Avram Grant remains convinced West Ham United can escape the drop after clinching a vital home point against Blackburn Rovers in a 1-1 draw. The Hammers remain at the foot of the Premier League table with two games remaining and need to win away to Wigan Athletic next weekend to have a realistic chance of staying up.
Their plight would have been much worse had Thomas Hitzlsperger not struck a 78th minute equaliser to cancel out Jason Roberts's 13th minute opening goal. And Grant, the West Ham manager, believes his team can still turn things around and secure safety on the final day of the campaign against Sunderland.
"I think I'm confident," he said. "We have a chance to stay up, of course. But first we need to win at Wigan. If we win against Wigan, we'll be above them," added the Israeli, relegated last season with Portsmouth.
"This is the most important game. Two games before the end, this is the most important game. We need to win. I know they also want to win and they're at home, but we have a chance."
With West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold both commenting publicly on the club's slim chances of staying up and continuing speculation about Grant's future, the manager has been forced to defend his position. But he insisted everyone at Upton Park was united in their efforts to avoid the drop.
"Everyone in the club wants West Ham to succeed," he said. "Sometimes some people makes mistakes. But everyone, from the kit man to the owner, wants West Ham to succeed. This was our target. We thought things would be different. On the football side, we don't have complaints. This is the football we more or less wanted to play this season."
West Ham were again forced to cope without Scott Parker, the English Football Writers' Player of the Year, who was missing with an Achilles problem. Parker was joined on the sidelines by fellow midfielder Mark Noble while Jack Collison returned to action as a substitute for his first appearance of the season.
"We missed so many midfield players today," said Grant. "Three of the four when we were on a good run. Jonathan Spector is not a midfielder, even if he did a good job. If everything was normal we could have waited on Jack Collison a bit longer, but he did well."
Grant confirmed Parker's injury was proving more of a problem than he anticipated, saying: "I didn't think Scott's 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. But when you cannot, you cannot."
Blackburn manager Steve Kean refused to set a points target for survival but believed his side were the form team amongst the strugglers. Rovers, six points above West Ham, face Manchester United and Wolves in their final two games and Kean acknowledged this was a significant result.
"It's a big point," he said. "We've had five positive results in the last seven matches, so we're one of the form teams in the bottom half. 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."
Phil Jones was forced to withdraw after suffering a back spasm in training the day before the game but is expected to return against Manchester United.