Time running out for sorry Hammers - Grant

LONDON, April 17, 2011 (AFP) - West Ham manager Avram Grant admits time is running out for his team to save their season and avoid relegation from the English Premier League.

Grant's side were defeated 2-1 by Aston Villa at Upton Park and they remain in the bottom three ahead of matches against Chelsea and Manchester City.

"We need to deal with this situation, we have been in a good run since January but lost points in the last games," Grant said. "We don't have much time to recover but we need to be strong.

"We need nine points more or less to stay in the league. It will be difficult but still possible and we don't have any intention to give up. We will fight.

"And we will not give up against our next two opponents, we have beaten big teams this season."

The Hammers got off to a perfect start against Villa when Robbie Keane volleyed them ahead in the second minute, but Darren Bent levelled before half-time and Gabriel Agbonlahor scored the winner in injury-time.

Grant, explaining the importance of the game, said: "It was crucial. The players knew it and that is why they were a little bit nervous, sometimes they gave it away cheaply.

"It was very important to us but we lost it so we have to look at the next game."

Scott Parker missed the game through an Achilles injury, Manuel da Costa was injured early on and in the second half Gary O'Neil was carried off with an ankle injury and faces a battle to play again this season after leaving the ground on crutches and in a plastic boot.

"It's not easy," Grant said, who also had James Tomkins picking up an injury on Thursday. "We like to play with Scott. He is player of the year for us and for many people. He is very important for us but he is injured.

"Manuel da Costa was also important for us so that was another change and even with this we were winning. Scotty does a lot of things for us."

Victory for Villa put them in the top half of the table and virtually assured Gerard Houllier's men of safety, weeks after they were labelled as a team struggling for dressing-room harmony.

"I must give credit to their character because that is what we need when we are in a fight against relegation, you need character and you need composure," Villas boss Houllier said.

"At times we demonstrated well that in difficulties the team was together and working well.

"When you are in danger you can't have egos in the team and you can't have grudges. You have got to be man enough to put away your own personality and work for each other."

"I said to the players before the game that this was a turning point. We missed a turning point at Bolton when we went 2-1 up and we lost the game. I said to them that we would not miss this turning point."

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