Declan Rice says he is hurting as much as West Ham's fans after devastating loss to Brighton
The struggling Hammers appeared to have turned a corner when they thumped Nottingham Forest 4-0 last weekend before running Manchester United close in the FA Cup. But they came horribly unstuck on the south coast as a penalty from Alexis Mac Allister, tap-ins for Joel Veltman and Kaoru Mitoma and a late strike from Danny Welbeck left them in the thick of the relegation battle. "It's a cliche to say it was not good enough but you have to apologise to the fans because we have let them and the club down," skipper Rice told the club website. "As a player, I am hurting, all the lads are hurting. Last week we won 4-0, and then played really well in the FA Cup - we should have won - so to have this result is a real setback. "But credit to Brighton because they played us off the pitch and that was not a performance that was acceptable at all."
West Ham travel to Cypriot side AEK Larnaca in the Europa Conference League on Thursday before hosting Aston Villa next Sunday. "Brighton was not good enough and it's going to hurt," added Rice. "We have let the fans down massively but we will be on to the next. "We'll just keep our heads down, and I said to all the lads 'we listen to ourselves and the people around us, and we stick together as a group and move on to the next one'. "We know it was not good enough but let's try and bounce back on Thursday and then we have Villa on Sunday. I am sure our fans will be behind us in these next two fixtures." Seagulls boss Roberto De Zerbi made a bold call to drop goalkeeper Robert Sanchez and hand 32-year-old Jason Steele only the second Premier League appearance of his career. De Zerbi said: "I'm sad for Robert because with him I have one of the best relationships but my job is to be a coach. "You have to be honest and clear and Jason now is playing better than Robert. "Robert is playing well but Jason was fantastic in build-up, for example, in my style. Maybe he is closer than Roberto to my style. "But I think Robert can work to arrive at the same level."
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