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Page last updated at 22:16 GMT, Sunday, 6 February 2011

Avram Grant needs new West Ham players to gel quickly

Relegation scrap will go to wire - Grant

West Ham boss Avram Grant admitted his new signings must settle quickly after seeing his side slump to a 1-0 defeat by Birmingham.

Robbie Keane had a quiet home debut for the Hammers and substitute Demba Ba hit the post from close in as Grant's side returned to the bottom of the league.

"We need to adjust as quickly as possible," Grant told BBC Sport.

"We have a very important game next week [against West Brom] and I think the good players will adjust quickly."

Birmingham beat West Ham in the Carling Cup semi-final in January and their victory on Sunday, courtesy of Nikola Zigic's 65th-minute winner, lifted them out of the bottom three.

But Blues are only three points above the Hammers, albeit having played two fewer matches, while a mere seven points separate the Premier League's bottom 11 teams.

West Ham looked promising in the early stages but they could not carve out many clear openings and the closest they came to scoring was through Ba's angled drive that rebounded to safety off the near post.

The result added even greater significance to the Hammers' next game against West Brom, who parted company with manager Roberto Di Matteo on Sunday despite being outside the relegation zone.

"It's the first game we have lost against a team which is near us," Grant said. "So it is not so good and we are not so happy with this.

He added: "It is the most interesting season there has been both at the top and the bottom.

"Between us and West Brom there are only two points and three or four points to the others, so it will be a fight until the end of the season. I think there will be five or six teams in it."

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish conceded the style of victory was not one for the purists but was pleased that a second-half tactical switch to replace striker Cameron Jerome with midfielder Sebastian Larsson paid off.

"I am delighted and relieved," said the Scot. "It was a difficult game to watch from the sidelines and I don't think it was that pretty. I'm sure the critics will have a dig at it.

"But in saying that there is a lot of tension in the Premier League at the top and the middle and the bottom as well. There's not a lot between the middle teams and those at the bottom - four or five points can take you soaring up the league.

McLeish delighted with

"It's a cracking result for us today. In the second half we were better, we changed the tactics around a wee bit and it worked a bit better for us.

"Larsson gave us a bit more speed and nous on the flank where we probably needed it most. Credit to Sebastian; his contract is up in the summer but he was wholeheartedly committed and his effort was fantastic."

McLeish added that predicting which teams would finish the season in the relegation places was a near impossible task.

"The league deserves a lot of respect," he added. "Some day, unfortunately, three teams will have to go down and everybody is fighting for their lives.

"The spirit and quality in the league is amazing and the fact that there is not a huge difference in terms of points between bottom club and 10 to 11 places above shows the quality is in abundance.

"Every game is a hard one and there is no guarantee you can win them but what we could do with is to swing a couple back-to-back now. It would just ease pressure and lift everybody in terms of their confidence levels.

"We haven't lacked confidence, we certainly haven't lacked commitment. You could see that against Manchester City [who Birmingham drew 2-2 with on Wednesday] and you could see that again on Sunday."



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see also
West Ham 0-1 Birmingham
06 Feb 11 |  Premier League
Sunday football as it happened
06 Feb 11 |  Football
Sunday's football photos
06 Feb 11 |  Football
How to watch Match of the Day
09 Aug 11 |  Match of the Day


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