Avram Grant has conceded the strain of West Ham United’s ongoing relegation battle got the better of the Hammers against Aston Villa on Saturday.On-loan striker Robbie Kean was on hand to put the Hammers ahead in just the second minute at Upton Park, but Villa were the better side for much of the match and gradually worked their way to a 2-1 win.
Darren Bent restored parity in the 37th minute and substitute Gabriel Agbonlahor snatched a last-gasp winner in stoppage time, leaving West Ham inside the drop zone and pulling Villa seven points clear.
Grant admitted he felt his side had played themselves out of the match after conceding Bent’s equaliser.
“I think we were a bit nervous,” Grant told Sky Sports.
“When you are at the bottom it can knock your confidence a bit. But I can assure you we want to win every game. Sometimes the confidence isn’t what you want and you can get results like this.”
Asked if morale at Upton Park had taken a further dent, Grant said: “I cannot say that isn’t true, but there are five games to go and we need to look at winning those games.”
“It will be difficult, but it is possible and we believe we can do it.”
“We started the game very well and were winning 1-0. There was then a penalty for us and a red card to (Richard) Dunne which wasn’t given and they scored from a big mistake from us. It was very disappointing.”
Villa boss Gerard Houllier was delighted to have reached the traditional safety target of 40 points, and praised Agbonlahor for his match-winning turn after being brought on for Emile Heskey.
“We played well and we created chances to win it,” Houllier said.
“We were resilient and right up to the end we played to win the game.”
“I am pleased that the player who came on (Agbonlahor) was rewarded because he had the right attitude and the substitution was extremely beneficial.”
“I am very proud of what we are doing at the moment. There are signs of progress and everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction.”