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Page last updated at 22:24 GMT, Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tuesday football as it happened


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By Chris Bevan

2222: And this is where I will have to leave you. Fun, wasn't it? Don't forget to join Jonathan Stevenson for the other semi-final, Ipswich versus Arsenal, on Wednesday night... and you can watch highlights of that game at 2325 GMT on BBC One (2355 if you are in Wales or Northern Ireland) and on this website if you are in the UK. Thanks for keeping me company, and see you very soon.

2217: Despite a battling win tonight, it is, of course, entirely possible that West Ham Avram Grant will be sacked in the morning - that's what the rumours are suggesting, anyhow. But, as Robi1993 points out below, apart from that tonking at Newcastle, his recent results haven't been half-bad. That didn't save Chris Hughton at Newcastle, though, did it?

lostlibertine on Twitter: "Chris, has Ben Foster been taking goalkeeping tips from you?"

See 2025... Nah. I would have somehow flicked Carlton Cole's shot up with my hand before inadvertently volleying it into the net as I fell over. Then I would have conceded four more goals in injury time, all the time berating my defence.

OptaJoe on Twitter: "8 - Carlton Cole has 8 goals in 15 career League Cup games (0.53/game) compared to 41 in 207 league games (0.20/game). Specialist."

More from West Ham boss Avram Grant, this time about the continuing speculation over his future: "We are one point below Wigan, Fulham and other teams, but with them everything is quiet. Unfortunately we have to fight with other things off the pitch. I don't want to think about other things but to fight and take on the challenge."

2158: Here's Stevo's take on tonight's events which, as well as being an extremely entertaining game, set us up nicely for the second leg. Yep, there's more to come.

Full time
Jonathan Stevenson reports: "The Birmingham fans are being kept in at Upton Park and they are finding plenty to sing about despite losing. Question: Can the Hammers really sack Avram Grant after that? It would take a brave board..."

Robi1993 on Twitter: "West Ham's last seven games: 4 wins, 2 draws, 1 defeat. Mr Grant should be closer to a Manager of the Month award than the axe..."

Football League and FA Cup Danny: "Cracking stuff tonight with quite literally, millions of goals. Well, 28 anyway. In League One - Oldham 0-6 Southampton. Saints equal their biggest away win. Huddersfield 3-2 Plymouth. Pilgrims led 2-0, had two men sent off. Bristol Rovers 2-2 Walsall. Aaron Lescott scores rare goal against former club. Peterborough 2-1 Brentford. Late, late winner for managerless Posh. Into League Two - Stockport 3-3 Rotherham. Two late goals for Millers. Torquay 2-1 Crewe. Gulls hold out. And, in the FA Cup, Wycombe 0-1 Hereford. Owls next for the Bulls... Phew."

Under-fire West Ham manager Avram Grant on his side's topsy-turvy win: "The spirit was great, we have a small squad and have played a lot of games in a short space of time but the players didn't give up. The first half was a bit like Barnsley in the Cup when we had seven or eight chances but couldn't score. The second-half was different - it was difficult with 10 players but our substitutions changed the game."

2150: As a paid-up member of the goalkeeper's union, I am going to stick up (a bit) for Ben Foster too, having seen West Ham's winner again. Although Carlton Cole's shot was a daisy-cutter, at best, it did go through Roger Johnson's legs and Foster was unsighted until the last moment. He still should have saved it though.

Alan Hansen on Match of the Day: "The game summed West Ham up. I've never seen a team that play so well in the first half then play badly, then battle so well after being reduced to 10 men. I think the tie's wide open now."

2146: I'm just seeing replays of that Victor Obinna red card. Some pushing and shoving from both players beforehand, much like at every throw-in that is about to be chucked down the line whether you are in the Premier League or Sunday League. But nothing to explain why Obinna decided to kick out like that. Idiot.

From kaufman39 on 606: "Two goals and some highly encouraging attacking football, organised, calm and determined defending (we don't see that much at Upton Park), fans piling behind the team... and a win!! I'm very happy with that."

SoupTheChicken on Twitter: "Looks like Ben Foster was feeling sorry for Avram Grant. Trying to save his job, which is all he could save."

A bit harsh, because Foster was excellent in the first half.

Football League Danny: "Last-minute drama? OK then. Jonathan Obika scores what looks to be a 90th-minute winner for Peterborough against Brentford - they lead 2-1. And it's Stockport 3-3 Rotherham. Two goals in the last six minutes for the Millers. Ryan Taylor with the leveller."

West Ham striker Carlton Cole, who scored his side's winner in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final: "I didn't even strike the ball properly and I think Ben Foster helped me by carrying it in a bit. But every goal counts and we have all worked very hard today. We are all very chuffed."

Full time
2139: FULL-TIME West Ham 2-1 Birmingham

2138: Time for one last effort by Birmingham? Yes, but Rob Green catches Cameron Jerome's cross and the chance is gone... that should be that, for now, I think.

2136: There will be three minutes of injury time. I think Birmingham might need a bit more than that to score again here, but remember we have the second leg to come at St Andrew's in a fortnight's time.

2136: Another West Ham substitution sees Radoslav Kovac replace their first goalscorer Mark Noble. An awful lot has happened since he opened the scoring.

Football League Danny: "Crikey. Oldham 0-6 Southampton - Lee Barnard with the latest. Meanwhile, a Matthew Grieve own goal makes it Stockport 3-2 Rotherham. A boost for the Millers and a tense finish looms..."

2135: Yep, an early ball is bent into the box and Nikola Zigic meets it at the near post... sending his header just off target. Close, but no cigar for the Blues.

vegasrockstar on Twitter: "A lucky goal for us Hammers to make up for a dismal second-half display. Probably won't be enough to get us to the final."

2132: Birmingham, with their extra man, are still enjoying the lion's share of possession but they need to start doing something with it. This might help: on comes giant striker Nikola Zigic for Seb Larsson. I wonder what tactic they will be trying now?

Football League Danny: "Oldham = thrashed. Rickie Lambert scores Southampton's latest goal - they're 5-0 up on the Latics. Brentford are now 1-1 at Peterborough, thanks to Marc Laird's leveller. And Walsall's ex-Pirate Aaron Lescott scores against his former club to make it Bristol Rovers 2-2 Walsall. Are there any footballers who hasn't scored against his former club?"

BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson at Upton Park: "Avram Grant celebrated that goal by running on to the pitch and remonstrating with one of his players - this might only be the first leg but there's so much at stake for everyone. The atmosphere reflects that - it's awesome."

From Mike in Prague, via text: "That's exactly the sort of mistake that has bedevilled Ben Foster's career, and a clear example of why Man Utd let him go."

2128: The visitors make another change. Jean Beausejour is on for Alexander Hleb.

2127: Eight minutes of the 90 left for Birmingham to find another equaliser. Has this game got any more twists and turns to throw at us yet?

West Ham goal: Oh dear. Ben Foster has just gone from hero to zero with the kind of goalkeeping that I could have taught him. Jonathan Spector flies down the right and his low cross finds Carlton Cole running into the area to meet it with a sidefooted shot that should be easily saved, but rolls under Foster's hand and barely trickles over the line.

2123: GOALFLASH West Ham 2-1 Birmingham (Cole)

2121: A superb defensive header by James Tomkins sees him nod David Murphy's cross over the bar with two Birmingham players challenging him inside his own six-yard box. But the Blues are still pressing hard and, when the resulting corner is half-cleared, Murphy heads just wide himself from Seb Larsson's cross.

Football League Danny: "The Saints go marching on. They lead 4-0 at Oldham, Richard Chaplow with the latest. Stockport now lead Rotherham 3-1, Stephen Husband with the third. It's not a Cupset, on account of it being a League Two match. But it is something of a surprise, nonetheless."

