Disaster averted as Grant gamble pays off

West Ham United 2 Barnsley 0: Fresh legs have desired effect in giving West Ham's manager a longer run

As the man who took Portsmouth to the FA Cup final last May, Avram Grant knows all about the old competition's ability to allow an escape from the grimmest of realities.

It remains to be seen whether this advance into the fourth round is anything more, or indeed less, than a stay of execution. And from this distance it is still easy to envisage the lifeline tying itself into a noose. But it was another disaster averted for the manager whose employment was placed under such scrutiny by the 5-0 defeat at Newcastle which hauled West Ham back into the bottom three.

Saying that, the day began ominously for Grant as Karren Brady, the club's vice chairman, all but admitted in her national newspaper column the manager had been overruled on the proposed Steve Sidwell transfer from Aston Villa, saying West Ham had enough midfielders. Grant smiled wryly when asked about this apparent undermining. "All I will say is I will never make this mistake again," he said. "I spoke about it before the deal was done because I thought it had been done."

He vowed to concentrate only on the football and with Birmingham arriving for the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday there is much to focus on. Indeed, yesterday, there was a palpable feeling of a bigger Cup tie to follow; both in the attendance – many thousands down on the average – and Grant's starting XI. If he was a manager fighting for his career then he took one Russian roulette of a gamble by changing eight of the team who stumbled so spectacularly. But then, the shake-up did have the desired response.

Grant needed no warning about the potential for embarrassment, especially against Barnsley. It was at Oakwell three years ago where the Championship side knocked out Grant in the Cup quarter-finals, and he had the might of Chelsea at his disposal back then.

In truth, these Tykes were mere scamps compared to their 2008 predecessors. Although they did have a couple of grievances to console themselves with on the long trip back to Yorkshire; hitting the bar in the final minute before West Ham scored their second and, earlier, the referee turning away what seemed a certain penalty. But commendably, their manager was having none of it. "You might say we came within a crossbar of getting a replay, but in fact we came within six saves of losing 7-0," said Mark Robins.

West Ham would not have been unworthy of a 4-0 half-time lead, yet all they had to show for their considerable efforts was Jonathan Spector's goal after 29 minutes. The former Manchester United man took it nicely – a clinical finish off the excellent Mark Noble's pass – which is infinitely more than could be said of Zavon Hines 10 minutes later. A fine move involving Pablo Barrera and Noble set up the England Under-21 international with an open goal from three yards. But he hesitated and then found the diving frame of the brilliant Luke Steele.

To a much lesser extent, Frank Nouble, Victor Obinna and Barrera were also guilty of profligacy and it served to give Barnsley an undeserved sniff. They believed they had grasped the opportunity when the substitute Jacob Butterfield, on the pitch all of a minute, went down under a crude challenge from Winston Reid. Neil Swarbrick thought differently and West Ham were startled back into action.

Nouble fluffed another, Steele made a brilliant double save from Barrera and Hines and the final seconds witnessed moments of classic FA Cup. First Adam Hammill watched a deflected strike loop over Robert Green and crash off the crossbar and, as his hands were in his head in despair, the substitute Frédéric Piquionne was blazing it high into the net at the other end. Cruel on Barnsley, kind on Grant. How he will pray the fates, and yes the board, retain their patronage.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Man of the match: Steele

Match rating: 6/10

Attendance: 32,159

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'