West Ham are on the way to a 'better place', says Grant

West Ham United 1 Fulham 1
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The Independent Online

Avram Grant and Mark Hughes were all smiles as they shook hands before Saturday's match at Upton Park. It was tempting to imagine each was saying to the other something like: "I bet you're glad to be out of that madhouse."

Grant, in moving from Portsmouth to West Ham United, and Hughes, in joining Fulham after being dismissed by Manchester City, have exchanged extreme challenges for what should be more stable environments. But so far Hughes has found the going easier. Fulham are unbeaten and with steadier finishing would have won their first away league match since August 2009.

In fairness, Hughes inherited a team that reached the Europa League final last season, while Grant has moved from a club that suffered relegation to one that only just avoided it. But the Israeli remains as upbeat as ever, despite two dropped points that returned West Ham to the foot of the Premier League table.

"Portsmouth were not just at the bottom of the league, it was a package of problems that got worse every week," he said. "Here we know from the beginning what we want from ourselves. We are not a team for relegation. We play football to be in a better place and we will do that."

Frédéric Piquionne equalised after Clint Dempsey had given Fulham the lead at half-time. But after that Mark Schwarzer was largely untroubled, while Fulham created four or five decent chances on the break. Nevertheless, Grant's glass was more than half-full.

"In the second half I was delighted to see our determination," he said. "Before, when we [went] 1-0 down, the heads were down and everybody felt sorry for themselves. Now we are stronger and we could have gone on to win the game today."

That would have required more confident finishing from Carlton Cole, but at least a four-match unbeaten run suggests increased stability, which Grant deserves after his experiences at Fratton Park last season.

Hughes also seems more relaxed than he did at Eastlands. "I hadn't realised what a good club Fulham is and what talent there is here, not just in the team but around the club," he said. "That makes my job less stressful because I got bogged down at City with things away from the pitch. There was a huge amount of change and we had to manage that."

The task at Craven Cottage is not so much about managing upheaval as tweaking the away record. "They possibly bear the scars of not having won [away] for so long," he said. "We're quite open and attack-minded and today I thought we had done enough to win."

Match facts

West Ham United 4-4-2: Green; Jacobsen, Da Costa, Upson, Gabbidon; Barrera (Cole, 68), Noble, Parker, Boa Morte; Obinna, Piquionne. Substitutes not used Stech (gk), Tomkins, Kovac, McCarthy, Ilunga, Stanislas.

Booked Gabbidon, Parker, Upson.

Fulham 4-4-1-1: Schwarzer; Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido; Davies (Riise, 90), Murphy, Etuhu, Duff (Gera, 69); Dempsey; E Johnson (Kamara, 76). Substitutes not used Etheridge (gk), Pantsil, Greening, Halliche.

Booked Etuhu.

Man of the match Green.

Possession West Ham United 51% Fulham 49%.

Shots on target West Ham United 5 Fulham 5.

Referee A Marriner (West Midlands). Attendance 34, 589. Match rating 5/10.

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