Grant's cup cheer

Knockout specialist Avram Grant worked his magic again as West Ham United progressed to the Carling Cup fourth round with a deserved 2-1 victory at Sunderland.

Grant, who guided Chelsea to the UEFA Champions League and Carling Cup finals before reaching the FA Cup final with Portsmouth last season, was up to his old tricks again at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening.

Summer signings Frederic Piquionne and Victor Obinna both netted their first goals for the club, cancelling out Ghana FIFA World Cup star Asamoah Gyan's header to fire the Hammers into the last 16.

A smiling manager told WHUTV of his delight at guiding the club to their first away win in 23 attempts - a run stretching back 401 days to a 2-0 Barclays Premier League success at Wolverhampton Wanderers on 15 August 2009.


"We deserved it. It has been there for a few weeks. We have been making progress. We came here without a few players who couldn't play, but we played well against Sunderland's strongest team and we deserved to win by a wider margin than 2-1.

"I'm very delighted with the goals. They were excellent goals and the combinations for both the first and the second were brilliant. We had few opportunities to add to them, but they didn't create anything and their goal came from a set piece.

"The most important thing is that they continue progressing. The players showed a lot of character, they wanted to win and this was a difficult place to come and win."

Grant said Tuesday's success went some way to making up for the disappointment of losing out at home to Bolton Wanderers and Chelsea - games in which the Hammers created chance after chance without making their opponents pay.

"It's always good to win. Every player had a very good game against Bolton but we didn't win. Against Chelsea, this was the game where they didn't create many chances and we created more than them, but we still didn't win. After these two games, we turned the corner with the game against Stoke and then we won at Sunderland.

"I believe that we're progressing very well and we need to continue with this."

While Piquionne and Obinna stole the headlines, young goalkeeper Marek Stech was also singled out for praise by Grant. The 20-year-old was in solid form, making one outstanding late save from Steed Malbranque to maintain the visitors' slender advantage.

"He is a good player. Ruud [Boffin] is also a very good goalkeeper, as is Peter [Kurucz] who is now injured. We have very good young goalkeepers and it's part of our vision about the club. Firstly because of the financial situation, but also because we want to give opportunities to young, hungry players who want to develop the club."

Having seen off the challenge of Steve Bruce's side, attention now turns to Saturday's fourth-round draw. While lower-league Brentford, Leicester City and Swansea City would be the preferred opposition, Grant admitted he did not mind who his side were drawn to face during the final week of October.

"First, I like to win. Any game is good to win. We hated it when we had zero points, but this belongs to the past. Now, we want to continue and I don't care who we draw!"