Manager on Monday

Alan Curbishley accepts there was little to be drawn from the weekend and said his West Ham United team had come up against a side firmly back in the title race.

The manager may have seen Bobby Zamora get 25 minutes of first-team football after being out with a persistent knee problem since 28 August and also had Julien Faubert making his first home start but admitted highlights were few and far between in the 4-0 home reverse. He said: "We can't take too much from the game and obviously it is not nice when you have to sit there and watch that."

"The fans had to," Curbishley added, mindful that expectancy was high after an excellent 1-0 away win at Fulham the previous weekend and that the tenth-placed club had a chance to close on the two or three teams above - especially with Wednesday's game in hand at Liverpool. "They have come in with great hopes. We picked up a result last week and we desperately need to put two [wins] together to try and climb up the league but it hasn't happened again."

Curbishley knows his side are capable of competing with the best - as shown by the 2-1 and 1-0 home wins against Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, and even the 1-0 away defeat at the hands of Chelsea back on 1 December when defeat was harsh on his team. The only other 'top-four' game that had disappointed in a similar manner was the 2-0 loss at Arsenal on New Year's Day when the leaders were able to take a quickfire lead.

"In the previous games against the top four perhaps we have made the save or we have made the block," the manager said. "[The top-four teams] are going to create chances and we went two down very early at the Emirates and that is massively difficult to come back from. One-nought [then] after a minute and, after 20 minutes [on Saturday], three goals in five minutes - you are on to a hiding."

Chelsea's victory owed much to clinical finishing and the depth of a "massively talented squad", with Avram Grant able to pick from a full complement again after two months or so without that luxury. After Frank Lampard's penalty, Joe Cole and Michael Ballack, two players left out in the Carling Cup final, then put the game out of reach. "When you play against these sides you know they have got players that if they get in certain positions, they may finish," Curbishley added.

The visitors added a fourth through Ashley Cole, also left out in the cup final, after the break, just when the home side had tried to get something going and nearly scored with a clever Carlton Cole effort that was hooked away at the last moment. The manager said the interval message had been to try and make the most of the man-advantage after Lampard's dismissal, telling his players "We have got to go out there and, if we can get going for ten minutes, then we will have a go.

"Obviously they had ten men and we were hoping to break them down but we couldn't do it. The one time we did, John Terry got back and cleared it off the line so that may have been a change in the situation if we had scored that but we have played against a top side with a top squad. If you see the people they had on the bench it is massive - that result and Arsenal's one has pushed them back in [the title race]."