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Foster loses his head to hand Grant a stay of execution

From Victor Obinna to Ben Foster, people were losing their heads all over the Boleyn last night. Halves of football do not come much madder than the astonishing second 45 minutes here.

The second half was a potty period of fluctuating fortunes that almost killed off West Ham's season, but could ultimately have breathed some life into it. Whether manager Avram Grant is in charge for the second leg of this League Cup semi-final remains to be seen, but if this was his farewell, it will be remembered for all sorts of reasons.

Grant's side were leading 1-0 at the break, in control through Mark Noble's strike, when Liam Ridgewell equalised and then Obinna was dismissed for a mule-kick at Sebastian Larsson.

Alex McLeish's men were now in control. But from a rare West Ham break, Foster fumbled a modest Carlton Cole strike, giving the Londoners dreams of Wembley.

Here were West Ham freed from the stress and grind of the Premier League relegation fight. Obinna was playing with all the intelligence that made his second-half brainstorm so inexplicable.

Grant had flooded his midfield, using Jonathan Spector alongside Scott Parker and Noble in the centre, looking for the wide runs of Obinna and Freddie Sears while Frederic Piquionne performed was the lone front-runner.


Within 14 minutes, West Ham were ahead. Noble crossed from the right, Obinna headed powerfully back across. Liam Ridgewell reacted quickest, managing to clear but only to Spector. He helped it right to Noble, whose response was terrific, the ball driven towards the near post.

Foster's view was obscured by Scott Dann, and the Birmingham goalkeeper was unable to react in time as Noble's shot suddenly arrived. Back came West Ham, putting together another passing move that alarmed the visitors.

The half ended with another passing move, Piquionne combining with Matthew Upson to set up Obinna, who shot wide. As the whistle went, Dann collapsed, his hamstring damaged. His replacement, David Murphy, came on at left back, Ridgewell moved across.

The numbers' game dominated the second half. When Larsson swung over a corner, Ridgewell powered in the header. Birmingham soon enjoyed numerical supremacy. When Upson took a throw-in towards Obinna, the winger's response was insane, kicking backwards and catching Larsson in the most painful of places.

But then came Foster's horror show. Cole's shot lacked venom and was seemingly heading straight to Foster. Here was another brutal addition to the catalogue of English goalkeeping errors. Foster stooped down to collect the ball, but it slipped through his legs, falling apologetically over the line as the Bobby Moore Stand rocked with laughter. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent