Avram Grant bemoans Scott Parker absence in West Ham relegation battle

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The Independent Football

West Ham manager Avram Grant admits his side are feeling the absence of Scott Parker in the battle to retain their Barclays Premier League status.

The Hammers remain at the foot of the table and three points from safety following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Blackburn, and have just two games left to escape the drop.

Parker sat out the clash with the Achilles injury which has troubled him in recent weeks, and Grant is desperate to have the influential midfielder back in the line-up as soon as possible.

"Every week we say 'next week' with Scott," Grant said.

"No one more than me wants him to play, but if he cannot, he cannot.

"I didn't think it was such a bad injury, but we've missed him since Manchester United.

"We want him to play. There is no one more than me who wants him to play. He's more than a player for me."

Blackburn are not out of danger either after Jason Roberts' first half goal was cancelled out by Thomas Hitzlsperger 12 minutes from time, but boss Steve Kean is optimistic his side will still be playing top flight football next season.

"We've had five positive results in the last seven matches, so we're one of the form teams in the bottom half," he said.

"That's a positive we'll be stressing to the lads. I don't know what we'll need, but we'll try and keep picking up points."

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez also remains upbeat about his team's survival chances, even though a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa was not enough to lift the Latics out of the bottom three.

Blackpool's own 1-1 stalemate with Tottenham kept Ian Holloway's men out of the relegation zone on goal difference, but Martinez had few complaints about his team's display.

He said: "I am happy with our performance (against Villa). We are in a position where we are fighting for our lives," he said.

"It was a good point and I'm pleased with the test we came through."

Steve Bruce has set his sights on establishing Sunderland as a top 10 club after a 2-1 victory at Bolton lifted them clear of the relegation battle.

It was only the Black Cats' second win in 12 league games and came courtesy of goals from Bolo Zenden and Sulley Muntari's effort which went in off defender Zat Knight.

Sunderland sit eight points above the bottom three and Bruce said: "It is good to be safe now. That was the one thing we had to address when I arrived. The year I came here we stayed up on goal difference.

"We had to stop being a yo-yo club. We have had four years in the Premier League now and the next step is the most difficult one. That is trying to take the club forward and getting into the top 10."

In Saturday's other matches, second half headers from Sylvain Distin and Leon Osman saw Everton to a 2-1 victory over Manchester City while Newcastle beat Birmingham by the same scoreline.