Grant hails cup character

Avram Grant hailed the half-time reaction of his players for sparking a Carling Cup turnaround against Stoke City and reaching the last eight.

Having been frustrated at the weekend by the way his team flagged after the interval against Newcastle United, the manager got the opposite reaction on Wednesday. Inspired by Scott Parker - who struck the crucial late equaliser to cancel out Kenwyne Jones early header - and three lively substitutions, the Hammers roared back to win 3-1 after extra time.

"We wanted to show that Saturday was an exception for us," said Grant, who will now look forward to Saturday lunchtime's draw for the quarter-finals. "We didn't start the game well but the reaction in the second half was great. We played well, dominated the game, and scored three goals.

"We spoke about what we were not doing right, the mentality and the character. We changed the tactics a bit at half-time, and I was delighted at the response.

"We had two good chances in those last ten minutes of the first half. We were holding the ball and creating half-chances. I thought if we continued to play like this, we'd win the game. In football, you have to be careful, especially against a team like Stoke who are so dangerous at set-pieces and defend so well."

The manager had said after the Newcastle loss that he wanted people to remember the five-match unbeaten run previously and it was the "spirit and character" of those games that showed itself again in an exciting cup tie.

"The turning point was a few weeks ago, after we lost but didn't give up and continued to do the right thing. We had three draws where we deserved to win. One game was affected by the decision of a referee.

"Even on Saturday, we started the game like a top team then someone pushed a button and we stopped. We have a plan and a project for many years, and I think we're doing the right things. We just need to be more stable.

"I must say that the second half on Saturday was not good. But, if you look at our last seven games, it's been the exception. It happens to any team. Even Arsenal and Manchester United - some top teams don't always play well. The most important thing is you have to recover from it and respond. I know other teams that don't perform well cannot recover."

Hailing the off-the-bench impact of the "energetic" Valon Behrami, Victor Obinna, who clinched the win with the third, and Mark Noble, who created the second for Manu da Costa with a Maradona-esque dribble past three players, the main praise once again went to captain Parker.

"We've spoken so much about him. I don't think any of us can say a negative word about him. He's trying hard, he's a great lad and an intelligent person.

"He's one of the players that you're happy to have in the team: professional, always trying, showing heart when the game was not good in the first half. He was a good captain and an example to many players."