2120: Time for some fresh legs for the Hammers. They are going to need them. Carlton Cole and Zavon Hines on for Frederic Piquionne and Freddie Sears.

2119: The last thing West Ham want to do now is to make life any more difficult for themselves... but they almost do. Matthew Upson shoves over Barry Ferguson in the box and is lucky that Phil Dowd decides not to award a penalty.

2118: Some hope for the Hammers is that Birmingham have struggled to score goals all season - they've managed only 20 in 20 Premier League games. Can they make this pressure count? At the moment, West Ham are defending in depth and trying to find Frederic Piquionne on the break. It's not working.

2115: Stephen Carr is seeing plenty of the ball down Birmingham's right, and he is spending most of his time in West Ham's half too, but he cannot quite make the most of a couple of promising positions. The visitors are still well on top.

BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson at Upton Park: "Talk about game-changing. Birmingham grab the goal their early second-half supremacy deserves and then Victor Obinna has a brain melt. It's a safe bet most Hammers fans would take a draw now - but would Avram Grant? Does he have to go for it?"

2111: Birmingham's midfield was non-existent before the break, now they are bossing things. That extra man is going to count more and more as this game wears on too - we have 25 minutes of the 90 left.

2109: Barry Ferguson takes a quick free-kick which is met by Liam Ridgewell but his header is kept out by an instinctive Rob Green stop. Turns out it wouldn't have counted anyway, though, because the flag is up for offside.

JamesDuffin1 on Twitter: "Utter madness. What is Obinna thinking at this point in a semi-final? West Ham's chance of joy in a gloomy season put in peril?"

Football League Danny: "Turnaround o'clock at the Memorial Stadium. Will Hoskins and Jo Kuffour score for Bristol Rovers and they lead Walsall 2-1. Looks like game over at Oldham where Southampton lead 3-0, Guly Do Prado with the third. At the Galpharm, Stephane Zubar sees red - It's Huddersfield 3-2 Plymouth, but expect more goals with the Pilgrims down to nine men. And in League Two, Stephen Husband puts Stockport (21st, goal difference minus 27) 2-1 up on Rotherham (2nd, goal difference plus 16)."

BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson at Upton Park: "West Ham just have not started this half, and they've paid the ultimate price. Finally Birmingham find a finish to match their possession and build-up play and this leg - let alone the tie - is very much in the balance now. "

Red card
Obinna red card: You silly, silly boy. Matthew Upson sends a throw upfield and, as the ball loops over his head, Victor Obinna kicks out at Seb Larsson, who is stood just behind him. Utterly pointless but spotted by referee Phil Dowd, who promptly sends him off. West Ham's night is falling apart.

2103: RED CARD West Ham's Victor Obinna

Birmingham goal: It's been coming. Seb Larsson swings over another corner, and Liam Ridgewell beats Winston Reid to the ball to stoop and power home his header.

2101: GOALFLASH West Ham 1-1 Birmingham (Ridgewell)

2100: Freddie Sears has a pot-shot at one end, and then is in the right place on his own post to clear a Cameron Jerome header off the line. Shouts for handball but it hits his thigh.

2059: This is like the first half in reverse. Seb Larsson whips in a free-kick from the right and Rob Green is grateful to see it come right the way through to him.

2058: More pressure by Birmingham and Roger Johnson forces a corner with some silky skills on the right-hand side of the area. When it comes across, Cameron Jerome's effort is off target. The Blues have done more in the first five or so minutes of the second half than they managed during the whole of the first.

2055: Right, this is dangerous. A free-kick for Birmingham, about 25 yards out and in a central position. Well, it should be dangerous. In the end, Craig Gardner takes it and fires a low shot disappointingly wide. Still, Birmingham seem up for this, at long last.

