disappointed we are not playing Boxing Day, but we are looking forward to taking on Reading and we need to use the extra days off of rest to our advantage."