More cup woe for Grant

STOKE CITY (2) vs WEST HAM UNITED (1)

WEST HAM manager Avram Grant saw another promising cup campaign reduced to shreds – and then borrowed from samurai culture to explain his disappointment at decisions he felt cost his side a trip to Wembley.

Danny Higginbotham’s second-half free-kick clinched victory in the FA Cup quarter-final after Hammers striker Frederic Piquionne had controversially cancelled out Robert Huth’s early header for Stoke. It might have been worse had Robert Green not kept the visitors in the game by saving Matthew Etherington’s penalty.

But Grant was angry at James Tomkins being denied a late penalty and suggested referee Mike Jones had been trying to compensate for missing Piquionne’s handball in the build-up to his equaliser.

Referring, somewhat obscurely, to the Japanese word bushido, denoting the code of honour observed by samurai warriors, Grant said: “I think maybe this is the reason the referee started the second half very strange. Until they scored [the second] goal he gave fouls, a penalty, everything for them. It was a penalty for us at the end which he didn’t give. What happened with Tomkins was more bushido. Maybe he felt guilty. I think it was the effect of the first goal for us.”

Defeat spelled the end of West Ham’s hopes of salvaging silverware from an otherwise difficult season, having also enjoyed a lengthy run in the Carling Cup, only to lose out in the last four. They might have forced a replay had Matthew Upson’s late header been a fraction lower and not rebounded off the Stoke crossbar.

Huth was more accurate, meeting a Rory Delap long throw in the 12th minute to open the scoring. Piquionne levelled when he brought down Thomas Hitzelsperger’s long ball, seemingly with his arm, and lobbed goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

Etherington earned the chance to restore the home side’s lead when he won a penalty, but was denied by a smart save by Green. The goalkeeper could not stop Higginbotham’s powerful low free-kick, however, which snuck through the wall and crept over the line despite Green’s touch.