Cup exit frustrates Grant

Avram Grant believed his men should have been contemplating an FA Cup quarter-final replay instead of dashed Wembley dreams for another season.

The Hammers lost out 2-1 at Stoke City on Sunday in a close, competitive contest that saw Frederic Piquionne's opportunistic goal sandwiched by Robert Huth's early header from a Rory Delap throw and Danny Higginbotham's free-kick just after the hour. The visitors dominated the possession but were also admittedly on the back foot every time Stoke were awarded a set-piece or throw anywhere near their area.

"It was a tough game, a very tight game," said Grant, who had previously led his team to two wins and a draw against the Potters this season. "They scored from their strengths, a throw-in and a free-kick. We fought hard but that was the difference.

"We didn't start well and they did. They had energy, they closed us down and knew our strengths. It was difficult to play our game but slowly we started to pass the ball better.

"A draw would have been a fair result. From the open game, they didn't create a lot of chances even if they played with a lot of energy. But they won the game and I wish them all the best in the semi-finals."

A big talking point after the game was James Tomkins going over in the penalty area while Huth and Thomas Hitzlsperger collided in the wall as Higginbotham scored - but the the Hammers' appeals were in vain.

While Stoke look forward to taking on Bolton Wanderers in the semi-finals, Grant will have to get his men back up for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur in the Barclays Premier League next Saturday. He was certain the cup exit would not have a negative impact on morale.

"It won't have an adverse affect. We came and wanted to win. It was a big fight like it always [at the Britannia Stadium]. Iit is not easy to play here. Now we want to continue in the league what we have done in the last matches."

It remains to be seen whether Piquionne will play a part at White Hart Lane after being carried off with an injury suffered in his goal on the half-hour. Robbie Keane, who made a promising cameo after a thigh injury at Stoke, is ineligible for that fixture. Demba Ba, though, should feel the benefit of a free weekend after being given a whirlwind introduction to English football in recent weeks.

Whoever lines up, Grant is expecting a reaction. "Of course we will concentrate on the league, that is our first priority but we came here to win as you know. The players fought for everything and we had fantastic support with thousands of fans following us. The FA Cup is an important competition and we took it seriously. We have great spirit."