2053: A bit of a delay while Jonathan Spector has treatment for a head injury, before West Ham hoist a free-kick into the box. James Tomkins gets on the end of it but cannot direct his header.

2052: Do you think Alex McLeish's half-time team-talk included telling his Birmingham players that the game had actually started? Time to see if they will, belatedly, turn up.

2050: West Ham get the second half under way.

vegasrockstar on Twitter: "West Ham have been all over Brum yet only scored once - you just know that this will come back to bite us on the proverbial bottom."

2049: Scott Dann is unable to continue because of that injury he picked up before the interval, so David Murphy is coming on for Blues. Liam Ridgewell will move into the middle of defence and Murphy will slot in at left-back.

OptaJoe on Twitter: "1 - Birmingham City managed just one shot on target and conceded only three fouls in the first half v West Ham. Timid."

2044: Every time I've seen West Ham this season, they have been either brilliant (think tonight or Man Utd) or awful (think Newcastle). I'm guessing there has been rather more of the latter over the last few months though?

Football League and FA Cup Danny: "Half-time fans, stand by your beds. Or get ready for some half-times, at least. League One - Bristol Rovers 0-1 Walsall. Huddersfield 3-2 Plymouth. Oldham 0-2 Southampton. Peterborough 1-0 Brentford. League Two - Stockport 1-1 Rotherham. Torquay 2-0 Crewe. And in the FA Cup, it's Wycombe 0-1 Hereford. Potentially a great Cup week this, for the Bulls. I'm starting to fancy them for the crown."

Lee Dixon on Match of the Day: "Birmingham's Alexander Hleb might as well have been sitting in here with us, he's been awful so far."

From Gerrardswhiskers on 606: "Did someone forget to tell the Birmingham players (apart from Foster) they are playing a semi-final? This could be an unassailable lead for the second leg if Mcleish doesn't change things around."

From James, Birmingham fan in Solihull, via text: "When is Big Eck going to realise that Cameron Jerome can't play as a lone striker!?! The sooner he gets support, or comes off the better."

Alan Hansen on Match of the Day: "The only saving grace for Birmingham is that they're only one down, and they should be two or three down. There's only one team that looks like it wants to get the final."

Half time
2035 HALF-TIME: West Ham 1-0 Birmingham
Jonathan Stevenson's HT snapshot:
"A good, old-fashioned cup tie played at breakneck speed and with both teams mercifully leaving the handbrake off. Not much to complain about so far, though we are only a quarter of the way through this semi-final."

2035: More bad news for Birmingham. Scott Dann took a nasty knock just before the half ended, and is still out on the pitch receiving treatment during the interval.

2034: A minute of added time to be played at the end of the first half, and Birmingham have a corner. They have not had a lot else. West Ham clear, just before the half-time whistle blows.

j_grodes on Twitter: "West Ham relentless at the moment, but they desperately need a second goal before HT, because Birmingham may come out a different team."

2030: Half a chance for Birmingham? Almost. Seb Larsson hoists a free-kick to the back post, where Cameron Jerome (I think) heads it back across goal to precisely no-one. Rob Green collects, without a blue and white shirt in sight.

2028: By the way, Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is furious with his side's display so far. And you can hardly blame him - they have been pretty insipid.

2027: Another flowing move by West Ham sees Matthew Upson tee up Victor Obinna on the edge of the box but he makes a bit of a mess of his shot, which is well wide. Five minutes to go until half-time, and only one team in it at the moment.

2025: Yeah, alright. I went in nets for the office team (featuring the dubious talents of Stevo and Chris Whyatt, among others, out on the field) last night. Anyway, we were 5-1 up with about five seconds to go and ended up drawing 5-5. One of those goals featured an accidental overhead kick by me into my own net while I was lying on the ground. Brilliant. Anyway, back to Upton Park. West Ham are still on top and are still peppering Ben Foster's goal with shots. Freddie Sears just tried his luck from a long way out but was a long way off target.

BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson at Upton Park: "I love to watch Alex Hleb work the ball around, but the Belarussian is hampered by a devastating lack of end product at times. Blues have had plenty of the ball in promising areas but can't work an opening - in stark contract to West Ham, who look like scoring every time they attack. PS Re: 2012 - Bevo, you not going to tell our readers about your 5-a-side cameo last night?"

2021: West Ham should really have scored at least one more by now, but it remains 1-0. Their latest attack saw Julien Faubert send the ball in from the right but, although Freddie Sears controlled the ball nicely on his chest, his next touch saw him scuff his shot wide.

Football League & FA Cup Danny: "Just over half an hour gone at the Galpharm, but the fans have had their money's worth. Jordan Rhodes equalised for the Terriers and Peter Clarke's made it Huddersfield 3-2 Plymouth. By my rudimentary maths, that's five goals, one red card and still one hour to go. In the FA Cup, by the way, it's Wycombe 0-1 Hereford, Mathieu Manset with the goal."

CallMeSpits on Twitter: "Joe Hart is England's No.1 - no debate. Ben Foster must be the second in line. Surely."

2018: Yet another impressive Ben Foster save. West Ham break quickly this time and Victor Obinna makes space for a shot that Foster has to palm round his post. Birmingham had just enjoyed their best spell of possession, but could do nothing with it.

From Dave in Aberdeen, via text: "Re 2010. That really was a class save by Ben Foster. Keeping out the long shot and keeping the ball away from West Ham's two poachers waiting for the parry by palming it wide, then a nice save from the header off the corner. Very underrated keeper."

2014: Birmingham have only threatened so far with crosses into the box and Rob Green has dealt comfortably with all of them. No change here, as he catches a Liam Ridgwell cross aimed at Cameron Jerome.

2012: I did some goalkeeper training with Ben Foster in the summer and I can tell you he is the biggest man I have ever met. He would fit right in with the WWF (I think they actually call it WWE these days) and he kept smiling even though I was clearly the worst keeper he had ever seen. Luckily for Birmingham he is about a million times better than me, because it looks like he is in for a busy night.

2010: More West Ham pressure. Jonathan Spector, one of the heroes of that win over Manchester United in the last-eight, has a pop from about 25 yards out and Ben Foster does well to push it away. From the resulting corner, James Tomkins powers in a header. Again, Foster has to tip over.

Football League Danny: "Still super-lively in Huddersfield. Joe Mason nets his second for the 10-man Pilgrims, but Kari Arnason's own goal makes it Huddersfield 1-2 Plymouth. In League Two, Torquay are flying, they lead Crewe 2-0 thanks to Eunan O'Kane and Chris Zebroski."

2007: Stephen Carr sends over a cross from the right as Birmingham look to respond but Rob Green is out to collect and clear the danger. The Hammers are hardly sitting back, mind. Scott Parker keeps driving them forward and they are playing some neat football at the moment.

BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson at Upton Park: "Forget all the pre-match chat - this is already shaping up to be a cracking semi-final cup tie. The roof nearly came off Upton Park when that goal went in and the hosts deserve their early lead, but Birmingham are looking dangerous on the break, too. Don't you just love the League Cup?"

doobymonty on Twitter: "Brum all over the place; where was the challenge?! Great finish though!!!"

West Ham goal: The Hammers make the breakthrough. Mark Noble's cross from the right is not cleared and, when Jonathan Spector eventually sends the ball back towards him, he meets it with a fierce finish that Ben Foster, unsighted behind Matthew Upson who is standing on the post, cannot keep out.

2000: GOALFLASH West Ham 1-0 Birmingham (Noble)

1959: Birmingham's Craig Gardner tries his luck from long range but his shot is easily saved by Rob Green. West Ham are looking far brighter going forward at the moment.

