Fifth success fires Grant

Avram Grant was naturally delighted after seeing his side make it five straight victories in pre-season with a 1-0 win against a competitive Ipswich Town.

The manager had said at the outset that Saturday's contest would be about assessing tactics and fitness rather than the result, with the bulk of the squad having had extended run-outs at MK Dons three days previously. As it was Carlton Cole settled matters on the half-hour mark with his fourth goal in five appearances - although this was the first time he had gone over 45 minutes - and Robert Green was heroic in goal.

The England goalkeeper helped the Hammers make it 401 minutes since conceding in the 41st minute of the first summer friendly at Peterborough United on 14 July - with four clean sheets since then. He was equal to everything that the home side could throw at him, and easily brushed aside the criticism that greeted from the stands as an ex-Norwich City player.


Victory is always the perfect riposte to terrace taunts, and Grant emphasised the importance of maintaining the winning habit against the Championship contenders, who begin their league programme next weekend. "We like to win all the time, even in training," he said. "[But] the target is not winning. The target is to play and to understand the tactics better.

"We have new players and it is good we are playing together. The physical side is also very important. This is the reason that some players play more than others. We are on the right way."

Frederic Piquionne


Those new players were Frederic Piquionne and Pablo Barrera, with the second-half appearances for both their first taste of wearing the claret and blue. More game time could follow in Tuesday's trip to Southend United before the visit of RC Deportivo La Coruna for the glamour SBOBET Cup on Saturday. It will be hoped that Matthew Upson, substituted early as a precaution, will also be fit.

"I don't think it is serious but we don't want to risk our players," added the manager of his captain, with Upson playing just his second game since coming back into the fold. "I think he will be OK but we need to see what the medical department say."

The manager refused to be too downbeat about that, especially with Danny Gabbidon, Herita Ilunga and Kieron Dyer once again showing they are getting stronger after last season's injury woes.

"I always pleased if we are winning games but this game it was more important to see things that we want to see tactically. I am happy because we are seeing progress. Every game we are in better physical condition and the players understand the tactics a bit better.

"We are more playing like a team from game to game. The support is better, the movement is better and we understand each other better."