Big Sam reflects on semi-final exit

Sam Allardyce was encouraged by aspects of West Ham United's display, despite their 3-0 Capital One Cup semi-final second leg defeat by Manchester City at the Boleyn Ground.

The Hammers ended up 9-0 aggregate losers to Manuel Pellegrini's high-fliers, but Big Sam was trying to take the positives afterwards, pointing to the returns of Kevin Nolan and James Tomkins and a successful 45-minute run out for Andy Carroll. There was further better news from the manager, who revealed that a knee injury that saw Mohamed Diame stretchered off in the closing stages may not be as serious as it first appeared.

On a less positive note, the manager lamented the poor defending that allowed Alvaro Negredo to nod City in front inside three minutes, as well as his own players' inability to turn chances into goals.

"I thought we'd got a goal. It would have done Kevin and everyone the power of good if his [offside] goal [after six minutes] had stood after the disappointing start we had made, when we easily conceded that first goal," said Big Sam. "It would have made for that little bit more excitement for the fans if we'd got that one goal back and made it 1-1. That poor defending would have been overcome and it would have lifted us.

"In the end, we got into the final third against Manchester City quite often and Andy got a decent 45 minutes in again and cause their defenders some real problems. In the second half, Carlton Cole had two really good chances with the one-on-one with the 'keeper and the header that went wide, so we have got to believe that sooner or later we'll start putting more balls in the back of the net.

"We've had more clean sheets away than at home, so that becomes an ultimate problem that we've got to do better. We've got to protect our goal better and, while that might be harsh in this game, it's about making sure we make teams work much harder for the goals that they score. Ultimately, if you give a team like this the chances we gave them, then they are going to punish you and they did.

"We did create chances, but once you lose the ball you've got to get back in and be defensively sound. In more games coming up, when we play teams of lesser ability than Man City, that's going to be even more important - getting the attacking side of it going and the defensive side right. We made two errors for two of their goals on Tuesday.

"City have scored 19 goals and conceded one to get to the final, which shows you the quality of their team, but I was a little disappointed with the way we conceded the goals."

The manager was pleased to see Nolan, Tomkins and Carroll back in his starting XI, while an eye-catching display from Ravel Morrison also gave him encouragement. The No15 was always available and never afraid to run at the City defence, forcing a last-ditch block from Joleon Lescott and being denied a convincing penalty shout for a foul by the same player.

"Rav looked all right. He was comfortable and tries to find the right space and the right pass. He worked quite hard, which is always important, so we'll look for him to keep that up.

"Of course, Rav should have had a penalty but the way it is for me, we aren't going to get one even if a penalty of their players punches one of our players in the face! Everything is conspiring against us, but we have to keep our heads up and play some of the football we played with an effective finish and tighter at the back.

"Obviously we were disappointed to lose Joe Cole and Mo Diame to injuries, but we'll have to see how serious they are. I spoke to Mo afterwards and it seems it might not have been as serious as it first looked."

West Ham now have eight days to prepare for a Barclays Premier League trip to Chelsea on Wednesday 29 January. There, Big Sam is hoping to have a number of injured players available following a behind-closed-doors friendly later this week.

"Guy Demel and Joey O'Brien should be back and both will play in the behind-closed-doors game, as should Ricardo Vaz Te. Andy got through 45 minutes, which is on the schedule for the way he has to progress with us, so his match-fitness has lifted up a little bit more. A better quality of touch and pass and finish will all come naturally as he gets that match-fitness. He was a little rusty but was still competitive and frightening defenders. Andy is going to be important to us."

In closing, the manager was asked whether the Club are getting any closer to adding to the squad, with the transfer window set to close at the end of the month.

"Well, this is another scenario for me. I've never experienced negotiating for so many players and not clinching one [deal]. From my point of view, every which way we turn, we cannot keep it as quiet as we want to - I think we might have signed more players had it not leaked into the press and alerted other people. That seems to be the case for every football club.

"We will keep trying and we have to continue to keep trying to improve the squad if we can, with the right quality of player - and there are not too many players available of the quality we need. If there are, can we afford them? If we can, do they want to come?

"We will be pursuing that area both in Europe and in this country from a loan point of view, or a buy point of view if we get the opportunity."