West Ham advanced to the next round of the FA Cup after Craig Dawson’s late header downed Stockport County.
Craig Dawson’s first goal for West Ham was enough to edge past a solid Stockport side. The Hammers struggled all game to break down the Hatters. Though the pitch did not help after constant downpour saw the ground water-log.
David Moyes stunned fans with his team selection. The entire eleven was made up of current first-team players. There were starting places for attack-minded players such as Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini, Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio.
The match was the first start for Antonio since his last return from injury against Aston Villa. Fans would have been nervous to see the star man starting in fear of another reoccurrence of his hamstring injury. Moyes did have promising younger Apemido Obudeko on the bench ready to make his debut.
There were places on the bench for some of the other academy players. Nathan Hollan, Jamal Baptiste and Nathan Trott were in the squad. There was also a place on the bench for new signing Frederik Alves Ibsen. The Danish defender has only just joined the Hammers at the start of January.
West Ham found out before the match who their potential opponents would be in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The Hammers if the beat the Hatters would take on League One side Doncaster at the London Stadium.
The game kicked-off in heavy rainfall at Edgeley Park. The pitch was getting very wet, and the Hammers would have to be careful to avoid any slips. The first chance of the match fell to West Ham. Declan Rice played a deep cross into the box. Benrahma collected the ball and cut on to his right foot and fired a shot just wide of the post.
The Hammers did go close again, this time from distance. Yarmolenko drifted inside and hit a powerful effort at goal. The winger’s shot was low and hard but also just passed the post. Stockport were defending well and making it hard for the Premier League side to create any clear chances.
Continuing to huff and puff West Ham were in control but was not able to break the deadlock. The Hammers were forced to taking longshots. Rice, Antonio, Lanzini and Benrahma all tried their luck but struggled to cause any real threat with their efforts.
Stockport held on until half-time and frustrated the visitors a lot with their solid defensive display. The most exciting part of the first half was the firework display early on.
The conditions worsened over the half-time break. The wet pitch was causing the ball to stick and slide. This was causing issues for the Hammers. The visitors despite dominating possession but continued to be blocked by the Stockport defence. The Hatters were trying to work openings from a counter-attack.
As the hour mark approached the match was still at a stalemate. Stockport, however, were growing in confidence and were throwing a few more players forward. The West Ham half was sodden, and the ball was getting stuck in the mud, meaning long balls were an effective avenue for the home side.
Moyes wanting the game to be won inside ninety minutes decided to make some attacking changes. Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen came on to replace Yarmolenko and Lanzini. The Hammers had to be careful as the Hatters started to look more dangerous as their confidence grew.
Soucek did go close in the eight-first minute. The Hammers were passing around the Hatter box, and the ball got to Vladimir Coufal. The defender whipped in a cross and Soucek met it with a diving header. The Czech’s header flashed past the post. West Ham’s best moment of the half.
West Ham then bettered that moment a minute later. A corner was taken short to Bowen who curled in a dangerous cross. Craig Dawson met the cross with a powerful downwards header. The ball flew into the bottom corner of the goal, giving the Hammers the lead.
Moyes then gave a debut for Obudeko in place of Antonio. The manager also replaced Benrahma with Pablo Fornals. The Hatters were pushing for a dramatic late equaliser. West Ham managed to hold on and earn their place in the fourth round.
The Hammers will play Doncaster Rovers in the next round of the FA Cup. If West Ham get past Doncaster they will then travel to either Liverpool or Manchester United in the fifth round. First Moyes’ side will take on Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday.