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Grant frustrated by late Keane miss

So fine are the margins. With the seconds ticking down on West Ham's fragile hold on Premier League status, Frederic Piquionne found space down the left wing. The West Ham substitute's low cross was perfect and Robbie Keane was faced with a simple tap-in from close range.

Somehow Keane managed only to graze the passing ball. That miss cost his side two points, and how important might those points be come the reckoning?

Keane's was just one mistake in the multitude but coming at such a crucial moment, in front of the Bobby Moore stand, it was freighted with meaning.

Could that have been the defining moment of West Ham's season? "Absolutely," said Avram Grant. "But I cannot kill him. We made an intelligent move, creating that chance, something we didn't have a lot of in the first half of the season, but it is about putting the ball in the net. There's no one more frustrated than me."

Grant's side have two games to save themselves and anything other than victory against Wigan next week will almost certainly bring an end to six years in the top flight.

It had started grimly for West Ham. Scott Parker, the Player of the Year, had failed to recover from his Achilles injury and with Matthew Upson, Gary O'Neil and Mark Noble also missing, there wasn't a lot of fight in this team.

West Ham were behind after just 12 minutes. Jermaine Jones, who ran himself into the turf for Blackburn, played the ball down the right for Brett Emerton, and the Blackburn right-back did well to cross low for Jason Roberts to tap in. How easy he made it look.

Grim start for West Ham but, perversely, it also had a negative effect on Blackburn. With something to protect, they grew timid as the game wore on, dropping deeper and deeper, inviting West Ham on to them. When they did get forward -- mainly on the break -- poor decision making cost them the chance to finish off the game.

The two sides traded blows -- somewhat ineptly -- for the first hour. Freddie Sears had a low shot saved by Paul Robinson just before the break, and the Blackburn 'keeper also did well to parry away a hard-struck Thomas Hitzlsperger shot early in the second half.

With just under half an hour to go, Grant went for bold, all-out attack.

Having already sent on Keane for Luis Boa Morte, a move for which he got abuse from a section of the crowd, the Israeli threw on Piquionne and Jack Collison for Lars Jacobsen and Sears. With Collison and Hitzlsperger in midfield, that meant Grant had four strikers on the field for the last third of the game. He was that desperate.

The equaliser came shortly after. When he picked up Piquionne's deflected cross at the far post, Carlton Cole did tremendously well to hold the ball up and wait for an opening. Seeing Hitzlsperger arriving at the edge of the box, he teed up the ball perfectly and the German midfielder hit it left-footed, first-time across Robinson's goal and into the bottom corner.

For Grant's gamble to really pay off, West Ham needed a winner and had 13 minutes to find it. Then Keane contrived to miss that simple chance.

Fortunately for Blackburn manager Steve Kean, he had Chris Samba there to save his team. With just minutes left, the Rovers captain threw himself into a block of Demba Ba's shot and moments later, hurled himself in front Cole at the far post.


Sunday Indo Sport