Report: West Ham 2 Birmingham 1

He didn’t celebrate, he didn’t even smile.

When Carlton Cole’s weak strike dribbled under Ben Foster and into the net after 78 minutes to win the game the whole ground erupted but Avram Grant remained unmoved.

Maybe he knows his future has been decided and he will leave Upton Park, or maybe he was determined not to show emotion.

He watched his side take the lead through Mark Noble, then be reduced to 10 men after Victor Obinna had been sent off for petulantly kicking Sebastian Larsson, absorb a lot of pressure before Cole struck the winner.

In a thoroughly entertaining match Grant was rarely animated in what could be his swansong in east London.

Both teams played a 4-5-1 formation with Birmingham’s width coming from their full backs Liam Ridgewell and Stephen Carr.

West Ham started Frederic Piquionne as a lone striker, but it was Matthew Upson, playing at left back who registered the first shot on target and his powerful effort from the bi-line deflected behind by Ben Foster.

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It was a decent save from the England international stopper, but he was at fault for the opening goal after 12 minutes, when Noble’s shot from eight yards out on a tight angle beat him at his near post and into the back of the net.

His view was slightly obscured by centre half Scott Dann, but he could not get a firm hand on Noble’s drive when he really should have.

The Hammers were clearly buoyed by the goal and their midfield trio of Noble, Scott Parker and Jonathan Spector were dominating their Birmingham counterparts.

Spector fired in a decent shot after 21 minutes which was deflected behind and from the resulting corner James Tomkins forced Foster into a decent save, tipping his header over the bar.

The former Manchester United man was clearly keen to make amends for his earlier error and from the same near post the Hammers took the lead, he denied Victor Obinna, whose well struck shot on the half hour was destined for the top corner before Foster turned it behind.

It was all West Ham and Freddie Sears should have increased the hosts’ lead, but screwed his shot wide from 12 yards out as West Ham ended the half a goal to the good.

Birmingham started the stronger in the second period as the Hammers sat far too deep, inviting the visitors to play a more direct style of play which they were obviously more comfortable with.

They almost levelled when a Cameron Jerome header was cleared off the line by Sears from a corner.

The Hammers failed to heed the warning and moments later from another corner Ridgewell beat Winston Reid to the ball to head home.

West Ham’s nightmare five minutes was not over though as Obinna was rightly shown a straight red for kicking out at Sebastian Larsson.

Sears swapped flanks while Spector moved to the right, giving the visitors a man advantage in the centre of the park.

Piquionne was left isolated with the tiring Faubert unable to get up and support the out of position Spector, while Noble and Parker were happy to sit deep.

Birmingham had a good shout for a penalty turned down by Phil Dowd after Upson seemed to shove Barry Ferguson in the back.

Birmingham were made to pay for their missed opporunities when 13 minutes from time the Hammers took an unlikely lead when substitue Cole’s weak effort dribbled past Foster, whose miserable night was complete.

City couldn’t recover from the setback and if tonight was the last Grant was in charge of West Ham, he can at least say he went out with a win.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Tomkins, Reid, Upson, Parker, Noble (Kovac 90), Spector, Sears (Hines 72), Obinna, Piquionne (Cole 72).

Subs: Boffin, Boa Morte, Nouble, Spence.

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