Football League Danny: "Lively at the Galpharm already. Plymouth took the lead against Huddersfield after 53 seconds thanks to Joe Mason. But the Pilgrims are already down to 10 men, as Curtis Nelson's been sent off for a professional foul. League One goal fans - there's more. Bristol Rovers 0-1 Walsall. Oldham 0-1 Southampton. And Peterborough 1-0 Brentford."

From Calam in London, via text: "Avram's great at getting to finals, not so great at winning them. Similar outcome this year?"

1957: Matthew Upson might be a makeshift left-back but he already looks right at home down that flank, getting forward well and crossing for Frederic Piquionne, who has no joy with an acrobatic effort. But Upson is quick to close down Seb Larsson's clearance and forces Ben Foster to make a smart save at his near post from the rebound.

1952: West Ham's first sniff of goal follows soon after. Ben Foster punches away Scott Parker's corner but the ball falls to Freddie Sears on the edge of the area and his first-time effort flies wide.

OptaJoe on Twitter: "6 - West Ham's last appearance in a League Cup semi saw them lose the 1st leg 6-0 (at Oldham), their joint-worst cup defeat. Nailed."

1949: Birmingham are the first to threaten as Craig Gardner does well to get a low cross in from the right. It's dangerous too... but Alexander Hleb arrives too late to get on the end of it.

1947: Birmingham get the first leg of this Carling Cup semi-final under way.

1947: The Hammers have lots and lots of injuries to contend with and, by the looks of things, their skipper Matthew Upson will be playing at left-back against his old club tonight. The Hammers are hoping to sign Wayne Bridge on loan from Manchester City to plug that gap, and the former England defender is at Upton Park tonight.

PartheSelva on Twitter: "The destroyer of Man Utd, Victor Obinna, will surely give the Hammers the edge tonight!"

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish: "We'll approach it tonight with the players who I think can do a job. Let me just say I won't be playing four forwards out there."

1943: The players emerge from the tunnel and kick-off is just moments away. The home fans have been singing 'We're forever blowing bubbles' and, by the looks of things, they have been pretty busy on that front.

DurDur88 on Twitter: "I'm thinking West Ham to win a cracking game tonight but Birmingham to step out at Wembley."

BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson at Upton Park: "The atmosphere is building up nicely at the Boleyn Ground, but there's a lingering Avram Grant-themed tension in the air. Remember that Uefa Cup game Spurs played a few years back when it spread round the ground that Martin Jol, who was in the dugout, had already been sacked? Let's hope our focus stays on football tonight."

1937: Hang on, I got the wrong Eastenders at 1930. The game's on BBC TWO... I'll get my coat.

1933: There is plenty going on elsewhere tonight too, you know? I know just the fellow to tell you more...

FA Cup/Football League Danny: "The final FA Cup third round tie takes place as Wycombe host a Hereford side fresh - or possibly quite tired - from a thrilling 4-3 win over Lincoln in their second-round replay on Saturday. A visit to Sheffield Wednesday awaits the winners...

"There are also four League One matches and they're a little bit interesting, if you don't mind me saying. High-flying Southampton will go second if they can win at play-off hopefuls Oldham. New Bristol Rovers boss Dave Penney takes charge for the first time as the struggling Pirates host rock-bottom Walsall. Managerless Peterborough aim to cement a top-six place with a win over Brentford. And Huddersfield will aim to stay on their tails as they host Plymouth.

"Last but not least, two matches in League Two complete our line-up. Rotherham can move to within two points of leaders Chesterfield with a win at struggling Stockport, whose goal difference of -27 is the worst in all four divisions. And Torquay, aiming to move towards the play-offs, host fifth-placed Crewe."

Jonathan Stevenson reports: "West Ham
make three changes from the side that beat Barnsley with Matthew Upson, Freddie Sears and Frederic Piquionne back in the starting line-up. Birmingham make eight changes from the side that overcame Millwall with Seb Larsson, linked with a move to Newcastle, Barry Ferguson and Keith Fahey restored to the midfield. Cameron Jerome leads the attack."

