Grant proud of his players

Avram Grant was full of praise for the spirit shown by his West Ham United side as they sealed a precious win in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final with Birmingham City.

Mark Noble's early strike was cancelled out by Liam Ridgewell's header soon after the interval, before the tie seemed to swing firmly in the Blues' favour with Victor Obinna's red card. However, the Hammers stood firm and substitute Carlton Cole swept in - with a bit of help from the unfortunate Ben Foster - a crucial winner. It meant a 2-1 lead to take to St Andrew's in a fortnight.

Grant said: "I am very happy with the players and they do like to play in the cup. They have been great in the league matches as well against Wolves, Everton and Fulham away but today, it was very hard, because we were with ten players for a long time.

"The spirit was great. It is not easy to play so many games in short time."

As was the case against Barnsley on Saturday, the Hammers were imperious in the opening 45 minutes. "The football in the first half was good. We were winning 1-0 but we could easily have scored more. We played well by passing the ball, playing on the counterattack.

"The second half they started well and scored a good goal but it was the first time a team had scored against us from a corner for a long time. We did great with ten men. For Carlton's goal, even if the finish was like it was it was still a great attacking move. I am very pleased.

"It was a great combination. Jonathan Spector, who has played in so many positions without complaining, did a good run, a good pass and the finish...if it is a goal, I'm happy!."

The manager, who said he would review the Obinna sending off for an apparent kick, has been around long enough to know there is a long way to go in the tie. "It's an advantage. Nothing's finished yet but it's an advantage. But it is better to have a win than to go to Birmingham with a draw."

Grant would not comment on speculation about transfer targets and brushed aside questions about pressure from being at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League. "I think we have to respect what the players have done," he added. "There were only 16/17 senior players in the squad.

"A few of them like Coley and Zavon Hines couldn't play for more than 20-30 minutes, Noble played after a long time out, Matt Upson had to play at left-back, Winston Reid did very well even though he is new to the team and Spector did a great job. I need to deal with these things. I don't want to spend energy on other things."