Coaches step up

Paul Groves spoke of the togetherness in the team and the coaching staff after an excellent day's work in securing a 1-1 draw away to Stoke City on Saturday.

While a strong rearguard action helped secure a first point of the campaign, Avram Grant's backroom staff all ensured the manager's plans and preparation were put into action. Scott Parker's goal was all the Hammers had to show for a dominant first half while an early Stoke equaliser after the interval led to the defence standing firm under some incessant pressure.

"It is a difficult place to come to," said senior coach Groves. "It was pleasing that we stood up to the challenge. The work-rate of the group was fantastic as it has been this season.

"It was a decent performance. We created a number of half chances in the first half and probably controlled the first 45 minutes as much as you possibly can against Stoke in dealing with what they throw at you.

"It was different in the second half, but I felt that we showed good character, good spirit and good togetherness in terms of asking one or two questions when they scored."

Kenwyne Jones' equaliser prompted Stoke to push for a second but the Hammers kept going and through lively forwards Frederic Piquionne and Victor Obinna, as well as a fine Manu da Costa header, could have had a winner of their own.

"When they scored was a difficult time but we came out the other side and started to get a grip of the game a little bit. You are always going to face that in the last ten minutes ut we weathered that as well."

Indeed, Groves said he, assistant manager Zeljko Petrovic and first-team coach Kevin Keen all felt the Hammers could have taken a precious first victory but for some better fortune. "There is always a tinge of little disappointment because we felt in the first half we could have gone in two-nil up.

"It is a difficult place to come and get points. They are a strong powerful side and you have to deal with that."

Groves said the manager would be delighted with the effort everyone put in, ahead of a big week that sees Sunderland up next in Carling Cup action on Tuesday before Tottenham Hotspur come calling to east London next Saturday.

"The responsibility gets shared amongst us all, there is Zeljko and don't forget Kevin Keen. He is a big part of the set-up. Things were covered [by the manager] going into the game. You are prepared as much as you possibly can. You have to react different situations. I was speaking to Kevin and to Zeljko. We pooled our knowledge and you try to make the right decisions."