From Carleen in London, via text: "I'm an Australian Birmingham fan (am I the only one?) so, following our Ashes humiliation, I could really do with a victory. Come on you Blue Boys!"

1930: Just a reminder that West Ham versus Birmingham is live on BBC Two and this website (in the UK). In fact, if you give this page a manual refresh you can join Gary Lineker at Upton Park right now.

West Ham v Birmingham
West Ham: Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Reid, Upson, Spector, Sears, Noble, Parker, Obinna, Piquionne. Subs: Boffin, Cole, Boa Morte, Kovac, Nouble, Hines, Spence.
Birmingham: Foster, Carr, Dann, Johnson, Ridgewell, Larsson, Gardner, Hleb, Ferguson, Fahey, Jerome. Subs: Taylor, Murphy, Derbyshire, Zigic, Beausejour, Mutch, Jiranek.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

6Harty6 on Twitter: "We haven't had much luck this season. Maybe, just maybe we can go to Wembley to make this season a good one. C'mon West Ham!"

BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson at Upton Park: "I've seen Tony Gale and I've heard the name Gary Crosby, which can only mean one thing: it's semi-final time down at West Ham. They're playing 'Final Countdown' over the tannoy, and under-fire Hammers boss Avram Grant will be hoping for a convincing win tonight to keep the vultures circling around him away for even longer."

West Ham boss Avram Grant in the tunnel ahead of kick-off at Upton Park: "I think there is no link (between this game and my future). It's not a game for me, it's for the club. It's very important for the club, it's been 30 years not at Wembley so it will be nice to get there."

1916: It's fair to say neither of these sides have been packing out their trophy rooms recently so here's a bit of history for you. Dexy's Midnight Runners were at number one with 'Geno' when West Ham won their last piece of silverware, beating Arsenal to win the 1980 FA Cup. Birmingham? The 1963 League Cup remains their only major honour. When they beat Aston Villa in the final, The Beatles topped the charts with 'From me to you', later to be covered by the Chuckle Brothers, I think.

Saj Chowdhury reports:
"West Ham boss Avram Grant hinted last week that perhaps now was not the best time for his injury-hit struggling side to be playing two cup matches in a week. However, his side overcame Barnsley in the FA Cup and buoyed by that success may make it a cup double tonight. Birmingham have not won a major trophy since 1963 and with the return leg at St Andrew's they will fancy themselves to at least get to the final."

1912: Now, Liverpool's Ryan Babel might be in a spot of bother for sharing his thoughts online but tonight - whether you are a Premier League player or not - I am positively encouraging it. Tweet me at chrisbevan_bbc on Twitter, get involved on 606 or text me via 81111 (UK). I promise not to charge you with improper conduct either.

1910: Enough about Grant's problems, for now at least. Probably the best moment of West Ham's campaign so far was their 4-0 win over Manchester United to reach this stage of the Carling Cup. Birmingham have not exactly set the Premier League on fire this season either, but they also enjoyed themselves in the quarter-finals as they beat arch-rivals Aston Villa 2-1.

1904: There are several reasons why Grant is not a happy Hammer at the moment. His side are bottom of the Premier League after a humiliating defeat by Newcastle and he has had a public spat with his managing director over a failed signing. Oh, and did I mention that Sam Allardyce is apparently about to be offered his job? Still, at least he can enjoy tonight - and so can you. The big game at Upton Park (aka the Boleyn Ground) is live on BBC Two and this website (in the UK).

1900 GMT: Poor old Avram Grant. The West Ham manager is only two games away from Wembley, but he could also be just hours away from the sack. Win or bust against Birmingham in tonight's Carling Cup semi-final? I'm not sure it will make too much difference to be honest.

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11 Jan 2011 23:59 UK

see also
Tuesday's football photos
11 Jan 11 |  Football

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